by Ollie Richardson for The Saker Blog
A lot of people are asking “what happens now?” in relation to the topic of Ukraine. Zelensky is now in power, Trump will most likely win a 2nd term, and the EU elections resulted in a win for EU-skeptics. I will try to provide an adequate yet relatively laconic answer. The purpose of this article is not to explain what Russia will specifically do, but to demonstrate how complex the problem is. Not to mention that Moscow has to simultaneously juggle many other theatres whilst at the same time ensuring domestic economic growth.
Among the “pro-Russia” Anglophone social media camp there seems to be two main narratives: A) After the presidential election the shelling in Donbass increased, so big war can be expected; B) Poroshenko has gone, so things will exponentially improve.
I will start with narrative “A”. Simply put, the post-election spike in the token shelling in Donbass is a part of Poroshenko’s parliamentary electoral campaign, which is based on “Russia’s revenge” – a tale he invented to keep his Banderised electorate in the pen he built. In addition, the US needs the shelling in order to put pressure on Russia. In the great (economic) game, this acts as a minor bargaining chip. That’s why the USA attacks from different angles on the chessboard – for the cumulative effect, due to the inability to do anything large-scale anymore after the Debaltsevo cauldron. And besides, nothing happens in Ukraine without the US’ prior approval. Zelensky, in turn, is also exploiting Donbass to gain votes in the parliamentary election, and thus okayed the disengagement of forces in Stanitsa Luganskaya. Ukraine could have done this anytime since 2016, but it us now that it happens, as well as a meeting between Medvedchuk and the DPR/LPR leaders concerning an “all-for-all” prisoner exchange. Hmm, suspicious timing…
For those who say “But Russia does nothing whilst Donbass is shelled”, please explain how Moscow can physically stop it without sending regular troops across the border (giving America what it so badly wants)? Hint: it can’t. The whole purpose of Maidan was to drag Russia (Putin) into such a scenario. Actually, America put Russia in front of a quite horrible situation where there is no quick solution to stopping the shelling. But after 5 years, it can be confidently affirmed that this tactic hasn’t worked, in conjunction with internal fifth column work, to dislodge Putin, since the most part of Russian society supports the decisions of Moscow.
It must be kept in mind that the “great game” is being played globally, not just in one country. Many social media users have a habit of zooming in on one theatre and losing all perspective, whilst what should happen is the formation of links between each theatre and understanding of both the parts and the whole. Anyway, the most important takeaway is that in terms of the actual war, Ukraine lost in 2015. Even if the DPR/LPR control only a third of Donetsk/Lugansk, the main thing is that Bandera didn’t capture all the territory (and he couldn’t anyway, for reasons I will explain later). Soon Ukraine will be obliged to stop all shelling, due to the fact that the residents of the DPR/LPR will have Russian passports. Thus, the US will lose this minor bargaining chip, which it cannot easily replace, even if it does agitation work in Georgia, for example.
Narrative “B” fails to take into account the history of “independent” Ukraine. I.e., the system of governance – oligarchical – has not changed whatsoever. The President might change, but the system does not. And America’s place in this system is deeply entrenched. Many deputies who were licking Poroshenko’s ass have now moved their tongue towards the ass of Kolomoisky (Zelensky). These are the same turncoats who before 2014 were wearing a St George’s ribbon and speaking in Russian, and afterwards were screaming about “Russian aggression”. I.e., putting their finger to the wind is simply “normal” for them.
The sad truth is that the 2014 Maidan has cost Ukraine 50 years of socio-economic development. And I know for a fact that many who supported it at the time now regret their actions – big time. But they don’t understand the system that governs them, thus don’t learn, and so the paradox continues. Today Ukraine can be divided into the following categories:
- Banderists/Galicians, who want the whole of Ukraine to be cleansed of the “Moscow horde”. They killed their “inner Russian” and base their existence on being anti-Russian. I.e., if Russia disappeared, their purpose in life would too;
- Russians, who are no different from those who are across the border. Most of this category has left the country either literally or live in the DPR/LPR/Crimea. For them no compromise can be made, and returning to Ukraine is 100% out of the question. They reject the “Ukrainian” identity and don’t stop to offer reminders about the crimes of OUN-UPA.
- Ukrainians, who really believe that the “Ukrainian” identity is organic and historically factual. They want Ukraine to join the EU because they really think the EU is a paradise. They want to be friends with Russia too, for extra economic bonuses, but they will not leave Ukraine in any case.
The concept of “Ukraine” has in reality always been a tug of war between Galicia and Novorossiya. It was after the collapse of the USSR (and the external injection of liberal ideas into the bloc) that the other category – Ukrainians – became heavily accentuated. It was this category that America worked on seducing over many years, the apogee being late 2013/early 2014, since it would allow to the tip the scales of societal balance, although one might argue that the previous governments’ failure to enshrine actual bilingualism in the constitution killed any hope of having a long-term balanced society. But the USA/EU faced a large problem: how to contain the volatile Banderist\Galician category?
Well, as we have seen over the past five years, they couldn’t contain it, and it was just hoped that the “international community” didn’t notice the excesses. The media played its role by deliberately ignoring it, and when something escaped through the net (like the Gandzyuk case, where Washington’s pet Nazis killed one of Washington’s pet NGO workers), damage control was used (throwing the Nazis under the bus).
The reaction algorithm deployed by Moscow took into account the segments of Ukrainian society and the different outcomes from different possible reactions. After all, deep sociological analysis forms the foundations of coups and counter-coups. In any case, it was obvious that Ukraine could not join the EU or NATO as long as this Galicia-Novorossiya fault line “exists”. It’s only the “Ukrainians” category that can be easily inserted into the EU’s liberal paradigm. The other two categories would be like square pegs being slotted into round holes.
Thus, it can be said that it is the “Ukrainians” category that is the most dangerous for Ukraine as a state, hence why some refer to them as “crypto-Banderists”, because the consequences of their actions for Ukrainian statehood are no different to the actions of Galicians.
I won’t name names, but certain officials who worked for Yanukovych’s government – who now have their tongue up Zelensky’s ass, but spent the last 5 years being anti-Poroshenko – signed documents that gave Maidan impetus. I would describe them as “crypto-Banderists”, because they dream of having a nice luxury “EU” life, even if the Ukrainian people themselves are pillaged in the same way that the French are now being pillaged. They pretend to be anti-war, but want the non-controlled parts of Donetsk and Lugansk to return to Ukraine. They speak and write in Russian, they consider that Crimea should be returned at once (so they can have nice luxurious apartments and holidays without legal hassle), and they want to sue Poroshenko for “crimes against the Ukrainian state IN THE INTERESTS OF RUSSIA” – this is the actual wording they are using in the documents!!!!
It is for this reason that I have insisted that there is no actual opposition in Ukraine – only oligarch vs. oligarch. Those who actually opposed Maidan were either burnt alive or shelled. Those who were able to flee fled. The main problem with the “Ukrainians” category is that they will assimilate themselves into whatever reality appears in front of them, because their “identity” is just as fictional as Banderists’. They are just slaves – yesterday of Austro-Hungary, and today of the “democratic” West. Banderists, however, will not accept a Russia-friendly government. Not because they consciously hate Russia, but because unconsciously they engage their coping mechanism in relation to their past, current, and future crimes. By the way, it is amusing to see “Azov” and its spin off projects (National Corpus/Druzhina) do all this gym work – it’s as if they feel feeble…
In general, the West’s social engineering involves inversion, or becoming “anti”-something (for example: brainwashing in the Baltics). But actually when we consciously start to behave in the opposite way to before, we unconsciously still remain loyal to the past. Very strong “hatred” is actually very strong love. So no matter how hard Banderists scream about hanging “Moskals” from trees, we should probably read this as “I want to hang myself from a tree”. This is why the West’s brainwashing schemes are doomed in the long run. Yes, they will shove several sticks in the victim country’s wheels of development and make them dependent on the dollar, but it’s only temporary. Historical facts cannot be kept under the water forever.
So what is Russia doing in this scenario? Well, the only thing it can do: continue to work with separate sociological groups, chopping away (proverbially) at the Maidanified Ukraine until the tumour is isolated. This process will not and cannot happen quickly. The “Russians” category is mostly concentrated in the Southeast; this will not change any time soon. Those in the “Ukrainians” category who speak Russian are mainly focused in the centre & North, and become progressively fewer the more South you go (30-40% of Donbass/Kharkov). In Odessa (southern part), Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye, and Nikolaev half the population speak Russian, but consider themselves to be “Ukrainian”. Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia, and Kiev are starting to become more and more Galicianified. Lvov, Ternopol, and Ivano-Frankovsk are majority Banderist, and it is in these regions that the 2014 maidan really started (Right Sector capturing police departments). Volyn is a slight anomaly because of the ’43 massacre, thus there is more intra-Banderist strife there.
Thus, owing to the sociological layout of the land, Russia cannot apply the same strategy to each region. Moscow will not carry out “who is more Russian” tests and execute those who supported the 2014 Maidan, either actively or passively. So what to do? Russia also cannot rollout the Crimea scheme and carry out a referendum in, say, Banderised Lvov or “European” Kiev. Nor can it work on creating, for example, the Poltava People’s Republic. All these ideas are idiotic, suicidal, and have no place in international relations. And as I alluded to earlier, each region has its own sub-dynamics: for example, the north of Odessa is more “Ukrainian” than the “separatist” South. Russian Tupolevs can just bomb certain areas and exterminate certain “unnecessary” elements? This is a rhetorical question, or I at least hope it is understood in this way.
Russia cannot simply absorb the whole Ukrainian territory and create new Federal subjects. Nor can it just let it fall into “makhnovshchina” and watch on as the whole state crumbles before its eyes, since this would pose a very large danger to the Russian state. Thus, what we have is a territorial puzzle. The “Russians” category wants to be a part of Russia; the “Ukrainians” category wants the country to territorially return to how it was pre-2014, but also wants to be in the EU; “Banderists” want the Galicianification of all Ukraine. Incidentally, it is the Russian-speaking sub-category of “Ukrainians” (Ukrainian-speaking being the other sub-category) that made up the most part of the UAF that has been shelling Donbass for 5 years. I.e., Galician Banderists were too few, so the US/EU’s NGOs mobilised “свідомий” to act as cannon fodder. But they consciously pulled the trigger and killed their compatriots.
There is an even more difficult problem: dealing with the main two sub-categories of Maidanists: Banderist and pseudo “pro-Russia” intelligentsia. They are essentially the same ballast that keeps Ukraine in the Stone Age, totally ignorant of their geopolitical surroundings. The former aims to obtain the support of Galicians, and the latter focuses on the Russian-speaking part of the “Ukrainians” category. Both categories promote hunting “separatists” in one way or another (the former wants them exterminated, and the latter doesn’t want them to resist and territorially secede), as well as the destruction of Russia and its USAification.
The logic of the “Ukrainians” category is that voting for Zelensky is necessary because Poroshenko must be removed. I.e., replace one sh*t with another sh*t. But at least there was a change of sh*t, right? Although they think Zelensky is the saviour, of course. If you think that Zelensky will “eliminate corruption”, “jail oligarchs”, or make life more bearable for Russian-speakers, well I have bad news for you, for the reasons I mentioned in the first few tweets. A corpse is a corpse, even if it occasionally twitches. And since Russia knows that nothing is going to change under “Ze”, the issuance of Russian passports is the first step in untangling this horrific mess. But of course, Russia is at the same time looking after its own interests. It can make the water available, but it cannot make the horses drink it. And it will not waste time or resources (or a Hague tribunal) forcing the issue.
However, no involved party can wait the theoretical 20 years that Ukraine needs to recover economically (return to the zero point; 50 years to reach the level of today’s Syria), and not to mention the generation that has effectively been lost or displaced. For Russia, “annexing” all of “Novorossiya” is not a solution – neither in the short, medium, or long term. It would be a Band-Aid on a haemorrhaging wound. The only solution is one that tackles the problem on a national scale, whilst weakening the US/EU in parallel. In turn, Zelensky is doing many things to keep the current system alive (his patron Kolomoisky demands it) and keep Ukraine neck deep in excrement. Example: reforming the SBU and removing its powers to combat financial crime. Actually, in many respects he’s worse than Poroshenko, and his approval rating will only decrease from hereon in.
The process of creating a state is always more long and complicated than the process of destroying one. Ukraine is a relatively new state, and it already has shown that it cannot survive, first and foremost because “Ukraine” is factually Russian, and not “Galician”. By handing out passports to the residents of the DPR/LPR, Russia is starting to tackle this volatile sociological problem. The territory of the republics will be economically integrated into Russia. Physical integration comes next, but several processes need to happen first (the gas issue being one of the most key).
It should be remembered that Russia has the experience of the Georgia war in recent memory. Russian passports were not handed out in Abkhazia/Ossetia immediately either. But handing out passports in general is fully in line with international law. There is nothing Kiev, Washington, or Brussels can do about it. Concerning Ukrainian citizens living outside of the DPR/LPR, the process of obtaining passports has been simplified. The aim is to provide a kind of humanitarian corridor, but the main problem is that not all Russian speakers have the money to take up the opportunity. I expect that Putin will continue to refine the passport strategy, but the most important thing for now is that the process for the people of the DPR/LPR is as smooth as possible. Remember that there is no quick/simple solution to the Ukrainian mess.
As for the rest of Ukraine, the experiment that is the “Ukrainian” identity can only continue if there is a serious player who has the necessary resources and power and is willing to continue it. This doesn’t sound like America (even if it is in its interests) or Germany. Why would either of them throw money into a bottomless pit, especially now, when Eurasia is rising and the US’ national debt will be 144% of GDP by 2040? The West even chose the cheap solution to the worsening economic crisis by giving Ukraine a “visa-free regime”, which allowed Ukrainians to leave the country (legally temporarily, but many left with the intention of never coming back), earn money abroad, and send the paycheque back home. It is this scheme that is the only reason Ukraine hasn’t been forced to default on its IMF obligations. America is currently trying to palm off Ukraine onto Russia in exchange for Middle Eastern compromises, but Russia’s answer is simple: why buy a briefcase without a handle? Not to mention that Russia could “buy” it much cheaper in, say, 10 years?
But regardless of what the US offers, Russia will continue its “soft power” strategy – fighting with the Banderist and pseudo “pro-Russia” intelligentsia (now do we understand why Ukrainian guests are invited on Russian TV?) in the battle for the minds of the “Ukrainians” category. The global economic reality that approaches us from the horizon will anyway force whatever remains of Ukraine to do some deep thinking. It will be a blessing in disguise if the EU collapses, since the “democratic” carrot dangling about Ukrainian heads will vanish. Perhaps the most tragic thing in all this is that millions was loaned to Ukraine by Western “partners” just for the 2019 elections (Kiev is too poor to hold them independently), yet it has all been a waste of time. All it did was “legalise” the 2014 coup. I.e., it’s been a zero sum game.
Summary: Russia will continue to grind away at the flywheel of “Ukrainism”, working with different segments of society in different ways. A humanitarian corridor will be available for those who want to exit the “Ukrainian” experiment. And for those who don’t want to leave – tick tock.