No won­ders ex­pected

The Ukrainian Week - - BRIEFING - Dmytro Krapyvenko

We are learn­ing to live with­out il­lu­sions. The rev­o­lu­tion did not change our lives overnight, even if it did open the win­dow for such change. The West is not a fairy tale su­per­hero which, out of sense of sol­i­dar­ity and fair­ness, will de­clare a war on Vladimir Putin and de­stroy him with lit­tle pain. Yet, the West is our ally. And what­ever dis­agree­ments it takes, the sanc­tions against Rus­sia will be ex­tended weak­en­ing our en­emy. Pol­i­tics is not a place where peo­ple with un­tainted rep­u­ta­tion rush to. So, ev­ery time we vote for a nice guy or girl from a talk show on the sil­ver screen, we in­evitably get dis­en­chanted a bit later. We are not the only ones learn­ing these po­lit­i­cal ABCs: pop­ulists suc­ceed in tak­ing hostage more and more coun­tries in what is gen­er­ally known as the de­vel­oped world.

Some of the most-wanted Christ­mas gifts Ukraini­ans have been look­ing for­ward to is the visa free regime with the EU coun­tries. Pres­i­dent Poroshenko is of­ten crit­i­cised

for giv­ing new dead­lines ev­ery now and then. Yet, much of this crit­i­cism seems un­grounded: it’s up to our Euro­pean part­ners to make the move now. A lit­tle po­lit­i­cal will and sol­i­dar­ity in Brus­sels, and the visa wall should fall. Then what? There won’t be mir­a­cles, euro coins will not clink in the pock­ets and pot­holes in Ukrainian roads will re­main just where they are to­day. We will sim­ply be in­vited to pay a brief visit to the club of civilised coun­tries: we will be ex­pected to be­have and not look for any mem­ber­ship prospects, at least in the short run. Yet, to dis­miss that in­vi­ta­tion would be to cher­ish own bar­bar­ian­ism and cre­ate more grounds to be con­sid­ered as “Rus­sia’s or­bit of in­flu­ence”. This is a sym­bolic, yet a very nec­es­sary step, if we truly as­pire for Euro­pean val­ues, not a prim­i­tive fairy tale about hefty pen­sions, per­fect bureau­cra­cies, and high liv­ing stan­dards.

Any­one who wants to sur­vive in 2017 should shed all il­lu­sions. The war will not be over just be­cause “ev­ery­one is fed up with it,” be­cause Putin will change his mind or be­cause politi­cians will agree on some­thing. Even with­out pock­ets and break­throughs on the front­line, the death of ev­ery sol­dier is a heavy loss; ev­ery day of trench war­fare de­pletes re­sources; ev­ery meter of the “grey zone” is a po­ten­tial threat where fight­ing can re­sume any

ANY­ONE WHO WANTS TO SUR­VIVE IN 2017 SHOULD SHED ALL IL­LU­SIONS. THE WAR WILL NOT BE OVER, ELEC­TIONS WON'T SOLVE OUR PROB­LEMS, THE KREMLIN WON'T GIVE UP ON ITS PLANS

minute. There­fore, we will still need pro­fes­sional ser­vice­men, as well as new equip­ment (we can’t up­grade our old ar­se­nal with­out limit), and vol­un­teer help, – now in a more tech­no­log­i­cal di­men­sion than in 2014.

Also, it makes no sense to count on elec­tions. The pro­ce­dure as is will not solve any prob­lems. Quite on the con­trary, it will deepen and ag­gra­vate them. And no­body seems will­ing to im­prove elec­tion mech­a­nisms in Ukrainian pol­i­tics. So, an il­lu­sion of elec­tions is the worst-case sce­nario – as much as the il­lu­sion or imitation of elec­tions on the tem­po­rar­ily oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries. Ev­ery­one seems to get this in Ukraine. Even the cyn­i­cal politi­cians with no moral prin­ci­ples, purely in­stinc­tively it seems, feel that elec­tions in the Don­bas make no sense and talk­ing about them means play­ing against own rat­ings. In 2017, Ukrainian diplo­mats will have to in­vest enor­mous ef­forts into per­suad­ing our West­ern part­ners that an il­lu­sion of peace means war, one that is not post­poned till to­mor­row, but just a con­tin­u­a­tion of the cur­rent war un­der a slightly dif­fer­ent le­gal def­i­ni­tion.

The en­emy’s teeth were dented a bit in the Don­bas, but it will def­i­nitely not drop fur­ther plans to bring Ukraine into sub­mis­sion. For that, the Kremlin has many op­tions. First of all, a po­lit­i­cal re­vanche of its loy­al­ists no longer seems like an im­pos­si­ble op­tion. So­ci­o­log­i­cal sur­veys point to the fact that eco­nomic trou­bles drive the pop­u­lar­ity of pro-Rus­sian forces up. This growth is ir­ra­tional and emo­tional: it’s how peo­ple “show their grudge” against those in power. More­over, pro-Rus­sian forces will dis­guise them­selves as forces ral­ly­ing for paci­fism and “sta­bil­ity” in the years to come.

Mean­while, the Kremlin seems to be di­ver­si­fy­ing its sce­nar­ios for po­lit­i­cal desta­bil­i­sa­tion in Ukraine. Apart from or­gan­i­sa­tions well-known for their pro-Rus­sian stance, an­other de­struc­tive forces seems to be ris­ing. The re­cent visit of Na­dia Savchenko to Minsk has shown that the of­fi­cial Ukrainian del­e­ga­tion in talks with the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­to­ries seems to be hav­ing a com­peti­tor. And the ar­rival of this com­peti­tor does not seem very ran­dom. Cur­rently MP and for­merly a pris­oner of the Kremlin, Savchenko tries to present the state uni­lat­er­ally in causes of pris­oner ex­change; she pledges to show the re­sult of her ef­forts any time soon. It costs the Kremlin noth­ing to play along, but po­ten­tial ben­e­fits are huge: a fig­ure is ris­ing in Ukrainian pol­i­tics that dis­cred­its the of­fi­cial Kyiv strongly. If a pop­u­lar po­lit­i­cal party emerges around this fig­ure, those seek­ing to sow di­vi­sions in Ukraine will have even more rea­sons to re­joice.

Sec­ond of all comes a re­vanche through cul­ture: vir­tu­ally three years of war have proven not enough to wipe out il­lu­sions of “com­mon con­tent” and “strong ties”, and sub­se­quently, vast space for the Rus­sian soft power. Coun­ter­ing such sce­nar­ios is easy and dif­fi­cult at the same time. It’s home­work for the gov­ern­ment in 2017: those in power have to make sure that the space for ma­noeu­vre for the Kremlin’s prox­ies shrinks; the po­lit­i­cal forces qual­i­fy­ing as demo­cratic in Ukraine should not strug­gle with each other in at­tempts to demon­strate which one of them is more open and Euro­pean while sac­ri­fic­ing their yesterday’s al­lies to that. Civil so­ci­ety must for­mu­late its slo­gans in such a man­ner and put such pres­sure on the gov­ern­ment that it is no­ticed and not lost in the laments of pop­ulists and those who will be desta­bi­liz­ing the coun­try pro­fes­sion­ally. As to the vis­its of “the fa­thers of Rus­sian democ­racy”, celebrities and any ex­port of Rus­sia’s cul­tural prod­uct to Ukraine, the recipe is sim­ple: if the de­mand for this sort of en­ter­tain­ment (whether nat­u­ral or man­u­ally stim­u­lated in pre­vi­ous times) fell to zero, all hos­tile strate­gies to fight for our minds and hearts would be in vain.

Is bring­ing back Crimea, the oc­cu­pied parts of the Don­bas and all our hostages held in Rus­sia in 2017 an il­lu­sion? There are few ra­tio­nal ar­gu­ments against “No” as an an­swer. Yet, get­ting at least some of those peo­ple re­leased, ex­chang­ing them for ar­rested separatists, and mak­ing sure that our “voices” (mean­ing Ukrainian me­dia) are bet­ter heard in the oc­cu­pied ter­ri­tory, is per­fectly re­al­is­tic. And that is a step to­wards vic­tory. As Mustafa Dzhemilev puts it in his piece for this is­sue, Rus­sia is un­pre­dictable, and ir­re­versible change can start there as quickly and un­ex­pect­edly as it did in the Soviet Union back in the 1980s. So, West­ern sanc­tions and our own strug­gle can un­der­mine the Kremlin’s walls. How long it takes will de­pend on their re­sis­tance and our per­se­ver­ance.

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