Fort Russ readers have demanded, and so he has returned … Ishchenko weighs in on the Russian and Ukrainian political mindset especially in light of the present conflicts and the last election – ed, J. Flores
By Rostislav Ishchenko
As you know, greatness is seen from a distance. Therefore, in order to better understand the Ukrainian elite, one should look at the actions and try to understand the motivations of the one, the vanishingly small part of the Russian political elite that the Maidan has not taught anything to, and who is still dreaming of returning to the “blessed” 90’s. For this, let us turn to the recent presidential elections.
We’ll set the communo-monarchists aside – here we have a real “meeting between two singles.” On the one hand, the marginal dreamers about the restoration of the USSR during one night (in the never-existed idealized form) and supporters of the revival of the monarchy (despite the fact that there are more candidates for “lawful kings” than monarchists actually). On the other hand, we have a poor businessman with an average hand who sincerely believes that with the help of swindler political spin doctors promising diamonds for a small price, one can really, right away, become a politician on a Russia-wide scale.
The failure of the right-left-radical coalition testifies to the weakness of the radicals, as well as the lack of demand for the population for “great upheavals”. And nothing more. And the most intelligent leaders and leaders of both camps knew this from the very beginning. Therefore, they did not stand in elections for themselves, but instead sent out inexperienced lackeys. The cleverest were supposed to have made good money on this.
For any even slightly savvy person, the very fact of a “patriotic” coalition of right and left radicals – especially one cloistered under a little-known figure who has already gone through several parties in fruitless attempts at getting into power – is a testimony to the weakness of both forces. Left and right radicals are natural enemies. In a normal situation, each of these forces tries to join the right-wing or left-center parties that are really pretending to power to get into the government as a junior partner in the coalition. If they unite against the center, it means that the center is strong enough to form power without doubtful fellow travelers, the situation in the country is stable, “changes” are not “required by our hearts”, and there is nothing to catch radicals in elections. More or less decently to speak, they can only together and covered themselves with patriotic slogans.
Much more interesting is the phenomenon of Ksenia Anatolyevna Sobchak. It can be called “the Kremlin’s project”. Dozens of “witnesses” can claim that they personally saw how they were handed over “trilliards of Eurodollars” “for splitting the opposition.” But, again, it is clear to a normal person that if the liberal opposition is not split, not demoralized, if it is something of itself, then Sobchak would not mess-up anything in the election. Ksenia Anatolievna would have collected hundredths of a percent, and all “real liberals” would have voted for the “real oppositionist.”
Hardly anyone at least capable of distinguishing ‘the hedgehog from the horror’ [annoying/harmless from very bad] will doubt that the late Nemtsov and the helpless Navalny were far from the only ones (I dare say the best candidates) from the opposition. Even Kasyanov, in comparison with any of them, a political heavyweight is still a long-term prime minister. That is, there is experience and achievements that can be felt. And that someone like him was once caught on the internet with his pants missing, so you might think Sobchak always walks in his pants. By and large, the liberal opposition has a fairly large bench. And on it there are politicians, not all of which are so disgusting to the people that some ten percent of votes can not be collected.
But the liberal opposition as a whole either did not go to vote, or voted for Putin. Because for the overwhelming majority of adequate people (even for the liberals) it is clear that the struggle in these elections was not for the presidential post, but for the fate of Russia.
Most liberals, sincerely believing that it will be useful for Russia to integrate into the West and accept its values, still want a voluntary and mutually beneficial association with the West, rather than the destruction of their own country. Well, Russian “businessmen and bankers, owners of factories, newspapers, steamships” do not want to be demoted to the tots confined to the kiddie table at the buffet. On the contrary, they are increasingly inclined to identify their Western colleagues as the shoe-shiners. And this requires a strong state.
A little more than a percentage for Yavlinsky, for whom the part of the liberal opposition traditionally votes, which considers itself patriotic and advocates for a strong (but westernized) Russia serves as confirmation of the correctness of my thesis. The collapse of the ratings of Yavlinsky himself and his party, as well as other political forces, has been parallel to the growth of Putin’s support for 18 years.
Roughly speaking, Putin is more comfortable with a normal liberal, a normal communist, a normal monarchist, a normal nationalist and a normal non-ideologized patriot than the leaders of his own political currents. Because every normal citizen of Russia, no matter what political views he has adhered to, political concepts serve only one purpose – to ensure the strength, authority and prosperity of Russia.
Nevertheless, Ksenia Anatolyevna collected a good electoral harvest. Its fourth place and 1.66% of the vote means that Sobchak’s program was supported by over one million voters. It’s not bad for a beginner, with an ambiguous reputation, against which the guru of liberal hangouts agitated and in the conditions when, as we indicated above, a large adequate part of the liberals had either voted for Putin, or (if they did not like him so much, that he did not eat could) simply did not go to the polls.
It should be noted that Ksenia Anatolyevna’s distinct program was not very appreciated by observers and voters as pro-American, as for me it was suggested to concede or change the position to a softer one on key foreign policy issues. It does not matter what Sobchak thought about this, it’s important how the voter perceived it. However, I personally believe that Ksenia Anatolyevna is absolutely sincerely confident that the implementation of her proposals would bring the country good.
If the Russian political elite were also confident in this (at least a third of the number that “patriots” count as corrupt compradors), Sobchak would receive serious media support (mostly hidden, but also explicit), and her result could well be would reach 10% (and even exceed them), guaranteeing it the third place and giving the opportunity to compete for the second. Once again, people who hold liberal views in the country percent of 15-20 active voters and mobilize half, or even two-thirds of their number, are quite capable of the elite. The result of Sobchak was an order of magnitude worse.
The fact is that in the example of Ukraine, and now of Europe (not only Eastern, but also Western), as well as on their own experience, the Russian elite saw that it is impossible to be friends with the West and can not be built into the West. Talk with you, sure – until the precise moment he can rob you and kill you. Therefore, regardless of political views, religious affiliations and sexual orientation, most of the elite representatives, out of sheer prejudice, chose to support Putin as the leader that provides Russia’s international interests without establishing a rigid ideological regime and suppressing dissent within the country. They simply do not have an alternative. Get them out of Putin’s hands and either the West or your own people will kill them.
Thus, Sobchak was supported mainly by those voters who continue to believe that if Russia surrenders to the West, the ‘rivers of milk will flow by themselves’, and the ‘lacy pants will be distributed by the ton’ [self explanatory Russianisms – ed]. These are not necessarily naive or stupid people. In particular, Sobchak can hardly be called naive, stupid or poorly educated. All her shocking statements (interpreted by many as stupidity) is aimed at proving that she herself (without her mother, father, and Putin) is able to be quite successful (which, to all appearances, corresponds to reality).
But Xenia Anatolyevna gives the impression of a person who is absolutely sure that with her always (under any circumstances) everything will be fine, simply because it can not be bad, confident in her chosenness. Hence the position she defended in the elections, she assumed that we can not fare badly if we refuse to protect our values, because the West will not do us any harm. And people who (consciously or subconsciously) shared this belief supported this position.
In Russia, just over one and a half percent of voters turned out to think this way, and this shows the strength of the current government and the absolute trust of its people better than any percentage of votes cast for Putin. The Russian voter does not want to give up.
And now let’s not forget to look at Ukraine. To begin with, all the elections in this country, both presidential and parliamentary, showed that about 40-45% of voters basically believe that full surrender to the West, in the form of fulfilling its most absurd demands (in the association agreement the EU demanded from Ukraine not only to hang themselves, but also to pay for a rope and ritual services) will automatically lead to prosperity. Yushchenko’s result in 2004 and Tymoshenko in 2010 was only 2.5% below Yanukovych’s result. But Yushchenko promised voters no more, no less, than accession to the EU almost six months after his election as president, and Tymoshenko promised to fulfill everything, unfulfilled Yushchenko and yet to indulge Ukrainians in addition. And also at the expense of the West, which is impatient.
It would seem that only a person with mental retardation could believe in this, but half of the voters in Ukraine believed. Worse, the whole Ukrainian political elite believed in it. Including the part of it that, for electoral purposes, positioned itself as pro-Russian. Their faith was more pragmatic, but it did not testify to a high intellect. The Ukrainian elite proceeded from the fact that the West is stronger than Russia. And this was right at the time. Further, she believed that the West would always try to destroy Russia. It was not so obvious, but in the end it did.
But the next of all this conclusion was shocked by the lack of logic. But the most shocking thing was the lack of logic with which they reached their conclusions. The financial and political elite of Ukraine for some reason remained in deep confidence that solely for declarative Russophobia, the West will personally be grooming them, cherishing them and keeping them at the West’s own expense. They didn’t question, ‘Isn’t it easier for the West to kill us and rob us when we do not have a strong Russia behind us? Rather, in the best Ukrainian traditions they asked: “And where is our share?”
They, like 1.5% of Russian voters, were absolutely confident that no matter what political or natural cataclysms that could shake the planet, nothing bad can happen to them personally, that they are also ‘we the people’ on the side of good. Assessing the future, they extrapolated into it the present purely mechanically. That is, if today you are given a prize for betraying Russia, then the same prize will be given to you tomorrow, regardless of what will happen to Russia, what it will be, whether at all, and what its relations with the West will be. That is, they give you a prize for making you change something inconvenient in a situation. But you expect that when the situation changes and the West does not need your services, and still you will be completely dependent on the give-aways and treats, the prize (in gratitude for past services) will still be issued and even increased.
I would like to emphasize once again that in this state of such cognitive inadequacy we were to find at least half of Ukrainian voters and the whole financial and political elite went to the polls with this defect of mind. People were happy to be ready to break off profitable political and economic ties with Russia, believing that the West would compensate for all the losses and pay extra. Why? Because the West does not love Russia and wants her to perish.
In fact, the West wished only that Russia would recognize the West’s leading role and, at the expense of itself, allow the West to dispose of its riches. In exchange for the voluntary vassalage of Moscow, the West was even ready to forget about the independence of the republics, recognizing Russia’s special rights in the territory of the former USSR. This is a concept that Clinton quite seriously promoted to his first term, and which Bush-senior held to. And it was reasonable. Why not exchange unnecessary control over these wild savages, have the voluntary self-restraint of Russia and allowing the West to control its riches? However, more food gives way to an increased appetite and by the end of Clinton’s second term, the West decided that it could take everything without giving way, and Bush Jr. tried to realize this concept.
In any case, the West absolutely did not plan to integrate limitrophic czars and their hangers-on, enriched at ruining their own peoples and destroying their own states, into the ranks of their own elite. On the contrary, as soon as practical advantage disappeared in them (and it disappeared at the moment of neutralization of Russia or at the time of the disintegration of the next border Bantustan that did not endure Western prosperity), these swollen bandits were the first to queue for slaughter.
But the Ukrainian elite, no matter how much worse it became from cooperation with the West, did not want to believe that no one in the US and the EU would pay for their prosperity. They believed that these are temporary difficulties that must be experienced and, for the joy and wonder of joining same West, they in fact destroyed each other spiritually under the slogan “You die today, and I’ll die tomorrow.” After all, the door to the “civilized world” was very close – a stone’s throw. It’s only necessary to wait for the right moment that the door opens slightly, and we jump through it, pushing away colleagues-competitors. So, the less that are left by that moment, the better.
As we know, something went wrong in the plans of the Ukrainian elite. Russia stood up and began to actively push against the West in the world arena. At the same time it quickly became clear that as an ally, Kievan eggs are not worth being eaten. He is ready to shout a lot, arrange any provocations. But it is the West that needs to feed it, water it and fight for it. In the United States and Europe, they never met such brazen serfs. Instead of caring for the owner, they demanded care from the owner. In Washington and Brussels, they quickly came to the conclusion that Ukraine, if it suits, it is exclusively as an expendable material.
Many there now sincerely believe that Russia has deliberately imitated an interest in Ukraine in order to arouse the West’s concerns and shove off the unwanted goods. However, in Kiev, many Maidan activists are also sure that Putin organized the Maidan,
Whatever it was, the interests and habits of the Ukrainian elite nevertheless once again coincided with the interests of the West. Now the latter has nothing against its liquidation, so that the gold assets, and more, that have been entrusted to it (mainly located in the jurisdiction of the West) are completely transferred to them and are in their possession. Therefore, the West is completely satisfied with the self-esteem of the Ukrainian elite. It is always easier to finish off the last fatty spider that has already devoured its companions, than to catch the whole flock one by one.
Today’s fluttering of the Kiev elites, who are discussing the chances of one or another candidate in the presidential election (which is another year to wait) are only ripples on the surface of the pool in which they have already drowned, even though they do not know this. They lost control over the country that provided their well-being. They destroyed their own economy. They broke all ties with those who could save them. They are still waiting for the invitation to integrate into the West (each individual). It does not even occur to them that they may not be of any use to anyone.
March, 2018 elections in Russia showed that blindly believing in their own chosenness and civilization, sufficient to be their own in the West, even if Russia is not wanted, was a little more than a half percent. Even if the result was five times worse, it would still be brilliant, on a worldwide background. In Ukraine, it is half the whole population. And what is absolutely catastrophic is that it’s the worldview of the entire ruling class. It’s a verdict. And not only for the elite, but for the people and the state.
Originally titled ‘The Collective Unconscious’
Graduated with honors from the History Department of Taras Shevchenko Kyiv State University. Worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Administration of the President of Ukraine. He was also an adviser to the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine. At the moment he is vice-president of the Center for Corporate Relations Research and president of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting.