April 09, 2007 (the date of publication in Russian)

Mikhail Khazin


Can Russia become a fulcrum for those going to abandon this project?

Though the crisis in Ukraine arouses a lot of comments in Russian media, the interpretation does rise to a qualitative assessment of the process. The most popular media intonation is wonder: why on earth does President Yushchenko use a minor political pretext to initiate extraordinary elections of the Supreme Rada (parliament), not only violating Ukraine’s constitution but also insisting on a competition his party is doomed to lose?

Why not to look at the situation from a different angle? The reasons for the permanent political destabilization, encountered by Ukraine during the last years, can't be reduced to domestic processes alone. Ukraine is in the center of a global struggle; more precisely, of a struggle between the global force of the West and anyone who dares to disobey to the rules of the game this force has imposed.

The whole history of the XX century represented a competition of two Global Projects, the Western and the Red. They had been fundamentally antagonistic, basing on different sets of values. The collapse of one of them was inevitable, due to inherent specifics of technological paradigms.

As soon as the masters of the Red Project gave up the struggle, the rival naturally raised claims on the abandoned territories, absorbing one ex-Soviet republic after another. Why "territories" and not "nations"? As a matter of fact, the Western Project generally deals not with nations (with the exception for the "mother nation" of the rivaling global project), and not with institutions (which may become an element of a Global Project if established in its framework), but with particular individuals. These individuals are supposed to swear an oath of loyalty to the Western Project – which, by definition, does not recognize collective membership.

From the standpoint of the Western Project, Ukraine is significant, primarily, as an asset which should not be yielded to Russia, under any conditions. This suggests necessity to support the faction of Ukraine's establishment which identifies the Western Project as its own goal, and to make sure, with special attention, that the relevant rules of the game be strictly followed.

Both of the major factions of Ukraine's establishment, self-identified today by two colors, orange and blue, and personified respectively by Victor Yushchenko and Victor Yanukovich, are oriented today towards the Western Project, regarding its inherent set of values, based on profit-making, as attractive for themselves.

Still, there is a certain difference. Victor Yushchenko once gave an oath to the Western Project and was recognized as "its own"; moreover, he was in fact appointed as its supervisor, or a liaison through which the Western Project operates with the Ukrainian state. In his turn, Yanukovich is a representative of some powerful groups who are in principle also ready to be a part of the Western Project, but at the same time he is lobbying this groups' keen interests which are to be considered under any circumstances – this, however, is hard to accomplish.

For the Western Project, as emphasized above, dealing with groups is unnatural and inconvenient. The West dictates individual conditions to particular players, thus restricting the range of their domestic political behavior. In any case, Yushchenko is regarded as the guarantor of fulfilling those conditions, despite broad hatred or contempt towards him in Ukraine's population. Those Western business circles, which have got allied with the business of the "blue" faction of Ukraine's elite, are unable to change anything, as their relations with Yanukovich's side are barely economic. Though Western media divide in the interpretation of the events in Ukraine, one can't imagine a Western investor brave enough to openly doubt Yushchenko's presidential status (which was gained in 2004 through an illegitimate third tour of elections) or even his leading capabilities (which are obviously miserable).

Formally regaining the same position of Prime Minister as he had before the "Maidan" of 2004, and even enjoying formally broader duties in a reformed political system, Victor Yanukovich actually faced disadvantage from the first days of his rule. He and the allied business circles were in a weak situation. They were unable to pursue their interests neither inside the country, as Yushchenko retained control over the army and law enforcement, nor in direct negotiations with the West.

This disadvantage, as soon as it was realized, forced Yanukovich's allies to undertake a parliamentary offensive at the presidential authority, in order to use the resource of the state in their relationship with the Western Project. Actually, they followed the precedent of similar factions of the Russian establishment, who sought to use the change of power in Moscow in the beginning of this century to arrange a deal with the Western Project on their own integration into the "global elite".

Ostensibly, Yanukovich's scenario was quite logical. He hoped to legally gain a constitutional majority in the Parliament, and to use it for achieving complete political and economic power over Ukraine. The politically weakened Yushchenko was not regarded as a serious obstacle; in his diplomacy with the West, Yanukovich displayed commitment to follow the rules of the game. Still, his expectations failed – due to a failure to recognize the essence of the Western Project, and therefore, to assess the situation from this project's standpoint.

The Western Project politically expresses itself in a party system, through which factions of a national establishment seek to pursue their goals – unlike the Red Project, as well as the Islamic system, where the principle of justice – though understood in various ways – is prior to profit, and therefore to mechanisms of market competition, which the election system of today’s West directly resembles.

A fair and direct expression of people's will would never bring success to the Western Project. Exactly for that reason, majority elections, in which MP depends on his voters and may be even recalled, are preferred to a party race.

Party elections ostensibly reflect the people's will, while real decision-making is accomplished through backdoor manipulations of corporate tycoons. In a party system, invented in order to alienate the elects from the electors, a particular MP depends not on the people’s will but on the mercy of his party leadership, which can include or not include his name in the ballot. In case MP changes his views, or gets into a conflict with his party management, he is not supposed (though formally allowed) to change the party – as the principles, to which party leaders take the oath, are superior to the responsibility of a particular MP before the people.

Yanukovich's Party of Regions may reflect the interests of the people's majority more adequately than the "orange" parties. Still, the Party of Regions was not supposed to attract more members from other parties, even if those were completely dissatisfied with their self-discredited leaders. The only justification for Victor Yushchenko's move to dissolve the Supreme Rada was based on the assumption that his opponent was "buying" MPs – and though these charges were not proven by any court, the West was inclined to believe him.

From the standpoint of his personal political interest, Yushchenko's move is irrational. From the standpoint of the Western Project, it is perfect – as since Ukraine's establishment had sworn an oath to the West, it has to follow the imposed rules, even if they contradict to its interests.

In the political situation of this spring, Victor Yushchenko anyway had a very restricted range of options. He could either give up to Yanukovich – and be recognized as a traitor of the principle in the West, or start a fight in which he is unlikely to win politically, but definitely secure a safe personal outcome for himself. Even failing as a leader, he will be regarded as a victim in the West, where nations will compete for providing him hostage.

In his turn, Victor Yanukovich is also faced with only two options. The first one is to recognize the right of the Western Project to run his country as a mandate territory – that is to decide who will head the country; which international institutions it should join; who should win competitions in privatization of national economy; which routes Russia's transit fuel should follow across Ukraine, etc., etc. Those who display disobedience are going to be politically eliminated – in a democratic way, through public trials. Meanwhile, the people will be granted a right to choose between two or three pro-Western parties, their programs slightly varying, but completely fitting into unconditioned obedience to the rules of the Western Project.

The second option for Victor Yanukovich and his allies suggested a decision to radically alienate themselves from the principles of the "Western Project". In this case, basing upon a different set of values, they could much easier sweep out Yushchenko.

However, the oligarchs of Eastern Ukraine are unlikely to choose the second option. The Western Project had been their dream for years, and their own values are too much determined with success of their sales at the Western markets, and with related "new Ukrainian" way of life.

In case Victor Yanukovich collects his guts to challenge the Western Project, his personal situation, and especially that of his close business partners, may promptly deteriorate. US companies may refuse to purchase Ukrainian metals, or impose draconic tariffs; the European Union may forbid entry to any Ukrainian official under the pretext of "violation of democracy", corruption, or both. The outcome of this pressure is easy to foresee.

In case a similar radical challenge was undertaken by today’s Russia, whose leader has not sworn any oath to the West, the outcome could be different. The country's resources provide a possibility to resist, and moreover, to gain strength at a global scale, inviting all the other resisting nations to the camp of resistance. In case Victor Yanukovich viewed Russia as a reliable holdfast, if he could count upon Moscow's firm commitment to break ties with the Western Project, he would appeal to his majority, and accomplish a political counterattack without hesitation.

Until Russia does not make an essential decision on its own ways, pro-Western forces in Ukraine will gain success again and again, even with a minimal popular support.

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