Note by the Saker: the following is a translation of a partial transcript of an interview given by Rostislav Ishchenko, arguably the foremost Ukraine specialist alive today, to Dmitrii Puchkov. Thanks a lot to Eugenia for translating this for the blog. I asked for this translation because it reminds us in just a few short words of what the Ukraine could have been had this country not been run by corrupt crooks from Day 1. Is it not amazing to think that just 25 years ago the prospects for the Ukraine look better than for Russia?
I was traveling today with a colleague from Kronstadt, and I was telling him that if those people (the Ukrainian elites – translator’s notes) were adequate, they could have created a country where today the Russian citizens would be coming to find work. Indeed, for the first 10 years of its existence, Ukraine was in an ideal, exclusive, privileged position. It possessed most of the Soviet industry, heavy, military, and such. Ukraine housed the largest and, for those times, the most modern part of the Soviet military. At the time of the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Army was larger than the Russian one, although the territory and the population were significantly smaller. Ukraine was located at the intersection of transit routes.
President Kuchma has signed an agreement until 2012 to buy the Russia gas at $50 (for 1000 m3 – translator’s notes). And this is considering that starting from around 2003-2004 Europe was buying the Russian gas at $150, then at $200, then at $300 and $400. This means that the Ukrainian industry had an advantage right from the start, since, for example, in the chemical industry the price of the energy account for about 70% of the production cost. In the metallurgical industry – the main export industry in Ukraine – the energy price accounts for 30-40% of the total production cost. That is to say that just because of that the country and its industry were placed in a perfect position for a breakthrough. Just because of the low energy cost, their products were 8-10 times more competitive than that of their European competitors.
Because Ukraine has many enterprises of the military-industrial complex, it was not just of interest but essentially the only suitable partner for the Russian industry at the time when Russia began to rebuild its Army and the military industry. By this time, Russia has built many enterprises duplicating the ones that existed in Ukraine. Russian did not want to build them; in was not in its interest; it intended to work with the Ukrainian enterprises. Moreover, some of the Ukrainian enterprises have relocated their stuff of engineers and their technical documentation to Russia. Now new enterprises created on the Russian territory use these resources to manufacture the same products previously made in Ukraine but now these are Russian products.
By signing the association agreement with the EU, Ukraine renounced the Russian market worth 10-15 billion dollars annually. Furthermore, the price of that association grows all the time getting higher and higher every year. Ukraine failed to obtain new markets. We could count losses like that, and count, and count, and count. . .
I have not yet talked about the fact that these people (the Ukrainian elites – translator’s notes) started working on partitioning Ukraine the moment they came to power. In 1992-1993, Ukraine was indeed a united country. The population thought: “ Yes, a part of the Soviet Union broke away; there is Russia there; we will have our Russia here and call it Ukraine – no problem, we will live in a slightly smaller country”. In less than 10 years by 2004, the country was brought to the brink of a civil war, and in 2014 that civil war started. In essence, the people first squandered their own property, then set on a barrel with gunpowder and lit the fuse. Now they are sitting on that barrel waiting for the fuse to burn completely but still saying: “Everything will be fine, because when the barrel blows up we will fly directly into Europe”.