Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ukraine has Almost Exhausted ‘Anti-Russian Model’ of Behavior, Kyiv Analyst Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – Russia’s aggression in Ukraine will make it difficult for Kyiv to find a modus vivendi with Moscow, Anatoly Oktsiyuk says; but “sooner or later,” Ukraine will have to do so and with a recognition of the fact that both domestically and internationally, it has almost exhausted the “anti-Russian model” it has employed over the last two years.

            On the Apostrophe portal, the senior researcher at Kyiv’s International Center for Research about the Future says that by its actions, Russia has forced Kyiv “to turn to the West.” This shift, however, has been “very painful for post-Soviet Ukraine” and is unlikely to be sustainable at home or abroad (

            According to Oktisyuk, “at the level of everyday life in society, there can be seen trends directed toward the normalization of Russian-Ukrainian relations,” even “right now.”  People are talking about that possibility both out of disappointment in the current Kyiv regime and its approach and a belief that the West and especially the EU has led Ukraine down.

            So far, however, these discussions have been behind the scenes because even those who are pragmatic on such issues do not want to be attacked as agents of Moscow and because the Kyiv government has more or less banned any discussion given that Russian forces are still occupying and attacking Ukraine.

            But despite that, “this issue needs to be discussed and developed because under the conditions of rapidly changing international geopolitical arrangements and the unstable domestic political situation in Ukraine, the course could change in a significant way” and very quickly indeed, Oktisyuk says.

            Thus, it cannot be excluded that Ukraine might follow a Georgian scenario which became less hostile to Russia after the departure of Mikheil Saakashvili or the scenario of Moldova which has gotten good marks from the EU but which has not been promised membership and has now moved toward a new and less antagonistic relationship with Moscow.

                But almost certainly there are going to be changes not only because there are Ukrainians who now believe that it is “better to trade with Russia than to fight it” but also because Western governments are pressing Kyiv to make some kind of a deal in order to resolve the crisis between the two countries.

            According to the Kyiv analyst, there are currently four possible scenarios of differing degrees of probability.

            The first, “rapprochement with Western structures and the integration of Ukraine in the EU and NATO.”  This scenario, he suggests, is “improbable” because Ukraine hasn’t been willing to take the steps necessary for such integration and because the West is occupied with a variety of other problems now.

            The second scenario would entail “the normalization of relations with Russia [and] the return of Ukraine to a multi-vector policy.”  It would involve Ukraine accepting to play by “new rules,” including recognizing Moscow’s understanding of Russia’s supposed rights on the post-Soviet space, and it would “close” the issue of Russian annexation of Crimea.

            It would also likely lead to a resolution of the Donbass conflict “according to a Bosnian scenario,” involving Ukraine’s federalization in ways that the Kremlin wants.  Russia and the West are not yet in accord on this, Oktisyuk says. But it is entirely possible that they could come to an arrangement on this point, especially given the German and French positions.

            The third scenario, the Kyiv analyst continues, would involve a “radical renewal of military action in the Donbass.” That might help President Petro Poroshenko to maintain his position within Ukraine but it would harm his image and standing with Western governments if he moved in this direction.

             And the fourth scenario is the “Georgian;” one that would involve “the victory of pro-Russian political forces” in Ukraine itself.  This would take “several electoral cycles” in the case of Ukraine, Oktisyuk says, but it could happen because of the slowness of reform in Ukraine and the reluctance of the West to put up with Kyiv’s dilatoriness.

            Ukraine’s continuing economic difficulties, of course, create conditions for the rise of those who object to the policies of the current Kyiv government. On the one hand, there will be those who will promote a more radical and populist stance. But on the other, there will be those who push a more “pragmatic” line in dealing with Moscow.

            The latter attitudes are only grow in strength, Oktisyuk says, because of the weakness of Kyiv’s diplomacy which has been unable to win over the West as a whole and which thus has helped to create a situation where “Ukraine risks remaining one on one with the Kremlin,” a situation it cannot really hope to win.

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