Among the innumerable reproaches thrown at the previous administration in course of the recent presidential campaign were bad, tense relations with Russia. The Party of Regions and its presidential nominee swore an oath to amend the situation, establish fruitful cooperation, and make it maximally profitable for Ukraine’s economy.
There were broad hints (later replaced with open statements) at his ability to negotiate an acceptable gas price with the big neighbor. Party of Regions accused the opponents of all sins imaginable, while showering its electorate with generous promises.
The nation was indeed sick and tired of the squabbling between the previous president and prime minister. What many longed for was not even stability, but definiteness. And of course, good relations with Russia were not the last on the list. Even now a considerable proportion of our population (mostly in the east and south) persist in believing in a beautiful myth that Moscow is ready to give us a helping hand and welcome us with a brotherly embrace. They quote Belarus as an example. Moreover, the Kremlin kept brainwashing us with its propaganda of the brave new world, which will arrive as soon as Ukraine joins the Customs Union and all sorts of “communities” and “spaces.” Putin and Medvedev juggled billions of dollars as they advertised all the benefits Ukraine would enjoy upon the accession.
This appealed to many and more. However, no one took the pains to ponder why Moscow should sacrifice its own billions for Kyiv’s sake. It has never been known to be so beneficial before. Even its ally Belarus gets preferential oil and gas prices only after surrendering its property rights to strategic enterprises. For instance, Beltransgaz is Belarusian only in name. In fact, it has long been owned by Gazprom.
Nevertheless, the delusion of prosperity jointly with Russia induced many to vote for Viktor Yanukovych. Moreover, Yulia Tymoshenko as a candidate failed to offer a clear foreign political line, with the exception of babble about the European choice.
No one knows if the new administration was lightheaded on triumph or gripped with fear, when it got itself involved in the Kharkiv Agreements. But the recovery was bitter: all the preferences and other benefits made by Moscow turned out to be nothing but empty promises. Gas prices rocketed, while all the joint projects and treaties were not even worth the paper they were written on.
Moreover, the concessions made in Kharkiv became an object of extensive political and economic arm-twisting. Now Russia demands (sic!) that Ukraine join not only the Customs Union, but also the Eurasian Union as well. This all suggests an old joke: you climb the platform and dive, and if you do good, we may even fill the swimming pool with water later.
All this boils down to most deplorable conclusions. The relations with Russia, despite the numerous summit meetings, have worsened instead of improving. Ukraine is reduced to kneeling and imploring Russia to bring down gas process, while at the recent summit meeting President Putin promised to discuss such vital matter only in case there was time left. The sour comments of our government officials suggest that time has effectively run out. What else could they expect? Russia is intent on making the most of it, because it realizes that Ukraine’s administration is stalled, and cannot find a way out. It would be a shame to let the chance slip. And it is no use trying to blame our neighbors. We should look for the culprits at home.
Under the circumstances, the idea of overthrowing the regime seems naturally appealing, just like all easy solutions do. Yet, like all easy solutions, it is fraught with danger. History repeats itself, and there is nothing promising for Ukraine in the present course of events. If our hands itch to grab weapons, we should stop and ponder over an alternative: do we want to be Yanukovych’s subjects, or directly those of Putin? Do we want to have our own independent state led by a president elected by us, or subject ourselves to princelings sent over from the banks of the Neva or River Moskva, re-playing 300 years of our own history. Do we want to have a passport with Ukraine’s trident on the cover, or with Russia’s two-headed eagle? The dilemma is easy. We either develop and consolidate our country as subjects of Ukraine, led (at the moment) by Yanukovych, or gradually sink into thralldom, turning into the subjects of Russia’s tsar or President Putin. Shall we forfeit all that was gained in the struggle for independence, and paid for by the rivers of blood and millions of lives of the Holodomor victims – or join the European family of nations with dignity?
It would be strange if the so-called opposition should not denounce the regime for the present situation. However, what alternative do they suggest? Therein lies the rub. So far, we have only heard empty talk of the European choice and of our place in Europe. In fact, there is nothing more behind the beautiful words. Where are the elaborated strategic line and the mechanisms of its implementation on our way to Europe? Being part of Europe means something more than just hoisting Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag in Brussels and Strasbourg.
Now our government is obsessed with a new absurd idea, which was explained in Foreign Minister Kostiantyn Hryshchenko’s article in The Day: China is our last resort, it will surely help us. The persistent attempts to be included into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the capacity of an observer were born by the same idea. The dangers of this political line are evident. But the opposition is silent on the matter. Instead of crying over spilt milk, politicians should present a clear foreign policy program, and be able to explain the motives behind their solutions.
Of course, not a single member of the opposition has so far managed to offer an alternative to the current unproductive policy of relations with Russia our government is pursuing. It seems that not a single soul in either political camp knows how to build relationships in order to live a normal life instead of constantly bickering.
The country found itself on the verge of international political isolation. The problems with our neighbors spring up like mushrooms after the rain. We should not forget that Transnistria, the temporarily cooled hot spot, is located very close to our border. Besides, thousands of Ukrainians are there, thousands of citizens that our country is obliged to protect, according to the Constitution, the guarantor of which is our president. What has Ukraine done to extinguish this conflict? Practically nothing, everything was left to Russia. And the latter takes advantage of this to harm us by occasionally stirring up the situation.
This reminds of something from our past, doesn’t it? The major problems of the Ukrainian People’s Republic were the internal ones. But nevertheless, international political isolation and absence of connections with natural allies made the situation much worse. The Bolsheviks took advantage of this. They understood what had to be done, and looked for allies in the first place – for example, Germany, which had been defeated in the WWI. And after Berlin was bound to Bolsheviks, it did not care about its positions in Ukraine. Yet nothing was that hopeless at the beginning. The government should have taken care of the country and its development, instead of sharing out money and spheres of influence, and indulging their own ambitions.
Moscow’s main goal in foreign politics is to keep its neighbors weak. If the countries that surround Russia are constantly kept in a poor economic and political state, Russia has more chances to get what it wants. As soon as Georgia started doing better, Moscow thrust a war in the Caucasus on it. It was not really a war for Abkhazia or South Ossetia, those were merely secondary priorities. The main agenda was to deprive Georgia of foothold and make it a Russian satellite, rather than let it join the NATO.
It did not work with Georgia, though the smaller goals were not abandoned. But that failure made Moscow bend every effort to make this plan work with Ukraine. Here, the stakes are much higher. It is no coincidence that pro-Russian forces in the disguise of federalization supporters have become more active. Promoting this idea will directly lead to the destruction of Ukrainian state and further annexation of its separate regions by the Russian Federation. Crimea is the first in line. This model is being tested on Moldova, where villages and towns declare they are joining Russia.
In order to avoid a situation similar to Georgian, we need a president that would meet historical challenges that society is facing with a clear and distinct policy. Unfortunately, independent Ukraine has not had such a president yet.
This reveals the low level of Ukrainian elite and the ruling class, no matter what party they belong to. We ended up in a situation when the government and the so-called opposition form a tangle of groups fighting each other, but from historical perspective, there is no difference between them.
Our government lacks quality, and so does some part of the political elite, which calls itself opposition because of the present-day political conjuncture. Yet deep down, that is not what it calls itself.
Until each of us clearly realizes that we will not be subject to Yanukovych or Putin, but want to be citizens of Ukraine, no matter what or who the president is, until that very moment our politicians will play at language issues instead of solving vital problems. It is our civil duty to make them work.