Maximalism of Authorities Pushes Ukraine Into the Past

The recent telephone call between the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III and the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko has been discussed in Jerusalem for some time.

December 30, 2018 14:19
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko speaks during the news conference in Kiev.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko speaks during the news conference in Kiev.. (photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO)


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The year 2019 is coming. The year of double elections.

The post-revolutionary cadence of the current government is ending. Although of course they are convinced that it is not ending, but on the contrary there will be a wonderful continuation ... Attempting to retain power in any way sounds like a refrain in all actions of the Ukrainian leadership. Six months before the elections, an unprecedented campaign of raising political stakes was launched. Moreover, it was started by almost all authors of the election races. A country that has not yet recovered from revolution and war, once again is plunged into catastrophic conflict of strange slogans and archaic ideas.

Why did this happen? Why elections every time instead of a “holiday of democracy” turn into fights without rules, with all the ensuing consequences. The answer is simple, as it seems to me, in the heat of the election promises, no one thinks about how to fulfill them. And the “end of the war in two weeks” has lasted for five years. And here, when it is impossible to lay any claims, there’s only one way out - the aggravation of the situation. According to the principle “the worse - the better”. Hoping that the voters become scared again and choose some sort of stability.

Today, it is this paradigm that many explain numerous provocative actions that very few people can explain from the position of common sense. Behind them there is only ambition and the desire to present oneself as a savior, almost a messiah. The problem is that the voter believes in these complex constructions of pro-government political technologists with difficulty. The flywheel of pressure on dissenters disperses more and more.

The culmination of this trend was the incident in the Sea of ​​Azov, which almost drove the region into a situation of military conflict. Its goals were obvious - to show again that the war is still a war, and not some sort of “muddy contract”, but its consequences have become an image catastrophe for the Ukrainian authorities. This provocation became the cause of the most acute concern in all world capitals.

Most analysts, Ukrainian politicians and political analysts immediately began talking about how events in the Kerch Strait would be used as an excuse to postpone the March 2019 presidential election. And since this reason, even if it was not meant, is purely political and electoral, this concern only grows, since no one understands what else the Ukrainian president, who is concerned with low ratings, can decide. The results of the martial law, introduced in certain regions of the country, or rather complete lack thereof, have displayed absolute lack of foundation and the “artificial” nature of its introduction.

And now, the government-affiliated experts from the United States, Britain, Germany, France and the EU are beginning to discuss whether Ukraine will become a disproportionate problem for the world politics. Those who are bolder, claim even more transparently, for example, the Greek Foreign Ministry directly called Ukraine "a permanent problem for the European security system".

In fact, the main problem is that the bet is made on the conflict, and on ignoring of the compromise in every possible way.

The compromise, i.e. peace, is presented exclusively as a betrayal, and all those who try to talk about it are immediately declared the “fifth column”. Timid attempts to argue that reconciliation, at least within society, is a long process, and it begins, like any other way, from the first, sometimes very small step, come up against the usual insults, and sometimes pressure.

The maximalism of the political leadership of Ukraine directly excludes any opportunity for the rapprochement of positions. The rapprochement is not looked for - on the contrary, the situation is exacerbated by any means available, ignoring the fact that these splits pass directly through Ukrainian society.

But this does not stop Bankova street (street in Kyiv where the President’s Administration is located).  Of course, Ukraine is essentially a democratic country, so despite huge resources and influence the authorities do not have any monopoly on building a national consensus.  It is not a secret for anyone that there is a constant exchange of views between Ukrainian politicians, representatives of civil society and their colleagues in the USA and the EU. And initiative groups representing various interests, from trade unions and human rights organizations to civil society structures, regularly appeal to the political leadership of the United States and the European Union with requests to contribute to implementation of various peaceful scenarios. They act in the interests of the future of Ukraine, in the interests of reconciliation. But they do not advertise their activities because of the overwhelming level of radicalism and aggression in Ukrainian society, and the rejection of other points of view.  Very broad circles are represented in these contacts, and various states want to help Ukraine in this process. It looks like lately the ties are becoming even closer between forces that are trying to find the “road to peace” with similar structures in the United States, Canada, European countries and Israel. There are many symptoms of that, and an increasing number of contacts, workshops, round tables and conferences, along with sudden interest in this subject of venerable journalists and information channels. These discussions and investigations are conducted regarding a wide range of topics, from pressure on dissidents and restrictions on freedom of opinion, to rampant nationalism, disregard for the rights of minorities and growing anti-Semitism.

Recently, the search for solutions for the return of the rebellious regions back in the realm of Kiev has been added to this.

Various Ukrainian politicians, cultural figures and scientists have led the efforts of “shuttle diplomacy” to establish bridges between the Donbass region and its representatives.

Public opinion leaders who are able to influence the residents of Donbass and make them Ukrainians are also trying to participate in this process. But the authorities from Kiev act very, very brutally. Instead of trying to seek supporters of reconciliation among the former elite of this region, they are putting them in jail or are trying to urgently pass guilty verdicts against them, in order to take them out of the game. And here the Ukrainian court becomes hostage to the election campaign, human rights are ignored, and legal nihilism becomes the absolute norm. To achieve the goal, all means are good, and what does the law have to do with it? The fact that these “electoral courts” will later become the subject of discussion and disgrace in the European courts does not bother anyone. Election is more important. Although if the state interests had been of bigger priority than the electoral ones, then perhaps it would have been better to use the desire of the Donetsk and Lugansk elites to return the situation in the region to the pre-revolutionary one.

In any case, if Kiev had not been captured by such a tough “all or nothing” maximalism, then it might have been possible to find supporters among those who can really influence the population of the uncontrolled territory.

Some pro-governmental experts in the United States hear hints that the figure of former President Yanukovich can somehow be seen as a potential opportunity to find common ground between Ukraine and the rebellious region. It is also said that a top-secret report on the situation around Yanukovich is making rounds in the leadership of the US Republican Party, with a proposal to stop the trial of the ex-president and try to use his influence to normalize the situation. There are precedents for this. It is enough to study the experience of working with leaders of the confrontation in the Anglo-Irish crisis, the Croatian-Bosnian slaughter, the Indo-Pakistan conflict. But no institution that would deal with at least some scenarios of the movement towards reconciliation has been created. Therefore, external forces are engaged in it. The mentioned report is definitely not the only one, but one of many documents in which various representatives of political and public circles at the highest level are looking for a peaceful resolution of the situation in Ukraine.

The recent telephone call between the Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos III and the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko has been discussed in Jerusalem for some time. There is talk that the Patriarch of Jerusalem expressed his opinion about the need to terminate the political persecution of the 4th President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovich and his involvement in active participation in the peace process in Donbass. Because a broad dialogue is needed for reaching the national reconciliation, and it should involve the people from the Donbass region, President Yanukovich could become one of such representatives.

Today the most likely context of the telephone conversation was confirmed by the official letter of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, sent to President Poroshenko.  The letter speaks about using “all opportunities for peace”, including possible participation of Victor Yanukovich in its achievement, and calls Petro Poroshenko for "mercy and reconciliation” in their relations with Victor Yanukovich, apparently for the sake of successful implementation of the peace plan.

It is apparent that this letter is a distant reflection of the process that are under way in the United States, which have become so close to Jerusalem lately. Yanukovich is also frequently mentioned in the United States as an option for dealing with the Donbass issue.

In fact, advisors to the US President have voiced their concerns, including in relation to this particular trial on Yanukovich to President Poroshenko publicly and through official communication. They have requested that the Ukrainian authorities "...halt existing proceedings until independent observers can be identified and engaged to ensure fair administration of the proceedings.... or a new trial be instituted."

Thus far, America’s concerns about violations of human rights, fairness in the trial of its former President, and solutions to Russia’s aggression in Donbas and Luhansk, largely require immediate answers from President Poroshenko. Solutions to settle the military conflict that he promised 5 years ago can during the remaining time of his cadence give him what he needs to obtain the trust of the majority of the voters of Ukraine. The refusal can nullify all his 5 year-long efforts. And the results of elections in 2019, despite enormous assistance that the West has provided to Ukraine, will be highly questionable.

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