Saturday, 7 June 2014

Ukraine: President Poroshenko and the Road to Outright Civil War.

"Citizens of Ukraine will never enjoy the beauty of peace unless we settle down our relations with Russia. Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is, and will be Ukrainian soil"-President Poroshenko of Ukraine.
Ukraine needed a conciliatory president but Poroshenko has set back the prospect of there being a peace process and continued down a political path that can only end in open civil war. There is no realistic possibility of Ukraine regaining Crimea from Russia militarily and NATO would not help.

Federalisation would have been the only way to contain the rebels in the eastern regions. By failing to distance himself from far right Ukrainian nationalists in positions of power-or remove them-and by deciding on a military solution to defeating the eastern militias the civil war is set to continue.

With the Ukrainian air force using non guided rockets to attack the regional administrative building in Luhansk, killing eight civilians, attitudes are starting to polarise with opinion in the eastern regions hardening against Kiev. With no constitutional settlement, Kiev is determined to use force to crush 'separatists'.

The next mistake Poroshenko made is to go ahead with signing the economic part of an association agreement with the European Union. All membership of western economic and military organisations should have been off the table until the new constitutional position of the eastern regions was agreed.

Miners and workers in the Donbass region know that IMF and EU reforms could mean the destruction of their livelihoods and a break with the economic ties with Russia that provide guaranteed markets would mean penury and being thrown on the scrapheap.

The reason why the referendum on independence for the Donbass was rushed through in May 2014 was in response to the fear that Kiev was trying to ram through 'reforms' without their consent and without considering the economic interests of the workers in the east.

The double standards are plain. Whereas the western regions of Ukraine, where far right nationalists rule, were able in February 2014 to gain a measure of regional autonomy when it feared Kiev was not pursuing policies in its interests, any such autonomy for the east in a federal Ukraine is rejected.

Poroshenko by trying to move Ukraine decisively into the west -and the EU-is only going to alienate eastern Ukrainians even more as it seems that western Ukrainian ultra-nationalists are pandered to but those whose economic interests are connected to Russia are not important in any 'new' Ukraine.

As Anatol Lieven puts it, since Ukraine became an independent state after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991 it was obvious that 'Ukraine contains different identities, and cannot be ruled unilaterally by one of them alone, or pulled in a single geopolitical direction, without risking the breakup of the country itself'.

Since the Odessa Massacre, in which Right Sector paramilitaries played a role, and the growing determination of Kiev throughout April and May to use military means to crush eastern militias, it has become apparent that a good number of eastern civilians would not tolerate a Ukraine defined as only pro-West and anti-Russian.

President Poroshenko has as yet failed to get rid of senior officials in Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council such as Andriy Parubiy or Right Sector's Dmytro Yarosh. Without that, civilians in the eastern regions are not going to feel that a Ukrainian army would not be one of occupation.

Should the Ukrainian army kill scores more eastern civilians, then the possibility of the majority of civilians in the Donbass wanting to remain as part of a federal Ukraine could evaporate and the demand for independence gain traction. Then the way would be open to a Yugoslavian scale civil war.

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