Due to the fact that the hot period in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, at least for the time being, has ended, competition between the development models chosen by the two countries came to the fore.
This confrontation will most likely continue for a very long time, it will last for years, if not for decades. It is clear that the result is not obvious, too different are not just models, but also principles for evaluating the final result. What, in the end, can be considered the success of a particular model, and what is not?
But one thing is clear for sure. The collective West stands behind the model chosen by Ukraine, and its goal is clearly not only the transformation of Ukraine. Therefore, this confrontation is for a future model of development, including for Russia, which gives the situation a special intrigue and, of course, some piquancy.
By the way, perhaps that is why the appointment of the Russian woman Maria Gaidar as deputy governor of the Odessa region and her refusal of Russian citizenship was perceived as so painful in Russia. It's one thing when representatives of the Russian intelligentsia leave for Ukraine. This is understandable and safe. The intelligentsia in Russia is always in the front of a strong government, and even the prospect of Ukraine’s choice of a western development model can attract many Russian journalists, writers and cultural figures.
Thus, they continue the old Russian tradition of protest emigration. It was also characteristic of the times of tsarist Russia, then of the Soviet Union. It is also characteristic that this tradition began in the time of Ivan the Terrible, when some Russian leaders left for Western Russian lands in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The most famous of them is Prince Andrei Kurbsky. And it was his departure that led Ivan the Terrible to the need to enter into a discussion with the fugitive commander, which actually took place on the theme of different models of the development of Russia and the Russian lands in the principality of Lithuania. It should be noted that the departure of the pioneer printer Ivan Fedorov to Lithuania did not cause such emotions among the tsar and the Russian authorities. A high-ranking official is still completely different.
Therefore, Maria Gaidar’s relocation to Ukraine certainly hurt the Russian authorities more than, for example, the departure of Zhanna Nemtsova and other members of the intelligentsia from Russia. Still, Gaidar was the deputy head of the Kirov region under the governor of the former opposition Nikita Belykh. That is, no one, but a representative of the establishment.
In addition, Gaidar’s refusal of Russian citizenship for the sake of an administrative position in Ukraine could not help but cause displeasure in Moscow in the context of the competition of development models. It’s not even the case that in Gaidar in particular, and in the Ukrainian reformers as a whole, something can happen with the changes in Ukraine, they probably don’t believe in such an opportunity in Moscow, the problem is different: why did Gaidar be called at all?
And here are a variety of options, including conspiracy. Starting from the sonorous name of her father, a well-known liberal politician of Russia, who carried out radical economic reforms, and ending with plans to prepare cadres for future changes in Russia itself. It is unlikely that Maria Gaidar has any special management skills. More likely, her “call” for service in Ukraine is a kind of signal to Russian society that Ukraine and its reforms are an example for Russia.
President Vladimir Putin did not fail to note that it is wrong when the Varyags are invited, as if there are no decent cadres in their country and that this is a manifestation of external control of Ukraine. In principle, the Russian president is right on the issue of external control.
It is clear that the Ukrainian elite voluntarily would hardly have agreed with so many foreigners in key positions in state structures. Surely its representatives, those who supported the Maidan and those who later changed the front line, counted on some revenge against people from the team of former President Viktor Yanukovych. But now they have no mandate to exercise power in the country.
Too many key positions in the country today are occupied by the Varangians. Here there is an impressive part of the government members, including the Minister of Finance, and the governor of the strategically important Odessa region, Mikhail Saakashvili. In the leadership of Ukraine, there are many Georgians from the Saakashvili team, an American of Ukrainian origin, a Lithuanian, a Russian. It is hard to imagine that this is the result of only the policies of President Petro Poroshenko, who, like Peter the Great in the Russian Empire, invited the “Varangians” (Europeans) in order to improve the governance of the country. Although much depends on Poroshenko.
However, we note that in Ukraine, prominent oligarchs Dmitry Firtash and Igor Kolomoisky were actually withdrawn from the political game at different times. The first one was generally arrested in Vienna on a request from the United States at that very moment last year, when the issue of political power was decided in Ukraine. The second one first entered into an open conflict with Poroshenko, relying on considerable opportunities, then sharply reduced its activity.
And there is история with Yulia Tymoshenko, who, after being released from prison after Maidan, was very determined to return to active politics, but in the end she was hardly visible today, and her former supporters entered into an alliance with Poroshenko.
And, of course, the story of Saakashvili is very revealing. First, people from his team appeared in Ukraine, and then he himself. No matter how badly they treat him in Russia, Saakashvili does carry out reforms and at the same time he is desperate enough to carry them out as decisively and even harshly.
In this sense, Odessa for him is a very significant city. There have always been many influential clans that controlled many aspects of the life of this important port. If Saakashvili can achieve results in Odessa, it will mean more for the success of Ukrainian reforms than changes in any other regions. Especially when you consider the specifics of Odessa. On the one hand, it is traditionally a pro-Russian city, but on the other hand, it is a very market and very pragmatic city. If here they see the prospect of actually becoming a European city, it will reconcile even the most pro-Russian-minded Odessa citizens with the new Ukrainian reality.
In addition, Saakashvili is already tipped to the position of the future Prime Minister of Ukraine. If such an appointment takes place, then Moscow will have even more reason to talk about the external control of Ukraine. But here the main question is in the results obtained and the final goal, and those who hypothetically influence Ukrainian politics or, perhaps, even control it.
For Ukrainian society, the only reason that can justify the current difficult times is only the evolution of the country into a middle Eastern European state. There is a certain consensus in Ukrainian society today. But no one wants the situation of the year 2004 to repeat, when after the previous “orange revolution” some oligarchs were replaced by others. And then, in the wake of disappointment, the former elite with its archaic view of government and society returns to power.
Therefore, reforms in Ukraine and do not trust the local elite. Hence, all the Vikings. Paradoxically, the local elite is also quite satisfied with it, at least part of it. They are even willing to put up with the loss of key positions. First, because they understand that the Vikings must do all the dirty work for them. But life in the middle Eastern European country is still more profitable for the elite post-Soviet realities. In the end, they already have the money, but the legitimacy of status to money just does not hurt. Secondly, the Vikings are a temporary phenomenon, they have to make institutional changes, and then they will, sooner or later, leave. Thirdly, the participation of the Vikings in Ukrainian reforms is almost certainly a condition on the part of the West. And modern Ukraine is critically dependent on Western aid.
Interestingly, Saakashvili, during one of his meetings with an asset from the Odessa region, said that for new managers he would find additional funds from certain funds. Because salaries in the Ukrainian state institutions are very insignificant. It may be recalled that a similar situation was in Georgia, where many projects were financed from additional external sources. At one time, even the salaries of top officials were paid in this way.
In general, Kiev is very consistent in its policy of reform. It is worth noting the police reform, instead of which a patrol police force appeared in the capital, created under the leadership of Georgian Vice Minister of the Interior Eki Zguladze. Previously, she carried out the same reform in Georgia. Ukraine has adopted a law on decentralization, which deals with the transition on the ground to the system of self-government.
At the same time, despite all the unpopularity of the reforms being carried out, the difficult economic situation, the relative political unity in the establishment still remains. There is no particular confrontation between the parliament and the president, the ruling coalition continues to exist.
Interestingly, Russia is extremely jealous of information about reforms in Ukraine. One of the postulates of the information campaign regarding Ukraine in Russia is associated with a criticism of the reforms being carried out, with the idea of the overall inefficiency of the structures of the Ukrainian state - from the army to the control system.
Such a position reflects a slight concern that reforms in Ukraine may eventually lead to some more or less positive results. And this cannot but disturb the ideologues of official Moscow. In this case, Ukraine not only falls out of the sphere of influence of Russia, but also becomes an alternative project - in fact, another Russia.
Most of all, Russia’s concern is that Ukraine has de facto found itself under the umbrella of the West. Therefore, the likelihood that Ukraine can succeed in everything, remains very high. The West will do it at least to contain Russia.
That is why, perhaps, the Minsk process stalled. The idea of Moscow was to first force Kiev to interact with the leadership of the unrecognized republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. Then achieve their return to reintegration into Ukraine under autonomy with something like the right to veto any changes in its policies. This would allow to suspend the situation in Ukraine, at least, the reform of the latter would be much more difficult.
However, Kiev preferred to carry out reforms independently, in fact freezing the situation in the east of Ukraine. This is not the most profitable scenario for Moscow. In this case, the unrecognized republics remain in the care of Russia, which will most likely cause the Russian authorities to increase their incidence.
As the economic crisis develops, Russia's overall capabilities are increasingly dwindling, and against this background, the unresolved problems of the DPR and LPR strongly raise the question: what to do next, what should we expect?
It can be assumed that the recent aggravation in the east of Ukraine, the increase in the number of exchanges of fire between the warring parties, the prospect of a new escalation of a military conflict are a reflection of the general uncertainty of the situation. And on both sides.
But if it is important for Donetsk and Lugansk rebels to recall their existence in order to force them to enter into direct negotiations with them, then it is more important for the Ukrainian side to maintain the status quo in order to use time to solve internal problems.
Of course, it cannot be excluded that the hotheads in Kiev would like to blitzkrieg in the spirit of the Croatian Army 1995 operation of the year against the Republic of Serbian Krajina, which was organized by the Serbs in the territory of Croatia in the process of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Then the Croats a few days broke the Serbian militia. But for the success of such an operation, the Croats needed a neutral attitude on the part of Yugoslavia. Today, Ukrainians clearly cannot count on the same attitude on the part of Russia.
From a military point of view, Ukrainians are much more important to keep the front and prevent the repetition of stories with Debaltseve and other defeats of the past year. In the end, they can wait, time is working for them. Russia cannot wait for the Donetsk rebels either, respectively.
The difference is that the Ukrainians have a program of action and a goal that they want to achieve. Another question: can they do this? But behind them is the West, which also has its own goals, there are considerable opportunities. The Donetsk rebels and ideologues of last year’s campaign to defend the “Russian world” have by and large exhausted the program.
The only thing that can make a few more changes is a blitzkrieg with a complete defeat of the Ukrainian army and a large-scale offensive. But, firstly, such a blitzkrieg is no longer possible today, although at the cost of great efforts it is possible to occupy some more territories. Secondly, any offensive will lead to a new, already third, Minsk, but will not change the basic characteristics of the entire conflict.