Ukrainian Think Thanks Publications Review
The political process in the Ukraine has become as hot as the scorching weather the country has been experiencing of late. Discussions about the latest trends at home and around the world and what it all means for the future of Ukraine have reached fever pitch. The recent NATO Summit in Warsaw, the attempted coup in Turkey, the complicated dynamics of the development of Ukraine’s relations with important regional partner (Poland) and the threat of the situation in Donbass escalating – all this has sent shockwaves around the country.
The NATO Summit in Warsaw
In his analytical report, “First Hand Results of the NATO Summit in Warsaw,” Co-Director of Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes at the Razumkov Centre Oleksiy Melnyk reflects on the importance of the last NATO meeting and the historical role of the decisions adopted. The author focuses primarily on the consolidation of the NATO countries around the perception of the “Russian threat,” which is reflected in the comparison made between Russia’s foreign policy course and Islamic fundamentalism in terms of the menace it poses to the global socio-political system. According to Melnyk, behind the screen of relative diplomatic restraint, the Summit’s participants came to the following conclusions with regard to the assessment of the strategic confrontation between NATO and Russia:
Russia continues to be the main instigator of the destabilization of the situation on NATO’s eastern border and the reason for the escalation of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine;
The “Russian factor” is also present in numerous threats related to the functioning of NATO’s southern flank: instability in the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Africa. Specifically, we are talking about the Syrian conflict, Islamic State, the migration crisis, terrorism, and the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.;
There is also a strong possibility that another zone of strategic confrontation could be created in Africa, where Russia continues to build up its presence.
Among the Summit’s practical solutions, the Ukrainian expert welcomes the decision by NATO to strengthen its positions through the deployment of four battalions in Poland and the Baltic states, which he sees as an effective manifestation of “smart defence” tactic. The measures adopted by NATO will continue to drag Russia into an arms race, forcing it to dip deep into its military budget.
Ukraine should step up the process of political reform and military modernization if it wants to continue to have the support of its western partners.
In turn, the Director of Military programmes at the Razumkov Centre, Mykola Sunhurovskyi, in his comments to New Time, attempts to determine the significance of the Warsaw Summit in terms of Ukraine’s national interests. In an article entitled “Will NATO Support Ukraine?” Sunhurovskyi identifies two key factors that determine the level of NATO support moving forward: the resources that NATO has at its disposal and the effectiveness of Ukraine’s domestic politics. Every visit by a NATO representative is accompanied by an assessment of the achievements of the Ukrainian side. In Sunhurovskyi’s opinion, NATO is prepared to expand its partnership with Ukraine on the condition that the local authorities adhere to a unified political worldview, give clear reasons for the amount of assistance that they require and follow the political course set by the countries. Ukraine should step up the process of political reform and military modernization if it wants to continue to have the support of its western partners, because investments into Ukraine are investments into Europe.
In her analytical article, “The NATO Summit for Ukraine: Wales 1 Bucharest 0,” Director of the Institute of World Policy Alena Getmanchuk examines the decisions madein detail. She notes the positive trends for Ukraine, while also identifying number of problematic aspects. According to Getmanchuk, the reception held by President Petro Poroshenko at the NATO Wales Summit was an unquestionable success of the Ukrainian political establishment. The fact that the Ukrainian authorities demonstrated a clear vision for reform in defence and security, which was clearly formulated and structured in the Strategic Defense Bulletin, as well as the fact that the majority of NATO members were one in their assessment of the need to curb the aggressive course of Russia’s foreign policy owing to the “Ukrainian precedent,” could explain why world leaders were so accommodating. At the same time, Getmanchuk draws attention to the fact that should Ukraine be inactive, the country will not receive any more advances; Ukraine must present a report on the results of the plan’s implementation in one year’s time.
In Getmanchuk’s opinion, the Comprehensive Package of Assistance for Ukraine is an important practical achievement of cooperation between Ukraine and NATO. Nevertheless, there is currently no detailed information regarding the additional costs associated with the package, which could illustrate how it is qualitatively different from the aid package adopted at the NATO Wales Summit.
Maintaining an objective view of the situation, Getmanchuk also points out a number of negative results of the summit. First, the summit confirmed the absence of real prerequisites for Ukraine to become a full member of NATO, as well as the lack of agreement among NATO members on to the need to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine. Second, NATO did not support the Bucharest Summit Declaration on the possibility of Ukraine and Georgia becoming NATO members.
In the context of NATO’s policy towards Russia, Getmanchuk notes the rather clear and unequivocal signals emanating from the Alliance with regard to the illegality of the annexation of Crimea and the human rights violations taking place on the peninsula, as well as to the adoption of the 3D (defence, deterrence, dialogue) strategy in relation to Russia.
In addition to the research papers mentioned, the NATO Summit has been the focus of discussions among Ukrainian experts on specialist internet websites for some time now.
Most analysts agree that the Summit represented a small victory for Ukrainian diplomacy, because not only did the NATO member countries express their usual concern about the course of Russia’s foreign policy, but they also likened it in their final declaration to one of the main threats to international security.
After the Warsaw Summit, the possibility of creating a new negotiating format for the resolution of the situation in Ukraine without the participation of Russia has been actively discussed.
NATO has clearly marked out the line of defence on its eastern border, leaving open the question about sufficient military potential in the form of four battalions in Poland and the Baltic States to counter the three new Russian divisions in the southwest. At the same time, NATO declared that its support for Ukraine would be sufficient to prevent Russia from deliberately provoking an escalation of the hostilities in Donbass and deter pro-Russian fighters or regular forces from strengthening their positions in Ukraine.
In addition to reaching an agreement on military cooperation with Poland, the Summit became a platform for the qualitative improvement of Ukraine–Canada relations in the military sector, which were furthered during the follow-up visit of the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, to Ukraine. After the Warsaw Summit, the possibility of creating a new negotiating format for the resolution of the situation in Ukraine without the participation of Russia has been actively discussed. Some Ukrainian experts claim that the Normandy format could be replaced by a group of five consisting of the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Ukraine, and the Minsk Protocols will supposedly be left behind in favour of a reconciliation plan agreed and signed in full in Moscow by Vladislav Surkov and Victoria Nuland. Such a plan should benefit the Ukrainian side more, and it should also provide access for the OSCE police mission to facilities controlled by the rebels, and give Ukraine control over its own borders until local elections are held, but no later. If these assumptions are true, then we can talk about certain forced concessions on the part on the Kremlin in terms of its policy on Ukraine. For the successful completion of the Ukrainian campaign, Russia must hope for inspiration in the form of a domestic political crisis inside Ukraine, accompanied by repeat elections and mass demonstrations. Either that, or, within the framework of a resolution to the conflict, ensure the integration of problem regions with devastated infrastructures and disquieted populations into the political and economic life of the country. In order to maintain parity, we should mention that, during negotiations at the Summit, world leaders focused attention on the need to soften the stance of the Ukrainian leadership on issues regarding the regulation of the situation in Donbass on the basis of the Minsk Protocols. This could suggest that talk of a possible Minsk III in a new format of international participants is somewhat premature. Most likely, the issue can only be revisited in autumn 2016 at the earliest, in the event that the Verkhovna Rada blocks voting on a draft bill that would include granting special status to the Donbass region. In this context, it opens the door for a new negotiating format to be found, and for an alternative mechanism for resolving the conflict in Eastern Ukraine to be developed.
The Warsaw Summit confirmed that Russia will be faced with significant problems should NATO succeed in implementing its plans. In addition to strengthening its positions in Central Europe, NATO could redouble its efforts to limit communication with the Kaliningrad Region and create a military and political axis on the basis of the so-called Baltic–Black Sea region, thus further isolating Russia.
Political Events in Turkey: Significance for Ukraine and the Peace Proces
Turkey has become a key international “newsmaker” in recent weeks, a fact that has not escaped the attention of Ukrainian experts.
In an analytical article entitled “How Long will the Friendship between Russia and Turkey Last?” President of the National Strategies Foundation Taras Berezovets provides an interesting assessment of the recent events in Turkey. According to Berezovets, Recep Erdoğan was pushed towards rapprochement with Russia by Turkish business, which had suffered significant losses as a result of the trade sanctions imposed by Russia and the reduced flow of Russian tourists into the country, which has always been a good source of income. The Turkish leader was forced to make concessions in order to win the support of the country’s economic elite in the context of furthering the policy to centralize political power and possibly carrying out constitutional reform and legally strengthening the dominant status of the president’s executive powers. Erdogan’s pragmatism allowed him to take the first steps with regard to resolving the conflict with Russia. And the fact that Turkey’s partners in Europe and the United States refused to approve the downing of the Russian Su-24 fighter jet served as justification for the decision to the Turkish people.
Since Erdogan uses the U.S. model of coming to power and the Russian model of running the country, certain members of the military elite found the idea distasteful. According to Berezovets, the Turkish Special Forces could have deliberately instigated a “controlled revolution,” the failure of which the authorities could have used to punish unwanted military commanders and carry out a massive purge of government officials.
Talks about bringing back the death penalty and strengthening political power will exacerbate relations between Turkey and the European Union, which are not in their best shape as it is, and that will push the country towards political and economic rapprochement with Russia. At the same time, Berezovets does not see any prospects for a long-term Russia–Turkey alliance. There are two reasons for this: the interests of the two countries intertwine in many regions, and it is hard to imagine a successful compromise in Syria. Besides, the United States will not allow Turkey to leave its orbit, since Turkey is strategically significant for ensuring the implementation of Washington’s policies in the region.
Berezovets also does not see any positive consequences for Ukraine in thr events in Turkey. With the current status quo, Erdogan’s pragmatism is transforming into a kind of policy of double standards regarding Ukraine. Officially, Turkey does not recognize the annexation of Crimea, yet it will continue to do business with and invest into the peninsula.
We could suppose that the articles of the Minsk agreements could not fully satisfy the interests of the Ukrainian public; they could have a reverse effect and exacerbate the socio-political situation in Ukraine.
In his article, “As the Atatürk Bequeathed: Reasons and Consequences of the Failed Coup in Turkey,” Yevgen Dukhovych, Communications Director at the International Centre for Policy Studies, explains the latest events as a political drift on the part of Turkey from moderate democratic Islamism to authoritarian presidential rule. This policy provoked discontent among the military elite and the influential intelligentsia led by Fethullah Gülen, even though the preacher denied his involvement in the attempted coup. Dukhovych notes that although Erdogan has placed limits on civil liberties, he retains significant civil support in the provinces, the population of which does not care about the persecution of the mass media or restricted democracy. Besides, the president managed to use the flow of Syrian refugees and the emerging conflicts with neighbouring countries to consolidate Turkish society around his tough political course. Dukhovych believes that Erdogan’s long-running confrontation with the non-conformist members of the military elite will result in the army being partially discredited and the forces threatening the regime being further eliminated.
Several public opinion leaders in Ukraine, including philosopher Sergiy Datsyuk, attempted to model the possibility of the Turkish scenario replaying in Ukraine. In his article, “Would a Military Coup in Ukraine Succeed?” written for the Hvylya information and analytical portal and Ukrainskaya Pravda, Datsyuk draws parallels in the coup’s strategy and asks the question whether similar measures would be effective in Ukrainian politics. The author believes that if the “controlled coup” scenario is indeed true, then the following strategy may be gleaned from the actions of the Turkish authorities:
- Erdogan wishes to establish political Islam in Turkey while simultaneously restricting the liberal state and radical Islamism;
- To neutralize the army’s influence, which dates back to the Atatürk, the Turkish president is systematically strengthening the police force so that it is capable of withstanding the key threats to the regime;
- The Turkish leader is creating the grounds to provoke a conflict between Ankara on the one hand, with its “Kemalist ideals,” and Islamist Istanbul on the other.
- Having achieved his intermediate goals, Erdogan does nothing to prevent a large-scale provocation that would offer him an opportunity to do away with the liberal and secular movements in the country.
Having thus structured the sequence of events, the “ideational architecture” of the coup, and the leading place of the Turkish authorities in these high-profile processes, the author seeks answers to the questions linked with the presence of persons interested in the coup and the resources at their disposal. Datsyuk views the consolidation of anti-oligarchic forces against corruption and the dominance of economic elites as the most effective model of organizing a civil protest. It is based on the ideology of the independent development of Ukraine founded on its own army, civil movements and patriotic non-oligarchic business. At the same time, the author posits the question of whether using radical methods to achieve their goals is a rational course for these groups, given the precarious situation in Donbass and external factors. A legitimate struggle for political power using legal instruments only appears to be more effective in this case.
Analysing Datsyuk’s opinion, the conclusion could be drawn that implementing a long-term civilizational strategy of Ukraine’s development, unlike the intentions of temporary political transformation, does not require radical actions or coups like the one in Turkey, but it does require systemic legitimate activities defined by the law, which would maintain a public balance and the integrity of the state.
Datsyuk does not see any prospects for a successful coup initiated by the military participants of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO). Although, in his opinion, members of this social group have both the moral right and public support, but they do not have international legitimacy and a programme of civil development that would comply with the categories that Datsyuk calls “the strategic idea.” Besides, the author emphasizes the need for financial support of long-term political protest, and if we analyse the current circumstances and existing experience from this point of view, the money could come either from oligarchs with anti-government sentiments, or from abroad.
Andriy Bychenko, Director of the Sociological Service at the Razumkov Centre, continues the subject of the destabilization threat in Ukraine and the need to avert it in an interview with the Den’ information portal. He believes that mass protests could be provoked should the authorities make any concessions in the Donbass settlement. Since there is no demand within Ukrainian society to accord Donbass special status or grant amnesty to rebel fighters, the attempts to strong-arm the Ukrainian parliament into passing these decisions might provoke a reaction that would potentially be more significant than possible resentment over high utility rates.
Thus, given Bychenko’s opinion, we could suppose that the articles of the Minsk agreements could not fully satisfy the interests of the Ukrainian public; they could have a reverse effect and exacerbate the socio-political situation in Ukraine. Since the Ukrainian authorities cannot ignore public opinion, western partners insist on the need to implement the Minsk plan, and because Ukrainian soldiers are still dying in the East because the unrecognized republics breach the armistice, a scenario where the implementation of the adopted articles arrives at yet another impasse next autumn appears all the more probable.
It is easier for politicians from Ukraine and Poland to arrive at a mutual understanding through Washington’s intermediaries than through a direct communication. This circumstance limits the prospects of military and political interaction between important regional actors.
Russia will accuse Ukraine of not implementing the Minsk agreements more vigorously and turn a blind eye to its own support of the pro-Russian rebel fighters who continue military action. To prevent possible problems, the Ukrainian authorities must intensify a real fight against corruption, neutralize the actions of destabilizing forces within the country, and speed up the reforms, including proper privatization and limiting utility rate pressure. Ukraine should also buttress its position on the current negotiation platforms to revise the socio-political features of settling the situation in Eastern Ukraine.
Problematic Aspects of Poland–Ukraine Relations
Poland–Ukraine relations have soured recently due to disagreements over their history. The Polish Sejm’s decision to declare the 1943 Volhynia Massacres a genocide, adopted almost simultaneously with the Warsaw Summit and President Poroshenko’s visit to Poland, was another stumbling block preventing a strategic rapprochement of the influential regional actors.
In his article, “Our Neighbors Are Tired of Coming Up with Reasons for Needing Ukraine,” the Ukrainian political analyst Konstantin Bondarenko analyses historical background of bilateral relations and sees no prospects for significant improvement as long as the Polish government is comprised of right-wing populists such as the Minister of Foreign Affairs Witold Waszczykowski and Minister of National Defence Antoni Macierewicz. The populists actively use history to further drive a wedge between the two countries and shape erroneous opinions among those politicians who treat Ukraine neutrally or favourably. These actions resulted in a threat of the terrible World War II events becoming a reason for political disagreements today. The author notes a certain change for the worse in the attitude of the Polish people to Ukraine, which sometimes turns into mistrust. At the same time, Bondarenko specifically notes that the actual situation so far cannot be considered disastrous or fraught with enmity.
Bondarenko goes on to emphasize the difficulties in Poland–Ukraine relations, with both countries being within the orbit of the United States. It is easier for politicians from both countries to arrive at a mutual understanding through Washington’s intermediaries than through a direct communication. This circumstance limits the prospects of military and political interaction between important regional actors. Taking the author’s opinion one step further, we could say that these difficulties could have a negative impact on the practical implementation of the popular idea of Intermarium.
Vladimir Vyatrovich, Director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, advanced an even more radical position in his article “The Kremlin’s Joy: How Ukrainians Quarrelled with Poles.” Vyatrovich believes that the fault lies entirely with Poland, which has jeopardized all the made progress made up until that point. The author sees the reason for the Polish Sejm’s debatable decision in the unprecedented growth of nationalist sentiments in the country’s political establishment. “Poles from Kresy” (descendants of Poles from Western Ukraine, who have a fairly strong lobby) are one such phenomenon. Vyatrovich connects the Sejm’s decision with the activities of this group. What is more, the author is concerned that the current disagreements over history might play into Russia’s hands, as Russia is potentially interested in exacerbating bilateral relations between Poland and Ukraine. The author expects further intensification of propaganda intended to provoke further exacerbation of the current situation. At the same time, he hopes for an impending triumph of constructive Polish politicians, who will succeed in repealing the conflict-provoking decision, since the members of the Ukrainian political elite are ready to conduct a dialogue and achieve an important reconciliation. Ukraine’s intention to iron out all the disagreements over history is witnessed by President Poroshenko’s floral tribute in honour of the murdered Polish on the 73rd anniversary of the Volhynia Massacres.
It is not surprising that recent events pose a number of question marks about the prospects of relations developing between Poland and Ukraine. Executive Director of the Polish-Ukrainian Cooperation Foundation PAUCI and Poland’s new Ambassador to Ukraine Jan Piekło offered answers to some of these questions in an article written on the subject. The diplomat notes that Ukraine has been and will be Poland’s strategic partner in Eastern Europe. Over the long period of Ukraine’s self-determination and foreign political development, Poland has always been essentially the chief lobbyist of Ukraine’s interests among the European partners and has always supported the idea of Ukraine’s integration into the European Union. Assessing the difficulty of foreign political processes in Eastern Europe against the background of implementing the European Union’s Eastern Partnership policy, the author emphasizes the specifics of relations along the Ukraine–EU and Ukraine–Russia lines.
Without Ukraine, Russia will be unable to implement its foreign political projects. This is why the Kremlin is ready to pay a high price for its attempts to keep Kiev in its orbit. Piekło doubts that the European Union is capable of reacting to Moscow’s aggressive policies in the region, and the European Union must therefore seek coordination with NATO. What is more, due attention should be paid to the Ukrainian factor by supporting the implementation of the Association Agreement, maintaining the prospects of Ukraine’s membership in the European Union and NATO, providing support in military and technical interaction, working on a new format for resolving the Russia–Ukraine conflict and stimulating investments into the Ukrainian economy.
Having analysed various articles from this section, we can arrive at the following conclusions. Without a doubt, Poland’s political elite led by Andrzej Duda cannot afford to lose the support of some of their own voters, and they will play on the nationalist worldview that is becoming more prominent in Polish society. Thus, the questions of history will continue to be stumbling blocks in Poland–Ukraine relations. At the same time, Poland realizes that the Ukrainian question plays an important role in strengthening the country’s regional leadership and in the possible implementation of the Intermarium project. Before the events of 2014, the Polish side successfully acted as the chief intermediary in the EU–Ukraine dialogue, thus buttressing their own status among the European partners interested in implementing the Eastern Partnership policy. The conflict in Ukraine raised the geopolitical stakes significantly and left Poland out of the negotiating platforms, which naturally could not have pleased Poland’s leaders.
Poland has gained additional instruments for becoming involved in the Ukrainian process by deepening the interaction between NATO and Ukraine (Poland can successfully play the familiar part of intermediary). Besides, should the destructive processes in the European Union continue, Poland will have a wonderful shot at solidifying its position as an important player, not only in the region, but also in the whole of Europe due to the practical implementation of the idea of a union with the Baltic countries – and possibly with Ukraine.
In this context, we have reason to believe that Ukrainian and Polish politicians will manage to reach a mutual understanding, in part with the assistance of the United States. Having tired of the twists and turns the traditional European political establishment makes, the United States will rely more and more on alternative ways of maintaining its interests, and one such way is to cooperate with Poland and assist Ukraine in its struggle against Russia’s aggressive policies. It is possible that Poland’s attempts to ensure its national self-determination by using history will not get in the way of expanding military or economic cooperation with Ukraine, and Polish leaders will conduct pragmatic policies stemming from the need to defend the interests of the Polish people, as well as from geopolitical priorities, which sometimes contradict each other. Consequently, it is too early to say right now whether the forces interested in initiating a confrontation between Ukraine and Poland have succeeded.
What Brexit Means for Ukraine
The sensational results of the UK European Union membership referendum continue to rock currency markets and threaten economic stability, with scary new details “exploding” in the media on a daily basis. At one point, it seemed that the England football team had demonstratively walked out of the European Championships, following the people’s will to cut all ties with Europe. In his article, “Brexit: Possible Development Scenarios,” International Centre for Policy Studies analyst Yevgeny Yaroshenko described the ways the situation could develop even before the official results were announced.
The first scenario – most detrimental to the integrity of the European Union and to Ukraine’s expectation concerning EU integration – implies that victory for those who want out of Europe would actually translate into the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, accompanied by a systemic economic crisis in Europe and by Ukraine losing the long-term prospect of becoming a member of the European Union. Yaroshenko rightly notes that withdrawal from the European Union is a lengthy process that could take months or even years. The second scenario, which involves the “leave” camp losing is already dead, but it could be slightly modified should the campaign for an actual Brexit fail. This scenario seems to be the most appealing for David Cameron and his entourage. As he resigned, he seemed to have hoped to play a difficult political gambit: to give the reins to Eurosceptics and burden them with organizing Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union. The results of the referendum must be approved by parliament, and given the prevalence of pro-European opinions among MPs, the new government will face opposition and will be forced to attempt to initiate the dissolution of the legislature.
In the meantime, having felt all the negative consequences of withdrawing from the European Union, the British people might vote for the Conservative party again at the possible early elections, thus creating the grounds for the formation of a new government led by the conservatives and the “political slaughter” of Eurosceptics and populists, including those in the Conservative party itself. Since the supporters of Brexit, including the cringe-worthy Mayor of London Boris Johnson, refused to assume responsibility for the future events, new Prime Minister Theresa May is probably intended to become a political sacrifice, yet she still succeeded in attracting British populists in the government and in implementing the plan.
It is possible that Poland’s attempts to ensure its national self-determination by using history will not get in the way of expanding military or economic cooperation with Ukraine, and Polish leaders will conduct pragmatic policies.
So far, all the theories are nothing more than conjecture, and we can only guess how these events will affect Ukraine. Maybe the Ukrainian question will move into the background, and that could provoke delays in introducing a visa-free regime and hold up strategic rapprochement between Ukraine and the European Union.
The Domestic Political Situation in Ukraine
A number of events happened in Ukraine in July 2016. The creation of new political projects such as the Democratic Alliance and the Wave party, which intends to unite all Mikheil Saakashvili’s supporters, provoked a massive public reaction. The dynamics of the emergence of new political forces makes one think again about the possibility of pre-term elections in Ukraine, which could destabilize the already fragile political balance. The question of the future of the new political alliances remains relevant.
In his Article, “Why Saakashvili’s Party is Doomed to Failure,” Co-Founder of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future and Founder of Hvylya Yury Romanenko sees the Georgian project in Ukraine collapsing and explains the reasons for it. First, Saakashvili’s rating has dropped significantly. According to a survey conducted by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, in late May 2016, 5–7 per cent of those respondents were ready to vote for Georgia’s former president, a sharp drop from the 2015 figure of 20–25 per cent.
Second, there are a number of problems linked to the party’s name. The name Wave (Hvylya) in Ukraine is associated with the information portal and has ambiguous connotations, which could be used by competing spin doctors with some success.
Third, both projects promote liberal ideas, and that means they will compete with each other for about 10 per cent of the vote. Besides, Ukrainian society does not like the basic ideas of pure liberalism. Going back to the data provided by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, 55.7 per cent of those surveyed are against privatizing state property; 67.2 per cent are against selling farmlands; 79 per cent are against selling land to foreigners; 87.4 percent are against legalizing drugs; and 90 per cent oppose the legalization of prostitution. The last two are particularly delicate social issues.
Fourth, Mikheil Saakashvili will experience harsh political pressure within Ukraine. The main goal of his coming to power was to oppose Ukrainian oligarchs (primarily Ihor Kolomoyskyi) in the fight for the Odessa Region and against the artificial formation of “Russian world” ideas. Because he regularly criticized former Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk and his team, and because this criticism transformed into a confrontation with Arsen Avakov, Saakashvili has earned himself many enemies in Ukraine. Maybe this is why Romanenko believes that, should Poroshenko’s position weaken, Saakashvili will be pushed out of Ukrainian politics altogether.
Freed Ukrainian deputy Nadiya Savchenko spoke in favour of temporarily instituting dictatorship in order to rectify the situation, and her statement provoked a certain reaction. On his information and analytical portal Hvylya (not to be confused with Saakashvili’s party), the same Yury Romanenko posted curious data received in the course of a survey conducted by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future. It turns out that 52.5 per cent of respondents are against dictatorship, while 41.3 per cent support it and 6.2 per cent are undecided. Dictatorship enjoys the least support in the western regions (38.6 per cent) and in the east of Ukraine (29.7 per cent).
At the same time, when asked, “Would you support military dictatorship provided it ensured stability, real improvement in the quality of life and the fight against corruption?” 51.9 per cent said “yes.” Another interesting question: “If presidential elections were held this Sunday, who would you vote for?” produced the following results: incumbent President Poroshenko – 10.7 per cent; Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the Fatherland party – 10.3 per cent; Andriy Sadovyi, Mayor of Lviv – 9.6 per cent; Oleh Lyashko, leader of the Radical party – 9.1 per cent; Mikheil Saakashvili, Governor of the Odessa Region – 7.9 per cent; Nadiya Savchenko, deputy from Batkivshchyna – 5.7 per cent; Mykhailo Dobkin, a statesman from Kharkiv – 4.1 per cent; Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of the All-Ukrainian Union Svoboda (Freedom) party – 4.0 per cent; Petro Symonenko, Leader the Communist Party (prohibited in Ukraine) – 3.0 per cent; Arseniy Yatsenyuk, former Prime Minister of Ukraine – 2.0 per cent; and Vitali Klitschko, Mayor of Kiev – 1.7 per cent.
On July 23, 2016, Volodymyr Groysman’s government celebrated its first significant anniversary: 100 days in power. It is therefore unsurprising that many Ukrainian experts engaged in discussions regarding the Prime Minister’s successes and failures. In his blog on Ukrainskaya pravda, political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko called the new government “less politicized and more technological” than Yatsenyuk’s team. Groysman can concentrate on systemic work for the sake of his own authority, being unencumbered with party ratings, since, even though he is associated with Poroshenko, his political image does not have the kind of ties to Poroshenko’s bloc as Yatesnyuk’s had to the People’s Front. Among Groysman’s achievements, Fesenko notes a successful start to the reforms; demonstrating the progress made over a short time to the western partners during his visits to the United States, Belgium and Germany; implementing the immediate task of preventing crises in the economy and in the social segment; and also a public planning format to ensure true civic control. The Prime Minister’s track record should also be credited with introducing modern technologies, i.e. launching ProZorro, a system of public e-procurement. Although the deadline set by the government for switching all the country’s regions to e-procurement is August 1, 2016, this innovation has already ensured an average governmental cost cutting of 16 per cent or 1.5 billion hryvnia.
The dynamics of the emergence of new political forces makes one think again about the possibility of pre-term elections in Ukraine, which could destabilize the already fragile political balance.
Fesenko sees the government’s taxation policy as its chief problem. Significant increases in utility rates is fraught with growing social tensions, which could erupt with the start of the heating season, and have already brought political dividends to the competitors from among the new opposition, such as Yulia Tymoshenko and Oleh Lyashko.
Vitaly Kulyk, Director of the Civic Society Research Center, gives a more critical assessment. In his article, “100 Days of Groisman’s Government: Are There Successes?” under “successes,” Kulyk lists a simplified procedure for licensing imported medications from the United States, the European Union and Japan and the decision to form a special Roadway fund which would accumulate money to build high-quality roadways throughout the country.
However, Kulyk lists many more items under “Criticism”: utility rates’ increase, population’s lack of income, failure of large-scale privatization, unclear situation with VAT returns, the citizens’ growing mistrust in the government expressed in Ukrainians’ fear of depositing their money with Ukrainian financial institutions. Kulyk’s reproach regarding spending the loaned finances (7 billion euros over two years from the EU and 11 billion dollars from the IMF) and the need to hold a public audit does not apply to Groisman’s government only as it has been in power for a little over three months.
The conflict in the East of Ukraine and searching for ways to resolve it are still present in Ukraine’s media; these issues became particularly relevant due to the new meeting of the three-party contact group. M. Sunrugovsky, the Military Programs Director at Razumkov Centre, offered an interesting opinion concerning the problematic aspects of the plan’s implementation. In his interview “The Minsk Agreements’ Implementation Algorithm Involves Elections After The Conflict Has Been Resolved” Sungurovsky emphasizes the need for the Ukrainian authorities to clearly define the situation in the Donbass and to clearly classify the events happening there. The expert believes that the authorities must understand and explain to the global public whether Ukraine conducts an ATO or wages a war in the East. If Ukraine perceives Russia as an aggressor, Ukraine needs to revise its political and economic relations accordingly. Sungurovsky sees the reason for slowing down of the Minsk implementation in different approaches to interpreting the agreements.
While Ukraine’s authorities insist on the need to achieve a total armistice and to ensure security in the region before holding elections, Russia is interested in the speediest vote before a complete implementation of peacemaking processes. In other words, Kiev wants to regain control of the problematic regions before holding elections, and Moscow wants to hold elections while maintaining a certain stability, since if Ukraine, with the OSCE’s assistance, establishes its control of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic and the adjacent border, Russia will be significantly restricted in providing aid to the unrecognized republics.
Assessing the prospects of normalizing the situation in the Donbass, some experts fear that the conflict will be exacerbated. For instance, T. Berezovets, President of the National Strategies Foundation, expects an escalation of the confrontation intended to mobilize the Russian pubic before the upcoming parliamentary elections. In his turn, A. Oksytyuk, senior analyst at the International Centre for Policy Studies, in his article “Russia’s War with Ukraine: Four Scenarios For the Nearest Future” believes the resumption of hostilities in the East possible; it will hurt the political image of Ukraine’s authorities. He also describes three more scenarios, including further rapprochement between Ukraine and western countries, return to normalizing relations with Russia, and the “Georgian scenario,” that is, a possible return of pro-Russian forces.
The events covered in the review provoked the greatest reaction in Ukraine’s media in summer, they became the subject of multiple discussions of the members of the expert community. Besides, they are of great importance for Ukraine’s sociopolitical situation and they will define Ukraine’s further situation development trends in the medium term.