The New Ukrainian Realism

For objective Ukraine-watchers there is not much alternative to considering the country a bit of a basket case, not a failed State but one that is failing and not for reasons that can be laid entirely at the door of Russia.

As we write, the authorities are mounting an investigation into fire-bomb attacks on Russian-owned banks in three cities and fighting is beginning to flare up again in the Eastern Ukraine but the biggest problems are at the heart of the nation, weak political leadership and an inability to deal with structural corruption.

To deal with this mess new ideas and leadership are badly required but they are not going to be imposed by outsiders. As in psychotherapy, the patient has to want to change themselves. A very recent interview with oligarch Serghei Taruta in the centrist New Europe gives us a clue as to how things might develop along more positive lines. Taruta is not only an economic force but has a political position as the former Governor of Donetsk Oblast and an independent MP but also as a part of a wider Ukrainian reform movement.

Put to one side his 'interest' which affects perhaps his position on Crimea where he has lost significant property and on the refugees which are particular to his interest in Eastern Ukraine and look at the wider positions of principle he puts forward - a commitment to reform but a call for the social aspects of reform to be understood by the donors, decentralisation of government, transparent administration and regulation (meaning an end to corruption), a slow steady approach to EU accession and neutralism in security matters.

This last is important given the reality of Russia's existential and defensive interest in what is the Ukraine to it and Ukraine to the West. He says: " ... we, Ukrainians, have to find a way to live with all our neighbors, as unfortunately it is not a matter of choice. They are given to us by history and we should learn from Finland or Austria not merely how to survive but how to develop the country considering the given de-facto circumstances. Radicalism is not an option for Ukraine."

If Taruta was just another lone MP or oligarch, this position would just be one amongst many but he is part of something bigger and more interesting - an indigenous reform movement that has parallels (believed to be informally approved of by the State) in Russia, speaks directly to Franco-German social corporatism and has almost certainly been given some sort of implied nod by a Democrat Administration in Washington that does not want a confrontation that could go nuclear.

I am sorry the source is in Ukrainian (Interfax-Ukraine) but Google Translate will give you the gist. In essence, Taruta spoke for a consortium of big ticket and medium-sized businesses in a 'Declaration' that offers an indigenous liberal reform programme that might just offer a way out for both the West and Russia. In effect economic recovery is detached here from superpower competition with the ultimate aim of integrating Ukrainian business into best practice European and so Western models. If the price is neutralism this seems a small price to pay in a nuclear age.



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