Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea saved Ukraine from going back to its old ways, Kazarin says

Putin speaking in occupied Sevastopol on the anniversary of the WW2 Victory Day to celebrate the annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine conducted by his military and special services two months earlier. May 9, 2014 (Image: kremlin.ru)

Putin speaking in occupied Sevastopol on the anniversary of the WW2 Victory Day to celebrate the annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine conducted by his military and special services two months earlier. May 9, 2014 (Image: kremlin.ru) 

2016/11/02 • Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Ukraine

Many commentators have pointed out that Stalin was the greatest state builder in Ukrainian history because he added more territory to Ukraine than anyone else and that Vladimir Putin is the greatest nation builder in Ukraine’s history because his aggression that started with the anschluss of Crimea unified Ukrainians into a modern nation like no one else.

Pavlo Kazarin

Pavlo Kazarin

But RFE/RL commentator Pavlo Kazarin takes this argument to a new level in an essay which argues that Putin’s Anschluss of Crimea was “a good thing” for Ukraine because it created conditions for the development of country and most important convinced everyone that they could not live in the old way.

Until 2010, the commentator says, “Ukraine lived according to the rules of a corrupt corporate state.” That was true under Leonid Kuchma and under Viktor Yushchenko, and Viktor Yanukovych only changed this state by transforming it into a criminal one. He destroyed the old arrangements and that means his presidency was “a state of degradation.”

Euromaidan protesters hold EU and Ukrainian flags in the center of Kyiv in winter of 2013-2014

EuroMaidan protesters hold EU and Ukrainian flags in the center of Kyiv in winter of 2013-2014

As a result, Yanukovych provoked the Maidan which ultimately overthrew him. But those who came in immediately after were all part of the old system and would almost certainly have gone back to the old ways of doing business, although perhaps without the criminal overlay of Yanukovych’s regime.

Those who expected otherwise, Kazarin says, were dreaming of something impossible. Those who came in just after the Maidan were all too like those they replaced, and they were prepared to do business in the old way because to do otherwise, to engage in real reforms, was something “outside their comfort zone.”

And consequently, “if it hadn’t been for Crimea, everything would have remained as it was. But the annexation of the peninsula happened, and it turned out that it was no longer possible to live in the old way” because the only way officials could keep within their comfort zone was to “preserve Ukrainian statehood.”

Russian special forces and mercenaries subdue and escort away a local resident before Russian troops assault the Ukrainian Belbek airbase, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, on March 22, 2014. (Image: AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Russian special forces and mercenaries subdue and escort away a local resident before Russian troops assault the Ukrainian Belbek airbase, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, on March 22, 2014. (Image: AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

The military were the first to understand that, but they were soon followed by the diplomats who had to deal with Russian representatives. They recognized what they could no longer be. As a result, Kazarin says, “the only choice which stands before Ukraine today is not whether the supporters of the former arrangements or those of the new will win.”

“The old matrix has passed into oblivion,” and now, “the dilemma is only about what will come in its place: populists or pragmatists.” That may not be what the optimists hoped for but it is better than the alternative.

Russian "green men" occupation force surrounding a Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Crimea, in March 2014.

Russian “green men” occupation force surrounding a Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Crimea, in March 2014.

Thus, “the annexation of the peninsula became at one and the same time a curse and a blessing for Ukraine,” a curse because it opened the way to the bloodbath in the Donbas but a blessing because it dispelled the illusions of the Ukrainian political nation” about what they faced in Putin’s Kremlin.

In future Ukrainian history textbooks, Kazarin concludes, Russia’s Anschluss of Crimea “will be on the list of events which defined the establishment of genuine and not imitation Ukrainian sovereignty. Possibly fate has a sense of humor. Possibly, this won’t be to our taste. But one doesn’t get to choose in such things.”


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • laker48

    Needless to add that radical reforms have been, so far, one of the conditions under which western sanctions slapped on RuSSia are maintained and the economic lifeline cast by the west to Ukraine is still in place. Too fast collapse of the fascist RuSSian Federation would have likely slowed down or even stopped the reforms.

    • Quartermaster

      Russia is going to collapse, however. Their economy has been cut roughly in half in the last 2 years and the country is suffering a massive brain drain.

      • laker48

        Yes, I agree, but the question is when. Given the present settings, my deadline is 2021, but it may happen sooner if it bogs down in Syria deeper and Poland takes off a significant portion of its European oil and gas revenue by 2022.

        The Gdansk Naftoport oil terminal is now being expanded from the present 34 to 100 million tons (750 million barrels) per year, scheduled for completion by the end of 2017, but the Plock-Brody stretch of the Baltic-Black Sea oil pipeline has to be finished. This alone will bring additional 66 million tons (500 million barrels) of American, Canadian, Iranian ad Saudi oil to Europe. i.e. the average volume delivered from RuSSia through the Druzhba pipeline.

        The present five bcm per year regassing capacity of the Swinoujscie LNG terminal is going to be doubled by 2020, the Baltic gas pipeline from Norway and Denmark to Poland will be finished by 2022, and perhaps another, floating LNG terminal will be installed on the Vistula Lagoon after dredging a canal through the Vistula Spit to connect it with the Baltic Sea. The tender for the construction of the canal is already on the table.

        There’s also an LNG terminal under construction on the Adriatic Sea in Croatia that will be connected to the Baltic-Black Sea-Adriatic gas corridor and distribution network. It’s also possible that the Visegrad Group and the Three Seas Initiative will eventually kill the Nord Stream 2 project or render it working at marginal capacity. Ukraine can also release additional volumes of natural gas after improving its energy efficiency and bringing to production its shale gas deposits.

        Given the timely completion of these projects, RuSSia will be stripped off of at least $22 to $25 billion per year of oil and gas sales revenue, given their current prices, or forced to enter a price war and sell them for half the current prices to retain its market share. No matter how Putin slices or dices it. RuSSia’s export revenue will be dramatically falling, especially in the oil sector, as due to sanctions RuSSia doesn’t have access to advanced technology allowing it bringing to production its oil deposits trapped in more complex geological formations, but this is contingent on Canada, the US and Norway keeping the sanctions on.

        One may only hope that Ukraine will make a good use of these few years leading to RuSSia’s economic collapse of the collapse of the Putin kleptocracy, whatever comes first.

        • zorbatheturk

          Reasons for hope.

          • laker48

            Yes, but it’s much more difficult to build a modern, democratic and corruption-free state than to fight and win the war Ukraine will eventually win. Those who survive should fight for seats in the Verkhovna Rada in memoriam of those who gave their lives for free, democratic and corruption-free Ukraine. The best of luck!

          • zorbatheturk

            The Kazakh style corruption is a hangover from Soviet days. Hopefully far greater transparency will come. A lot of the scams are simply middlemen buying State resources cheap and reselling at world market prices. These guys need to be cut out of the loop.

          • laker48

            This is an unfortunate falloff after the communist party and state special forces brass turned business people access the privatisation scene, as it was in Poland in the 1990s when state assets were often sold for a fraction of their book value. One of the state-owned banks, for example, was sold at $12 million while its cash reserves were $55 million. Now, after the Law and Justice Party (PiS) won the absolute majority in both houses of the Sejm and the president came out of PiS, the national audit reveals on an almost daily basis new scams and larceny of all previous governments. Ukraine will likely go through the same stage, but I believe that the current Polish government will be able to help Ukraine after next, 2018 elections in purging out of post-Soviet, Moscow-trained agents, moles and sleepers its special forces such as the SBU, the army intelligence and counter intelligence. It’s a long and painstaking process, but it’s doable. Go for it!

          • Nowhere Girl

            PiS is in no way pro-Ukrainian. Actually, research done by the writer Tomasz Piątek revealed quite disturbing Russian ties of Defence Minister Macierewicz. PiS is extremely xenophobic. The number of xenophobic incidents is growing, and it includes ukrainophobia, especially in areas close to the Polish-Ukrainian border, for example Przemyśl.
            Really – someone has joked that it’s easier to count groups which haven’t yet been declared an enemy by PiS than its current enemies. (One of the most recent additions: France. It started with quarrel over the Caracal helicopters and evolved into the extremely rude bahavior of Foreign Minister reminding that “we had taught Frenchmen to use forks”.) Ukraine is definitely on the enemy list. Even if PiS was genuinely anti-Russian (which is very dubious by itself), the Volyn issue always remains. And PiS is a party which won’t admit to anyone that they might be wrong, so they will continue pulling out this issue even when Ukraine apologizes.

        • Quartermaster

          The Putin kleptocracy will last beyond the collapse of the Russian economy. The oligarchs and mafia will do all they can to hold onto their ill gotten gains. We’re seeing similar maneuvering in the US at this very moment. The major difference is that many people in the US are aroused, where as the Russian people have long had a tendency to having, and desiring, an autocrat.

          • laker48

            That’s right, as the RuSSian economy is mostly in the hands of former KGB and GRU brass. It’s a terminally sick country.

      • zorbatheturk

        Good.

  • zorbatheturk

    Don’t all the types in that top photo look like pure Soviet scum? Who said the Soviet Union was dead? LOL! Fake medals, Putin, fat flabby generals that couldn’t launch a toy submarine in a bathtub, pissed-off looking teenage conscripts who have to eat cockroach soup, it’s all there in that photo! RuSSiya the Evil!

    • laker48

      You’re right, RuSSia never changes, regardless of its guise of the day. This is the only solution that will leave RuSSia changed and peaceful. It’s coming, and the longer Fuhrer Shorty the Shirtless is at the helm, the better odds of this happening once and forever. http://a.disquscdn.com/uploads/mediaembed/images/1597/5078/original.jpg

      • zorbatheturk

        Great map. RuSSia at present makes no sense whatsoever. There is not even a pretense at federalism any more – Putin in Moscow controls all 17 million sq kms of it. He is using gas revenues to prop up inefficient State industries all across RuSSia.

      • Scradje

        The map would represent a victory for justice. However, they should lose the name, which is stolen. Correct name for the ‘Russia’ portion should be something like Moscovia.

        • laker48

          Right! The post-Mongolian Great Duchy of Muscovy stole the name Rus’ from Kyivan Rus’ and called itself “RuSSia”.