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“Capitulation is not a compromise.” Ukrainians react to oligarch’s plan in WSJ

Political caricature featuring Putin and Pinchuk, by Radio Svoboda
“Capitulation is not a compromise.” Ukrainians react to oligarch’s plan in WSJ

Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk made a 2017 New Year’s present for Ukrainians by publishing an article in the Wall Street Journal on December 29 titled “Ukraine Must Make Painful Compromises for Peace With Russia” where he proposed that Ukraine, in exchange for Russian peace, abandons its plans for EU and NATO integration, as well as abandon attempts to get back Crimea in exchange for Russia abandoning its military interference in Donbas, where Ukraine must agree to holding local elections for Russian proxies before restoring control over the occupied territories.

The Ukrainian media sphere is abuzz with commentaries to this publication. Euromaidan Press gathered some of them.

Reasons for the appearance of this publication

What Viktor Pinchuk modestly calls a ‘painful compromise’ is actually an invitation to capitulation
Pinchuk, as an oligarch, is unlikely to act for the good of his country or its people. He is likely to act for the good of his money and pursue his personal interests in the publication, as Ukrainian expert Taras Kuzio writes, adding that “Ukrainian oligarchs are not to be trusted with Ukraine’s national interests.” Personal interest articles by Ukrainian oligarchs are not a rarity in western media – the article in WSJ continues a series of manipulative articles of Ukrainian oligarchs and comes days after an untruthful publication of a similar “Crimea for Donbas” plan by Trump’s advisor Kissinger in The Independent, a newspaper belonging to Russian oligarch Lebedev.

This publication should also be viewed in the context of a new infowar technology described by the Ukrainian media watchdog Detektor Media on 23 December. Codenamed “Making peace with Russia,” it involved fake petitions, sites, and appeals in the name of Ukraine’s working class to restore economic ties with Russia, combined with the support of pro-Russian politicians. A journalist was offered $500-1000 to make sure such a faked “appeal” would hit the headlines.

Pinchuk has been accused of serving Russia’s interests. “Both of Pinchuk’s ideas, such as the de facto surrender of Crimea and turning away from the European path, don’t actually belong to Pinchuk. They are ideas of Vladimir Putin, which are his main instruments of advancing the ‘Russian world’,” said deputy director of the Crimean Tatar Channel ATR Aider Mudzhabaiev. Deputy Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament Iryna Heraschenko agrees, saying that both the ideas of Kissinger and Pinchuk are unrealistic, writing: “They take into account the interests of the USA and Russia, Trump and Putin, but forgot about the key issue – the position of the Ukrainian people.”

“What Viktor Pinchuk modestly calls a ‘painful compromise’ is actually an invitation for us, Ukraine and Ukrainians, including Crimea and Crimean Tatars, to capitulation,” wrote Refat Chubarov, head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis. “It’s not possible that Ukraine will simply stop existing as an independent state after it gives up Crimea and Donbas and abandons its goals of EU and NATO membership.”

Ukrainians react to Pinchuk’s main points

“Trading Crimea for Donbas” – idea doomed for failure

The only thing Russia needs is Ukraine’s full and unconditional capitulation
“No trade in the territory of Ukraine, be it Donbas or Crimea,” wrote Kostyantyn Yelisieiev, advisor to President Poroshenko, in the Wall Street Journal: “These territories cannot be part of a trade-off for peace… As one of the new US administration’s heavyweights once said: ‘history teaches that weakness arouses evil.’ This has never led to sustainable peace nor saved lives. On the contrary, it has always fueled more aggression and human suffering.” Ukrainian MP Mustafa Nayem concurs, writing that “it is historically unacceptable and unforgivable to accept the annexation of one region in exchange for the cessation of killing in another.”

Dmytro Kuleba, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the Council of Europe, wrote that the initial postulate of Russia being ready to guarantee the stability of Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine making concessions is false: “Russia doesn’t need neither a stable Ukraine nor compromises which are painful for Ukraine. The only thing it needs is Ukraine’s full and unconditional capitulation.” 

Meanwhile, Oleksandr Shcherba, Ukraine’s ambassador to Austria, stresses that Pinchuk’s plan is not a compromise in the first place: “In the current circumstances, any compromise will be only at the expense of our and only our [Ukrainian] interests. What kind of compromise is this, then?”


Taras Kuzio opines that trusting Russia with any sort of deal is a bad idea. “…history has taught Ukraine and the West that Putin and Russian leaders cannot be trusted or believed in any shape or form. Putin’s military aggression has destroyed naivety within Ukraine about the ‘brotherly Russian people’ but it continues to find adherents among exiles in London’s exclusive regions of Kensington and Knightsbridge.”

Indeed, there are no reasons to assume that Russia, a country that has violated the Budapest memorandum and the Helsinki Accords and has been recognized as an occupying power by the UN, will honor any type of deal. A more logical assumption will be that if the West accepts Russia’s violation of international law like it did in Georgia, Putin will be emboldened to continue his escapade in Ukraine and beyond. That will mean a whole lot more problems for the West: It’s easier to extinguish a fire when it’s small, not when the house is burning down. Therefore, contrary to Pinchuk’s proposals, it is more responsible for Ukraine to keep insisting that its foreign partners keep condemning Russia’s occupation of Crimea.

“No elections in Donbas with Russian boots on Ukraine’s soil”

Pinchuk’s idea of holding local elections in Russia’s proxy “republics” in Donbas before Ukraine establishes full control over occupied Donbas as a “painful compromise” Ukraine should make to prove its dedication to a “peaceful reunification” that will save “thousands of lives” was met with fierce criticism.

“The result of unfair elections in the occupied territories will mean not the ‘demonstration of a dedication to a peaceful reunification’ but the election under gunpoint of the same people who rule over the region with the help of Russian weapons. The price for such a compromise will be the legalization of the power of murderers who will receive a carte blanche at the international level. We will not save thousands of lives, but with our support and recognition, doom millions of people to legalized slavery,” argued Mustafa Nayem.

“An inevitable conclusion from the author’s logic is that Ukraine’s immediate self-liquidation is the best way to save thousands of lives,” notes Dmytro Kuleba.

This point of Pinchuk’s plan contradicts the previous one since it cancels the initial tradeoff, “Crimea for Donbas,” making it sound more like “give Crimea, Donbas, and Ukraine to Russia in return for nothing.” The only possible outcome of elections in Russian-controlled territories with a Russian-controlled border and media environment, as well as Kremlin-appointed leaders, is is securing endless possibilities for Russia to meddle in Ukraine’s internal affairs for years to come, as Kremlin-appointed representatives would get a seat in Ukraine’s parliament. This goal stands high on Russia’s priorities: over February-July 2015, none less than Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov was involved in a campaign to change Ukraine’s Constitution to provide for just that.

In other words, Pinchuk proposes submission to a Russian sphere of influence as the “new reality” Ukraine must embrace. In exchange, Ukraine doesn’t get anything.

Reversal of European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine – a surrender of its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity 

Ukraine’s non-aligned status during 2010-2014 gave Russia the opportunity to attack
In his article, Pinchuk argues that one of Ukraine’s “painful compromises” should be securing a neutral status and giving up the idea of pursuing NATO membership.

To this Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister on European and Euroatlantic Integration, replied that it was Ukraine’s non-aligned status during 2010-2014 that gave Russia the opportunity to attack: “We were non-aligned at the time of Russia’s attack, which was preparing for this over all the years of our neutrality. Thus, I don’t think that turning away from our goal, dream, and intention of becoming a NATO member, as well as ceasing internal work in this direction, can bring anything positive to our future. Neither neutrality nor an alliance with Russia will give us safety guarantees.”

Mustafa Nayem hinted that that it was specifically the absence of NATO affiliation that enabled Russian aggression in Georgia in 2008, and, in 2014, in Crimea and Donbas: “It’s not clear why we should for the sake of somebody’s whims refuse to declare our goals. Ukraine and the world have made this mistake once before – in 2008 at the Bucharest summit, where we [Ukraine and Georgia] were refused the NATO membership action plan. This didn’t stop Russia. The war in Georgia, annexation of Crimea and occupation of Donbas are a direct consequence of this mistake.”

Neutrality didn’t save Moldova, either. Ukraine’s Institute of World Policy notes in the publication “Safety of the intermediary period” that Moldova secured a neutral status in its Constitution precisely with the intention of making Russia withdraw its troops and weapons from Transnistria. It didn’t help. “The Moldovan example clearly confirms that a permanent neutrality doesn’t help neither preventing nor reversing the consequences of aggressive intentions of another state if it has other plans.”

Contrary to Pinchuk’s assertions in the WSJ, neither NATO membership or EU membership is on the short-term perspective table in Ukraine. But they are Ukraine’s strategic goals, supported by the majority of the population, and enshrined in its laws. The NATO status of the Baltic states didn’t cause an international crisis; on the contrary, they are the only post-Soviet states enjoying national security. Cooperation with NATO is already bringing Ukraine ostensible benefits: its army is being modernized and is now better prepared to repel Russian aggression in Donbas on its own.

EU integration drives and catalyzes Ukraine’s modernization and reforms
Pinchuk argues that Ukraine should take EU membership off its goals, first become a self-sufficient nation and then return to the discussion. However, it is precisely EU integration that is the driver and catalyzer of Ukraine’s modernization and reforms after the Euromaidan revolution. Without the pressure to correspond to EU standards, Ukraine will slink back to its pre-Euromaidan status, that is, will return to being a feudal, oligarch-ruled state in Russia’s influence.

For Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, this would, first of all, mean the betrayal of the thousands of people killed during the protests in Kyiv as well as in Donbas, who with their sacrifice gave Ukraine the opportunity to create another future.

“Such a withdrawal would weaken the movement for such much-needed changes inside the country. Yes, Europe is shallowed out and confused today, but it will pass these tests and open up a new breath, with which we want to breathe freely and deeply also. Now we, with this goal in mind, have to build a European country at home, with real European values, in which we can and want to believe in, to educate our citizens who will be able to move this country to this stated goal. So that our European partners would themselves want our membership because it will make them stronger and more successful,” she wrote.

What could happen to Ukraine if Pinchuk’s scenario was implemented

Pinchuk’s plan is a plan to roll back reforms, preserve the oligarchic system, undermine the country’s defense
Volodymyr Fedoryn, co-founder of the Bendukidze Free Market Center, is confident that Pinchuk’s plan is a “plan to roll back reforms, preserve the oligarchic system, undermine the country’s defense. It is the first plan to divide up Ukraine, which will inevitably be followed by the next ones – until the Kremlin will be satisfied.”

He visualizes the results of the plan in five bullet points:

  1. The Crimea is amputated;
  2. Two bandit “republics” with quasi-legitimate authorities and an open border with Russia, de facto governed from Moscow, are incorporated into Ukraine;
  3. The economic reforms which were initiated after Euromaidan, are stuck half-way, not having implemented the main economic (a trafecotry of sustainable and dynamic development) and political (undermining the power of the oligarchs, owning Ukraine’s resources and political system) goals;
  4. Refusal of EU and NATO integration would mean that the country no longer has the institutional anchors which allowed for the gradual reform of all ways of life in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe;
  5. The most optimistic estimates place Ukraine’s living standards at 10% lower in 2016 than in 2013. Having entered the Valley of Death (and structural reforms, especially in a country with such severe illnesses, first lead to destruction – of old institutes, workplaces etc, and only later – to creation), Ukraine will remain there. The ideas of freedom and the right of a nation to revolt against its corrupt authorites risk being discredited for generations to come – with all the ensuring political and economical consequences for Ukraine’s political and economic future.

Thus, Pinchuk’s plan contradicts his proclaimed goals of Ukraine becoming an independent and self-sufficient state. The only alternative to Ukraine’s EU and NATO goals are becoming a political and economic colony of Russia. And that is precisely the goals of the Kremlin’s political goals in Ukraine, which it achieves by propagating the concept of “Eurorealism,” for instance, as revealed in the hack of Putin’s aide Surkov, through the Ukrainian policy fund, which doesn’t lose a chance to persuade Ukrainians that their dreams of living in a European family are futile.

This would have fatal consequences not only for Ukraine, but the world at large.

Calls to boycott cooperation with Pinchuk’s initiatives

Ukrainians are now sharing calls to calls to boycott Pinchuk’s prestigious Yalta European Strategy conference (held for the second year in Kyiv, as Yalta is under Russian occupation in Crimea) and “Ukrainian lunch” in Davos. President Petro Poroshenko was among the first to announce that he will not be joining this year’s “Ukrainian lunch,”  organized by Viktor Pinchuk’s Fund, that is to be held during the World Economic Forum at the Swiss town on 17-20 January. Meanwhile, the startup community Greencubator has announced that it will no longer accept donations from the Viktor Pinchuk Foundation and urges its colleagues to do the same.

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