By transferring Crimea to the Russian jurisdiction and interfering in the Donbas conflict, Russia lost Ukraine as a partner state.
All the previous attempts to involve Ukraine in the Russian integration projects (for example Single Economic Space, signed by Kuchma in 2003, but not ratified by parliament), buy the elite with profitable trade arrangements and shared transnational business, scare the society with the «break of family ties» and «the war of brotherly nations» threats have gotten them nowhere. And if during the Kravchuk-Kuchma period it was «Ukraine is not Russia», during the presidency of Poroshenko and Zelensky it became «Ukraine is anti-Russia».
Maidan-2014, war and mass support of Zelensky radically changed composition, quality and motivation of the political elite. Huge amount of an already thin Ukrainian budget is spent on military, security structures and maintenance of the support that is (sort of) received by Ukraine. The role and weight of the administrative-security machine, as well as the incomes of the new bureaucracy in the condition of the de facto mobilisation, grew immensely. Large business and entrepreneurship found themselves under the tax, administrative and ideological heel of new militarised bureaucracy and political management, that preserved its place and got its «share» only if they are loyal, obedient and are «team players».
Especially, this characteristics of a new «military-bureaucratic state» revealed themselves during the rule of President Zelensky, who, being a civil and artistic person himself in the past, became an authoritarian leader, ignoring the law and using repressive governing methods in several months ( decisions of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine).
A majority of the current Ukrainian «political class» representatives are aiming for a new, post-oligarch reorganisation or in other words - «secondary primary capital accumulation». Authoritarian policy, «military-bureaucratic state» mechanisms and a high level of dependancy of domestic decisions on foreign influence (governments and secret services, creditors, diplomats, consultants) appeared to be a good mechanism for pushing old elites away form budget resources, licences and assets.
However, while trying to get the piece of the cake, they don't think about the consequences of their actions.
The old oligarchy, that was grown during the Leonid Kuchma's presidency, have controlled the state for two decades. They were adjusting to new situations and to every and each political consumer gaining power. A corruptively corroded, but stable mechanism of governance and control of the main national assets and resources has been created during this time. As paradoxical as it may be, it ensured a relative economic sovereignty of Ukraine: a difficultly penetrated domestic market and «empty» stock market, absence of the land market and perseverance of the state monopoly deterred foreign investors, which means - deterred transnationalisation of the whole economic structure.
The last Maidan (2014), war and a deep crisis in Ukraine «opened a door» for a compulsory transnationalisation.
By means of forced privatisation, creation of land market, «dispossession» of large capital under «deoligarchisation» flag. Exactly what is happening now.
The corridor of possibilities for Ukraine is narrow. The prospects of a deep integration into the western structures (EU and NATO membership) are only declarative. The verification of this are numerous announcements and interviews of western politicians in the context of the June 2021 summits series in the West.
Reverse and convergence with Russia, amidst war and strengthening of separatist republics (Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics) as «new national Russian states» with a de facto double citizenship in Russia - is also not possible. For Ukraine, Russia and eastern border - is a rim, a large information and military «trench», which is used by Ukraine to separate itself from Russia. This is where the image of a «wall» that has become a political symbol of this division long ago is coming from.
The western border of Ukraine is also experiencing tension: passports distribution among Ukrainian citizens by Romania and Hungary is happening on the same scale as in the east. A growing dependancy from Poland (primarily labour migration, more than 1 million workplaces and tens of thousands students in Polish universities) results in a growth of polish cultural and information policy influence on Ukraine.
In this context, it is possible to evaluate and describe approaches, that are taken towards Ukraine by different players. Same as approaches that are dominant in Ukraine itself.
- In the eyes of the «nuclear Europe», Franco-German duet, Ukraine could become something like a «Euro-Asian shoulder» for a further expansion to the east. To the «common space» on the continent, that has been discussed for 15 years by EU and Russia on the «Petersburg forum» and other political-intellectual platforms. But this prospect is blocked by Donbas war and annexed Crimea. An emerged Ukrainian-Russian division deepens, and Ukraine lacks political-economic elite, capable of compromise on the continental question. At leat currently and in the middle-term perspective.
- Russian politics turned from games with political elites of Ukraine to an information and cultural expansion on the society itself. Russian government will no longer try to buy separate political groups, that in its majority appear to be little thieves and narcissists, but bets on the victory in geocultural war for social capital. Meaning, for the part of Ukrainian society that at the time of statehood crisis, a distinctive oppression to «foreign governance», can once again support the «electoral revolution» with the ideas of independency, neutrality and pragmatism. However, it will be a long time before the situation will take place, while risk of the domestics instability with unpredictable consequences is still high. It is safe to say that Crimea annexation and Donbas war lessons have not been learned.
- In the BritAmerican project Ukraine is one of the outposts of the Pax GlobalWest, deeply integrated in the Central European project of the «buffer zone». The Three Seas Initiative (liquefied gas supplies, natural gas storage, port infrastructure, gas transportation and new logistics), «sewing together» Central Europe into one energetic hub, looks attractive. But under one crucial condition - if the USA will get their share on the European market and will negotiate this deal with Russia and Germany. What will be the conditions for both parties - the question remains open.
- The scenario of a forced foreign political «projectionism» (devotion to unrealisable projects) that could compensate for the emerged vacuum of prospects and domestic threats of localisation with sprawling is not to be ruled out. Real possibilities for such a «projectionism» - are in the same borders of Central Europe and in an ungrateful role of a «trench» in a «buffer zone». Here, Ukrainian politics has a support, and not only declarative. It is coming from both partner neighbours and BritAmerican Atlantic alliance.
The declaration of «Lublin triangle»
establishment in autumn 2020 (Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania) can be viewed as not only symbolic, but as a declaration of a deeper political-economic integration. The image of The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth-2 is justified. The vacuum of the future, which is currently very prominent in the Ukrainian society, and a deficit of new, intelligible utopias, fear and resentment of Russia, trauma of loss in the east of Ukraine may be filled with this project for some time.
The «Lublin triangle» may become a new fetish for Ukraine's entering the European community, a formula for advocacy and a step-by-step integration into the EU.
All three participants - Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania - are adhering to the position of a «buffer zone», which is fine by BritAmerican alliance. Thus, the possibility of the «Lublin triangle» being promoted as a new geopolitical formula of «friends confederation», core of the Central Europe with political, military and ideological components, shouldn't be ruled out.
Will this «projectionism» become a real historical exit, finalising the Ukrainian -Russian division? Doubtful. The ghosts of the past, same as troubles of the present, may only catalyse new crises in Ukraine - on cultural, regional and geopolitical grounds. Especially given that such a turn will help Russia in its fight for «soviet heritage», primarily in those regions and social groups of Ukraine where the «soviet historical memory» is strong.
5) Currently, Ukraine has a dominating policy - of a «lonely trench»,
with a regular army, «territorial defence», «partisans» and aggressive national-patriotic propaganda. However with a risk to be left one-on-one with a further molecularisation of impoverishing society and a prospects of a «wedding in Malinovka» ( a USSR movie famous for its tragicomic portrayal of disorder and anarchy). An administrative and budget decentralisation (with no real self-government mechanisms) and land market establishment became a powerful stimuli for territorial localisation. Soon, after one electoral cycle, political Center will face a new quality and new arrogance of regional political elites, who will not follow the rules of the game of «national parties» and nomenclature lists and will demand new autonomies - economic, cultural and administrative. At least.