Lessons of Maidan

We should not repeat our past mistakes. (Argumenty i facty» weekly, 1999, 7) ( Viktor Chernomyrdin )

Last week resignation of the Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov has instantly changed the political situation in Kiev. In fact, resignation of the Ukrainian Prime Minister gave Viktor Yanukovych additional political maneuver and he actually developed this theme after the proposal to Arseniy Yatsenyuk to take the post of the Prime minister. But there are no one-sided processes in politics: on the one hand, negotiations between the Ukrainian leadership and its opponents from Maidan on the issue of compromises  and agreements allowed to overshadow the requirements of Maidan on the early presidential elections. On the other hand, Viktor Yanukovych has made some consessions and that put into question the preservation of the power in his hands.

Consessions

No doubt, Mykola Azarov's resignation is a well-judged action of the President of Ukraine. But in perspective the dissapearence of Yanukovych – Azarov team may do harm to Ukrainian leadership. It is worth noting that Mykola Azarov can be considered the most competent and effective Prime minister in the history of independent Ukraine. He had to deal with a very painful and difficult (in socio - economic terms) task of reforming the Ukrainian economy. Of course, it would not bring him popularity among the population.

Mykola Azarov was the first Ukrainian Prime minister who could lead a discussion with the Russian government on equal terms. He had a tough and unyielding character and clearly understood what the Ukrainian economy needed this moment. He did not hesitate and publicly explained the desicion to suspend the association process with the European Union. From this moment Azarov became almost independent political figure. And no one doubted that Ukraine would never enter a zone of the European integration project with the Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. His resignation became one of the slogans of the Ukrainian opposition and a political schedule for the authorities after the New Year and Stefan Fule's appearance in Kiev.

After Mykola Azarov's resignation and adoption of the amnesty law ( January 31, 2014 ), it was the second time after the beginning of Maidan (first time until November 30 , 2013) when the opposition «settlement» in the center of Kiev could be eliminated. However, as we predicted, «the appetite comes with eating» and Maidan was left in place ...

Opposition

Certainly, the presence of a kind of opposition «state» in the center of the Ukrainian capital – Kiev's «Vatican», is a national political phenomenon that can not be duplicated in any other European capital. Maidan, as a form of struggle, is not only an indicator of the level of development of the Ukrainian democracy, but also an evidence of the weakness of the Ukrainian nationhood. On the one hand, the use of Maidan shows that traditional democratic tools for resolving political conflicts (parliamentary struggle, street demonstrations, strikes, boycotts, information campaigns and etc.) are useless in the conditions of modern Ukraine as do not allow the opposition to take the power legitimately from the hands of their rivals from the Party of Regions.

On the other hand, the Ukrainian authorities were forced to suffer opposition «town» in the city center and made only rare attempts to «clean up» the square and surrounding streets. Ukrainian authorities did not dare to disperse Maidan. European Union does not allow them to do it.

In its turn, the opposition's movements were also strange. According to the participants of Maidan, they are using the city centre for the organization of the «revolution». But in this case you should make this revolution and not burn fire for two months, sleep in a neighboring state agencies, sing, dance, listen to the speech of Ukrainian and European politicians, create a «picture» for countless foreign TV companies and pose to numerous tourists.

At the same time, Maidan attentively watched the stories of major world news channels and was very boiled over Russian television, which presented Maidan participants as «radicals», «militants» and «terrorists». Maidan has paid a lot of attention to disprove Russian TV channels, and it set wondering, as it was unclear why people came to the square - to arrange an endless flash mob or make a revolution. If the answer is revolution, so there is no sense to pay attention to the stories of the channels of the neighboring country. You should do your stuff ...

However, Maidan became a center of constant provocation of various kinds of anti-Russian ideas and rumors, aimed to give geopolitical nature to the struggle against Viktor Yanukovych's regime. A lie about Russian special forces in Kiev became a kind of apotheosis of this information war. European media replicated this information and it caused another anti-Russian coven in the media space of the Eastern Europe. At some time one may think that Maidan is not interested in revolution or Yanukovych’s dismissal.

Indeed, if it is a revolution, the buildings of the Parliament, the government, the Ministries of Interior and Defense, as well as television, should be occupied long ago. «Berkut» and the army should take the side of the people. And, in theory, new government should have been formed and recognized by the European Union. In any case, the government of Yanukovich faced the «troika» of political leaders, who combined legal political activity with street protests and the war with «Berkut» and went between the Verkhovna Rada and Maidan, instantly transforming from glossing political leaders into protest furies and vice versa.

On the one hand, the ambitions of three opposition leaders did not allow to consolidate and simultaneously to control the entire opposition bloc, including radicals. On the other hand, a single and universally accepted new leader of Ukraine did not appear. In any case, it is difficult to imagine that caning in empty iron drums and shouting slogans can force to resign any power, even the weakest…

Maidan turned into an endless and hopeless PR campaign already in December 2013. World news agencies paid less attention to it, Brussels started to forget about Ukraine's protest. Maidan was not dominating news until  January 19, when the radical part of Maidan, later organized into «Right sector», started the storm of Hrushevskoho street. By the way, this street was named after the famous Russian, Ukrainian and at the same time the Soviet historian and politician of Ukraine Mikhail Hrushevskoho. However, it is not the only way to the government quarter, and it leads to some thought ...

Apparently, initially Ukrainian opposition did not plan to take the power. Ukrainian opposition demonstrated its potential instead of real struggle. Still, at some point Maidan became the mouthpiece of protest moods in the Ukrainian society. It gave Maidan a certain dynamics.

In November 2013 Maidan demanded to kept Ukraine in the line with the policy of rapprochement with the European Union. In principle, this theme was removed from the agenda after a series of statements of Viktor Yanukovych in late November. However, after unexplainable and clearly provocative attempt to disperse Maidan on November 30, the confrontation with the authorities got a second breath.

Government

It's not a secret that in a certain period the Ukrainian leadership was not against the opposition enclave in the heart of the Ukrainian capital. Ukrainian government presented Maidan as a threat of full-scale political destabilization. As a result, Yanukovych visited Beijing, Moscow and Sochi in order to get urgent and unconditional financial support.

However, when the President of Ukraine was not in Kiev, Maidan behaved peacefully and did not try to use a «window of opportunity». The reason for this passivity is understandable: there was no sense to take the power while Yanukovych did not receive Russian loan ($ 15 billion) and a radical decrease in the price of Russian natural gas supplied to Ukraine. The economy of Ukraine was on the verge of default, and Rada could not approve the budget for 2014. However, after receiving the first tranche of the Russian loan (December 2013 ), the situation began to change gradually.

Money

Nobody needs power without money. In this case Ukraine is not something unusual. In addition, Ukraine needs money for the march into the European Union. But only Russia can give money. And only Viktor Yanukovich can take money from Russia. This political formula is universal, and other post-Soviet countries will have to take it into account. Indeed, Moscow will not give money, for example, to Oleg Tyagnibok ... Although Viktor Yanukovych's reputation in Moscow is negative for a long, but there is no other variant...

Russian money is a road map, that allows to find a way out of «labyrinth» of Ukrainian political crisis. Especially since the European Union never attempted to help Kiev with loans. Hence the passivity of Maidan at the turn of 2013 and 2014. It seemed that the European orchestrators whispered: «It is too early, not now, let's wait when Yanukovych will take a loan...». Maidan was waiting for the first tranche, as there was no choice ( you need to adopt the budget, stabilize the financial situation in the country ... ).

Ukrainian government has received money and political life in Kiev left the stage of picnic very quickly. As it was already mentioned before, Maidan radicals went on the attack just after Christmas holidays and vacations.

According to the schedule, the Ukrainian government had to receive the second tranche of the Russian loan - $ 2 billion, at the end of the first month of the new 2014 - 28 January. Confrontation at Hrushevskoho Street began on December 19, nine days before the money transfer. Representatives of the European Union were also in Kiev at this time. They began to persuade Yanukovych to make concessions to Maidan. All this was accompanied by the fights at the barricades.

However, the process was clearly delayed, both sides killed the clock, waiting for the second tranche, as the revolution needed the money. The situation became quite anecdotal, when the «fateful» session of Verkhovna Rada was scheduled for January 28 (day of the second tranche). This session had to decide the issue of new prime minister. Simultaneously,  summit Russia- EU began in Brussels, and Ukrainian issue was in the limelight. Such triple coincidence could not be accidental.

European Union

All things came in true colours on January 28. In principle, the EU was the only external player, that received the maximum dividends form the escalating of the Ukrainian crisis: skillful pressure on the Maidan and Ukrainian government has not brought the situation to a full-scale armed conflict, Ukraine was not divided, «apostate» Yanukovych was «punished» and made concessions, his «power was hanging by a thread», Ukraine received Russian money. And the main problem is to make the Russian Federation to continue financing Kiev's European drift and association with the European Union.

At the same time you should pay special attention that the EU did not question the legitimacy of Viktor Yanukovych, but only proposed him to «move» on the political Olympus. And it is understandable - recently Viktor Yanukovych and his sons were gladly accepted in the European capitals as the EU hoped that Ukrainian President would sign the association agreement between Ukraine and Europe at the summit in Vilnius. Today Brussels must somehow replace Yanukovich in more or less legitimate manner, but, of course not to take problematic Ukraine on its own budget.

And real diplomatic comedy began at the Brussels summit on January 28. Europeans, who recently blamed Moscow for «sponsoring a bandit in Kiev» and pressure on the Ukrainian leadership with the help of money, suddenly became aware of the fact that in a situation of change of power in Kiev, Russia continued to allocate money to Ukraine. Europe demanded Vladimir Putin to provide guarantees and commitments that Russia would continue lending to Kiev. It was overshoot ... With the same success Washington and London could claim from Moscow to support Bandera and his troops in the 1950s. At the same time the EU did not start the dialogue about the fate of Ukraine in the format «Brussels -Moscow-Kiev». In other words, the European Union would like to continue to determine the fate of Ukraine, and gave Moscow the role of a sponsor of its experiments in the post Soviet space.

Putin evasively said in Brussels that Moscow was ready to conduct a dialogue with any Ukrainian government. This is understandable, as Ukraine remains the largest trade partner of Russia. However, the fate of the second tranche has already been solved. Ukraine did not receive money on January 28. Moreover, Moscow has made ​​it clear that there would be no money without the Prime Minister of Ukraine… Of course, the question arose immediately: «Why did we need the Prime Minister, if there was no money».

As a result, everything stops suddenly: the government, the opposition, the European Union. «Repressive laws» were already canceled, Party of Regions made almost all possible concessions in these conditions. But Maidan continues to live in the center of the Ukrainian capital. Waiting for the money.

Meanwhile, the leader of «Batkivschyna» Arseniy Yatsenyuk asked Europe to develop a scheme for Ukraine, similar to the Marshall Plan. Maybe they will give money ... It is clear that if we remove the Maidan, then no one will let on the doorstep.

Russia

Russia remains one of the main factors in the decision of the Ukrainian political crisis. Russia created a multi-tiered system of support of Ukrainian statehood and acted in its own interests, that included a sovereign and independent Ukraine - rich and solvent partner country, but not a divided country with a stream of refugees and criminals. But on the other hand, in case of a negative scenario in Ukraine you can always stop or even annul the dates of tranches… Moscow does not believe Viktor Yanukovych.

At the same time, it is worth recalling that two years ago Viktor Yanukovych started intrigue with the European choice of Ukraine. In the end he got the result, which he had not expected. The fact is that the Party of Regions attempted to persuade the Russian establishment that the Ukrainian political class and the population are steadily turning to the European Union because of «greedy» Moscow (expensive gas, access to the Russian market, loans), which itself stimulates the “departure” of Kiev to Brussels. In other words, if Moscow increased subsidies for Ukraine, «European process» in Ukraine could stopped or even prevented.

However, as always happens in Ukrainian domestic and foreign policy – «they go too far». As a result, the Russian authorities and almost all Russia decided that Ukraine was finally lost and entirety went to the EU. Well, if so, there is no sense to spend money on geopolitical maneuvers of Kiev ...

Key factor

A number of illusions and a long list of versions were dispelled during the confrontation at Maidan. Some of them referred to the future of Ukraine. In particular, the confirmation that Ukraine is on the verge of collapse has not been confirmed. All excesses in some regions of the country (seizure of regional administrations) were not of the separatist nature. The struggle for the power is still concentrated in Kiev. However, deep analysis of the events in different regions of Ukraine says that de facto modern Ukraine is a federation.

There is no a threat of civil war. However, some experts said recently that it was almost an accomplished fact. Civil war is not in the interests of domestic and foreign players of the Ukrainian crisis.

However, it would be a mistake to present Maidan and events around it only as a split among the Ukrainian elite and the political class. In fact, masses of Ukraine are the main engine of the events that are taking place in the center of the Ukrainian capital today. People want social and economic changes despite of their place of residence, religion or political affiliations.

The country has very difficult situation with wages, unemployment, prices. So, any government, that will be in power in Kiev, will be forced to act in haste as the time limit for 23 years of independence and sovereignty of the republic is exhausted.

In fact, Maidan, which to some extent linked to the current system of government in Ukraine, is the top of hidden struggle for survival not only of the ruling elites, but also of the independent Ukrainian state. Hence the search for a magic political formula that should satisfy everyone, including torning between presidential-parliamentary or parliamentary- presidential republic. Constant rewriting of the Constitution aims to obtain from the Ukrainian people another mandate for a new experiment, already in the mainstream of the European integration. So, we see a struggle for a new illusion of the future «prosperous Ukraine» already in the European family, where the republic will be side by side with Tunisia, Turke and, etc.

In reality, it is still possible that sooner or later the country's population, maddened by the accumulated social and economic problems, will say: «A plague on both your houses!».

Meanwhile, the country is going around in a circle for the third decade– new election, new Maidan, new hopes on Europe and Russian money…

А. Suzdaltsev, Moscow, 02.02.14

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