Sunday, February 16, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Ukrainian Opposition Needs to Face Up to Some Painful Realities, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 16 – Ukrainians in the Maidan as well as their supporters need to face up to some painful realities if Ukraine is to escape its current impasse given that at present no good exit is obvious, according to Irina Pavlova, one of the most thoughtful observers of the post-Soviet space.

            In an essay posted on, Pavlova argues that instead of facing up to these issues many in the Maidan and their supporters have assumed that revolutionary enthusiasm is enough and that there exists some kind of “miraculous resolution” of the situation waiting just around the corner (

            Those involved and concerned need to “calmly assess the situation and develop a strategic plan,” she says, something that will be possible only if they take seriously four sets of questions about what “a democratic European Ukraine” might actually look like and how they could achieve such an outcome from where they are now.

            First of all, Pavlova suggests, they should be asking themselves whether they fully understand that for Ukraine to escape its current dead end and enter the path of European development, they will need “the consolidated assistance of the West.” And they need to ask themselves what they will do if, as seems likely, such assistance is forthcoming.

            Indeed, the commentator continues, given what she describes as the decline in the quality of Western leaders since the post-war period and given how “corrupt they have become as a result of their cooperation with the Kremlin,” it is “completely unrealistic” to talk about any “new Marshal Plan for Ukraine.” 

            Second, she continues, even if such a plan were on offer, the Ukrainian opposition needs to ask whether they would really want it, given that such assistance is “not just about money” but would involve the insertion of Western advisors in the offices of the key posts in the country and a review of privatization and other changes since 1991.

            “Is Ukrainian society ready to proceed under conditions like those under which post-war Germany and Japan operated? Is it in fact ready, having recognized the gravity of the situation, to appeal to the West with precisely that request?  [And] will the Ukrainian oligarchs who, like their Russian counterparts, are closely linked with the top have a place in such a framework?”

             Third, Pavlova suggests, the Ukrainian opposition needs to face up to the “obvious fact that the 15 billion dollars offered by Russia is in essence a Kremlin variant of the Marshal Plan” and ask what that will mean.  This package too involves not just money but “overt and covert” advisors and specialists who are recruiting “supporters from within the Ukrainian elite.”

            It is, she says, “no accident” that Putin has made political technologist Vladislav Surkov his assistant for Ukraine. The Ukrainian opposition needs to face up to that reality: “How does the Ukrainian opposition propose to overcome this inheritance” and the fact that Moscow has “a strategic plan for resolving the situation in Ukraine,” one that is hardly limited to military action.

            And fourth, the Ukrainian opposition needs to ask itself why it did not invite former Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili to serve as an advisor. Not only did the Georgian leader achieve significant results in implementing pro-Western reforms in Georgia, she says, but he has “clearly learned lessons from the recent defeat of his party in the presidential elections.”

            Saakashvili’s “experience,” she continues, “is a rare example of such a transformation in the post-Soviet state.” Given that the problems of Ukraine and Georgia as “post-Soviet republics which have experienced pressure from Russia” and that “the way out to the Western path of development is similar,” why would Ukrainians not want this resource?

             Indeed, she observes, “why didn’t [the Ukrainian opposition] speak out against” those in the Ukrainian government who banned Saakashvili and 35 others from entering the country lest they “destabilize” the situation – that is, to use “normal language,” “direct it according to an anti-Kremlin scenario?”

            “After the Orange Revolution of 2004,” Pavlova concludes, “Ukraine had a real chance to begin the Europeanization of the country, but it failed to take advantage of it.  Today, the situation is worse than it was ten years ago.  Disappointment has increased but at the same time, ambitions have grown as well.”

                “Young people who are protesting want to live in comfort as do their counterparts in the West,” Pavlova says. “However, judging by the demands they are making, the political and legal consciousness of those protesting has changed very little. At least, the demands of the Maidan remain exactly the same as those of ten years ago.” 

            As a result, Ukraine is continuing to go in a vicious circle, she writes.  The only way out is for those in the Maidan and those who would like to see them succeed to begin asking the hard questions and working out for themselves what may be the hard answers rather than continuing to hope that somehow something good will turn up.

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