Saakashvili’s Ploys are only the Tip of the Ukrainian Iceberg

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September 23, 2017 – Fort Russ – 

By Eduard Popov – translated by Jafe Arnold – 

Ukrainian media have been increasingly discussing the possibility of early parliamentary elections in Ukraine. This is in part related to the activities of the ex-governor of the Odessa region, i.e., ex-Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. This wanna-be-populist figure has, instead of spouting revolutionary slogans and calling for the “thief Poroshenko” to be “dealt with”, switched to almost exclusively parliamentary forms of duel. On September 19th, speaking at an improvised rally in front of the Verkhovna Rada, this “old revolutionary” (Saakashvili’s own self-appellation) promised not to unleash revolution.

Saakashvili has settled down in Cherkasy, i.e., a region which it is difficult to call a center of support for the Euromaidan. The city of Cherkasy itself is literally in the center of the country in terms of both East-West and North-South and borders the Kiev region. It is this central location that Saakashvili chosen to set up his headquarters and prepare for “legally overthrowing” the Poroshenko regime. 

It is even likely that no obstacles will be set up in front of Saakashvili’s campaign by Ukrainian authorities or law enforcement agencies. Ever since the US State Department’s Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, commented to the effect that “Saakashvili is fighting corruption and Ukraine is a state of the rule of law” (sic!), the old Georgian revolutionary now poses great risk for President Poroshenko, who is forced to close his eyes to his very own overthrow being prepared right in his backyard. 

But why has Saakashvili so sharply put the brakes on preparing a new Maidan, which would be the third already in Ukrainian history? In my opinion, there are two possible explanations. The first is that Saakshvili does not yet have sufficient resources and has begun the tedious process of uniting opposition forces, all the while cherishing the fact that the government has to behave following Volker’s statement. 

The second explanation is that Saakashvili is waiting for his time. The people have not yet “woken up” and the summer’s political recesses have not yet finished. But this is about to change. On October 1st, gas tariffs for the population will be hiked by 19% above the already sky-high prices which, as we’ve revealed before, were  seven times more expensive than gas costs for citizens of the DPR and LPR. Meanwhile, parliament is raising the cost of electricity and an increase in food prices is also expected. Thus, October will mark the beginning of a socio-economic war by the ruling regime against the Ukrainian population.

On September 21st, the politicial analyst and journalist Dmitry Kulikov (who is also a native of Donbass), said on Russia 1 TV that if Poroshenko does not start war with Russia in the next four to five months, then he’ll be simply swept out of power. In this expert’s opinion, Saakashvili’s loud appearance on the scene is no coincidence. Saakashvili, Kulikov is sure, has been called on to lead a legal coup and, upon overthrowing Poroshenko, start a war with Russia. 

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While it is hard to judge on just what information Kulikov’s opinion is based (perhaps on some kind of insider information from Ukraiinian political circles or his own speculations?), but let us simply add that Kulikov is a rather serious specialist who boasts access to powerful circles in Russia. He probably has sources in the Ukrainian political scene as well. 

Nevertheless, we believe that there is another, more likely explanation: Saakashvili is being employed as an annoyance to Poroshenko just in case the latter shows any stubbornness. Let us explain this theory.

The Americans, who did so much to get Poroshenko elected President of Ukraine in the first round of elections, are unlikely to change out their appointed president as long as his usefulness does not wear out. But if Ukrainians’ reactions to the government’s “gifts” in the form of raised tariffs and prices will be too fierce, then Saakashvili could be given the green light to remove Poroshenko. 

It is worth recalling that Saakashvili himself became President of Georgia as a result of the “Rose Revolution”, when he ousted President Shevardnadze who was no less pro-American than him. But Shevardnadze was too unpopular and did not control Georgia’s regions, hence the need to replace one “bastard son” with another. Poroshenko controls more authority in the country than Shevardnadze, yet this control is gradually slipping out of his hands, as his party, the Petro Poroshenko Bloc, has an abysmal approval rating that does not exceed 5%. 

Crisis has gripped not only pro-presidential forces, but also the Petro Poroshenko Bloc’s allies in the ruling coalition, such as the People’s Front (which also has a rating of less than 5%). Meanwhile, “democratic forces” are supposed to be unifying, as ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said at the YES Forum in Kiev. Moreover, there is talk of a merger between the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and the People’s Front. It is in the interests of the formally still existing but in fact already disintegrating ruling coalition (which lacks 9 deputies) to preserve the current composition of the Verkhovna Rada and government positions. It is in the interests of all the other parties of the parliamentary opposition to dissolve the ruling coalition and hold early elections. Especially interested in this is the “preferred” opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Other parliamentary and non-parliamentary parties and groups as well have an interest in early elections with the aim of strengthening their positions at the expense of the ruling coalition or even getting into the new Rada. 

Thus, this autumn will present all of these forces with excellent opportunities to implement their plans. An important role in this will be played by social protests which opposition leaders will try to take advantage of to the greatest extent possible. Indeed, the weakness of social protests up to this point has been that they have not been capitalized upon by political circles. But this time around, the situation could be quite different.

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Political upheavals are also haunting the Ukrainian Army in the “Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone” and the conflict zone in general. We will discuss this important front in our next article. 

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