Two months later, Ukraine must sign one of the most important documents over the years of independence - an agreement on association and a free trade zone with the European Union. On the scale of the document and its key provisions, the editorial LigaBusinessInform wrote in detail in June. In essence, the treaty boils down to the fact that Ukraine politically and economically links the quality of its statehood with the European Union. And although the signing of an association agreement does not guarantee the country's membership in the European Union, it opens up the possibility of transforming Ukraine into a full-fledged European state living - and this is the most important thing - according to EU standards and rules.
The clumsy actions of the Kremlin in relation to Kiev led to the fact that in the current short period of historical time, the interests of the ruling administration in Ukraine coincided with the vector of European integration. The banking and inner circle of Viktor Yanukovych played out the theme of the trade war and financial threats of the Russian Federation. It is so good that even in the opposition media the current president was called the bastion of independence. The habits of the current government - the suppression of economic and political competition, the criminal prosecution of the opposition, the substitution of public dialogue with PR wars - are still the main threat to the association. In general, the current Ukrainian political elite is a material that is very resistant to external influences and provocations.
The Association of Ukraine with the EU will bury the hopes of the Russian regime for drawing Ukraine into the future Eurasian Union, whose creation in Moscow has been set to be 2015 year. According to many experts, without Ukraine, this union will be incomplete and devoid of meaning. Moscow is determined to prevent Kiev from getting closer to Brussels, and the stakes are higher than ever. Sources in law enforcement agencies, intelligence and diplomatic circles told about possible scenarios for LIGABusinessInform events, and politicians and political technologists also shared their thoughts.
The first scenario concerns the actions of special services and boils down to a set of measures designed to create political, economic and media prerequisites for disrupting an association. We have to admit that the Russian lobby in Ukraine has already achieved something. Recently, several documents indirectly confirming the catastrophic state of affairs in the sphere of state security have appeared in the press. One of the documents describes a large-scale action plan to prevent the European integration of Ukraine. If you analyze it, it becomes clear that in many points the plan has already been completed. Sources in diplomatic circles claim that this document really existed as one of the real plans of Moscow and its associates in Ukraine. Nothing can oppose the Russians and their influence in Kiev - counterintelligence activities are on the verge of collapse due to systematic underfunding, personnel shortage and the commercialization of special services in private interests. However, the work of the Ukrainian intelligence services is a separate topic.
A couple of weeks ago, a letter appeared to the network to President Yanukovych signed by “former and current employees of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine”. The reliability of the document is difficult to establish. Sources in law enforcement agencies cannot unequivocally confirm or deny the facts stated in the letter about the Russian lobby in the leadership of Ukrainian intelligence. The interlocutors of LIGABusinessInform say that the situation in the sphere of state protection from the influence of foreign agents on the verge of collapse is barely enough - there is barely enough money to pay the staff, and the quality of the staff is getting worse from year to year. In such conditions, it is not necessary to speak about the effective activity of not only our own residents in the territory of other states, but also countermeasures within the country.
“It all started with Yushchenko, when an entire floor of one of the buildings of the Ministry of Defense was handed over to one of the Western intelligence services. This was supposedly happening in the framework of cooperation with NATO, but it reached the point of absurdity - even ministry employees couldn’t move freely around the floor. “But the authorities did not understand the difference between the Foreign Intelligence Service and the Central Intelligence Directorate, did not understand the specifics of the work of these departments and did not want to understand,” says one sednikov.
The situation is similar in the Security Service of Ukraine, with the only difference being that the office of Alexander Yakimenko is better with money. But with specialized personnel problems no less than that of intelligence. Under Yanukovych, the SBU is transformed from a special service into an appendage of fiscal authorities working with business. A public demonstration of the critical state of the domestic counterintelligence system was the abduction by Putin of the special services of the Russian oppositionist Razvozzhaev in Kiev.
The position of the country's leadership in this area is incomprehensible. Despite the sharp situational bias from Russia, at the level of special services, they either do not want to resist foreign agents inside the country, or they don’t know how, or they don’t fully understand the seriousness of the problem. The threat of foreign intelligence services is difficult to overestimate - it is not only about the possibility of listening to the first persons of the state and manipulation by political leaders, but also about possible provocations against citizens.
Ex-deputy head of the Security Service of Ukraine, General Alexander Skipalsky, in his commentary LIGABіznesІnform confirmed the presence of a strong Russian lobby in today's intelligence. But he believes that the situation can still be corrected. “Yanukovych must immediately clear the special services of Moscow puppets. There are enough people who disregard the interests of Ukraine,” the general said.
Skipalsky noted that the main problem of Ukrainian intelligence is that it builds relations with colleagues from Moscow without taking into account the main goal of the Kremlin - the weakening of Ukrainian statehood. It is precisely the passivity of the intelligence community and the absence of a strategy that led to the fact that the trade war against Ukraine was a surprise to Kiev, Skipalsky said.
The general predicts that on the way to the EU, the main problems will arise not inside, but outside - in the EU countries themselves, where people loyal to Russia sometimes occupy very high positions - ranging from heads of government and ministries to ordinary politicians. “For European integration, this is more dangerous than chariot charles or tsars in Ukraine,” Skipalsky concluded.
The second scenario is to disorient Ukraine’s partners in the EU as much as possible, on the one hand, and Ukrainian voters, on the other. Public opinion is a key point in the war for influence on the processes inside Ukraine. Given that the majority of Ukrainians prefer integration into the EU, Moscow is trying, if not to achieve a shift in public opinion in favor of its geopolitical projects, then at least to keep the split at the level of “50 on 50”. According to interviewed political consultants, millions of dollars are constantly pouring into these tasks in Ukraine to develop media loyal to the Kremlin and feed politicians and experts.
As it became known, in the near future a group of Russian political technologists was to come to Kiev with the task of creating the necessary media phone to thwart Ukraine’s signing of an association agreement with the EU at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. As a source at the headquarters of the Party of Regions told LIGABusinessInform, the famous Russian political strategist Yevgeny Minchenko, who advises the Vice-Premier of Ukraine Yuriy Boyko, should lead this landing. A massive propaganda campaign in the style of United Russia was planned with the involvement of the media, labor collectives and various public organizations. According to the source, representatives of the Russian group met with Viktor Medvedchuk and consultant Mikhail Pogrebinsky, close to him. “These groups are charged with coordinating their work, but most likely Medvedchuk was not satisfied, since the arrival of Muscovites means that his position on the issue of propaganda of the Customs Union has been somewhat shaken,” said a government official. Subsequently, on Bankova, representatives of this group were made to understand that their PR activity would be blocked by administrative methods.
Minchenko himself, in the commentary of LIGABusinessInform, claims that all this is not true. “I just finished dealing with elections in Russia. And I don’t even care about Ukraine. I don’t know Medvedchuk. I know Boiko for a long time. Previously (in 2005-2007) I was advised on political positioning. But I advised a lot of people in Ukraine (including Yulia Tymoshenko (in 1997-1998)). Now we just occasionally communicate, however, as well as with many other Ukrainian politicians and experts, with whom we have friendly relations since the times when we were really very active in Ukraine I don't know where these rumors come from. I think that someone is trying to divert attention from himself, "he said, adding that he did not consider Medvedchuk to be the person who could represent Russian interests in Ukraine.
Political analyst Pogrebinsky also denies that such meetings were held. “I am familiar with Minchenko, but the last time I saw him six months ago. We didn’t have any meetings with Medvedchuk with Minchenko,” he said.
One of the Ukrainian political consultants told LIGABusinessInform that Minchenko has serious contacts in Brussels that he could use. According to another expert, Russia cooperates with some lobbying organizations in Brussels, one of which at one time helped the Russian Federation create Ukraine the image of "a country that steals gas." The turnover “tyrit gas” in relation to the Ukrainian colleagues was repeatedly used by Vladimir Putin. “It’s interesting that later the same specialists were hired by the Ukrainian side to protect their image,” said the source. Since the Russians have previously managed to spoil the reputation of Ukraine in the eyes of Europeans, it is possible that they will try to repeat the method.
The recent situation with the passage of Ukrainian goods through the customs of the Russian Federation has demonstrated which information channels will be the main ones in relations between Ukraine and Russia after signing the association with the EU. So far, the tool of economic pressure has not been fully applied. Rather, it is about propaganda. For example, in Moscow they constantly talk about default, which is about to come in Ukraine, and they also predict a landslide devaluation of the hryvnia. The situation is complicated by the fact that the current economic situation for Ukraine does bear significant currency risks, unfavorable forecasts come not only from Russian but also from Western structures, and the government and the National Bank, instead of a transparent dialogue with the market, get off with major press releases. For example, the newly appointed head of the NBU from 11 in January of this year did not give a single press conference.
According to Eric Naiman, managing partner of Capital Times investment company, the closer will be the date of the signing of an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU, the more difficult will be the economic relations between the Kremlin and Kiev. “But as for the default of Ukraine, it is a windbag” (For details, see the material “Why Russian bankers predict a currency crisis in Ukraine”).
In the European Union, they realize that economic pressure may affect the position of Ukraine. A recent resolution of the European Parliament says that certain provisions of the association agreement and free trade zone will have to come into force immediately after signing. This should help Ukraine to settle faster in the European market and reduce potential losses from Moscow’s actions.
Tymoshenko's security: a personal blow to Yanukovych
No matter how paradoxical it may sound, the security of Yulia Tymoshenko should now be the first concern of President Yanukovych and businessmen from his entourage. According to one version, the authorities are really afraid that foreign special services may organize a provocation against the opposition leader, who is serving a sentence. If the opponents of the association get to the main opponent of Yanukovych, Ukraine, in the eyes of Western partners, will fall into one basket with rogue countries. There will be no talk of association with the EU in the coming years.
Versions that the president can authorize sending Tymoshenko for treatment in Germany for more than six months. Then the mediator was the ex-US ambassador to Ukraine, John Tefft. The last time the relevant negotiations were held at the highest level during the visit of the German Foreign Minister to Ukraine. But, in the opinion of one of the spin doctors, the moment is delayed before the summit in Vilnius, because the former prime minister can still be used as a hostage in negotiations with the EU. In addition, Bankova is not sure that foreigners will be able to ensure the security of Tymoshenko until the day of signing. However, in this case, we can talk not only about Tymoshenko, but also about any oppositionist whose last name is well known to the foreign press.
Another provocation is a loud crime against journalists. At one time, it was the murder of Georgy Gongadze and the films of Major Melnichenko that created Leonid Kuchma - regardless of his role and the role of his entourage in this crime - the image of a dictator subjected to isolation in the West.
“The task may be to provoke an incident through which the European Union will not be able to cross. Ukraine has enough people recruited by Moscow in the special services who can take part in the implementation of such a scenario,” said Ukrainian political consultant Taras Berezovets.
Another scenario is associated with a civil or military conflict in Ukraine. There is at least one point on the map of the country where the necessary conditions exist for such a scenario - Crimea. From the first days of Ukrainian independence, Russia fed autonomy with money, sponsoring pro-Russian movements and organizations. Under the pretext of the development of Ukrainian-Russian friendship, millions were allocated to the development of various cultural programs that have nothing to do with friendship or culture. As a result, the struggle for public opinion in the Crimea, Ukraine is losing. Most Crimeans associate themselves with Russia.
Shake the situation on the peninsula can in a matter of days, using any reason. The events of August 2008 of the year in South Ossetia dispelled doubts whether a forceful scenario of relations between the once fraternal states is possible. However, full-scale provocation with the use of force is one of the toughest options that the Kremlin can only decide on as a last resort. Much more likely to work in the EU, aimed at disrupting the ratification of the already signed association agreement.
Gas diplomacy against ratification
Since the agreement will have to be ratified by the parliaments of all 28 states that are part of the European Union, plus the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, all Moscow needs to do is to help at least one state not to do this. Tools can be very different - from the influence of Gazprom to the pressure through diplomatic channels. Moscow does not even have to blackmail the EU countries. In the conditions of a difficult economic situation, it is theoretically possible to succumb to temptation and, for example, to exchange ratification for a gas discount. In addition, the Kremlin has something to offer European partners in the field of international security, which are only the Syrian or Iranian problems. If Russian diplomats use the capabilities of their state effectively, then the ratification process can drag on for years. Public delays can be explained by the failure of Ukraine to comply with any requirements, non-compliance with EU criteria. In addition, Ukrainian politicians and authorities are always ready to "help" with reasons.
Valeriy Chaly, Deputy Director General of the Razumkov Center for International Affairs, believes that if there are hardly any countries in the EU that are ready to play the Russian game, they will be “in a very unattractive position”, actually speaking out against the consolidated position of Brussels when signing the association. However, the expert is not sure that Moscow has enough resources to try to implement this scenario.
The delay in the ratification of the agreement will lead to the fact that Ukraine will be in limbo, in a gray zone of danger between the European Union and Russia for many years. At the same time, Moscow will retain its influence on Kiev and will be able to step up attempts to thwart the process of European integration, forming pro-Russian movements in Ukraine and littering the country's information space with information bombs and a false agenda from Kremlin political technologists.
The bottom line with President Yanukovych and his entourage are not so many options. Either go to Moscow and surrender to the grace of Vladimir Putin, or still provide opposition to Russia in each of the scenarios. It will no longer be possible to abandon the EU in favor of the Customs Union with the Russian Federation without losing face and political humiliation. This was confirmed by Putin himself, publicly demonstrating in Kiev, with whom he is ready to conduct a dialogue in Ukraine. To win in the growing confrontation with Russia, the authorities need to be one step ahead of Moscow’s plans and have wide support inside the country. But if it is not too difficult to predict the actions of the Kremlin, it is almost unreal task to win the trust of fellow citizens by imprisoning political opponents, squeezing business and undermining trust in the media.