My new piece at Lobe Log looks at the dismal state of affairs in Kiev, where effective, stable governance is needed probably more than any other place on Earth but where, based on recent history and on the stable of characters currently circling around the capital, there’s almost no chance it will get any in the near future. There are a couple of things that, as far as I’m concerned, are as close to “fact” as you can get in world affairs. First, if Russia decides to
invade uuuuuhhhhh, let’s say “stabilize,” eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian military can’t stop them. They can make it a little more uncomfortable for the Russians, maybe, but they can’t go toe-to-toe with the Russian army and win. Hell, if Putin decides to roll over the whole country and on into Transnistria, there’s really nothing Ukraine could do to stop him. Second, if Russia does openly enter Ukraine, NATO isn’t coming to the rescue. So while Kiev has some levers it can use to discourage Russia, the only thing that really ends this crisis is a national government that can assuage the fears of Russians in the eastern part of the country and do something to turn the battered Ukrainian economy around.
Unfortunately, Ukrainian politics seems to be forever stuck in a this-or-that see-saw between two equally ineffective alternatives. Those alternatives used to be, broadly speaking, “European,” personified by former President Viktor Yushchenko, involving closer ties to Europe and the kind of neoliberal shock doctrine economics that gets a hearty “attaboy” from the Serious People at the IMF but leaves your own people suffering needlessly, and “Russian,” personified by former President Viktor Yanukovych, involving close ties to Moscow, membership in Putin’s Eurasian economic union, crony capitalism, and political repression. Now that Yanukovych is out and Putin’s aggression has made the “Russian” alternative toxic in national Ukrainian politics, the two alternatives are the same neoliberalism…and the rising tide of hard-right nationalism/light fascism that helped fuel the Euromaidan movement. The nationalists are obviously trouble from a national reconciliation standpoint, and while they’ve been given a few posts in the interim cabinet, it’s clear that the neoliberals are in the driver’s seat:
While it’s too soon to speculate what [Petro Poroshenko, the front runner in next month’s planned presidential election]’s economic policy would be, his past as a close Yushchenko ally hints at his neoliberal sympathies. The current interim government is dominated by figures from Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party, including Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a favorite of Victoria Nuland, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, who has ties to prominent neoconservatives. Nuland favors the kind of shock capitalism that is practiced by the IMF and that guided the economic policy of the Kuchma and Yushchenko administrations. Yatsenyuk has referred to the cabinet he heads as a “kamikaze” government because of the “extremely unpopular” financial policies it plans to implement, and has promised to follow IMF-dictated austerity measures. Considering the impact of these policies on Greece, it’s remarkable that Yatsenyuk has embraced them so whole-heartedly and unquestioningly.
Please click over there and read it if you’re interested. The embarrassing fates of both Yushchenko and Yanukovych, whose rivalry has defined Ukrainian politics for the last decade or more and who both wound up unceremoniously dumped from office, is particularly outrageous.