Connect with us

Latest

Analysis

News

Ukraine goes on spiralling down

As political conflict continues and corruption remains as before even Ukraine’s most fervid Western friends are now in despair

Alexander Mercouris

Published

on

10,745 Views

As news of the bizarre antics in Kiev involving former Georgian President Mikheil Saakachvili – now  released again this time by a court after having been arrested for a second time – continues, I recently read an article about Ukraine which gives just about as bleak a picture of the state of the country as it gets

….the news out of Ukraine over the past few weeks has been dire.  The country’s prosecutor general has disrupted investigations by its National Anti-Corruption Bureau with the apparent consent of Mr. Poroshenko.  The interior minister has intervened to protect his son from similar scrutiny.   Officers in the security service, the SBU, have tried to arrest Mikheil Saakachvili, the former Georgian President turned Ukrainian corruption fighter, only to be driven back by protesters.  Prosecutors are targeting anti-corruption activists; the army, interior ministry troops and private militias work at cross-purposes, answering to different politicians or oligarchs.  Mr. Poroshenko’s government has been seriously weakened.

This is in fact an accurate description of the sort of things that happen in Ukrainian politics in any given week.  The only thing that makes these events at all unusual is that they are being written about in this way by a journal which up to now has been one of the most fervid supporters of Ukraine’s Maidan “revolution” (aka “the Revolution of Dignity”).

That journal – from whose latest article on Ukraine the above extract is taken – is The Economist.

The Economist is not the only pro-Maidan anti-Russian journal to write recently about Ukraine in this way.  An article in the website of the rigidly Atlanticist Atlantic Council makes the same points.

Hand-wringing about continued corruption in Ukraine following the Maidan “revolution” is nothing new.  Former US Vice-President Joe Biden said many of the same things about corruption in Ukraine and the need for ‘reform’ there during a visit to Ukraine in September last year.

The latest flurry of Western complaints about the state of Ukraine come alongside publication of data about the disastrous decline of Ukraine’s economy.  Here is how an article from RT sums it up

The latest research shows the people of Ukraine have the worst living standards among all of Europe.

An average Ukrainian earns just €190 per month, or just a little over $220, according to the study by Texty.org.ua. The highest average net salary, according to the analysts, is in Switzerland. An average Swiss earns no less than $5,000 per month after taxes.

In November, Ukrainian Economy Minister Stepan Kubiv admitted the economy lost $15 billion annually after Russia closed its borders to consumer goods from Ukraine, almost a fifth of the country’s GDP.

The current gross domestic product of Ukraine is $93 billion. Before the Maidan revolution at the end of 2013, Ukraine’s GDP was $183 billion.

The RT article overstates the extent of the contraction of Ukraine’s GDP.  The figures given are based on calculations of Ukraine’s GDP based on the exchange rate of Ukraine’s currency relative to the US dollar.  This is an artificial measure of GDP vulnerable to changes in the exchange rate.

If the more accurate purchasing power parity measure of GDP is used then Ukraine’s GDP increases to $368 billion, which however is still less than a tenth of Russia’s.

This is a precipitous decline for what was once one of the most economically developed regions of the USSR, and which because of its Soviet legacy of strong industries, rich farmlands, large population, abundant natural resources and access to the sea ought to be a rich country.

Suffice to say that whilst living standards in Russia are now significantly higher than they were before the Soviet collapse, Ukrainian living standards – which have never recovered to their Soviet levels – have since 2014 fallen back still further.

Ukraine’s tragedy is that there appears to be no route out of this crisis.

As it happens every so often one comes across claims that the situation in Ukraine is ‘stabilising’.  Then something happens – such as the bizarre antics involving Mikheil Saakashvili – which shows the opposite.

On the question of the economy, I remember having identical discussions in the mid 1990s with various people about the ‘economic stabilisation’ which was supposed to be happening in Russia.

When an economy has contracted as severely as Russia’s did in the early 1990s and as Ukraine’s did in the period 2014 to 2015 even minimal amounts of economic activity – such as always happen even in the most collapsed economies – can distort the statistics to make the situation look better than it really is.

The mere fact for example that Ukraine this year has received $4 billion from abroad – $3 billion which it borrowed itself at very high interest, $1 billion which it was given by the IMF – which is a very considerable amount of money for a country like Ukraine (4.3% of GDP calculated on a nominal basis, 1% of GDP calculated on a purchasing power parity basis) will have made the GDP statistics about the economy look better than actual economic conditions in the country really are.

This is of course always assuming that the statistics are being collected and collated properly, which in countries such as Russia was in the 1990s and such as Ukraine is now they never are.

That Ukraine’s statistics are not reliable has in fact been confirmed by studies of its population statistics, which show massive distortions intended to conceal how bad the country’s demographic situation has become.  There is no reason to suppose that the same distortions do not affect the economic data.

Again the example of 1990s Russia is useful.  It is now generally acknowledged that Russia’s real economy continued to contract every year throughout the period from 1994 to 1998 when Boris Yeltsin’s government and the IMF were claiming to see in the statistics evidence of a ‘stabilisation’.  The truth became clear in 1998 when the whole House of Cards, which was what the Russian economy had by then become, simply collapsed.

The event which precipitated the Russian economic collapse in 1998 was a collapse in oil prices.  The event which averted a total collapse of Ukraine’s economy in the period 2014 to 2015 was also a collapse in oil prices.

The benefits of that oil price collapse have however been squandered.

The Maidan regime used the space the collapse in oil prices gave it to increase spending on the military and to reduce further Ukraine’s economic ties to Russia.

This is the exact opposite of what a Ukrainian government really concerned about the economy would have done.  If Ukraine’s government had really been concerned about stabilising the economy it would have sought a rapprochement with Russia – Ukraine’s obvious energy supplier and the traditional market of its goods – and sought Russia’s help to bring the war in eastern Ukraine to an end.

None of that can however happen whilst the present Maidan regime remains in power since it would represent a repudiation of the Maidan movement’s entire programme, which is to distance Ukraine as far from Russia politically, culturally and economically as possible.

Which brings me back to the cause of Ukraine’s crisis.

Notwithstanding protestations to the contrary made by various people – including by the way President Putin – the issue behind the political conflict which in February 2014 brought the Maidan movement to power was not corruption; it was Ukraine’s relations with Russia.

In 2014 Ukraine’s oligarchs overwhelmingly backed the Maidan movement and bankrolled its protests since they were adamantly opposed to closer relations with Russia but wanted instead closer relations with the West.

This was because – diametrically opposite to what Western commentators say – they were alarmed by the way Putin’s government after 2000 managed to rein in Russia’s oligarchs, and were alarmed that if Russian influence in Ukraine grew so that Ukraine became fully integrated in the Eurasian institutions the same thing would be done to them.

The Western powers backed Ukraine’s oligarchs in 2014 because their entire policy since the USSR broke up in 1991 has been to detach Ukraine from Russia.  This was what the benighted association agreement between the EU and Ukraine – the nominal issue behind the 2014 Maidan protests – was ultimately all about.

It was this mutual opposition to closer ties between Ukraine and Russia which created the commonality of interest between Ukraine’s oligarchs and the Western powers, both in 2014 and earlier, which set the scene for the 2014 Maidan ‘revolution’.

That ‘revolution’ of course needed its foot-soldiers who were to be found in Ukraine’s various ultra-rightist and neo-Nazi groups.  However as The Economist slips out in the article which I have quoted from above, these “private militias….answer to different politicians or oligarchs” ie. they are ultimately controlled by the oligarchs as well.

Needless to say the great majority of Ukraine’s people were not involved in the 2014 events, and based on what I am hearing from people who know about the situation in Ukraine today, they have now become utterly cynical and disillusioned.

To imagine that such a system created as a result of what it is not altogether wrong to call a criminal conspiracy (after all it did result in the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s constitutional and democratically elected government) is capable of carrying out ‘reform’ or ending corruption in Ukraine is beyond fanciful, and it is testament to the seemingly unlimited detachment from reality of some people in the West that they still appear to expect it.

The trouble is that though the people of Ukraine are utterly cynical and disillusioned, the extraordinary violence the Maidan regime can be counted on to use against people who it is able to define as ‘pro-Russian’ makes it all but impossible to see how a change of course can be brought about.

This opens the way for chancers and adventurers like Mikheil Saakashvili to make their pitch, which is what we are seeing in Ukraine now.

Needless to say if Ukraine had a properly functioning political system someone like Saakashvili would be making no impact there at all.  The fact that he is making an impact despite the minimal level of his public support (no more than 2% according to some polls) shows how dysfunctional Ukraine’s political system actually is.

I would add that given how corrupt and politicised the Ukrainian judiciary has become, the fact that a court has now ordered Saakashvili’s release is a sure sign he is getting support from elements within the Ukrainian power system (Tymoshenko? Kolomoisky?) who are hostile to Poroshenko, and who are using Saakashvili as a weapon against Poroshenko.

The victims in all this are of course the people of Ukraine, who are trapped in a nightmare created for them by Western policy in exactly the same way and to the same extent that the people of Libya say are.

No wonder that with their living standards having collapsed and with all hope of things getting better having gone they are now voting with their feet, leaving Ukraine in growing numbers, causing Ukraine’s population to collapse, just as its economy has.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

America’s wars are against American’s interests

War is a racket

Richard Galustian

Published

on

To advocate wars are good is insane!

For one, Afghanistan is about a ridiculously flawed US government foreign policy. it is not about ‘winning’ a war as Erik Prince describes in his video.

There is no reason for the US to be in Afghanistan.

Something Mr. Prince seems to fail to understand the reader can judge by watching Prince’s presentation promoting war.

That said, what Erik Prince explains about the military industrial complex is correct. Weapons purchases must be curtailed.

However more importantly, what he fails to say is America must stop its ‘’regime change policy’ and avoid future wars, is the real issue.

To provoke war for example with Russia or China is absolute insanity producing eventually only nuclear armageddon, the consequence is the destruction of the planet.

Trillions of dollars should not be spent (and wasted) by the Pentagon but that money should be used to build America’s roads; expand railways; build hospitals and schools, etc.

Especially also to pay much needed disability benefits to disabled vets who wasted their lives in past pointless wars from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq et al. Americans soldiers need to ‘go home’.

Withdrawing its unnecessary US bases worldwide; a left over outdated idea from the end of WW11, such as America’s military presence in Korea, Japan, Germany; the Persian Gulf, even in the UK.

Foreign military interventions are adventures pursued by ‘elites’ interests, ‘using’ NATO in most cases, as its tool, only for their (the elites) profit at the expense of ordinary people.

“War is a Racket” to quote the much decorated hero and patriot, US Marine, Major General Smedley Butler.

We can learn from history to understand America’s current predicament.

Brown Brothers Harriman in New York in the 1930s financed Hitler and Mussolini right up to the day war was declared by Roosevelt following the attack on Pearl Harbour.

A little taught fact in America’s colleges and ivy league universities is that Wall Street bankers (with a degree of assistance from the Bush family by the way) at the time had decided that a fascist dictatorship in the United States would be far better for their business interests than Roosevelt’s “new deal” which threatened massive wealth re-distribution to recapitalize the working and middle class of America and build America’s infrastructure.

So the Wall Street bankers recruited the much respected General Smedley Butler to lead an overthrow of the us government and install a “Secretary of General Affairs” who would be answerable to Wall Street, not the people; who would crush social unrest and shut down all labour unions. however General Smedley Butler only pretended to go along with the scheme, then exposed the plot. The General played the traitors along to gather evidence for congress and the president. When Roosevelt learned of the planned coup, he initially demanded the arrest of the plotters but this never happened because Roosevelt was in effect blackmailed by those same US bankers; another story!

Read the words of Major General Smedley Butler who explains what exactly happened.

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service as a member of our country’s most agile military force — the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from second lieutenant to major general. and during that period I spent more of my time being a high-class muscle man for big business, for wall street and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. “I suspected I was just a part of a racket at the time. now I am sure of it. Like all members of the military profession, I never had an original thought until I left the service. my mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of the higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service. Thus I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the national city bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of wall street. the record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-12. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that the standard oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals and promotion. Looking back on it, I feel I might have given Al Capone a few hints. the best he could do was to operate his racket in three city districts. I operated on three continents.” —

General Smedley Butler, former US Marine Corps Commandant, 1935.

We need peace not wars.

We need infrastructure building in America and Europe……not wars.

Somebody should explain this to Mr. Prince, and perhaps to his sister too…..who happens to be part of President Trump’s administration!

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Theresa May goes to Brussels and comes back with a big fat donut (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 39.

Alex Christoforou

Published

on

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Theresa May’s trip to Brussels to try and win some concessions from EU oligarchs, only to get completely rebuked and ridiculed, leaving EU headquarters with nothing but a four page document essentially telling the UK to get its act together or face a hard Brexit.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Via Zerohedge


Any confidence boost that might have followed Theresa May’s triumph this week over her party’s implacable Brexiteers has probably already faded. Because if there was anything to be learned from the stunning rebuke delivered to the prime minister by EU leaders on Thursday, it’s that the prime minister is looking more stuck than ever.

This was evidenced by the frosty confrontation between the imperturbable May and her chief Continental antagonist, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, which was caught on film on Friday shortly before the close of a two-day European Council summit that descended into bitter recriminations. After offering token praise of May’s leadership, Brussels’ supreme bureaucrat criticized her negotiating strategy as “disorganized”, provoking a heated response from May.

Earlier, May desperately pleaded with her European colleagues – who had adamantly insisted that the text of the withdrawal agreement would not be altered – to grant her “legally binding assurances” May believes would make the Brexit plan palatable enough to win a slim victory in the Commons.

If there were any lingering doubts about the EU’s position, they were swiftly dispelled by a striking gesture of contempt for May: Demonstrating the Continent’s indifference to her plight, the final text of the summit’s conclusions was altered to remove a suggestion that the EU consider what further assurances can be offered to May, while leaving in a resolution to continue contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit.

Even the Irish, who in the recent past have been sympathetic to their neighbors’ plight (in part due to fears about a resurgence of insurrectionary violence should a hard border re-emerge between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), implied that there patience had reached its breaking point.

Here’s the FT:

But Leo Varadkar, the Irish premier, warned that the EU could not tolerate a treaty approval process where a country “comes back every couple of weeks following discussions with their parliament looking for something extra…you can’t operate international relations on this basis.”

Senior EU officials are resisting further negotiations — and suggestions of a special Brexit summit next month — because they see Britain’s requests as in effect a bid to rewrite the exit treaty.

Mr Varadkar noted that many prime ministers had been called to Brussels “at short notice” for a special Brexit summit “on a Sunday in November,” adding: “I don’t think they would be willing to come to Brussels again unless we really have to.”

In response, May threatened to hold a vote on the Brexit plan before Christmas, which would almost certainly result in its defeat, scrapping the fruits of more than a year of contentious negotiations.

Given that Mrs May aborted a Commons vote on her deal this week because she feared defeat by a “significant margin,” her comments amounted to a threat that she would let MPs kill the withdrawal agreement before Christmas.

Mrs May made the threat to German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Emmanuel Macron and EU presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk as the two day Brussels summit descended into acrimony, according to diplomats.

“At the point where there is no prospect of getting anything more from the EU, that’s when you would have to put the vote,” said one close aide to Mrs May.

If this week has taught May anything, it’s that her plan to pressure the EU into more concessions (her preferred option to help her pass the Brexit plan) was an unmitigated failure. And given that running out the clock and hoping that MPs come around at the last minute (when the options truly have been reduced to ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’) leaves too much room for market-rattling uncertainty, May is left with a few options, two of which were previously ‘off the table’ (though she has distanced herself from those positions in recent weeks).

They are: Calling a second referendum, delaying a Brexit vote, pivoting to a softer ‘Plan B’ Brexit, or accepting a ‘no deal’ Brexit. As the BBC reminds us, May is obliged by law to put her deal to a vote by Jan. 21, or go to Parliament with a Plan B.

If May does decide to run down the clock, she will have two last-minute options:

On the one hand she could somehow cancel, delay, soften or hold another referendum on Brexit and risk alienating the 17.4 million people who voted Leave.

But on the other hand, she could go for a so-called Hard Brexit (where few of the existing ties between the UK and the EU are retained) and risk causing untold damage to the UK’s economy and standing in the world for years to come.

Alternatively, May could accept the fact that convincing the Brexiteers is a lost cause, and try to rally support among Labour MPs for a ‘softer’ Brexit plan, one that would more countenance closer ties with the EU during the transition, and ultimately set the stage for a closer relationship that could see the UK remain part of the customs union and single market. Conservatives are also increasingly pushing for a ‘Plan B’ deal that would effectively set the terms for a Norway- or Canada-style trade deal (and this strategy isn’t without risk, as any deal accepted by Parliament would still require approval from the EU).

But as JP Morgan and Deutsche Bank anticipated last week, a second referendum (which supporters have nicknamed a “People’s Vote”) is becoming increasingly popular, even among MPs who supported the ‘Leave’ campaign, according to Bloomberg.

It’s not the only previously unthinkable idea that May has talked about this week. Fighting off a challenge to her leadership from pro-Brexit Conservative members of Parliament, the premier warned that deposing her would mean delaying Britain’s departure from the European Union. That’s not something she admitted was possible last month.

The argument for a second referendum advanced by one minister was simple: If nothing can get through Parliament — and it looks like nothing can — the question needs to go back to voters.

While campaigners for a second vote have mostly been those who want to reverse the result of the last one and keep Britain inside the EU, that’s not the reason a lot of new supporters are coming round to the idea.

One Cabinet minister said this week he wanted a second referendum on the table to make clear to Brexit supporters in the Conservative Party that the alternative to May’s deal is no Brexit at all.

Even former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is urging his supporters to be ready for a second referendum:

Speaking at rally in London, Press Association quoted Farage as saying: “My message folks tonight is as much as I don’t want a second referendum it would be wrong of us on a Leave Means Leave platform not to get ready, not to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.”

Putting pressure on Brexiteers is also the reason there’s more talk of delaying the U.K.’s departure. At the moment, many Brexit-backers are talking openly about running down the clock to March so they can get the hard Brexit they want. Extending the process — which is easier than many appreciate — takes that strategy off the table.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has continued to call for May to put her deal to a vote principally because its defeat is a necessary precursor for another referendum (or a no-confidence vote pushed by an alliance between Labour, and some combination of rebel Tories, the SNP and the DUP).

“The last 24 hours have shown that Theresa May’s Brexit deal is dead in the water,” said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. “She’s failed to deliver any meaningful changes. Rather than ploughing ahead and recklessly running down the clock, she needs to put her deal to a vote next week so Parliament can take back control.”

The upshot is that the Brexit trainwreck, which has been stuck at an impasse for months, could finally see some meaningful movement in the coming weeks. Which means its a good time to bring back this handy chart illustrating the many different outcomes that could arise:

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Ukraine’s President Says “High” Threat Of Russian Invasion, Urges NATO Entry In Next 5 Years

Poroshenko is trying desperately to hold on to power, even if it means provoking Russia.

Published

on

Via Zerohedge


Perhaps still seeking to justify imposing martial law over broad swathes of his country, and attempting to keep international pressure and media focus on a narrative of “Russian aggression,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko denounced what he called the high “threat of Russian invasion” during a press conference on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.

Though what some analysts expected would be a rapid flair up of tit-for-tat incidents following the late November Kerch Strait seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and their crew by the Russian Navy has gone somewhat quiet, with no further major incident to follow, Poroshenko has continued to signal to the West that Russia could invade at any moment.

“The lion’s share of Russian troops remain” along the Russian border with Ukraine, Poroshenko told journalists at a press conference in the capital, Kiev. “Unfortunately, less than 10 percent were withdrawn,” he said, and added: “As of now, the threat of Russian troops invading remains. We have to be ready for this, we won’t allow a repeat of 2014.”

Poroshenko, who declared martial law on Nov. 26, citing at the time possible imminent “full-scale war with Russia” and Russian tank and troop build-up, on Sunday noted that he will end martial law on Dec. 26 and the temporarily suspended presidential campaign will kick off should there be no Russian invasion. He also previously banned all Russian males ages 16-60 from entering Ukraine as part of implementation of 30 days of martial law over ten provinces, though it’s unclear if this policy will be rescinded.

During his remarks, the Ukrainian president said his country should push to join NATO and the EU within the next five years, per Bloomberg:

While declining to announce whether he will seek a second term in the office, Poroshenko said that Ukraine should achieve peace, overcome the consequences of its economic crisis and to meet criteria to join the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during next five years.

But concerning both his retaining power and his ongoing “threat exaggeration” — there’s even widespread domestic acknowledgement that the two are clearly linked.

According to The Globe and Mail:

While Mr. Poroshenko’s domestic rivals accuse him of exaggerating the threat in order to boost his own flagging political fortunes — polls suggest Mr. Poroshenko is on track to lose his job in a March election — military experts say there are reasons to take the Ukrainian president’s warning seriously.

As we observed previously, while European officials have urged both sides to exercise restraint, the incident shows just how easily Russia and the West could be drawn into a military conflict over Ukraine.

Certainly Poroshenko’s words appear designed to telegraph just such an outcome, which would keep him in power as a war-time president, hasten more and massive western military support and aid, and quicken his country’s entry into NATO — the latter which is already treating Ukraine as a de facto strategic outpost.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending