Bershidsky is a Russian journalist who left Moscow for Berlin a year ago on account of his distaste for Russia’s direction under Putin, and where he now agitates for increasing immigration to the EU in Bloomberg’s opinion columns when he isn’t lambasting the World Bank for increasing Russia’s position in its Ease of Business rankings. In short, he is an able and eloquent voice of the Atlanticist-Yuropean Consensus.
Hence his latest article: Ukraine Is in Danger of Becoming a Failed State.
Despite attempts at change by a new generation of bureaucrats, Ukraine’s economy remains unreformed. Taxes are oppressive but widely evaded, the shadow economy is growing and the regulatory climate for business has barely improved. The International Monetary Fund, the country’s biggest source of hard currency after a steep drop in exports, is optimistic about next year’s economic growth prospects, forecasting a 2 percent expansion, but last month it revised this year’s projection to an 11 percent decline…
Equally unreformed is Ukraine’s incredibly corrupt justice system. In September, Christof Heyns, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said after visiting Ukraine that the country lived in an “accountability vacuum.” Heyns bemoaned the failure of the Ukrainian authorities to investigate the deaths of more than 100 people on the streets of Kiev in the final days of the revolution and of 48 pro-Russian protesters in a burning building in Odessa in May, 2014. Those investigations are stalled, and attempts by the victims’ lawyers to speed them up have been stonewalled by authorities as some of the suspects in the Kiev shootings are still employed by the Interior Ministry.
The Maidan has had zero compunctions about purging the old elites, so the allegation that the investigations into the Kiev and Odessa massacres aren’t moving forwards on account of ancien regime protection networks is tendentious in the extreme. People are getting protected alright, but they are the nationalist radicals who set up the Snipergate false flag in the first place. (The evidence for it is so overwhelming – here is a 79 page summary by Canadian academic Ivan Katchanovski, not to mention the fact that even big Western media organs such as the BBC have been forced to point out inconsistencies in the official narrative – that it cannot be treated as a mere conspiracy theory).
Heyns also said Ukraine’s Security Service “seems to be above the law.” Apart from raiding a number of tech companies in an apparent scare campaign in recent weeks, last weekend the service arrested Gennady Korban, a top lieutenant of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, who has been resisting the consolidation of power by Poroshenko. The arrest gave rise to accusations of selective justice in the Ukrainian press. Other oligarchs, after all, face no reprisals — perhaps because they’ve accepted Poroshenko’s dominance.
Elite corruption, though virtually impossible to measure, appears to remain as high as ever going by the anecdotal evidence. We also know from the latest opinion poll surveys that everyday corruption hasn’t decreased either.
Two years after the corrupt team of President Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine corruption is still rife and the country’s intrepid investigative journalists have been especially busy again. Setting the tone is Poroshenko — the only of the country’s 10 richest people to see his net worth increase in the past year — who seems to have forgotten his promise to sell off his businesses; his bank has only expanded as many others lost their licenses. Poroshenko’s and Yatsenyuk’s close allies are routinely named in connection with corrupt schemes involving Ukraine’s customs service and state energy companies.
A year ago there were many people seriously arguing that electing someone like Poroshenko is a good thing because he is so rich he wouldn’t feel any need to steal further. And then people wonder why plutocrats find it so easy to hoodwinkle the sheeple.
Americans are highly visible in the Ukrainian political process. The U.S. embassy in Kiev is a center of power, and Ukrainian politicians openly talk of appointments and dismissals being vetted by U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt and even U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. “Pyatt and the U.S. administration have more influence than ever in the history of independent Ukraine,” Leschenko wrote.
Europe’s requirements for the visa-free regime center on Ukraine’s seriousness in fighting corruption. The European Union recently refused a request for more funding for the anti-corruption prosecutor’s office, because of “concerns raised with regard to some people who participate in the selection” of prosecutors for the office. This is a clear reference to the team of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, a Poroshenko appointee and long-time associate, who has been accused of undermining the anti-corruption efforts.
Ukrainian civil society is stunted by these powerful vested interests. I doubt it can push the country to a more civilized direction with the usual tools of electoral democracy: The local elections have proven that post-Soviet practices of fraud, bribery and intimidation have not been overcome. There’s little will for further upheavals so soon after the revolution and the war in the east. But unless the current political elite finds it in itself to clean up — a highly unlikely turn of events –Ukraine’s history of violent regime change is probably not over yet.
Although Bershidsky is correct to be pessimistic about Ukraine’s reform prospects, ultimately, the threat of revolt in a place like Kharkov or Odessa that could unravel the rest of the country has been contained. The economy is steadily stabilizing and, although the implementation of the DCFTA from January 2016 may produce a second derailment, frankly the country is already at such rock-bottom – even Moldova is now ahead – that I really don’t see how it could fall much further before resuming growth. The chances of a new Maidan are very small regardless of how unpopular Poroshenko gets or how much corruption increases even further (this is because the Maidans have always been primarily driven by deep ideological and ethnic factors, not the we’re-tired-of-corruption tropes presented to slack-jawed Westerners). Meanwhile, due to the exit of Crimea and the LDNR, not to mention the emigration of the more pro-Russian orientated elements of society, demographics has completely extinguished any change of an electoral challenge to the Maidanist course.