Skip to main content

U-turn in Ukraine?

Viktor Yanukovich - the likely victor in the Ukrainian Presidential election- is not a Jeffersonian Democrat. He carries with him the air of the youthful hoodlum he once was- he served time in gaol as a young man. However Yulia Timoshenko- the defeated candidate is hardly a model democrat herself. It would be quite easy to throw up ones hands and say that Ukraine was a lost cause and that it has not escaped its terrible past.

Easy but wrong.

For one thing, the Presidential election has been given a clean bill of health by election observers. A clean election anywhere in the former Soviet Union is sufficiently rare to be celebrated. Neither is Ukraine likely to fall under the control of Russia, despite fears that it may do so. The fact is that the division of Ukraine has proven to be its saviour. No one party, region, or faction -still less a single individual- is able to control the country. All things must be negotiated, all things are political. On the one hand it creates a slow moving, quite badly governed state, with low level corruption endemic, on the other Ukraine is classified as free by Freedom House.

So Mr. Yanukovich, even if he wanted to deliver Ukraine to the Kremlin could not do so. He must govern by way of deal making and compromise, and for every die-hard pro-Putinista in Ukraine, there are probably three pro Europeans. The economy is now oriented to its prosperous Western neighbours, not its inefficient and truculent Eastern. However much Russia tries to project its will in K'yev, it finds that it must, like everyone else, cut a deal and negotiate, and in fact it has few things that are attractive to Ukrainians. Even the energy weapon is a two edged sword for Russia, for blackmailing Ukraine reminds the West of the importance of diversity of energy supply and diminishes Russia's reputation as a reliable supplier of energy.

Neither can Mr. Yanukovich, even if he wanted to, create a more authoritarian constitution and bend the Ukrainian people to his will. The local regions are powerful, and whether Russian or Ukrainian speaking, they will not easily cede power back to the centre. On top of that, creating a more centralised state could deliver Mr. Yanukovich into the hands of his political opponents, since the Orange Revolution, for all its disappointments, has shown that a President who oversteps the mark can be removed by the popular will.

So, in the end it is likely that it will be economics that is Ukraine's destiny: and that means a continued Western trajectory- whether or not the Kremlin or indeed Mr. Yanukovich want to stop this or not. In fact, there is some evidence that Mr. Yanukovich has learned plenty of lessons from the Orange revolution- which Ms. Timoshenko may not. One of the most obvious is to try to construct coalitions, which Mr. Yanukovich has already done to a degree with the outgoing President, Mr. Yushchenko. The second is the increasing use that Mr. Yanukovich makes of the Ukrainian rather than the Russian language. Like Ms. Timoshenko, Mr. Yanukovich learned Ukrainian as a second language, unlike her, he still stumbles over the language, but nevertheless, he increasingly uses Ukrainian in public. Although he has stated that he would like to see restrictions against Russian lifted, which would please the Kremlin, this is simply to put the issue on the agenda, not to actually enact change. Even in such relatively minor changes, Mr. Yanukovich will need to negotiate and not to decree.

So the mood music in Ukraine will change. Mr. Yanukovich is not a cultured nor notably intelligent figure. His thuggish demeanour and past will tell against him. However the Ukrainian people have freely elected him as their President. he may not be Thomas Jefferson, but in the end he doesn't need to be. The Ukrainians are asking for better governance, and that Mr. Yanukovich may yet be able to give.

The Western trajectory of Ukraine is secure. The rest is details. Even an undemocratic and unfree Russia can only negotiate for influence in a democratic and free Ukraine, it may not force the Ukrainians to act against their will. In the end, that is the final and the greatest triumph of the orange revolution.


Popular posts from this blog

Post Truth and Justice

The past decade has seen the rise of so-called "post truth" politics.  Instead of mere misrepresentation of facts to serve an argument, political figures began to put forward arguments which denied easily provable facts, and then blustered and browbeat those who pointed out the lie.  The political class was able to get away with "post truth" positions because the infrastructure that reported their activity has been suborned directly into the process. In short, the media abandoned long-cherished traditions of objectivity and began a slow slide into undeclared bias and partisanship.  The "fourth estate" was always a key piece of how democratic societies worked, since the press, and later the broadcast media could shape opinion by the way they reported on the political process. As a result there has never been a golden age of objective media, but nevertheless individual reporters acquired better or worse reputations for the quality of their reporting and

We need to talk about UK corruption

After a long hiatus, mostly to do with indolence and partly to do with the general election campaign, I feel compelled to take up the metaphorical pen and make a few comments on where I see the situation of the UK in the aftermath of the "Brexit election". OK, so we lost.  We can blame many reasons, though fundamentally the Conservatives refused to make the mistakes of 2017 and Labour and especially the Liberal Democrats made every mistake that could be made.  Indeed the biggest mistake of all was allowing Johnson to hold the election at all, when another six months would probably have eaten the Conservative Party alive.  It was Jo Swinson's first, but perhaps most critical, mistake to make, and from it came all the others.  The flow of defectors and money persuaded the Liberal Democrat bunker that an election could only be better for the Lib Dems, and as far as votes were concerned, the party did indeed increase its vote by 1.3 million.   BUT, and it really is the bi

Media misdirection

In the small print of the UK budget we find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the British Finance Minister) has allocated a further 15 billion Pounds to the funding for the UK track and trace system. This means that the cost of the UK´s track and trace system is now 37 billion Pounds.  That is approximately €43 billion or US$51 billion, which is to say that it is amount of money greater than the national GDP of over 110 countries, or if you prefer, it is roughly the same number as the combined GDP of the 34 smallest economies of the planet.  As at December 2020, 70% of the contracts for the track and trace system were awarded by the Conservative government without a competitive tender being made . The program is overseen by Dido Harding , who is not only a Conservative Life Peer, but the wife of a Conservative MP, John Penrose, and a contemporary of David Cameron and Boris Johnson at Oxford. Many of these untendered contracts have been given to companies that seem to have no notewo