January 25, 2017

The Change of the Political Elites in the West and the Conflict in Ukraine

Yuriy Radkovets

Despite the truce agreements reached, the aggravation of the situation in the zone of the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) in the period of Christmas and New Year holidays, as well as new casualties among the servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Ukrainian society is again convinced that there is no alternative to the struggle against Russia's armed aggression.

At this, as mentioned in previous articles of the experts of the Independent Analytical Center “Borysfen Intel” (Time to Dot the “i”s and Cross the “t”s of December 9, 2016), as well as in the opinion of many other Ukrainian and Western experts, in the nearest future our country will have to fight for sovereignty in a dramatically changed situation. Most likely, the main peculiarity of international relations will be a slowdown of globalization and concentration of the developed countries' efforts on solving their national problems.


Globalization Will Have to Wait

The reason which created the preconditions for the decrease in the intensity of globalization was the USA and European countries' ordinary citizens' (who are the main productive force) negative perceiving of the companion processes, including:

  • unreasonably low rates of the level of recovery of the population's wellbeing after the international financial crisis caused by the outflow of capital to countries with low labor costs and the high cost of economic assistance to the Middle East and African countries embroiled in conflicts, as well as refugees from these countries;
  • excessive increase in the number of migrants from developing countries, in particular, of illegal migrants;
  • worsening of the security situation and the growing terrorist threat;
  • erosion of the system of values, especially religious, which continues to play a significant role in small towns and rural areas in the United States and in Europe.

The inability of the political leaders of the US Democratic Party and of the Socialist (Social-Democratic) parties in Europe to find a solution to the above-mentioned problems and a balance between the domestic and foreign policy, has led to the exacerbation of disagreements between ordinary citizens and the political elite of Western countries.

As a consequence, despite the comforting preliminary data of sociological studies conducted by the old “templates”, the “Brexit” did happen, D. Trump won the US presidential elections, and the popularity of radical (right-wing) political parties in European countries has skyrocketed. So, all this shows the population's negative attitude to the West's bureaucratic system which has lost the ability to serve the interests of taxpayers. Therefore, in the development of the Western society the emerge of a new political elite is only logical.

Rotation of authorities has become the most sought-after by the inhabitants of the provinces, which less than the metropolis, are involved in the process of globalization. Today we can clearly see the apparent disconnect between cities — a consequence of globalization and urbanization — and the province that continues to profess conservatism in all spheres of life. D. Trump's victory can be explained by the fact that he managed to sense the mood of the “one-storey America”, in contrast to H. Clinton, who continued to focus on the population of megacities. That is why the protests against the election of D. Trump were observed in large cities, where racial and gender relations are more tolerant, and world religions are presented much wider.

The situation in Europe is similar. Taking into consideration the French rural population's wide support to François Fillon, with high probability we can predict his winning the next presidential elections in April-May this year. At the same time, under pressure from British citizens, the UK leadership moves decisively towards the exit from the European Union.

It should be noted that the formation of a new political elite in the USA and Europe is carried out by populist forces, representing, to put it mildly, cut off from life solutions to pressing problems. In particular, they are trying to eliminate the negative effects of globalization, propose to limit the objectively in-demand economic relations between the developed countries.

The fact that global cooperation is the only way of development of the mankind is confirmed by the world players' (transnational corporations, the leaders of developed countries) special attention to the last World Economic Forum in Davos (January 17-20, 2017). Besides, against the background of the stronger positions of political “populists” in the West, China has attempted to seize the initiative in the development of global cooperation. In particular, the Chinese delegation at the Forum was the most representative, and the event was opened by China's President Xi Jinping, speaking in support of the development of the global economic cooperation, which, in his opinion, is not the cause of economic or migration crises.

Taking into consideration the failure of the artificial constraints of international relations, we can assume that in the near future developed countries will be back on the path of global cooperation in full, but with a greater level of rationality.

The fact that the developed society negatively perceived isolationism is evidenced by the decrease in D. Trump's popularity during the period from his being announced the winner in the elections till the inauguration ceremony. Despite the latest mistakes of polls, we would like to present the results of the public opinion poll published by the CNN news agency January 17, 2017.

According to the respondents' opinion, before the ceremony of inauguration, D. Trump had been supported by about 40 % of the US population, which was the lowest level of confidence in the new president in recent years (B. Obama — 84 %, G. Bush — 61 %, B. Clinton — 67 %). The drop of the level of confidence in D. Trump has happened against the background of his statements on domestic and foreign policy made by him after the announcement of the election victory. At this, the level of trust to D. Trump in rural areas of the country remained 30 % higher than in urban areas, thereby showing who was the electoral basis of the new US President.


The Dialogue between the USA and the Russian Federation Is Inevitable

Being in the state of the conflict unleashed by Russia, Ukraine should take into consideration peculiarities in the development of the international situation caused by the change of political elites in the West. These peculiarities include:

  • concentration of efforts of the new US administration and influential countries of Europe on the solution of national problems in the spheres of economy and security;
  • growing importance of developing a strategic dialogue between such global political centers of power (decision-making) as the USA (the collective West) and the PRC;
  • inevitability of the USA and the United Europe's special attention to the development of relations with the Russian Federation, caused first of all by the need to end conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

Forecasting a possible nature of the development of relations between the West and Russia in resolving the above-mentioned conflicts, it is necessary to take into consideration their common peculiarity.

Thus, in Syria and in Ukraine, borders and territorial integrity of the states have been violated, which is a violation of international law and constitutes a real threat to the sovereignty of Western countries. At this, Russia's military activity is directly related to the strengthening of this threat.

In particular, in the Syrian conflict, Russia's actions impede the efforts of the International Coalition to eliminate the “Islamic State” terrorist organization, which has announced its intention to create its own state on the territory of Iraq and Syria. And having unleashed the armed aggression against Ukraine, Russia itself for the first time after the collapse of the Soviet Union has directly violated the inviolability of state borders in Europe.

In other words, both, Russia's and the “Islamic State”'s actions have the same paradigm.

Besides, a significant part of the new US administration is aware that any deals with V. Putin's regime, in particular with regard to Ukraine, would in fact be a capitulation of the West (the USA and Europe) to the weak opponent. The opponent, who disrespects the West's values: democracy, the rule of human rights and freedoms, cultivation of social respect, which helped develop relations between the countries of America and Europe. Neglecting these values, Russia continues to stagnate and “draws into the swamp” former republics of the USSR.

Therefore, counteracting Russia's aggression in Ukraine will occupy one of the most important places in the USA's foreign policy, at least as long as Washington defends its role of the world leader. This sounds in the new US administration's statements.

For example, R. Tillerson during the hearings in the US Senate on his appointment as the US Secretary of State said that the USA's reaction to the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea should have been more resolute. He assured members of the Congress that the United States, in case of a threat to member countries of the Alliance would fulfill the obligations in accordance with Article 5 of the NATO.

The general perception of the Russian threat is also confirmed by the statements of the new leaders of the US special services and candidates for senior positions in the security services. The new US Secretary of Defense James Mattis during the consideration of his candidacy, spoke about the need to strengthen resistance to Russia, which “is trying to split the USA and NATO”, and to support the European allies. Candidate for the post of the Director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo says that Russia is a threat to European countries and “is aggressively asserting itself”, having unleashed aggression against Ukraine. In turn, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine and now Director of the Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council of the United States G. Herbst, analyzing D. Trump's first post-election press conference, suggested that the US policy towards Russia would be tough.

Besides, quite illustrative is the statement of one of the closest assistants to the new US President — R. Giuliani about “...D. Trump's readiness to resume cooperation with Russia exclusively from a position of force, and only on those issues that would meet the interests of both the countries”.

In this context, the most concentrated sounds the statement by the candidate for the post of the US Ambassador to the UN, the Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley (during the hearings in the US Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs during the approval of her candidacy), that the USA cannot trust Russia and cannot agree to the occupation in the East of Ukraine and the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea. “We must make them understand that this is not normal — what happened in Ukraine, in the Crimea and is happening in Syria, and we will also tell them that we do not need their help in the fight against ISIS and other threats”, — she said.

Accordingly, the mere cessation of conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, setting a new world order by the agreements between Moscow and Washington, as well as Russia's getting a new status of a global superpower now seems unlikely.

At the same time, the new leadership of the United States has yet to create an updated strategy to counteract Russia's aggressive policy. The new US Vice-President Michael Pence in his interview with CBS television channel said that D. Trump is a man who can offer a new approach to the development of relations with the Russian Federation. But today, however, it is difficult to understand exactly what is meant by these words.

In turn, the Russian President's Press Secretary D. Peskov confirmed that the settlement of the conflict in Ukraine will be a key issue in the US-Russian relations. At this, the Kremlin seems not to intend to give up its claims to Ukraine and therefore now has put all the responsibility for the possible failure of the settlement on Washington. According to D. Peskov, the development of dialogue between the USA and Russia will depend on “...the position chosen by the new administration in Washington”.

At the same time, Russia's intransigence with regard to Ukraine excludes breadth of a maneuver for Washington. The existing Russian military power makes the USA, based on current circumstances, seek compromise with Russia on security issues. These compromises are aimed at neutralizing Russia's military threat and weakening Russia's military power, especially its nuclear triad. It is not excluded that the neutralization of Russia as a “military threat source” in the future can create conditions for the development of the USA's constructive strategic dialogue with China, which has much greater potential to compete with Washington on a global level.


The USA and Resolving the Conflict in Ukraine

Based on the above-mentioned, some Western politicians and experts believe that the new US administration's strategy to resolve the conflict in Ukraine can include the following components:

  • the USA and European countries' informal agreeing to the fact of the Crimea's being part of the Russian Federation. At this, the West will not formally refuse to recognize its annexation and will maintain the sanctions regime. Most likely, such a move would take into account Russia's prior consent to reduce stockpiles of nuclear weapons, which would significantly reduce the level of global military threat. Reduced stockpiles of nuclear weapons suggest a possibility of a more thorough control of it, which is essential in case of a crisis in the transition of power from V. Putin to any of his possible successors;
  • remaining of individual regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions in Ukraine with a reliable (guaranteed) ensuring the cessation of hostilities and restoration of security in their territory;
  • creation of a package of international financial and economic assistance to Ukraine, designed to restore the Ukrainian economy.


Ukraine Has to Influence the Resolving of the Conflict

Detailed and practical content of the above-mentioned components of the strategy will largely depend on Ukraine's activity. Preservation of sovereignty and creation of a basis for development of the state oblige Ukraine to take a strong position, which implies capability for independent actions to contain Russia in matters of security, politics and economy. In case of a simple search for an opportunity to “fit” into the political, economic and military terms, being formed by influential geopolitical players, Ukrainians can finally lose the opportunity to live in their own state.

The basis for Ukraine's independent position should be the Ukrainian self-identity of the citizens of the country formed without division into ethnic and religious groups. The basis of the success of the state is a privilege to be a citizen of Ukraine. These features, in turn, involve cultivation of every person's responsibility to the society and mutual respect. Only in this case the state apparatus will take the appropriate place in the society, in particular, will be an effective tool to address the citizens' needs and can expect a high level of public confidence.

However, creation of such “idyll” assumes quite laborious activity. It is especially important to take this into account while implementing the Strategy of De-Occupation of Certain Areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Regions. At the same time, in order to avoid disintegration of Ukraine, this Strategy (the Strategy of De-Occupation of Ukraine) must be applied to the whole state, including to the annexed Crimea. At this, in the Strategy of De-Occupation of Ukraine there should be a solution to the problems on which the unity of the state depends, inter alia:

  • formation of a high general culture of the Ukrainian society, understood in all parts of the state. This should be understood not as unification of the national art and life for all regions. While maintaining the creative and household peculiarities of each region, we'll need to take considerable effort to form a common system of values, including moral principles, related to the historical past, social behavior, spiritual education and much more. Unfortunately, there is some loss of cohesion of the citizens of Ukraine, which arose during the Revolution of Dignity. Even traveling from the West to the South or to the East of our country, one can observe a certain disconnect between the regions, which can quite easily be used by our enemy in terms of Ukraine's disintegration.

According to Ukrainian political scientists and analysts, the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea would never have happened if during the quarter century of independence in Ukraine a common culture had been formed in Ukraine. The presence of European culture of the Ukrainian society determines the cohesion and dynamics of development of the state in which regional peculiarities are strong;

  • determining the targets in the future and the tasks that need to be resolved in the state. Sadly, but Ukraine continues today to use economic, cultural, administrative and other achievements of the past (Soviet) period, in fact without creating anything new instead. A few innovations in science, industry, medicine have been unjustly ignored, not allowing to create an image of the future of Ukraine;
  • solution to the problem of social justice, which would create incentives for the development of the national science, innovations in industry and agriculture, as well as an increase in the number of jobs with high added value. It is time to realize that the citizens whose work brings great added value in the national economy, have the right to access to great material wealth. Only in this case the company will receive an incentive for development. So far Ukraine has been lagging behind the developed countries. Thus, according to Bloomberg's research, last year Ukraine moved to the 42nd place in the ranking of countries with innovative economies (of 50 possible).


So, in the situation of a change of political elites in the West, it is very important to understand and take into consideration that counteracting Russia's aggression will most likely demand from Ukraine a significant concentration of its efforts, as well as new approaches to resolving domestic problems and attracting international assistance.

Saving sovereignty, statehood and independence of Ukraine today will largely depend on our being able to build consensus in the Ukrainian society on the basis of the national heritage, principles of European culture and understanding of the goals of the future development of our state.

That is, Ukraine's losing its freedom and statehood can happen only because of its inherent weakness and disunity caused by political strife and unreasonable ambitions of businessmen from politics. As far as the future of our state is concerned, it is necessary to remember — only in a civilized European environment the Ukrainian society will have an incentive to the establishment and development of its self-identity.


The article was published in the edition of the Romanian Center “INGEPO Consulting Company” —
“Geostrategic Pulse” №231 from February 20, 2016