Sep 1, 2021
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Zelensky raises the stakes

The entourage of President Zelensky assures that he is not just talking dangerous confrontational nonsense, but believes in what he says and considers it his mission to save Ukraine. Moreover, he believes that he can save the Ukrainian statehood.

You can believe it. If the impressionable accountant Yushchenko felt himself to be the messiah, then why can’t the emotional artist of the conversational genre, accustomed to adoring the crowd, feel like the messiah? And Zelensky’s course of action testifies to the all-conquering faith in his chosenness. The boy, who yesterday cursed favor with the Nazis and hid from being drafted into the army, suddenly begins to rush at much more serious and dangerous opponents. With the Chancellor of Germany and the President of the United States, his relations are already worse than they were Yanukovych, but we remember how the opposition against the West ended for Viktor Fedorovich.

But Yanukovych could at least oppose the West with the support of Russia, which issued three billion dollars in credit, guaranteed another 12 billion and agreed on 15 billion investments in joint projects, and the tacit approval of China, which until the last was holding on to its projects in Crimea. Zelensky does not have this either. In Russia, they “don’t see” him, but in China they despise him.

Zelensky spoiled Kiev’s always good relations with Minsk. The Hungarians and Romanians who have always supported Ukraine turned away from him. Little Moldova and big Poland, although they maintain some kind of official relations (here a complete break is difficult for historical and geopolitical reasons), but communicate with Zelensky very coldly, finding no common ground. Even the Balts have recently stopped saying pleasant things to Zelensky. The President of Estonia even came up with a position close to the Russian expert community, but harshly condemned in Ukraine. And they won’t take Kiev to NATO, nor to the EU, and you shouldn’t invest money in the Ukrainian economy, because you will lose, etc.

In general, enemies in all azimuths. But the worst thing is that there are continuous enemies inside the country. Zelenskiy lost the support of moderate and anti-Maidan forces, but at the same time he was unable to gain the support of radical nationalists. On the right it is stepped on Poroshenko, left Medvedchuk, plans are made for his own electorate Shariy and RazumkovAkhmetov preparing for life after Zelensky in cooperation with Lyovochkin and Firtash, a Kolomoisky Has stopped giving funny swaggering interviews and has not been in the public sphere for a long time, which means that he is also plotting something. Nazis of all sorts and shades (from the National Corps to Svoboda) demand tougher domestic and foreign policy, but at the same time refuse to support the president. The reliability of the siloviki is questionable and will not grow, no matter how much you shuffle the generals in leading positions.

Ultimately, the NSDC serves as the backbone of Zelensky’s power, under the cover of which the president pursues a policy of repression against everyone who seems dangerous to him, and also legalizes his foreign and domestic political initiatives. But the NSDC mechanism is unreliable. It can break at any time. It is enough for the majority of members of the Council to take the position of Razumkov and refuse to participate in voting on issues that go beyond the constitutional powers of this body, as he will not be able to make a single decision. Moreover, other authorities may refuse to execute unconstitutional decisions of the NSDC, and it does not have its own apparatus for implementing the program of repression. In this case, Zelensky’s “sanctions” will only operate within his Office on Bankova.

Nevertheless, despite the threat of sagging power by sabotaging its unconstitutional decisions, despite the even greater threat of internal rebellion, to which external players will react positively or neutrally, Zelensky is taking the path of increasing confrontation and raising rates. He claims unrealistic tasks: to get from Biden and Merkel a change in position on Nord Stream 2, on the intention to achieve a clear perspective of NATO membership with a deadline, on the demand for the West to determine a mechanism for compensating Ukraine for income that falls as a result of a potential reduction in the transit of Russian gas through its territory after 2024, etc. …

The multitude of plans does not correspond to the fan of possibilities, but it must be said that in Ukrainian politics the winner has always been the one who went to raise rates and aggravate, regardless of the real alignment of forces. However, once Tymoshenko lost and went to jail. True, the Maidan released her from prison two and a half years later, but she lost her political leadership in the opposition irrevocably.

All other cases, starting from the first Maidan and ending with the flight of Yanukovych, ended with the weaker side playing the confrontational scenario winning practically without a fight or with purely academic resistance from opponents.

One could say that Zelensky’s actions are justified by the Ukrainian political tradition, if not for two circumstances.

Firstly, practically all the Ukrainian politicians who have remained afloat love them themselves, know how and are ready to play for raising rates. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, this method brought success only because opponents did not risk taking responsibility for possible bloodshed, and even for unleashing a civil war.

Blood has been shed in Ukraine for a long time – this will surprise no one, and Zelensky as president bears moral and political responsibility for any possible deterioration of the situation. So a one-sided game will not work here, opponents will accept the challenge offered to them and then they will have to act. Moreover, the case cannot end with the arrest of property and house arrests. We’ll have to give real terms, and then shed blood. Perhaps Zelensky is ready for this, but is the system ready, will it refuse to obey the upstart from the “95th quarter” when it has to work against its founding fathers, against its oligarchic foundation.

Second, so far, possible resistance to presidential abuses has been constrained by external actors. So, the Americans forbade Kolomoisky to bring the already begun overthrow of Poroshenko to its logical conclusion. The same Americans relying on fighters Avakova, already forbade Poroshenko himself to apply the forceful scenario of his preservation in power.

Until a certain moment, the West (the United States in the first place) tried to preserve and stabilize the Ukrainian state. But the limit of time and resources has been exhausted. Ukraine did not live up to expectations, turned out to be a simple devourer of a resource and was thrown off the balance sheet by the West. Not as clearly as Afghanistan was thrown off, but the United States does not intend to stabilize it at any cost. On the contrary, just like in Afghanistan, chaos in Ukraine suits them, because it creates problems in the first place for the EU and Russia.

Therefore, if the oligarchs rush to Zelenskiy or Zelenskiy rushes to the oligarchs, it is highly likely that the Americans will simply wash their hands and watch the development of events from the sidelines, without interfering in anything. The EU will not intervene without the Americans either. He will have to first agree with Russia on interaction. Moscow alone is also unlikely to get into the Ukrainian turmoil. There are no political forces oriented towards Russia, economic interests are also reduced to zero, and from the point of view of the return of territories of historical and strategic importance, full legitimacy and one hundred percent international recognition of a fait accompli are more important than speed.

So, with the continuation of such a risky and adventurous policy, Zelensky has every chance not only to play a full-scale civil war, but also to find out what defeat in such a conflict smells like.

Rostislav Ischenko

Photo: © press service of the President of Ukraine

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