Irrational & Unrequited Love of Ukrainians for the West


October 15th, 2015 – 

By: Alexei Polubota,

Translated for Fort Russ by Paul Siebert –

Most citizens of “independent” Ukraine are disappointed with
Maidan, but they still believe in Europe

The public consciousness in Ukraine continues to amaze
with its irrationality. This is confirmed by the poll conducted by the International
Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).

Despite the fact that the majority of Ukrainians
acknowledge that Euromaidan did not meet their expectations, a dominant
sentiment in Ukraine is in favor of the pro-Western geopolitical course.

49% of respondents are of the opinion that Ukraine
should better strive to deepen relations with Europe, while the percentage of
those who prefer a closer relationship with Russia is only 8%.

At the same time 56% of Ukrainians believe that the
country is moving in the wrong direction, and only 20% hold the opposite
opinion. The notion that the country is moving in the wrong direction is spread
across the country and is shared by the majority of citizens in each region.

The survey was conducted on the territory of Ukraine,
controlled by the Kiev government, without regard to the views of some four
million people living in the LPR and the DPR.

It would seem that in the last eighteen months Europe
has demonstrated that it is in no hurry to recognize Ukraine as its
“own”. Western aid is given precisely in those volumes that prevent
the final collapse of Ukraine’s statehood. At the same time, due to the influx
of Western goods and severance of economic ties with Russia hundreds of
Ukrainian enterprises are closed. The latest news in this regard: in Ukraine it
has become unprofitable to produce even sugar leading to the closing of 15
sugar mills.

The situation in the post-Maidan economy of Ukraine is
much worse, however it has not affected the unrequited love of Ukrainians to
the West. Why is this the case and what will be the outcome?

– We must understand that the process of Ukraine’s
reorientation to the West began long before the Maidan, — says the Head of the Center for
Political Research of the Institute of Economics, Head of the Department of
International Relations of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Federation
Boris Shmelev.
– For a quarter century that has passed since the collapse
of the Soviet Union, more than one generation of Ukrainians has grown who are
convinced that it is necessary not to be friends with Russia, but with Europe. That
only this friendship with the West will ensure the prosperity of Ukraine.

There is also an important factor: several million
Ukrainians work in Russia and in Europe. Comparing, they see that life in the
European Union is more comfortable. And this also affects their
“geopolitical preferences”. Finally, most of the residents of Ukraine,
especially in the center and the west of the country perceived the reunion of
the Crimea with the Russian Federation as an occupation of part of their
country. And in relation to the events in Donbass the propaganda has convinced
many people that it was not a rebellion against the new regime in Kiev, but Russia’s
aggression. Unfortunately, revanchist sentiments towards our country in Ukraine
can last for a long time. I would even say that it is impossible to exclude the
possibility of war between Russia and Ukraine. At least today it is bigger than
zero. And even 2 years ago this assumption might seem an absurd fantasy.

“SP”: – Why a year and a half since the “February coup”
have not convinced Ukrainians that the EU is not going to make Ukraine a member
state and that the West is helping Kiev only to the extent that the pro-Western
regime does not collapse?

– Yes, there are still strong illusions of average
Ukrainians in relation to Europe. Many people think that joining the EU and
NATO would quickly help Ukraine improve the living standards of the population,
to solve social problems and so on. Others, more realistically minded
Ukrainians, think like this: yes, we know that Europe will not solve our
problems, but we have no other choice. Now, Russia, if not an enemy, is at
least an unfriendly state. And they do not believe in the economic prospects of
the alliance with us.

“SP”: – But it is impossible to escape the logic: as long as
Ukraine maintained relatively good relations with Russia, the situation in the
Ukrainian economy was more or less tolerable. And as soon as Kiev finally
turned towards the West, the economy began to crumble …

– All this is true. But public consciousness in
Ukraine is largely irrational. I’ve already talked about the persisting
illusions of Ukrainian men from the street. It seems to him that only the West
is able to protect Ukraine from the “Russian aggression”. This
explains such a persistent and irrational focus on Europe.

“SP”: – And can we explain such a low percentage of Russian sympathizers
by the fact that some respondents, especially in the South-East of Ukraine are
afraid to openly express their opinions?

– Yes, it is possible. Although, it seems to me that
the real percentage of Ukrainians who are in favor of strengthening cooperation
with Russia on the territories controlled by Kiev is not much higher than what
was revealed by the survey.

– Ukraine has more than once repeated a historical
plot from the moment when it emerged from the uprising led by Bohdan
Khmelnytsky, – says the head of the
Center for coordination and support of the “South East” movement, Director
of Historical Research Foundation “Osnavaniye” Alex Anpilogov
. –
The Pereyaslav Council, which decided to seek the protection of Russia, was followed
by half a century of turmoil, which is now also referred to as a
“Ruin”. During that time, the population of Ukraine decreased by
half. A huge damage was done to the economy. Ukraine needed half a century of this
turmoil to finally understand that the only possible scenario for it was to be
with Russia. This alliance between Russia and Ukraine became the foundation of
the Russian Empire.

The second time this scenario was repeated in a short
period of time during the First World War and the Civil War of 1917-1922. In
that period in Ukraine it was a war of “all against all”. Poland,
supported by the Allies, managed to get hold of a part of Ukraine, which had
its consequences for contemporary Ukrainian history.

Now, Russia’s position in Ukraine, in my opinion, is
weaker than it was in 1917 or even in 1654. This is due not only to the fact
that Russia as a state has not fully recovered after 1991, but also to the fact
that the “collective West” has joined a large geopolitical game for Ukraine.
Because of the support of the West the awareness of the inevitability of
Ukraine’s alliance with Russia could drag on for decades. But the West
“helps” Ukraine in such a way that sooner or later Ukraine will be
deprived of the industrial and intellectual potential it inherited from the
Soviet Union. That’s when millions of Ukrainians would leave the country and
the rest will understand that without an alliance with Russia their statehood does
not have any prospects. That is when another “Ruin” will be finished
and immense disappointed in Europe and the West in general will ensue.

“SP”: – And can the West pull off the project of creating a
pro-Western, relatively stable economically state on the territory of Ukraine?

– The West will make every effort to achieve it. You
can recall the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski that without Ukraine, Russia ceases
to be a superpower. Washington is well aware of this and is ready to forgive
its grants to the Kiev regime to keep Ukraine in the sphere of its influence.
However, there are objective laws of history. Russians and Ukrainians have one
language, one culture, a lot of family ties. During the period of the
“Ruin” that I mentioned in the 17th century the Ukrainian elite
forced its people to swear their allegiance to all types of masters. Even to the
Turkish sultans. It ended badly. It will be the same story now. Ukraine can not
become a self-sufficient state system by itself. Once the West will not be able
to help Ukraine (which, in my opinion, may happen very
soon), Ukraine will be forced to seek an alliance with Russia, because it will
not have another option.

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