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Today our guest is a senior fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Andreas Umland.
Good evening, Andreas. Now, many foreigners say that Europe is a little bit tired of the Ukraine and that we must do our work ourselves. What would you do?Umland: Unfortunately, yes. Expectations after Euromaidan were higher, the changes seem to be more rapid, and now it turns out that the path of reform would be long. Ukraine fatigue really exists. It was after the Orange Revolution. But, nevertheless, I think now the situation is different. The difference is that there is a lesson after the Orange Revolution, and the civil society in Ukraine today is different, and it remembers how it demobilized after the Orange Revolution. Now it is more demanding and it is not demobilized. And the difference is that now the international donors and organizations are much more active than after the Orange Revolution, and they often work together with the civil society. The political elite, unfortunately, remains the same, and it is one of the mistakes of Euromaidan; the parliamentary elections were held under the old system, many of the old representatives have got into parliament. The old system still exists, but it goes away slowly. The appearance of new system is very slow.
In your opinion, where is the border between cooperation and the influence or control?
Donors come with the money, and they have some demands of how to use this money. The most simple condition is it should not be stolen and must be used for its intended purpose. Then, indeed, there is an influence of international donors, but, nevertheless, it is a sovereign decision of Ukraine.
I mean the impact on the constitutional processes for the appointment of top officials, etc.
I would not say that this impact really exists. These are just offers as a part of the Western programs. There are a bunch of some organizations, the biggest of them is IMF. Sometimes these are non-governmental organizations that offer their programs. But Ukraine, however, is a sovereign state and can opt out of these programs. But if it takes money, it must fulfill the conditions that are offered. In particular, these conditions from the EU or IMF are focused on the fact that Ukraine has finally become financially independent. World Bank, the EU, and the IMF has the other regions of the world in which they would like to invest.
How long might this donor assistance last for?
Well, it might last for some few years. But at some point, Ukraine must be independent. This donation is just intended to ensure that Ukraine is sovereign and independent.
What challenges can Ukraine face at the domestic and global levels?
There are some challenges, which I would call “technical challenges.” The implementation of the Association Agreement is a technical question. The main direction is now selected, and those discussions that were three years ago, after Euromaidan, have disappeared. Basically, Ukraine is in the right direction. Zigzags, not so fast in a straight line, but it is in the right direction.
In my opinion, there is one wrong direction followed by Ukraine after Euromaidan. This is the politics of memory, which is now carried out in such a way that, in particular, OUN (Organization of Ukraine’s Nationalists) is presented as a standard of Ukrainian patriotism and national identity. It creates major problems in foreign relations. There are numerous problems at the local level too, because not everyone in Ukraine supports it. As for me, foreign policy is the most crucial issue caused by it.
Why do you think that it is dangerous for Ukraine?
Nationalism professed by Bandera, Shukhevych was anti-Western, anti-European, anti-Semitic, anti-Polish, and so it is simply just not suitable for the current process of European integration of Ukraine. It creates a lot of problems with the major partners of Ukraine in Europe – Poland and Germany. For Germany, it is also a big problem, because Shukhevych was not only the commander of the UPA, but also a collaborator.
Many people in Ukraine believe Shukhevych is a national hero, while others do not. How can the bearers of these two different ideas find a consensus?
The internal reconciliation is another problem. This is the paradox of the policy of memory, it creates problems on so many fronts, that it just seems to me fatal. For me, the opinion of the Poles is more important. The resolutions of the Polish Parliament are a response to Ukraine’s policy of national memory; Ukraine has recognized Volyn as genocide. This is a ping-pong game between Ukraine and Poland, and it is very bad for Ukraine, because Ukraine needs Poland. Poland was and hopefully will remain the main advocate of Ukraine in the EU, and because of this policy of memory Ukraine is losing its best friends.
Do you think Ukraine’s strong backlog is dangerous?
No, I think not. Ukraine has all the potential to go through a very fast modernization. However, I see problems for the eastern and southern regions if Moscow does not change its policy and if the West does not adequately respond to Moscow's policies. Policy of destabilization pursued by the Kremlin, deters investors from eastern and southern Ukraine. It must be solved, because it can lead to a certain de-modernization of these regions. If there is no investment and prospects, these regions will be depressed ones, and they will turn into a big headache.
What do you think about the new world order and the desire of Russia to redraw the map of the world?
Do not forget that the Russian economy is weaker than the economy of California, one of the US states, or less than the Italian economy. Russia is out of proportion to what it could do. I think it is not so much determined by a certain desire for world domination, but it is rather because Putin's regime loses its legitimacy today. Earlier there was socio-economic legitimacy, and this base is destroyed. Putin is trying to negotiate a new social contract with the Russian people, Russia will gain great power again, but you will suffer for a while. Because it is not in accordance with the economic possibilities of Russia. It is now successful, because the West was not ready for this game.
How long can Russia exist in these circumstances (Putin's regime)?
I think it would not take long. This regime will be changed. It might last for some few years, but the show is over. It is still functioning, because this economic crisis appears to many as a temporary one. Elite expects that oil prices will rise again, and the people think that Putin knows how to get out of it. Every month the elite would clearly understand that the regime must be changed.
Do the elites exist in a sense they existed 300 years ago? Has their role changed? Who are these people?
Elite in constant changing. It has become more elitist in the sense that it becomes more meritocratic. Previously, it was the aristocracy, not meritocracy. Today’s globalization, connectedness, and political democracy creates the conditions of competition between the different groups, and the best ones benefit in the long run. Ukraine’s elites were utterly corrupted, and these processes began during the Soviet era and continued in the post-Soviet times. Corruption had “eaten” all this elite. And this is also a problem now.
Are there any chances to develop a network of the elite? Would they gain power?
I do not know if this is possible. The network enables democratization and makes the control processes more difficult. The old states must exist in the new environment. This is not a threat to democracy. This creates new opportunities for democracy. We have to invent new tools, in a globalized world. These conditions create the possibility of competition between different contents. I do not see who could exercise control, because there is a huge civil society that follows it.
But if Russia disables the SWIFT system, will the Russian economy simply fall?
May be. I thought that this radical sanction should be applied if Russia again escalates the situation in Ukraine. This has been already discussed. But Russia is ready for it. Nevertheless, it is one of the tools that can be applied in today's world.
Who is formulating the new meanings today and in which world would we find ourselves tomorrow?
I think that the higher education, including philosophy, is subjected to a kind of democratization, because now you can listen to any lectures of scientists on the Internet. And you do not need to learn in super universities. The danger is that students do not read books, because they have so many different distractions. In this sense the world also changes. There is a huge democratization in this sense.
Do you see any danger in this autization process?
Each person can decide for herself to be or not to be tied to the computer. This is your stand-alone solution.
So how the world look in 30 years?
There would be less wars. War is the phenomenon of nation states. The nation had their own territory, and clear boundaries. Today they are blurred, and the war goes away.