by GH Eliason for The Saker Blog
Leonid Pasechnik, the acting Head of Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR)has been in office for almost one year. With the state of his reforms in LNR, you want to judge him against leaders of countries at peace, not as one that just formed in the middle of a war four years ago.
For the last thirty years, Donbass was neglected in Ukraine. The infrastructure across Ukraine was bad, but in Donbass it was notorious. Key infrastructure like the water supply has been neglected since 1983.
Political Leaders and oligarchs from what would become LNR historically were only interested in what they could take out of the region. Donbass coal and industry historically provided the basis of Ukrainian wealth. No other region contributed as much and no one including Victor Yanukovych had any interest in investing any of that money back in the region to build it up.
Pasechnik is providing a marked difference. During what is still considered nation building, his interim administration is taking the economic and social problems in the newly formed republic head-on.
In the spring of 2018, his administration introduced their five-year socio-economic development plan called “Our Choice.” His administration included input from 70,000 LNR residents to make sure people’s concerns about the future are addressed as reforms go forward.
LNR’s Current Outlook
For the last four years, LNR has worked to build a lasting peace. Fulfilling their side of the Minsk Agreements LDNR (Lugansk &Donetsk People’s Republics) negotiated with Poroshenko’s regime has been a key part deciding what direction the republic is taking. Kiev hasn’t attempted to fulfill any point agreed to and tries to use the agreement to beat Russia over the head within the US and the EU.
The often overlooked part of the Minsk agreement in the west is Ukraine is not negotiating with Russia. Russia is a guarantor for the agreement the same as the EU is, nothing more. If Poroshenko had any intention of reintegrating Donbass, Ukraine would negotiate in good faith and keep its word. This hasn’t happened.
Because of this, Pasechnik’s government recognizes the fact that until the government in Ukraine changes, real negotiation and progress remain impossible. For Ukraine to be taken seriously, decentralization in the form of federalization will have to take place. Ukraine will also have to start creating the conditions for building an economy in all its regions.
Even in view of this LNR has consistently fulfilled its part of the Minsk agreements.
The West’s Shortsighted Spectacle
Unfortunately, even recent history shows there is no reason to take any offer Ukrainian nationalists make or are part of negotiating seriously. Poroshenko is only after sound bites and not substance. Pravy Sektor nationalist leader Dimka Yarosh has announced he is pulling his troops away from the front line to monitor Ukrainian elections. Ultra-nationalists monitoring elections? Yeah, this should go well.
In a recent interview with Ukrainian “Novoye Vremya,” Condoleezza Rice commented it was “bad” that the world was starting to believe Russia’s version of what was going on in Donbass.
At the end of the day, world leaders still have to believe somebody. After four years of looking at the diplomatic and economic train wreck, Ukraine has evolved into, they have no reason to believe Ukraine.
Instead of becoming the promised European model they could all look to, Ukraine has taken away every safety net even marginal civilizations provide for their people. Manufacturing is gone and instead of working through internal issues, the new government attacked its powerhouse region in Donbass. LNR and DNR provided a lion’s share of wealth because of the coal industry and manufacturing. The nation’s most important engineering universities are ensconced in the capitals because of this.
That isn’t something the EU or the rest of the world can take lightly. With no possibility of recovery in the near to mid future, Ukraine’s only hope is to find work in Europe. Ukrainians making it to Europe are finding low paying bottom tier work as well as the illegal sex trade.
Under Donald Trump, there is no reason to believe the US would be willing to take in violent nationalists from a country that tried to destroy his candidacy and his presidency.
All of this is the result of Poroshenko’s Ukraine destroying every possible growth industry it had including rocket engines, weapons, and technologies, and traded that for giant corporate farms. Agribusiness giants and agro-holdings companies are the big growth areas but provide no jobs.
The outlook for Ukraine is very poor for the foreseeable future unless drastic policy changes are implemented.
When you contrast this to what LNR is accomplishing under Leonid Pasechnik, it’s easy to see why Condi Rice is so upset.
Lugansk People’s Republic’s Reform Renaissance
It’s easy to argue renaissance is too strong a term to use for the reforms going on in LNR because there is a war going on. The infrastructure and economy have taken serious hits over the past four years. Nineteen bridges have taken extensive damage or collapsed in LNR hampering transportation. Roads were also shelled and in many areas need to be rebuilt.
On top of this, starting at day one, Pasechnik’s government had to fight the civil war as well as the systemic corruption that had not been touched by his predecessor. It’s very difficult to imagine a government starting out with a weaker hand.
In the short time Pasechnik has been in office, his government not only formulated a five-year plan, but they also started implementing it in a grand way. It started with building an energy bridge to power the steel mill in Alchevsk. High voltage transmission lines were installed that not only allowed the plants to go into production, but they are also increasing production and hiring plant workers. Business is opening in other manufacturing sectors because the government has been able to negotiate its way around sanctions to a small degree. In the garment industry, this is creating jobs.
Large-scale road work and bridge work has commenced and the bridge connecting Lugansk to Donetsk is complete. Part of the 5-year plan is to restore the railways for large-scale transportation to service commerce and commuters. Pasechnik just announced fuel prices in LNR will be dropping to Russian levels. This is while a war is being fought.
Water has been an issue for the last four years and part of LNR’s water supply is purchased from Ukraine. Pasechnik has ordered pipelines from LNR’s own aquifers be rebuilt to solve this problem. Redundancy is a consideration for the design of the project. If one water main is down for repair or maintenance, a second water main will be put in use according to the building specifications.
The farming industry was in tatters because of the war. The current government is working to increase yields of high-quality grains like wheat. LNR has achieved food security for the republic. This by itself is an incredible feat given the fluidity of the situation with the civil war.
As part of the reforms, Pasechnik ordered the customs borders be taken down between LNR and DNR on April 1, 2018. DNR still needs to reciprocate but it is only logical considering how closely both republics need to cooperate.
Along with all these concrete reforms, LNR is also writing new equitable laws to replace the old corpus. More importantly, reformation of the judicial system is underway. Currently, the family courts are complete and work has begun on Supreme Court reform.
It is easy to see why Condoleezza Rice would be a little upset when little tiny upstart countries believe in federalized representative governance and can build a society even with all the stumbling blocks and chaff the US and Europe throw at it. While Ukraine, Rice’s model of what a European country should be, looks anemic by comparison.
It’s easy to have the support of the EU and the USA and make these reforms when they give you billions of dollars to do so. It’s certainly easier to jumpstart an economy when the economic zones are in safe areas.
Pashichnik and his political party Peace for Lugansk (Мир Луганщине) have shown the world they can do it on their own. This is what former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is concerned Russia will tell the world.
We’re going to start exploring the reforms listed above as well as others going on in depth. We’ll also get to know his party and the other political parties in LNR. I like looking at concrete results and Pasechnik is providing that in a substantial way.
After being here from before the beginning of Kiev’s Euromaidan coup, you get a little-jaded writing about politics and political leaders. From my perspective, it’s a shame he and his party wasn’t elected in the first place. I believe both republics would be in a better place.
After taking a real look at this overview, how do political leaders where you live measure up?