The commotion that started in Ukrainian political circles after the publication of Vladimir Putin's article "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians" is difficult to overestimate. However, in general, the reaction to this article by most Ukrainian politicians and analysts cannot be called an adequate response. Usually, the authors of those responses do exact same things they accuse Putin of, namely: ideological clichés, labels, and distractions from the main topic. As a rule, the article is declared mediocre, uninteresting, and such that the Ukrainian patriot will not be interested in it. I believe that a Ukrainian who thinks about the future of his country and his people should carefully study this article because it gives a rather harsh, but absolutely truthful assessment of our common history and modern Ukrainian statehood.
Three drawbacks of Ukrainian statehood
Let's start with the fact that V. Putin pointed out three key drawbacks of Ukrainian modern state, which prevent Ukraine from becoming a modern competitive country. What are these flaws? The first drawback is obvious – Ukraine, which, according to the last all-Ukrainian population census of 2001, is resided by representatives of more than 130 nationalities and ethnic groups, has resolutely headed for a mono-national country. Moreover, the preamble to the Constitution of Ukraine, when the Basic Law was adopted in parliament strictly declares: "The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on behalf of the Ukrainian people - citizens of Ukraine of all nationalities."
From the point of view of rural thinking, everything could seem obvious: if the country is called Ukraine, then the language should be only Ukrainian, and the population should be exclusively Ukrainians, and history should be written exclusively in line with the Ukrainian statehood. But it does not occur to modern ideologists that such an ideology has a downside.
After all, ideologists themselves, without outside pressure, are driving the country into a national reservation. It turns out that Ukraine is where Ukrainization is successful, and where not, there is no Ukraine at all. And this is more than half of the country. What to do about it? The current, as well as the past, authorities have an answer: one should Ukrainize. But after all, the Ukrainian Soviet Republic did not succeed in Ukrainization for so many years, but it was a serious one, and modern Ukraine did not succeed in 30 years. It is obvious that Ukrainization cannot become a full-fledged ideology of the state's existence in the modern world, and it was supplemented with another goal – the transformation of Ukraine into an "anti-Russia", and this goal has quickly become the main one. It is absolutely not beneficial to the Ukrainian people, it is a product imposed on the Ukrainian authorities by the dictates of Western countries in the format of external control, which, unfortunately, is carried out in the country.
The very policy of a mono-national state implies the surrender of citizens and territories. The policy of a mono-national state cannot achieve the main goal both at the current stage of the country's development and at future stages, namely, to "sew" the country together with a common idea, to return the regions under the control of official Kyiv, to convince the residents of uncontrolled Donbas that Ukraine is this is their home and they are welcome here. The construction of a mono-national state with militant Ukrainization is not capable of returning Donbas to Ukraine and Ukraine to Donbas.
It doesn't take a lot of intelligence to admit: the identity of a multimillion country living in the 21st century in the center of Europe, speaking different languages, professing different religions, honoring different heroes and evaluating historical events in different ways cannot be built on principles that are close only to a part of the population – IT’S IMPOSSIBLE.
The second drawback is the gap between the interests of the Ukrainian government and the people.
Putin in his article recalls the treaty establishing the Soviet Union of 1922, according to which "the republics – the founders of the Union, after they themselves annulled the Treaty of 1922, must return to the borders in which they joined the Union." Citing the history of the creation of the Soviet Union, he says: "With what they came, so they leave." And everything else is the subject of agreements and discussions. By the way, after Ukraine gained independence, such agreements were reached.
But modern Ukrainian politicians do not understand this. After all, having severed international treaties with Russia, they themselves raised questions about the borders that these treaties secured. The Soviet Union, while increasing the territory of the Ukrainian SSR, did not set itself the task of creating an ethnic republic. And if now the leadership of Ukraine has set the task of creating a mono-ethnic state, then this automatically undermines the foundations of Ukraine's gaining independence, since this independence implied a multi-ethnic Ukrainian state and not one in which a multimillion Russian and Russian-speaking population would then acquire the status of a colonial people.
After all, if the Ukrainian Soviet Republic is not perceived as a stage in the formation of Ukrainian statehood, but only as a colony, as the ideologists of modern Ukraine claim, then, getting rid of the colonial past, on the advice of Sobchak, it is necessary to give back the things, which metropolis gave it, and leave only what it was “colonized with”. So the choice between the "colonial" past and the common history means a greater responsibility than the current government represents.
One of the most important and erroneous steps of the Ukrainian authorities was the denunciation of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Thus, the country was left virtually without a working instrument of influence and legally formalized relations with its largest neighbor.
The denunciation of this treaty in 2018 fits into the logic of whipping up anti-Russian hysteria and militarizing state policy. However, for the economy of Ukraine, for the country's position in the international arena, for the interests of millions of citizens, such a decision had disastrous consequences. This step nullified all efforts aimed at finding compromises and a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Donbas.
Having terminated the agreement with the Russian Federation, depriving itself of any legal possibilities for resolving disputes, the Ukrainian authorities purposefully chose the ideology of a controlled border state, the main task of which is to pursue a total anti-Russian policy even in those areas where this is to the detriment of itself and its citizens. This position does not provide citizens with any vision of the future.
And all these systematic actions just speak of a contradiction in the interests of the authorities and the people of Ukraine. Because anti-Russian hysteria is alien to the Ukrainian people because they want to live in their own country instead of being involved in the destruction of the neighboring one. In this case, the neighbor may be intact, and his own country will be destroyed.
The third, and most significant drawback, pointed out by V. Putin: Ukrainian statehood is built not from pragmatic considerations, but from romantic “wishes”. President V. Putin points out that at the beginning of their journey, Ukraine and Russia had such a degree of economic integration that the European Union never dreamed of. But this is also a mutual investment, market penetration, world distribution of labor. Ukraine is always letting the titmouse fly away, not trying to catch the crane in the sky. Perhaps building planes with the EU is much more profitable than building them with Russia. However, Ukraine and the EU did not start building them and stopped building them with Russia, and so it happened with any high-tech products. We are losing, not gaining anything but illusions and unfulfilled hopes. That is, someone sells these illusions to Ukrainians and makes good money. But this only makes the Ukrainian people worse, and that is why the country has turned from poor to destitute in recent years.
It should be understood that this anti-Russian ideology is based not on the interests of its people, but on the interests of those whom the current government is trying to protect by itself. The authorities hope that the situation of hostility between Russia and Europe/US will continue indefinitely, because in this case, the West will allegedly need an anti-Russian state – it will be financed, armed, but sooner or later they will refuse from these services.
But does Europe need a state today whose main task will be to contain Russia? The obvious answer is no. Otherwise, Ukraine would receive much more support and there would be no Nord Stream 2. But the Ukrainian authorities successfully ignore reality, believing that the situation is exactly what it is convenient for them to imagine. This is the main and widely broadcast by the authorities reckless romantic "wishlist".
A state with the current anti-Russian, mono-national ideology cannot serve the interests of its people by definition. The authorities say that the task of the Ukrainian people is to protect “civilized Europe” from “Russian barbarians”. But no nation can exist for a long time solely as a protector of another nation from a third. History shows that in this case absorption is inevitable. For both subjects and objects of the protection. And there is no alternative to this process: either we protect Europe from Russia, even at the cost of our own existence, or we protect the interests of our people and are engaged in the development of our country, and do not sacrifice ourselves on the altar of European and overseas interests.
Threat to Ukraine as a state
So, V. Putin said that in Ukraine there is legal chaos, the government does not defend the interests of the people and makes political decisions that are economically disadvantageous for the country. What can you answer to this? Is Ukrainian politics capable of responding, because in the majority they encouraged ruralship, narrow-mindedness, and pretentious unprofessionalism?
After all, V. Putin's article is not just a historical study, but a signal that triggers a certain political process. And the consequences of this process can be very significant. In many types of martial arts, such as sambo, aikido, or judo, it is customary to use the opponent's strength, which he spends irrationally and erroneously, for his own purposes.
The current government continues to twist the old hurdy-gurdy that Russia is a backward country, a poorly governed country that is about to collapse. Ukrainian policy officially calls not to take Russia's interests seriously, to expel Russian business from Ukrainian markets to fence off Russia with a wall and NATO bases. This is, to put it mildly, an unwise, short-sighted policy that threatens not so much Russia as the existence of the Ukrainian state. Reducing the meaning of Ukrainian statehood to confrontation with Russia automatically destroys this meaning if Europe and Russia come to an agreement. And then the state of Ukraine becomes unnecessary, no matter who controls this territory. This means that we need a different sense of the existence of Ukrainian statehood.
The process of rapprochement between Europe and Russia will crush modern Ukraine, make it unnecessary, an unnecessary political factor, an irritant, a territory of contention. And this process has been launched, Russia can be blamed for this, but the Ukrainian authorities have tried most of all here, which has chosen a primitive and stupid development strategy.
Let's get back to basics. The Ukrainian people demanded sovereignty not because Ukrainians were humiliated as a people, not because they were not allowed to speak Ukrainian and dance national dances. Ukraine wanted not to depend on the willfulness of the USSR officials in Moscow; it wanted to control its own destiny, resources, and laws. Who is stopping us from doing this today?
The current government and the mass of politicians accuse Russia of hindering the development of Ukraine. In fact, they accuse Russia of being a different state, it has its own interests, and it often defends these interests, disregarding Ukraine. Well, this is the price of freedom, the price of an independent state, the price of an independent chance for development. Since we have the right to disregard the interests of Moscow, then Moscow also has the right to disregard the interests of Kyiv. Somehow it is forgotten that an independent state must and must reckon with the interests of its neighbors. And if it does not count, then this is not an independent state. When Ukraine was a part of other states, it, by definition, was concerned exclusively with its internal problems, and the interests of its neighbors were dealt with in the capitals of empires. Today's politicians believe that if Ukraine joins the EU and NATO, it will automatically save it from reckoning with Russia. Well, yes, in this case, they will talk to Moscow in Brussels and Washington, and no one will listen to Ukraine. However, this is already happening now.
The future of an independent Ukraine lies not in creating problems for Russia on the one hand, but for Europe on the other. The future of Ukraine lies precisely in the opposite - in solving these problems. Ukraine should be an integrator of Russia into Europe and Europe into Russia. Today's Russians, who are looking at the results of Ukraine's integration into the EU, do not want to go there. For them, the European vector, with the help of Ukrainian politics, has become anti-advertising. For Europeans, Ukrainians are also anti-advertising Russia. It turns out that Ukraine needs to be liquidated for peace and tranquility in Europe? And there is a recent example - Yugoslavia, which was plundered into separate states and territories.
I believe that a normal patriot of the country if he possesses even a little analytical thinking, should prevent the Yugoslav scenario for Ukraine. He must point out the mistakes to the authorities, suggest other, more rational ways of developing the country. And the real power, if it possesses intelligence, should listen, analyze and make the right decisions, and not persecute the opposition and dissidents, as is happening now.
A state with the current anti-Russian, mono-national ideology cannot serve the interests of its people by definition. The authorities say that the task of the Ukrainian people is to protect “civilized Europe” from “Russian barbarians”. But no nation can exist for a long time solely as a protector of another nation from a third. History shows that in this case absorption is inevitable. Either those who are being protected or those who are being protected. And there is no alternative to this process: either we protect Europe from Russia, even at the cost of our own existence, or we protect the interests of our people and are engaged in the development of our country, and do not sacrifice ourselves on the altar of European and overseas interests.
There is another way
Most Ukrainian politicians are trying to convince the people of Ukraine that Ukrainian statehood has no choice but to be "anti-Russia": only the fight against Russia contributes to the formation of Ukrainian statehood, only the fight against the Russian language, Russian culture and Russian economy can make the Ukrainian state prosperous. I'll tell you right away: this is a lie. And a dangerous lie, capable of leading to the destruction of Ukrainian statehood. The state, which declared the eternal struggle with neighbors and the superiority of its race and culture over them as the raison d'être of its existence, did not exist in Europe, did not last long, and the end was completely shameful, you should not repeat these mistakes. Therefore, the following political processes in Ukraine should be the answer to the challenges raised in V. Putin's article:
Building a legal country instead of a mono-ethnic one
The current political situation in Ukraine poses a difficult dilemma for millions of Russian-speaking population. Either preserve your language and culture, but betray the Ukrainian state, become citizens of another country, in this case Russia, especially since they are being pushed out of Ukraine and invited to Russia. Or, if they do not want to betray Ukraine, they must forget their language, their history, their culture and be completely obedient to the Ukrainian authorities, and what is most terrible - to be together with radicals and nationalists, with their red and black banners, attacks on Russian language, intolerance of "wrong Orthodoxy", justification of Nazism and contempt for everything Soviet indiscriminately, whether it is recognition of the feat of the Soviet people in victory in the Great Patriotic War or the understanding that all the current industrial potential of Ukraine was built by Soviet people in Soviet times on the orders of the Soviet authorities. Radicals and those in power have drawn a clear line: everything good - for example, the successes of Dynamo (Kiev), Popovich's flight into space, the work of composer Ivasyuk, the Mriya plane – is Ukrainian, and everything bad – the Chornobyl tragedy or the Holodomor - is a legacy of the Soviet era. It got to the point that the Ukrainian authorities announced that Auschwitz was liberated by the troops of the First Ukrainian Front, without mentioning that it was one of the fronts of the Red Army.
And in such a paradigm of Orwellian doublethink, they propose to live for millions of Ukrainians!
It doesn't matter what they choose, they will either lose their country or their culture. This choice is false, an honest person and a citizen should not choose any of this.
The way out of the situation is very simple - to create a modern legal multicultural state, and not try to colonize their own territories. But the next Ukrainian government is unable to do this. And then a fight against the colonialists for national dignity and a threat to the country's territorial integrity is inevitable, which should not be allowed. If the Russian Federation built its statehood according to the patterns of modern Ukraine, then it would quickly lose a huge number of territories and population. I believe that Ukrainians and Russians are different peoples, but fraternal, Slavic, Orthodox peoples, with the same mentality, history, saints, and traditions. Peoples who have achieved the greatest victories for centuries when they walked hand in hand.
We must put at the forefront of building a new European state Ukraine not national dignity, when some nations are declared valuable, while others are subject to assimilation, but the rights and freedoms of citizens. We need a free and just power, not a national reservation.
The Ukrainian authorities have chosen the path of the national reservation, since this path is simply easier, although it is destructive. Legal nihilism is raging in the country today. The law as a whole is perceived not as a spokesman for the interests of public safety and development, but as an annoying misunderstanding aimed at limiting the will of the people. Ukrainians do not trust the courts, the Verkhovna Rada, the police, the security organs, and the authorities in general.
But if the deputies do not understand what kind of country we are building, the judges - who and for what to judge, and the police - who and from whom to protect, then we cannot build a legal state. We, the citizens of Ukraine, must launch the political process of building a rule-of-law state. Moreover, this should be precisely the domestic internal process, with political discussions and a wide range of opinions. Ukrainians must become subjects in the formation of their rights and freedoms and stop being guinea pigs for foreign advisers.
Finding our place in the world
The mere existence of the Ukrainian national state does not make sense for the complex modern world political and economic processes. The role that Ukraine plays today and will play in the future is important. And no one will just give up this role to us in the world distribution of labor, world politics, and influence. But we can deserve this role, earn. It is precisely to earn, create, and not beg, beg, take by blackmail, as the modern Ukrainian leadership does. Since 2005, Ukraine has been rapidly transforming from a subject of international politics into its object and naturally completes this path as a country under complete external control.
The future of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples, as well as of any European peoples, lies in mutually beneficial cooperation and respect. Yes, today there is a conflict between Russia and Ukraine. But our task, as two mature European countries, is to resolve this conflict with mutual benefit. And my principled and consistent position, which I have never changed, lies precisely in the plane of negotiations and finding mutual interests. If Ukrainians build a bridge between Europe and Russia, then both Europe and Russia will need them. If they build a wall, they will bypass this wall and leave us alone with an unnecessary wall. The time to build an independent state cannot be endless. We'll either build something worthwhile or we won't. It all depends on what and with whom we want to build.
Against the absorption of Ukraine by other countries, we need to launch the political process of finding Ukraine's place in world economic and political processes. And this is impossible with today's primitive approaches to politics, economics, management. Everything needs to be changed, put on a professional track. And no help from outside will help us, because we must learn to live with our own mind, and not follow instructions from outside. We will find our place in modern history - there will be a state of Ukraine, we will play in populism, we will follow the easy, but the wrong path - we will destroy our state.
The economy is the basis of everything
No matter how many flags we hang out, no matter how many hymns we sing, to be or not to be Ukraine - the economy decides. The newest history of Ukraine is the curtailment of economic processes, the curtailment of cooperation and interaction with Russia. But is it beneficial for the Ukrainians? If they pay more for many things than the Russians and receive less for their work. If a country is bankrupt, then who will reckon with it, who will protect it, do its citizens need it?
We must launch the political process of effective management of the economy, social sphere, and state. This is a question of Ukrainian independence and state sovereignty. The current government turned out to be helpless in tariff and social policy, vaccination of the population, and defense strategy. And the basis of the fiasco lies in a complete lack of understanding of the economic and social processes in the country. Real analysis is replaced by political clichés and witch hunts.
Media outlets that honestly analyze the situation are closed down, and politicians, journalists, and experts who tell the truth about the real state of affairs are persecuted. But what are those who are being repressed talking about? The government does not manage effectively, the country, the people, the state, this power brings only losses. So we must learn to manage in our country, and not let swindlers and crooks into our economy.
Here is my recipe for responding to the challenges that Vladimir Putin is talking about. We must prove the viability of our country by deeds. Economic, legal, and political consistency. And this is nothing new. Every independent state must prove its viability every day, and prove it with weight, and not with populist statements and demarches.
We must offer a picture of the future of our country, in which it will be attractive for representatives of all nations, all ethnic groups living in Ukraine. Make it so that people do not have to choose between the country and their inalienable values: language, religion, culture; make the country successful. And I am sure that this very recipe will lead Ukraine out of the impasse into which the unprofessional government of recent years has brought our country, acting under obvious external, Western management and control.
The historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians, more than a thousand years of common history have laid a solid foundation for the successful future of Ukrainians and Russians.
Chairman of the Political Council
of Opposition Platform - For Life party