Streetwise Professor

November 23, 2013

Ukraine & Russia. Sovok Players. Sovok Tactics. Sovok Results. No Surprises Here.

Filed under: Economics,Energy,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 1:27 pm

Ukraine has shocked many Europeans and dismayed many Ukrainians, by announcing that it will suspend preparations to enter into an Association Agreement with the EU.  Russia was violently opposed to such an agreement that would have moved Ukraine away from Russia and towards Europe.  Hence, this is viewed as another “diplomatic” triumph for Putin.

It’s not really that shocking, or that much of a triumph.  If you think of the correlation of forces (to use the Soviet military term), it decidedly favored the Russians. There is geographic proximity.  There is the fact that the Ukrainian economy is a basket case, and extremely vulnerable to Russian pressure-pressure which Putin had been exerting for months, and would only have intensified had Ukraine gone along with the Europeans.  There is the fact that the Ukrainian political and economic elite has a lot to lose if Europe insists on reforms that open up the economy and increased transparency.  There is the fact that Old Europe was decidedly lukewarm about the prospect of drawing closer to a corrupt, dysfunctional, and bankrupt country that could become another money sink.  Europe also insisted on the freeing of Ukrainian President Yakunovich’s arch rival and predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko, which could be extremely perilous for Yakunovich.  Countries on the front line with Russia-notably the Poles and Baltic States, but also the Swedes, who are seeing repeated Russian aerial intrusions and other indications of Russian aggressiveness-were pushing this, but they aren’t the main forces in the EU. In contrast to tepid European interest, Ukraine is a near obsession with Putin.

And then there is money and corruption.  Days before the Ukrainians hit the brakes, Yakunovich traveled to Russia.  There were conflicting reports about whether he even met with Putin, and if he did, where, and what was discussed in the meetings (if they occurred).  Also, in the midst of one of the repeated standoffs between Gazprom and the Ukrainians over gas, it was announced that Gazprom would sell gas at a large discount to Ukrainian oligarch Firtash.  Firtash had been the intermediary in shady gas deals between Russia and Ukraine in the past, but had been cut out by Tymoshenko. Now he’s back, and will deliver gas to Ukraine.  Since Firtash is an ally of Yakunovich, the opposition immediately charged that this was a corrupt bargain that will put money into Yakunovich’s pocket, and bankroll his reelection campaign.  Putin, in other words, could make deals that the Europeans could not hope to match.

Putin, in other words, had all the cards.  Only overweening European self-regard about the obvious superiority of their system could have deluded them into believing that the odds were on their side.

Putin, of course, couldn’t resist chewing the scenery, joining Lavrov in accusing the Europeans of blackmailing Ukraine.   Of course Putin was the one really doing the blackmailing-and the bribing.  He had the sticks.  He had the carrots.  He used them both, and thereby cajoled the Ukrainian ass to turn its back on the EU.

Sovok players.  Sovok tactics.  Sovok results.  Is this really surprising?

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  1. It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Opinion polls in Ukraine support the EU orientation, and in addition to regional differences there is a strong age difference: within the country those under 50 prefer the EU, over 50 the CIS. Even in Yanukovich’s stronghold of Donetsk, 18-25 year olds prefer the EU. Minds may change. Perhaps Ukraine’s economy will see some marked improvement, and the younger people will accept closer ties to Russia. But if not, how stable can a deal with Ukraine’s leaders be, if those leaders act against the wishes of the majority of their own population and are supported mostly by the older (and frankly dying off) demographic?

    Comment by AP — November 23, 2013 @ 5:01 pm

  2. Right now, there are massive demonstrations in Ukraine against the yanustalin regime, and in favor of Euro integration.

    The protesters include many, many people over 50 who are sick and tired of the sovok mafiosi who have been lying, robbing, raping and pillaging the territory of Ukraine under the yanucrook mafioso regime.

    These are grass roots demonstrations, and not the paid-for demonstrations that assorted political thugs in Zookraine, especially the Bolshevik Regionnaires, employed to give the illusion of support.

    Bloomberg is reporting over 100,000 protesters in Kyiv alone.

    Comment by elmer — November 24, 2013 @ 11:51 pm

  3. Much earlier, I was surprised Yanukovych was so close to an EU deal because long term it hurt his business interests. While somewhat optimistic, I always imagined a possible Lucy with the football moment to the EU’s Charlie Brown. Still surprised it fell through as I thought Yanukovych passed the point of no return a while ago. I still think he wanted to sign because he knows getting in bed with Putin means the eventual end of Ukrainian independence, but Putin must have threatened him very much.

    So now we have giant protests in a country that really had protest fatigue. Don’t know whether they will lead to any change in policy or even government. Presidential election is not until 2015, and parliamentary elections not until 2017 although early elections are possible.

    The real question is has this underminded Yanukovych’s party, the Party of Regions? If it allows one of the opposition parties to win seats in the east and south, or give them support in the 2015 elections against Yanukovych, than Ukraine still has a good chance of returning to the West. If not, who knows?

    Interesting times as the Chinese would say.

    Comment by Chris — November 25, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

  4. Chris – yanustalin was NEVER close to any sort of EU deal.

    The sovok motto was and remains:

    “think one thing, say another, do a third”

    Yanusvoloch and his thugs follow that motto, they live by it.

    It was all lip service, hot air, empty promises, devious propaganda, a Potemkin show.

    Zookraine is a sovok mafia state. yanustalin and his thugs were conducting a negotiauction, seeing who would given them the most money – and by that I literally mean putting money into his pockets and into the pockets of his “family” of thugs.

    You might take a look at this excellent analysis by Anders Aslund:

    Comment by elmer — November 26, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

  5. Here’s an excellent article by Anders Aslund which chronicles the dysfunctions of Ukraine and the mendacity of its “leadership” in excruciating detail.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — November 27, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

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