Sunday, April 21, 2019

Presidential Vote Shows Ukraine has Entered a New, Post-Maidan Period, Pastukhov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 21 – Even before the polls close and confirm what many expect, Vladimir Pastukhov says that he expects Petro Poroshenko to lose to Vladimir Zelensky, a development that reflects above all else Ukraine’s move from a Maidan to a post-Maidan period in which the Ukrainian people are less interested in fighting Moscow than they were.

            This shift means, the London-based Russian political analyst says, that in the future, “the Maidan will be for Ukraine not the end (crowning point) of  history but only part of it” and the country will shift “almost certainly into a slower ‘revolutionary orbit,’ although the flight will continue” (

            What is occurring in this election then, he says, “is not a simple change of persons but a logical change of eras and stages of the development of the revolution.” Given that reality, Poroshenko had “practically no chances not because he was a bad president but because he embodied a policy whose time in Ukraine has run out.”

            Thus, the narrative that he lost because people were tired of him and thus suffered from a protest vote against him or because he made the tactical mistake of focusing on Timoshenko rather than Zelensky in the first round is wrong.  Instead, Pastukhov says, Poroshenko lost because he was the embodiment of a political course which had lost the support of the people.”

            Those who have voted for Zelensky did so, the London analyst says, not because they wanted “a new ‘face’” but because they wanted “a new ‘policy,’” one that reflects a very different reading of the Maidan than the one Poroshenko has, a reading of “revolutionary maximalism” that requires “uncompromising war not only with Russia” but with society as well.

            In Poroshenko’s understanding. “the war was worth a mass, in the direct and indirect sense of the word;” and he counted on Ukrainians to view things in the same way and allow everything else to be subordinated to and put off as long as the prosecution of the war required such postponements.

            “But it has turned out,” Pastukhov continues, “that Poroshenko seriously overrated not only the readiness of Ukrainian society ‘to write off debts’ under the pretext of the war but also on the whole the willingness of this society to conduct the war itself.” One-third of Ukrainian society was prepared to do so; but two thirds are not.

            “This doesn’t mean that these two thirds may be described as supporters of Putin,” Pastukhov hastens to adds.  “It is simply that they are not prepared to fight without chances for victory, do not consider the return of Crimea as a priority of their personal lives, and continue to be in contact with residents of the Donbass.”

            This part of Ukrainian society, the analyst says, “is not prepared to live by war alone.” Pastukhov couldn’t offer anything else to those tired from war and consequently he lost. His effort at the end to make Putin into his main opponent both symbolized his policies and explains why he could not win.

            Unfortunately for him, “the more Poroshenko spoke about the war, the more Ukrainians wanted peace and quiet. They voted for the man who more than the others was associated by them with peaceful life.”

            Those who voted for Zelensky don’t want to fight but they aren’t going to forget and forgive Russia either, Pastukhov says.  As a result, if Zelensky is able to lower the temperature of the conflict, he may not lose support as quickly as many now expect. But he certainly can’t be  Putin’s “agent” as some suggest.

            Zelensky is a political project in the works, of course, but he is one that has a political base, “and therefore he may survive,” not because of what he will do but rather because of “what he will not do.” How far he will be able to adopt that approach, of course, depends on Russia’s reaction. 

            As a result, things may work out with Zelensky in Ukraine as they have with Trump in the US: “there’s no collusion but there is objective support and interest.  Russia could organize things in Ukraine on a scenario similar to the Georgia, although ‘the god father’ of the nation who in Georgia was played by Ivanishvili will be assumed in Ukraine by Kolomoysky.”

            “By ‘law’ for Russia in this case nothing particular will change, but ‘by understandings,’ people will breathe easier. This in principle can be arranged and then Ukraine and it follows Zelensky will get a small breathing space.”

            Only if Zelensky cannot satisfy the demand of his voters for less war is he likely to face the third Maidan some talk about, one that would sweep him from office just as earlier editions of that have done to his predecessors.

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