Alexey Albu: The West, Ukraine’s economy, & Maidan’s ideological crisis

By Dmitry Rodionov (excerpts)

On August 3 in the Verkhovna Rada [parliament] of Ukraine, Nadiya Savchenko began a hunger strike to protest delaying the release of prisoners. “The hunger strike will continue until there is a positive outcome,” she promised reporters a day earlier.

It should be noted that in less than three months since Savchenko returned to Ukraine, she has managed to make a number of controversial statements and initiatives. So, the former volunteer pilot for the punitive Aidar Battalion spoke of the need for direct talks with the leaders of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, offered to abandon anti-Russian sanctions, advocated legalization of economic relations with the Donbass, and even called on the government to “apologize to the mothers who lost their children on both sides of the conflict – otherwise the war will not stop.”

The statements by the People’s Deputy can be considered outrageous only in terms of the “post-Maidan discourse” dominant in Ukrainian society. From the point of view of common sense, you can describe what Savchenko suggests as the only way out of the protracted Ukrainian crisis. However, “post-Maidan discourse” is not simply dominant, but the only one permitted in today’s society. Not surprisingly, some of Savchenko’s recent fans immediately turned against her, and some politicians have even called for depriving her of the title of Hero of Ukraine and her parliamentary mandate, alleging that she is “the Kremlin’s Trojan horse.”

Savchenko said there is a need for political change in the country. In particular, she expressed the need for reform of the dictatorship. According to her, it is necessary to change the powers of the president, the structure of the country, rewrite laws to act for the people, and fight corruption. She has also repeatedly declared her readiness to become president or minister of defense of Ukraine.

Savchenko’s statements sharply contradict many growths which Maidan left on the political life of the country. At the same time, they do not go beyond “post-Maidan discourse,” according to which the Yanukovych government was criminal, his overthrow was a “revolution of dignity,” while Russia is the “aggressor, which illegally annexed Crimea” and is “leading a war against Ukraine in the Donbass.” However, her statements are a response to the popular desire for a complete reboot of the current authorities. …

Alexey Albu
According to the expert of the Institute of Innovative Development and former deputy of the Odessa Regional Council Alexey Albu, Savchenko, in her statements, indicates real problems in Ukrainian society, in a rather rigid and categorical way.

Alexey Albu: Any statements made by politicians are aimed at attracting supporters or worsening, in varying degrees, the reputation of their opponents. Savchenko is no exception, like any politician who seeks power.

As for whether she herself will become an alternative to the current government – it’s too early to say, but every day she scores political points. To the politically aware, it’s obvious that Savchenko is trying to separate herself from the explicit far-right segment of society, and attempts to flirt with political opponents of the anti-fascist and pro-Russian camp. Yes, what Savchenko says today is not comforting to the political elite of Ukraine. But her statements are quite successfully enhancing her popularity, while not rejecting the ideas for which she fought in the East.

Dmitry Rodionov: How great is the pressure in Ukrainian society to reboot the regime?

AA: Ukraine is really at an impasse. Living standards have fallen catastrophically. The country is mired in a permanent conflict among the various political groups, and a reboot is really necessary. But we understand that politics is the concentrated expression of economics, and that if you do not change the economic model of society, then no reboot is possible. Every politician represents the economic interests of one or another economic group, and is engaged in lobbying or business protection. Huge resources are needed to achieve power, so politicians often are not independent figures. Full political independence is a rarity under capitalism. So, talking about a political reboot, I do not think it is possible without rebooting the economy. There may be partial fixes to the system, but not a transition to a new, more progressive stage of development …

DR: Is the West really the only point of support for modern Ukraine? What’s in store for Ukraine if there are changes to the West: for example, if Trump comes to power in the United States, or Eurosceptics in the leading countries of Europe? How much is Kiev ready to respond to these changes?

AA: I strongly believe this version a change in the political situation in the West is not in store for Ukraine. Fundamental changes are not in the offing, because the West has its interests here, and they will not change with the arrival of new leaders in Germany or the United States. Some bargaining is possible, but not a complete surrender of those interests. Thus, some experts put forward the argument that recognition of Crimea under Trump would only happen in case of Russian concessions in other areas — such as the complete surrender of Ukraine and refusal to support pro-Russian forces, or the surrender of Assad in Syria.

So much for the pro-Western path, with which I fundamentally disagree. However, also I don’t think that joining the Customs Union is a panacea for all ills of the Ukrainian economy. I am firmly convinced that Ukraine’s economy can only be saved by the nationalization of large enterprises, as well as a return to the system of planned economy. But this is not possible while the power in Ukraine is fully controlled by the oligarchs.

DR: Many Kiev officials now aggressively call Trump very insulting epithets. How will they behave if he suddenly becomes president?

AA: Yes, many of the current leaders of Ukraine are oriented towards Trump’s opponents, but if he wins — they will try to establish a dialogue with the new U.S. administration. 

Ideologically, Trump is very close to the current leadership of Ukraine. He speaks about the same things which Maidan stood for: preservation of the capitalist system, discrimination based on religious or ethnic grounds, reduction of the public sector of the economy. So if the man in the street, who supports the Ukrainian government, took the pot off his heads and tried to understand what was happening, he would experience cognitive dissonance.

DR: What, in your opinion, is required to break the current ideological crisis? Will it require external pressure or will Ukraine be able to overcome it herself?

AA: As I already said, politics is a reflection of economic processes. Therefore, to reboot politics, you need to solve the problem of the power of the oligarchs. And this should be the main idea of ​​ today’s Ukrainian society. But that is possible only when a political entity emerges in the country which will fight against the oligarchs and those who are fed from their hands – the nationalists — not only in words but in deeds. Perhaps even with arms in hand. Only then is it possible to change the whole system. …


Translated by Greg Butterfield

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