Ukraine at Another Crossroads Part III

7: How does the outside world stand?

What is happening in Ukraine is therefore not only interpreted as a struggle for political power in Ukraine. The struggle is also seen as a kind of conflict between political cultures . Pro-European ambitions in Ukraine are supported directly and indirectly by the EU and the US , while anti- European and pro-Russian forces are supported by Moscow. Both the West and Russia have interests in Ukraine.

For the West , it is a matter of political and economic stabilization of the EU’s neighboring areas and “export” of European political and economic standards (see facts, the Copenhagen criteria). It is seen as the best way to ensure positive development and stability in the country. The EU has not yet aimed for membership in Ukraine, but promises to support the country’s adaptation to European standards and requirements. Many in Ukraine believe this will have a positive impact on the way the country is governed. It can be said that the EU does not necessarily offer short-term economic gains, but long-term solutions to Ukraine’s governance problems – a system of government characterized by corruption, lack of transparency, minority rule , (see facts, Oligarchs …) inadequate rule of law .

According to COMMIT4FITNESS, Russia has strong economic interests in Ukraine, but many, both in Ukraine and in the West, suspect Moscow of using economic instruments to keep the country in the Russian sphere of interest and thus retain political influence in Ukraine. There are also strong economic actors – so-called clans – in Ukraine who believe that Ukraine should strengthen economic ties to Moscow rather than to Brussels because it will better serve their economic interests. However, economic cooperation between Moscow and Kiev is not a dance on roses.

Until 2012, about 80 percent of Russian gas exports to the West went through Ukraine. Since then, many price and volume-related conflicts have arisen between Gazprom , the Russian state-owned gas company and gas customers in Ukraine. Confidence in Ukraine as a transit country has thus been strained in Russia, which has therefore focused on building pipelines that bypass Ukraine. At the same time, Ukraine was for several periods forced to pay higher gas prices than some other countries that were also part of the former Soviet empire, which has created major economic problems for the authorities and ordinary Ukrainians both in the east and west.

8: The country’s future at stake?

Regardless of whether the governing powers of Ukraine choose closer cooperation with the West, as many in the protest movement want, or with Russia, as many in eastern Ukraine believe is best, they will have to deal with many major political and economic challenges. The country is really on the brink of a political, economic and demographic collapse – even with the support promised by Russia. It is obvious that the way land and politics are run must change. It may seem that it is precisely the need to do something with the government that can unite the opposition . Today it consists of several different groups with many different interests :

  • Ukrainian nationalists with Oleh Tjahnybok,
  • a pro-European party UDAR led by Vitaly Klitschko, former world boxing champion
  • party of former prime minister and presidential candidate, now in jail: Yulia Tymoshenko
  • many other groups representing almost the entire political spectrum of Ukraine.

Many interpret what is happening in the streets of Ukraine today no longer as a struggle for the choice between Moscow or Brussels, but as the struggle for Ukraine’s survival as a viable country.


The Copenhagen criteria

(from 1993) are requirements and values ‚Äč‚Äčthat possible new member states of the EU must first satisfy and commit to promoting. The criteria are:
– Political : stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, respect for the rule of law and human rights and for the protection of minorities
– Economic : a functioning market economy and the ability to meet the competitive pressures and market demands of the Union
– Duties and visions : ability and willingness to comply accompanying membership, including adherence to the objectives of political, economic and monetary union.
Another condition (from 1995) is that the countries have sufficient administrative capacity .

Ukraine – Mecca of oligarchs and clans

Oligarchy – tyranny – describes the political system that has developed in Ukraine since independence. The Ukrainian oligarchs are wealthy businessmen and industrial elites who have used their close personal connections with the political leadership to form informal networks and accumulate enormous wealth through them. Many come from the armaments and heavy industry in the southeast. Most of them built their first fortunes on the resale of Russian oil and gas within Ukraine, but then spread their interests to other sectors of the economy.

President Kuchma was dependent both on the oligarchs’ money to campaign and on their contacts to rule the country. The oligarchs relied on Kuchma to secure former state property at a reasonable price, and to obtain tax benefits. The most central oligarchs are loosely organized into three regional clans : the Dnipropetrovsk clan, the Donetsk clan and the Kiev clan.

The Russian gas company Gazprom

The giant state-owned company Gazprom controls most of the pipeline system in Russia and has a near monopoly on gas exports. In 2003, Putin singled out Gazprom as one of the major strategic players in Russia’s foreign and energy policy. He emphasized that Gazprom’s strong market position would make it easier for Russia to gain a foothold in its European interests. Revenues from oil and gas exports together accounted for 68 percent of Russia’s total export revenues in 2013; about half of the russian state budget is covered by revenues from the petroleum sector.

Ukraine at Another Crossroads 3

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