Petro Poroshenko has been president for two years and Ukraine is slowly moving forward, but the question is whether our country will manage to reach its objectives. Well, actually, it’s not very clear what the objectives are, and this can be explained by both internal and external factors.
Internal factors – vague and confused plans. Poroshenko’s Ukraine has got stuck at the stage of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The president doesn’t talk aloud about Ukraine’s plans for full membership in the EU and NATO, nor does he outline them as a clear political objective. His announcements are limited to small ridiculous plans for a visa-free regime with the EU or the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement. Other countries, such as Morocco or South Africa, have worked towards reaching such an agreement with the EU, but, in contrast to Ukraine, they’ve attained their objective. Generally speaking, 32 countries have some sort of membership status with the EU, even the Palestinian Authority. But not Ukraine, even after two Maidans and our heroic war in the East.
But there are other factors, independent of Ukraine, that make this process somewhat illusory. The first is the internal crisis in the EU. The EU has walked away from plans for closer integration and adoption of the European Constitution, and on the contrary, it’s moving towards a growing sense of vague national egoism. It’s not just about Greece, but also the UK, Hungary and recently, to our surprise, neighbouring Poland. Internal EU integration is differentiated, so we must move quickly in order to integrate with the EU. The EU is changing and even if we declare that we’re in the EU, we’ll probably find ourselves in a very different political structure from today’s. So, we’re currently heading towards the EU, but we don’t actually know where we’ll end up… No one really knows because no one knows what the EU will look like in several years, not to mention how far it will extend. Ukraine’s status is especially curious because it stretches tediously into infinity – to a point on the horizon that seems to move further and further away as we strive to approach it…
The same applies to Ukraine’s more urgent need – integration “with” or “into” NATO. Here, the president remains silent. Although it’s difficult to say something when presidential candidate Donald Trump loudly asserts that he’ll dissolve NATO. No comment!
And then there’s war and corruption, and the debilitation and pettiness of Ukraine’s political class.
After two years of Poroshenko’s rule, Ukrainian society is very tired of everyone and everything. However, there are two sides to this fatigue. On the one hand, people are extremely exhausted and disappointed. On the other hand, people are seething with rage… two normal trends, in my opinion.
The political process hasn’t stopped in Ukraine, as many would like it to. We’re into the second year of social and political revolution. These processes don’t depend on our political class or on President Poroshenko. If our politicians and the President move along with this process, and not drag their feet behind it, they will have a chance to survive. If not, they’ll disappear in the coming social and political wave. Of course, we could talk about some other things that Ukraine’s politicians and the president have done, and that they’re well in charge of the political scene. But, today, I don’t believe anyone would dare propose such a thesis. Therefore, our politicians have two options – try to save themselves by not interfering in these changing political processes, or be destroyed.
So, let’s take a look at President Poroshenko’s failures and achievements during these two years.
1.1. Deoligarchization or reducing the influence of oligarchic clans in social and political processes. On the contrary, today their influence has increased.
1.2. Lustration – President Poroshenko has run into aggressive professional corporations such as the judiciary, the prosecution, and the police. Deep corruption has penetrated all aspects of these corporations; they operate daily on complicated corruption schemes. They’ve organized an effective resistance to all attempts to clean up their backyard.
And they’ve won… although one question still remains – Have we really done everything possible to fight them? Here, Poroshenko is to blame.
1.3. Given the failure of the two above, President Poroshenko isn’t even close to fighting corruption – and I don’t mean taking down simple bribe-takers, but renewing the functionality of state institutions that are completely dysfunctional, inoperative and, therefore, corrupt in the true sense the word. These institutions do not fulfill their functions and serve the interests of oligarchs and corrupt corporations.
1.4. The last action that was to be made in accordance with the president’s pre-election promises is the liberation of occupied Crimea and Donbas. Two questions arise – Was it possible? Should it be our top priority now?
1.5. President Poroshenko has not fulfilled his main election promise, i.e., he hasn’t brought peace to Ukraine. Despite the Minsk Agreements, Russian invaders have killed or wounded one, two or more Ukrainian soldiers every day. It doesn’t matter that election promises are always very far from reality. Given the war in our country, there are no excuses or pardons for Poroshenko, who was elected as the “president of peace”. How very childish of our people to have believed this!
2.1. In these two years, we have built and consolidated a new Ukrainian political nation that is based on the principle of responsible citizenship. The president has not been directly involved as it’s basically an objective social and political process. But, at least he hasn’t interfered and hasn’t divided this new political nation, as did Yanukovych.
2.2. Further Russian aggression was stopped in Ukraine… stopped, and nothing more. Yes, the front lines could now be along the Dnipro or the Zbruch – Putin has the military power to do so. Although it’s quite possible that Putin wasn’t stopped by Ukrainian troops and volunteer battalions, but by Poroshenko’s tacit refusal to transform Ukrainian society and carry out Ukraine’s ambitious geopolitical plans for EU and NATO integration.
2.3. Ukraine and Poroshenko have managed not to lose their geopolitical allies in Europe and North America. They’ve even acquired new ones, such as Türkiye.
2.4. There have been some modest attempts to implement reforms in certain areas – the police, the power sector, local self-government…
2.5. I believe the forced deindustrialization of the Donbas is an “achievement” – but, it’s the result of war, and not someone’s conscious action. This should have happened a long time ago, but everyone without exception – presidents, prime ministers and ruling parties – were all terribly afraid of doing anything in the Donbas. And so, it happened due to causes that were outside Ukraine’s control (occupation and looting of the Donbas by Russian troops-Ed.). A 21st century economy must be built on the ruins of the post-Soviet industries in the Donbas… if this comes about, of course. Today, the opposite is happening in the Donbas – a complete breakdown of culture and society, civilization rollback, and archaism. In fact, there’s a clear platform to clear the area of industry and advanced technology.
2.6. An unexpected achievement in these two years is that the revolutionary potential has been preserved. Ukrainian society is not asleep and Ukrainian citizens are maturing; they are much more ready and willing to act than on the eve of the two previous Maidans in the summers of 2004 and 2013.
2.7. I think another unexpected achievement in the two years of Poroshenko’s presidency is that the first set of politicians recruited after 2014 are ready to be retired. Today, they’re all more or less “burnt out” – they did what they could (if anything!), and I believe most of them will be sidelined or thrown out of the political arena. This will open the doors for the next generation of politicians, but they still need to be trained and fortified.
In my opinion, these are the most apparent results of two years of Poroshenko’s presidency.