The Mania of Ukraine’s Euromaidan

December 29, 2013 Topic: European Union Region: Ukraine

The Mania of Ukraine’s Euromaidan

The proposed EU agreement for Ukraine falls patently short of any commitments to improve the lives of Ukrainians or truly give them new rights in Europe.

The already month-long unrest in Kiev has been interpreted unanimously by the Western media as a testament to the desire of all Ukrainian people to enter into the Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). However, public opinion polls indicate that the proportion of people who wish to enter the Customs Union with Russia is still slightly higher than the proportion that favor the EU (38 percent to 37 percent, respectively). Some absurdly claim that Ukraine has no other options beyond the EU, yet the agreement at hand envisions neither membership, visa-free travel nor financial aid, which many protesters and EU-propagandizing journalists naively ignore. Another issue is that some neo-fascist protesters are organizing demonstrative attacks on the police, take-overs of public buildings, and open promotion of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and other values fully incompatible with European values.

In the language of psychologists, the Euromaidan could be characterized as a schizophrenia in which a skewed perception of reality has caused myriad problems. At the center of this lies the pathological interaction of all parties to the conflict: the opposition, the authorities, big business, European officials and politicians, as well as their Russian and American colleagues. It’s no help that the reality of the Association Agreement has nothing in common with the dream version envisioned by its supporters in Ukraine. The proposed EU agreement for Ukraine falls patently short of any commitments to improve the lives of Ukrainians or truly give them new rights in Europe.

The Association project, for which the leaders at Euromaidan strive, burdens Ukraine with obligations to follow European directives on trade policy; technological and antimonopoly regulation; veterinary and phytosanitary control; subsidies and government purchases; intellectual rights; and the commitment to follow in the wake of European foreign policy. In the case of a signed Association Agreement with the EU, Ukraine puts itself under European jurisdiction as a unilaterally dependent colony. The Ukrainian politicians fighting for this privilege position themselves as nationalists, swear on the inviolability of Ukrainian sovereignty and declare the impossibility of subjecting it to the wishes of a supranational entity. Yet, they also demonstrate an importunate readiness to serve that same sovereignty on a platter to the European Commission on whose directives they will have no say. Even Ukrainian neo-fascists, proud of their newly acquired sovereignty, fight to make of it a gift to Brussels.

According to some representatives in Ukranian industry, even modernizing Ukraine to the standards demanded by European technological directives will cost 150 billion euro, which the Ukrainian financial system does not have. Economists calculated that as a result of the Association-envisioned free-trade area, Ukrainian goods would be pushed out of the market and suffer a $2 billion annual loss, ultimately leading to a fall in GDP by 1.5-2 percent. Up until 2020, the Ukrainian economy and government would sustain losses due to the uneven competitiveness of Ukrainian with European goods. Financial experts even predicted a Ukrainian default due to the deterioration of trade relations with Russia a mere two months after the signing of the Association agreement, which was planned for November 26 in Vilnius. Despite the obviously catastrophic repercussions for the Ukrainian economy, all Ukrainian ministers voted to approve the agreement and tried to convince everyone of the inevitability of the Association.

The motivations of the Ukrainian leadership—which came to power through support from the country’s east and south who hoped for closer association with Russia—are even more difficult to understand. In these parts of Ukraine, two-thirds of the population supports Ukrainian entrance into the Common Economic Space with Russia and opposes an association with the EU. In a number of districts, the percentage supporting the Common Economic Space and opposing the Association Agreement reaches 85 percent. The anti-Russian European-integration policy is seen as disappointing and even traitorous. At the same time, however, the nurturing by the government of the Russophobic “Freedom” and “Udar” parties via oligarchic structures seems downright painful. Those same groups also finance the government-despised “Batkivshchyna,” thereby digging their own graves.

The conductor of these manic interactions is Ukrainian big business, which tries to ensure its safety by maintaining good relations with all political powers through corruption. Unlike the politicians and bureaucrats, the business sphere has a clear reason for its double-dealing behavior: Ukraine’s oligarchy receives most profits from a preferential trade regime with Russia, including access to the Russian market and Russian natural resources. However, the oligarchy turns its money largely into property in Western Europe. This explains why the oligarchs tell Moscow they favor its Customs Union, while in Washington and Brussels they court the European choice.

The picture of the mad Euromaidan comes full circle with the entrance of European officials and European politicians. And if the former pursue career advancement and pay from the Ukrainian association, then the latter behave as if they truly suffer from some malady. For instance, why would Poland or Lithuania need to drag Ukraine into the EU? Do they intend to share their Brussels subsidies and jobs? Or perhaps they are ready to invest multiple billions to support their Ukrainian competitors? And the Germans, already unhappy in their role as the EU’s principal bankroller, would likely be further chagrined that the addition of Ukraine into the Union would mean even more German tax money spent on Euro integration.

The behavior of Polish and Lithuanian politicians, judging by their rhetoric, can be explained through nostalgia for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Great Duchy of Lithuania that oppressed the Ukrainians half a millennium ago. In their wrongheadedness, historical episodes from centuries ago coexist with ballooned ideas of their EU mission. They do not seem to understand that their rude interference in Ukraine’s domestic issues and open participation in the events at the Maidan tramples the very same European values and democracy that they mobilize for. They, in fact, incited the opposition to engineer a coup without any regard for the democratically elected officials. Eurocrats similarly meddle by imposing the Association Agreement on the government even though it contradicts the Constitution of Ukraine. The Constitution bars the Ukrainian president from signing international agreements that delegate the sovereign functions of the government. Had Yanukovich signed the Association Agreement, he would have violated articles of the Ukrainian constitution, which, according to those very same European values, would represent intolerable despotism and state crime.

This senseless behavior is a result of the paradoxical relations that various sides involved maintain in the interest of personal comfort ultimately at the country’s expense. The Ukrainian economy is in a pitiable state, with its GDP volume still 30 percent smaller than it used to be a quarter of a century ago in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The population is suffering mass labor emigration and a so-called brain drain. Stereotypes of enmity and hate on one side and ennui on the other plague the public conscience. State offices are being degraded through inescapable corruption and incompetence. The EU is faring no better, as mass unemployment and increasing social unrest amply illustrate. A signed Association Agreement incorporating Ukraine into the EU reminds one of the famous painting by Vasili Pukirev “The Unequal Marriage,” in which a fragile old man takes a weeping young woman with no dowry as a wife. One cannot expect such a family to produce health, wealth or progeny.