Scenarios for Ukraine’s Future: Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, or Libya 2.0?

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June 12, 2016 – 

Yuri Sergeev, PolitRussia –

Translated by J. Arnoldski

Ukraine is in the midst of crisis and is faced with three of the most probable variants of the development of events: the Syrian, Egyptian, and Tunisian scenarios. This was recently stated by the Kiev political analyst Yuri Romanenko during his speech at the forum “Pulse of Change.”

Let us attempt to analyze this thesis in depth. For starters, it can be noted that the first, “Syrian” scenario which Mr. Romanenko specified as one of Ukraine’s possible futures, is in fact not at all out of character for the “great European state,” albeit, of course, with the correction that in Syria what is happening is a civil war instigated from abroad and carried out by the hands of insurgents against a legal government. In Ukraine, on the contrary, healthy forces are in fact defending their legal rights from the Kiev government seized by gangs of putschists with an ill-concealed “brown tint.” But the essence of the two situations is similar – in both places, a real civil war is ongoing. 

The second point is recognizing the sad fact and taboo that in “independent” Ukraine, “freedom and democracy” are under the harshest censorship. Sure, certain politicians have risked calling things by their names, but most prefer to dress up the punitive action against the rebellious population of Donbass as a “fight against Russian aggression” and, of course, against the ubiquitous “vatniks,” “kolorados,” “separatists,” and “terrorists.”

Romanenko’s caution in this case is clear. On the other hand, he deserves credit for not bringing up the ridiculously lauded “Ministry of Truth’s” account of the “Croatian scenario,” according to which the valiant Ukrainian “army” is merely awaiting leadership before victoriously regaining control over Donbass in a several-day-long blitzkrieg as was Croatia’s much lauded “Operation Storm” against Serbian Krajina in 1995. [He does not mention this] because this punitive action was successful and possible thanks to the treacherous policies of the Serbian leadership who chose the illusory hopes of “Euromembership” to the detriment of the armed defense of their compatriots’ interests. This clearly does not apply to the current policies of Russia.

Therefore, a checkmark can confidently be put next to the Syrian option for Ukraine in view of the fact it has long since been put into action on the territory of this “great European power.”

A Tunis was not prepared against Russia 

The less publicly known “Tunisian scenario” refers to the revolution (or coup, as you prefer) of 2011, which the events in Ukraine resemble to a large extent. Only instead of a Yanukovich concentrating evermore significant assets and power into his and his family’s hands, in Tunisia there was the figure of President Ben Ali whom the local “revolutionary youth”, dissatisfied with a  considerably unemployment rate (no matters its offset by serious benefits), decided to overthrow with the unofficial green-light of the US, thus initiating the so-called “Arab Spring.”

Fast forwarding, we can say that the Tunisian “kids” turned out to be the same “broken record” as their Ukrainian colleagues. After the “victory of the revolution,” unemployment and inflation grew and the standard of life dropped in the country. But there was “real democracy!,” i.e., the right to choose candidates for parliament not only from the only ruling party of Ben Ali, but also from several competing political forces who (to their credit) still had enough sense not to drag the country to civil war, which obviously favorably compares the Tunisian situation to the Ukrainian or, let’s say, the Libyan one. 

On the other hand, the “head sponsor” of the “Jasmine Revolution,” the US, didn’t need such a large upheaval in such a fairly small North African country. Changing the old corrupt regime was possible even without shooting. But Ukraine is a whole different matter. Ever since the time of Brzezinski, who dreamed of conflict between Ukrainians and Russians, the US planned an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” to be put at Russia’s borders and to use Ukraine as “cannon fodder” to fight Russia not with American, but other hands.

For Washington, the result of the war isn’t even important which, as was quite predictable, gave at least a 40-fold superiority of Russian defense spending over Ukrainian. The main point was creating a zone of instability on the territory of “independent Ukraine” up to the point of a “European Somalia” which could deliver all the more of a “headache” to both Russia and the US’ “sworn friends,” i.e., its EU competitors. 

Thus, seriously considering the possibilities of the emergence in Ukraine of sensible, influential elites, alas, is not worth it. In the meanwhile, as a temporary measure during the period of presidential campaigns in the US, the American administration can pretend that it is attempting to guarantee that obstinate, Nazi Kiev will be “compelled to Minsk.”

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The Egyptian scenario: it’s not that army…

The last option voiced by Romanenko is called the “Egyptian” one. In its pure form, at least, this is impossible for Ukraine. After all, the Egyptian army (which ever since the beginning of real independence had remained one of the main “pillars” of real government), following the temporary triumph of the Islamists, once again seized power in the “country of pyramids.” In fact, all Egyptian presidents without exception were high-ranking military men, and not even “former” ones at that.

The overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi by the army was a mere return to the usual order of governance. This was in fact acceptable for the majority of the population with the exception of the most notorious radicals. Thus, everything worked out without the cost of turning stadiums into concentration camps in the spirit of the Chilean dictator Pinochet.

In Ukraine, the army has never played such a weighty role in society. According to polls, only a small percentage of the population trusts it, and this is only as an abstract institution. When talking about concrete individuals, such unpleasant things as embezzlement, incompetent generals, the reluctance of youth to serve, etc. immediately manifest themselves. Since the beginning of the crisis, the situation has only worsened  in this regard. Radical patriots speak of “betrayal” among generals allegedly thanks to whom the Ilovaysk and Debaltsevo “cauldrons” were possible. And recruits already don’t merely shy away from “honorary duties,” but even dare to jump from the windows of military offices, risking their lives.

Expecting such an army to not only seize power but, moreover, make use of it and gain at least come credibility in society is not worth it. If in the Ukrainian army discipline is maintained now not so much thanks to respect or at least fear of commanders but just from the fear of criminal cases opened by “civil” prosecutors, then what will everything be like if the soldiers “break” civil institutions in the case of a next “Revolution?” The majority of soldiers will run away and the rest will turn into bandits. 

Of course, Ukraine has some “motivated” people with weapons, who usually have pronounced Nazi convictions. Apparently, it is these people that Romanenko has in mind in speaking of a situation in which “someone from a financial-industrial group, plus some kind of progressive force with foreign support and relying on any social group, can carry out a coup and by authoritarian means bring about change by destroying or suppressing part of the elites and social groups.” 

“The Ruin”: Ukrainian know-how from the 17th century to the present day

The whole problem of the Ukrainian elite since time immemorial is that among such “vigorous and progressive” forces, it has a significantly greater amount of the former. Hence the ironic saying “Two Ukrainians – three hetmans.” In fact, with very real reasons, during the time of “Ruins,” i.e., the 30-year period after Bogdan Hmelnitsky’s death, Ukraine had at least two, and sometimes three-four hetmans at the same time. This is not even counting the colonels who back then were a sort of governors who were only weakly subordinated to the supposedly supreme power, and this was even more true when their ranks included bright personalities.

So, let’s imagine that the Dnepropetrovsk oligarch Kolomoysky, with the aid of his financed Nazi battalions in the shape of Azov and Aidar, attempts to replace Poroshenko’s regime (which has more than once nearly happened if it wasn’t for the phone call of Vice President Biden with the order “lights out.”). This is a possible scenario. But a very big question is whether the beneficiary, Kolomoysky, will be able to reach agreements with the other oligarchs such as Pinchuk, Akhmetov, Firtash, and the Transcarpathian “boss” Baloga, etc. After all, they also sponsor their own official and semi-official armed groups. Would the actual federalization of Ukraine not be a gift to them and the ever-growing number of regional councils openly demanding a redistribution of power from Kiev?

Even if the punitive battalions were to free themselves from the control of the oligarchs (which wouldn’t be so difficult given their widespread disdain for these individuals), then seizing the government would still be very difficult. After all, doing so demands having one single “Fuhrer”, and in the Ukrainian political tradition there are more than a few candidates always ready for this. Recently, this “growing number” has found another claim for the role of “Fuhrer” in the face of the Nazi Savchenko.

Thus, a more likely scenario for Ukraine in this trajectory of events is not so much the “Egyptian” one as the “Libyan” one. When divided Libya was on the brink of civil war in the mid-1980’s, the country, according to conservative estimates, had 3 armies, 2 police forces, and 42 militias belonging to different religious and tribal groups…

On the other hand, should the experience of the Middle East even be used to assess events in Ukraine? After all, “independent” Ukraine has long had its own “brand” of suicidal power struggles, as in the case of the aforementioned “Ruin” period. During that period, over the course of 3 decades the population of the right-bank Ukraine, in contrast to the left-bank which became a protectorate of Moscow, came under the rule of the Polish Commonwealth, the Ottoman Empire, and the Crimean Khanate. The Ukrainian population decreased 10 times (!), which is an absolute record not even beaten by the infamous Thirty Years War in Germany at the beginning the 17th century when the population of affected principalities decreased only five times.

Unfortunately, this is a very likely scenario at the present moment as long as official Kiev maintains its suicidal policies and political analysts in Ukraine will be afraid to speak. It won’t be too long before the situation could fully accord with this gloomiest scenario. 

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