Political commentary of the Václav Klaus Institute No. 25. (Vaclav Klaus - the second president of the Czech Republic (from 2003 to 2013 year))
Heavy legacy of the past
Modern Ukraine is a sad legacy of the Stalinist mixing of peoples and borders, the tearing of natural historical ties, attempts to create a new Soviet man and turn historical peoples into ethnic relics of the past. This is for us the starting point of our reasoning, and also something that is largely overlooked in today's political and media discussions.
In the cacophony of reviews and comments on the development of the situation in Ukraine, the realization that the current dramatic situation was first of all due to the obvious political, economic and social failure of Ukraine as an independent state, the main reasons for which we see in the following:
1. The present-day Ukraine completely lacks the historical tradition of its own statehood, and for two decades of its existence, it has not been able to create such a state that all its people would be ready to accept. It arose not as a result of the efforts of its citizens and their struggle for self-determination and sovereignty, but, in essence, only as a result of the disbandment of the USSR by its then political leadership and the separation of former artificial union republics created by Moscow during the Soviet era at that time.
2. The predominantly passive population as a result of the disastrous results of Gorbachev's perestroika was strongly opposed to Moscow. The Ukrainian side’s fear of the local Soviet party nomenklatura before the Yeltsin’s policy of eliminating the former system also played its role.
3. First, Ukraine was led by the Soviet Russian-speaking elite of the industrial east of the country. It was a kind of second Russian state, an integral part of the post-Soviet space with a huge “on paper” potential: 52 million people (the second after Russia indicator); industrial base (Donbass, etc.); the largest agricultural potential in Europe; main Black Sea ports, Crimea; relatively educated elite; close proximity to Central Europe.
4. However, this state arose as a result of the isolation, in principle, of the artificial administrative formation of the Soviet totalitarian state, which wanted to demonstrate the solution of the national question for ever and to replace the nations with the “Soviet people”.
Thus, the Russians and the Russified regions of the east and south of present-day Ukraine (which for centuries had been firmly part of the Russian state) and originally Polish Stalin’s Galicia and Transcarpathia, which had never been part of any East Slavic state, were artificially combined into one whole.
5. An independent Ukrainian state never existed before 1991, except for the period of the Civil War after the October Revolution 1917, when unsuccessful attempts to achieve Ukrainian independence were associated with the controversial figures of Hetman Skoropadsky and atamans Petlyura and Makhno, and the period of World War II associated with the name Stepan Bandera. Their heritage and the traditions they represent are very contradictory (anti-Semitism, connection with Germans and Nazis, etc.) and are not accepted by anyone with the exception of nationalistic Western Ukraine.
6. The deep historical tradition rather speaks in favor of strong ties with Russia - the era of Kievan Rus, the adoption of Orthodox Christianity, or the traditions of the Zaporozhye Cossacks who fought with the Turks and Poles and annexed Ukraine of that time to Czarist Russia. The general Russian-Ukrainian experience of the Soviet era and the Second World War formed strong Russian-Ukrainian inter-human, social, economic and political ties that cannot be simply broken and quickly replaced with something new.
7. For 20 years of independence, it was not possible to form a common Ukrainian identity and convince the people of this very diverse country that independent Ukraine is the one entity that will make people's aspirations come true.
Such ambitions are primarily among ethnic Ukrainians from the west of the country (Galicia, Volyn, etc.), who emphasize the tragic experience of the Soviet era (deportations, camps, famine), are clearly anti-Russian and want to build Ukraine as a Ukrainian national state. For them, the position of Ukraine as a “second” Russian state, which took place under the presidents Kravchuk and Kuchma, was and remains unacceptable.
It is no coincidence that the economically backward and weak west of Ukraine was the driving force behind the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the protests on Maidan in 2014. Having overthrown Yanukovych, the nationalist west of the country seized all political power and seeks to break the traditional long-term ties of Ukraine with Russia and focus exclusively on the West, on the EU and the USA. However, experience shows that the Ukrainian west has no power to implement these plans and ambitions: the east of the country dominates economically, and so far it has always outweighed.
8. Ukrainian Russians, as representatives of a large cultural people who previously dominated the entire region, do not share and cannot share the nationalistic ambitions of Western Ukrainians.
They cannot imagine breaking up of close ties with Russia, which today is richer, more successful and more organized in every respect. They do not perceive the Soviet era as a foreign occupation, they consider themselves to be the victors in World War II, and not its victims. Bandera for them-the traitors and fascists. For them, a state based on their heritage is unacceptable.
As Russians, they do not trust the West and do not want to be part of blocks against Russia. The fierce Russophobia of the Western Ukrainian nationalists insults and threatens them. For a long time this part of the population (including due to the Soviet tradition) was indifferent from the national point of view. However, the current development of the situation isolates and crystallizes this group in the national plan.
9. After 20 years of independence, Ukraine is divided and is on the verge of economic bankruptcy. In it live two people diverging with each other with different and, it seems, opposing views on the future. They both link their unrealistic hopes with foreign countries: one with the West, the other with Russia.
10. Ukraine in its present form could be saved only by decades of peaceful development, with a completely non-ambitious foreign policy, taking into account previous experience and the geopolitical position of the country, as well as a gradual improvement in the economic situation and an increase in living standards. Development without any foreign intervention. However, this was not released to Ukraine.
Attempts at radical change pose a fundamental threat to this fragile and heterogeneous country in a politically sensitive region. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening in Ukraine now and carries with it all the danger to it, surrounding Europe and the world.
Part of 2: Ukraine fails to cope with the transformation process
As was shown above, after the fall of communism, Ukraine emerged as a new, essentially not historical state (it also named the pre-war Czechoslovakia since the first republic in its recent article in the newspaper “Right” of 3 in April 2014 of the year V. Belogradsky), which went to The fundamental problem of this identity. (At the beginning of 90, the then chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine, VA Yushchenko, came to us to the Ministry of Finance on a visit. He, among other things, answered our criticism of high inflation and excessive monetary emission in the country in his defense that even he did not know where Ukraine begins and where it ends! We remember well this phrase.) It was and remains a fundamental problem that persists until today and hinders any development of this country.
In Western Europe and the United States, politicians believe that it is not a problem and it is enough to “introduce democracy and the rule of law” so that everything will automatically be adjusted. So far, they have not drawn any conclusions from the fact that the repeated “export of the revolution” does not work, and that, for example, in artificially created after the collapse of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina for two decades with large-scale support from the West, nothing of the kind has happened. It is better not to talk about the “Arab Spring” at all.
Another by-product of the specific Ukrainian situation was that Ukraine did not carry out the consistent post-communist transformation that other post-communist countries in one way or another conducted. There was no political transformation. A standard system of political parties was not created, and the Ukrainian parliament has not yet become a standard parliament.
This is eloquently shown by cadres of fights of deputies during meetings of parliament (the last time it happened on Wednesday 9 April). The “Orange Revolution” (again, not entirely domestic production) took place almost twenty years after our “velvet” one, but even this somewhat belated revolution did not bring any fundamental changes.
There was no consistent economic transformation, although they abandoned the system that existed under communism. As a result, the economy was seized by clans of oligarchs, stagnation came, industrial disruption, high unemployment, dependence on Russia, etc.
It is curious to compare the dynamics of GDP growth per capita with Belarus comparable in many respects (led by A.G. Lukashenka absolutely unacceptable for many of us). After the fall of communism, both countries were in comparable conditions, but now Belarus is about one and a half times faster than Ukraine in terms of per capita GDP. This comparison is practically a “controlled experiment”. Each of us could not help but notice that over the past two decades more than 5 million people left Ukraine, which is more than 10% of the total number of its inhabitants.
Irreconcilable struggle V.A. Yushchenko, Yu.V. Timoshenko and V.F. Yanukovych (if you omit the other players) did not lead to anything. The rest of Eastern Europe, especially the Czech Republic, cannot imagine the incredible wealth of politicians and oligarchs (as demonstrated in the media).
The public is very tense (to understand this, one does not even have to be experts in Ukraine). In any case, we are talking about an exceptionally fragile, vulnerable, unstable country that is easily threatened with any outside interference. It is not necessary to bear in mind military intervention, and political enough is enough. It is enough to cause unrest and unrest, incite some groups of people against others, populistly play against all local authorities (of which we, however, do not have a particularly high opinion), cause envy and mutual accusations of corruption and undeserved enrichment and, not least, unleash national strife or outright hatred.
We believe that all this happened in Ukraine and is happening.
Part of 3: What happened in Ukraine and around Ukraine
The presentation of disputes about the situation in Ukraine can be simplified and made more visual if we abandon the ballast and translate it into a plane of models that are schematic to a certain degree, but represent the main core, without detailing:
Model A: a real popular uprising for democracy, independence and belonging to Europe has happened
This model is based on the probably correct thesis that Ukrainians are deeply and reasonably disappointed with the situation in the country. The reason for this they see in their mediocre and corrupt political power (they, moreover, support it again and again in the elections, with all their problems having basic democratic features), which instead of “bringing the country to Europe as soon as possible ( there is the EU) ”and to hold negotiations with Russia on gas prices and other things (touches that one of the heroines of this story several years ago concluded a very interesting gas price agreement with Russia), refuses to have already signed an association agreement with the EU. (In Ukraine, this agreement is overestimated, but we in the Czech Republic know that little follows from it and, most importantly, almost no real, reasonable help.)
People really participate in mass demonstrations. They are not afraid of weeks and months of very cold weather. When peaceful protests are not enough, demonstrations are spontaneously hardened (although the government does not undertake significant countermeasures, on the contrary, it gives way where it can and cannot). The demonstrators are joined by trained and well-armed people, or rather, entire organized groups from Ukraine and from abroad.
True democrats come from Europe to support them, such as our masters Schwarzenberg, Kotsab and Shtetyn (simply people who always and everywhere profess the truth and love), any support from Russia, on the contrary, is absent. However, everyone believes that Russia is pleased with this process of destabilization of its key neighbor or even supports it (although this is not noticeable on the Maidan in Kiev).
After the victory of the demonstrators on the streets of Kiev, the flight of the legitimately elected president from the country and the creation of a truly popular government, Russia begins military intervention and occupies the Crimea just as in the 1939 year. Hitler seized Czechoslovakia (or rather, its western part), and Brezhnev in 1968 year - Czechoslovakia (this time in its entirety). In the 1939 year (or already in the 1938 year at the conclusion of the Munich Agreement) and in the 1968 year, the world democrats did not protest enough, but now it is necessary to do this and bring the matter to a victorious end. Line Hitler - Brezhnev - Putin is completely obvious, and now only those who did not understand this before can not see it and do not realize it.
Model B: discontent in Ukraine was used to cause a new confrontation between the West and Russia
Model B also begins as Model A. Ukrainians are deeply and justifiably not satisfied with the situation in their country. And they make it clear in a variety of ways.
However, this is a country that:
- not really is Europe (although it is very difficult to determine whether or not Europe is; Konrad Adenauer stated in the 50-ies that Asian steppes begin east of Berlin);
- bordered by Russia (the border is not real);
- For many decades and centuries it was part of Russia or the state under its control;
- in which millions of Russians live (more than a third of the entire population) and which must constantly look for and confirm some form of peaceful coexistence with Russia.
The West and all those who, due to any historical insults - from Poland to Georgia - “do not digest” Russia, decided to use the hidden, smoldering crisis in Ukraine as an excuse and provoke a new confrontation between the West and Russia. These people understood well that Russia could not allow the situation to destabilize in such an important (largest and most populous) neighboring state and therefore:
- more and more redirected this dissatisfaction to Russia or tried to interpret what is happening in this vein;
- supported the argument, sounding from Western Ukraine;
- provoked a conflict between the western and eastern parts of Ukraine, which in many respects is equivalent to a conflict between Ukrainians and Russians;
- distortedly interpreted the essence of the economic relations of Ukraine and Russia;
- developed the image of Russia as an expansionist power, which is just waiting for the right moment for the occupation of Ukraine.
We are not some kind of advocate for Russia and its president, we consider their actions critically and know that it would be naive nonsense to idealize Russia's long-term interests, but we agree with Henry Kissinger’s recent statement that “demonizing Putin is not a policy, but creating an alibi in conditions of its absence. " This is exactly what is happening in the USA and Western Europe, quite a lot of Czech political representatives are engaged in this (although the majority is “cautious” and expressed vaguely), and the main Czech media do the same.
At the time of the implementation of the Kiev coup (for followers of legislative theorems, we recall that it was unconstitutional), after the rough, putting people at risk of violence against everyone who has the courage to express a different opinion, after the actual expulsion of the legitimate president (who did not show sufficient courage, to come out toughly against aggressively behaving demonstrators) from the country, after growing fears of the Russian part of the Ukrainian population in the most specific, geographically limited, formal but the autonomous part of Ukraine, in the Crimea, was held (of course, with the consent of Russia and to its quiet joy) a referendum, during which with great participation and with a stunning result, it was stated that the inhabitants of Crimea do not want to remain part of Ukraine (to which in fact, before the intervention of Khrushchev in 1954, they never belonged). Obviously, they did not want to remain in limbo and wanted to return to Russia.
It is also obvious that Russia may feel joy on this issue (although in the short term it will add to it concerns), but the sequence of events differed significantly from the prevailing interpretation, according to which Russia unilaterally annexed Ukraine. I believe that Russia did not feel the need to expand its territory at the expense of the Crimea, and, given the problems that arose in this connection, it was not worth it. Despite this, we believe that Russia was de facto forced to take such steps in order not to look completely weak.
The West, in accordance with its interests, interprets the fact of the annexation of Crimea to Russia as an example of the revival of Russian imperialism. When one of our good friends, who lived in 1968 in Germany, didn’t accept our controversy with this interpretation last week, and annoyed us with a demonstrative disregard of our arguments, he cited one remarkable fact: from 1968, he hates Russia so much (such people do not react to that they should hate communism and the Soviet Union), that they cannot even read Russian literature of the 19th century.
We consider this a sign of blinkered and irrational thinking. However, we fear that it is in this way that the situation in Ukraine and Russia's actions are mainly interpreted in the Czech Republic, in Europe, and, probably, in America. For this we are leading this controversy of ours, which is not the defense of Russia and its president, but an attempt to help prevent risky steps leading to a new cold war, the main victims of which will inevitably be our freedom again.
This “model” description of two alternative approaches to the Ukrainian crisis, of course, can be developed, supplemented or corrected, but we are convinced that it helps in a certain degree to orient oneself. At the very least, we add that we are not surprised by the fact that the majority of Crimean residents (whose population is dominated by Russians) do not want to remain an integral part of a state that is on the verge of bankruptcy, which is increasingly controlled by individuals and groups from Western, that is, non-Russian Ukraine, people whose policies are based on denial of Russia and Russians. It is not surprising that the people of Crimea want to become part of a rich and successful Russia.
It is worth paying attention to the fact that the Ukrainian army in the Crimea not only did not offer any resistance and gave itself to disarm, but also overwhelmingly joined the ranks of the Russian army. This is also an illustration of the collapse of Ukraine as a state.
4 Part: Legislative Fundamentalism and Real Life
In connection with the growing disintegration of Ukraine — the separation of Crimea and its annexation to Russia, the proclamation of various separatist Russian “republics” and the demand for new referendums on the separation of certain parts of eastern Ukraine — we also have various legal arguments in the west, which state that such steps contradict the constitutional and the legal framework of modern Ukraine and, therefore, they are illegal and unacceptable. We do not act as experts on Ukrainian constitutional law - this is not about that - but it is necessary and it should be shown in the present light.
These, in fact, academic arguments may be correct in stating the possible illegality of the steps of some separatist circles, but this is only half the truth. Real life is always ahead of the law, which then catches it up. With a change in the order, a new law is established, in fact, always inevitably temporary. Real life and its needs usually make their way, and the changes in legislation that are made can rarely keep up with them.
The division of the state, prepared and passed in accordance with the constitution and law, was in the foreseeable past, perhaps, only in our country when preparing the division of Czechoslovakia. The disintegration of Yugoslavia, and then Serbia, as well as the USSR, was carried out spontaneously, often with confrontation and violence, by the method of fait accompli. There is no need to dwell too long on this.
In the same way, most of the modern countries of Europe and the world gained independence as a result of a violent struggle and in violation of the existing legal structure. People cannot be denied this right by reference to the illegality of separatism. Otherwise, we would have rejected the legitimacy of the emergence of states such as the United States or ours, which also did not arise in accordance with the constitution and laws of Austria-Hungary.
Thus, the international recognition of this particular change of frontiers is not primarily a legal issue, but a matter that depends on the balance of power in the country, the region and the world. In this regard, the current situation is only slightly different from the history. If we were to consistently adhere to an assessment of such changes from the point of view of law and international law, we would fall into an insurmountable trap of double standards and contradictory practices.
Obviously, powerlessness, chaos and economic crisis allow the West and Russia to interfere in Ukrainian affairs. Again, it is not surprising that the majority of ethnic Russians, dissatisfied with not quite favorable living conditions in Ukraine and fearing for their future, turn their eyes to a relatively rich, stable and strong Russia.
Only very biased observers can be surprised by the fact that the overwhelming majority of them have no reason to be loyal to Ukraine and, in a referendum, they massively support joining Russia. Therefore, it makes no sense to question their logical position, denying certain conditions of the referendum.
Legal arguments, the constitution and the laws of the unity of Ukraine does not hold. It cannot be withheld by democratic procedures on their own, for example, by parliamentary or presidential elections. The fact that the west or east of Ukraine will gain more votes will not solve the problem, even if the winner has the majority support and thereby democratic legitimacy.
Ukraine can be saved only in the event of a victory for a broad, all-Ukrainian project that suits both sides, the likelihood of which decreases more and more as tension rises and with such strong external pressure.
Part of 5: Abuse of events in Ukraine to accelerate the unification of Europe (and therefore weaken democracy in Europe)
Today’s events in and around Ukraine will undoubtedly entail a series of direct and indirect, short-term and long-term, political and economic consequences.
During the last days, both authors of this text talked together about the situation in Ukraine with the two ambassadors of significant countries, much larger than the Czech Republic. One of them was the ambassador of a European country, the other was from Asia. Both asked what impact everything will happen around Ukraine. It is probably necessary to repeat at least the basic structure of our answer.
The short-term economic effects for the Czech Republic are obvious - reducing the number of tourists from Russia and Ukraine, reducing the load of our resorts in the west of the Czech Republic at the expense of guests from these countries, especially from Russia, slowing down trade and investment activity in the economy, possibly hindered access to energy. the resources that our country has long been receiving from the east.
This, of course, is unpleasant, especially for quite specific Czech economic entities, but for our country as a whole, most likely, this will not be something fatal. Sooner or later, such activity will return to the level achieved in the past. We repeat again that this is not the case for specific firms and enterprises trading with Russia and Ukraine. They undoubtedly have great fears in this regard (and we do not expect that the state will compensate them in any way).
We consider non-economic effects to be more serious and for their consequences much more dangerous. International politics will become more radical, international tensions will increase, confrontation between the West and the East will intensify, and the conflict between Western Europe, with which we and Putin’s Russia will “get”, has been much more confident in the last decade (than it seemed in the first decade after the fall of communism), will escalate. Growing tensions in international politics for the Czech Republic - a small country located close to the exclusively conditional border between East and West - in any case would be a minus and will affect it.
The mainstream European political “mainstream”, represented by the Brussels elite, expects that the Ukrainian crisis can be used to strengthen European centralization and unification, especially for the long-conceived unification of European foreign policy (and suppressing the still different foreign policy of individual EU member states), also with a view to the long-planned creation of a European army, which so far has been opposed by the majority of countries in the European Union.
This further strengthening of European unification and centralization, which many of us already consider completely unacceptable, does not correspond to the real interests of the Czech Republic, although President M. Zeman thinks the opposite. We fear restrictions on civil rights, especially freedom of speech, freedom to disagree with the official point of view.
A significant part of the European political "mainstream" (to a much lesser extent Germany and by no means the southern wing of the EU), together with the United States, is trying to recreate the image of Russia as "frightened" in the East, which is a strategic interest, especially American. Ukraine in this respect is just a tool.
It is also not in our interests, and we cannot earn anything from it in any respect. Perhaps a handful of our Czech "neo-conservatives" will earn on this, who are still building their careers in the belated struggle against communism and Soviet imperialism, which is possible only because some of our fellow citizens still respond to this. Of course, this is a surrogate activity, which indicates the absence of any positive political program for these people who are still strong in media relations.