Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (17.04-24.04 )
Despite their expectations, Ukrainian authorities did not receive any signs that Ukraine will be able to join NATO soon after the end of the war neither at the at the 11th Ramstein Summit nor during the visit of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Kyiv.
In his remarks to the press before the summit Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told that he wanted to discuss the Ukranian “pathway to victory”. He confirmed that Ukrainian troops are preparing for the counteroffensive promised by President Zelensky. He urged the Western allies to provide military equipment needed for the offensive actions. Kyiv expressed hopes that the Ukrainian forces will be able to obtain air and naval systems, which will allow to sustain a large scale offensive. As Reznikov put it: “The trajectory for us has changed from survival to victory.” https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/ukrainian-officials-seek-pathway-victory-ramstein-meeting-rcna80989
Military success if achieved, would help allow to increase endurance of the Ukrainian society to the hardships of war and secure the positions of the incumbent government in the post-war period. But the level of endurance and continuation of the political stability depend on the obvious success of the expected offensive and its ability to bring the decisive victory. It seems to be unlikely that such goals can be reached, and the Ukrainian government has come to realize it. So it is striving to obtain a strong guarantee that Ukraine will be able admitted to the NATO and the EU in the near future. It will be considered as an important accomplishment by the Ukrainian public opinion and will help to prevent the decline in public support for the President despite the lack of the crucial victory.
During his visit to Kyiv NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg affirmed that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO”, but failed in the setting deadlines for Ukraine’s NATO membership.
The main impediment for Ukraine’s NATO accession seems to be related with its inability to meet the standards required to join the alliance. To obtain such an opportunity the Ukrainian government should demonstrate that the country has a functioning democratic political system. But the incumbent government is trying to use wartime restrictions to eliminate political competition and it will not be able to return even to prewar political practices without significant undermining its positions.
Stoltenberg’s indecisiveness can be also explained by the questions that Ukraine’s membership would raise about the most important aspect of NATO: the alliance’s security guarantee. Under Article 5 of its treaty, NATO members would have to consider the aggression against Ukraine as an attack on their own territory. Meanwhile, the hostilities between Ukraine and Russia might be resumed after period of truce, if a binding peace treaty with Russia has not been concluded. For that reason the member of the alliance can be involved into direct military confrontation with Russia, if Ukraine is admitted to NATO and its members have to come to Ukraine’s aid. Under the current circumstances meaning, given Ukraine is currently at war, this would likely mean an almost certain immediate invocation of Article 5, putting NATO at war with Russia. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/04/20/europe/russia-ukraine-nato-stoltenberg-trip-intl/index.html
Nevertheless, Zelensky has demanded that NATO summit in July should arrange the exact date of Ukraine’s joining to NATO. At a press conference with visiting NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg he said that “it is time to take the appropriate decision”. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/it-is-time-volodymyr-zelensky-to-nato-on-inviting-ukraine-into-alliance-3964997
In his remarks at a joint press-conference Zelensky openly pressed Stoltenberg on arranging a date when Ukraine would be invited to join NATO. The Ukrainian President declared that the current level of relations between Ukraine and NATO should be surpassed and Ukraine needs to be included into the alliance. According to Zelensky, the Ukrainian government considers it to be “a guarantee of Ukraine’s security and a concrete guarantee.” Before it happens Ukraine wants “to have very specific guarantees of security approved in Vilnius”. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/04/20/europe/russia-ukraine-nato-stoltenberg-trip-intl/index.html
But why would NATO put itself at such risk? In his article, this question is asked by Viktor Medvedchuk, one of the leaders of the Ukrainian opposition, who fell under the sanctions of the Ukrainian government and was expelled from the country. Ukraine acts as such a battering ram for the United States against the Russian Federation, in which everyone suffers: both Europe and Ukraine. The NATO power bloc and the United States are the only beneficiaries who, through NATO structures and the military agenda, gain political control over Europe. At the cost of the lives of Ukrainians.
“Now NATO is growing and gaining strength, and Ukraine is burning and burying hundreds of its citizens every day”
If the truce is not established it will inevitably require more efforts to maintain Ukraine’s capability to counter hostile actions of Russia. The Ukrainian economy is going to remain in decline in the foreseeable future and the Ukrainian infrastructure is being destroyed.
Ukrainian minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba beseeched the high representative of the European Union, Josep Borrell, to facilitate the urgent completion of the supplying the second tranche in the amount of 1 billion euros required for the ammunition purchase.
The prolongation of the war will deteriorate the economic and social hardships the the Ukrainian society will be able to tolerate without the being completely confident that the difficulties would be overcome thanks to the Ukraine’s accession to the EU.
Meanwhile, the banning of Ukrainian grain import by some Eastern European countries has raised concerns about the economic consequences of Ukraine’s entry, which were not fully discussed before. If Ukraine joins the EU, restrictions on the export of cheaper agricultural products to other member countries will have to be lifted, which could undermine the markets of other producers. Therefore, the prospect of Ukraine’s entry remains uncertain, despite the anticipations of the Ukrainian public and authorities. https://www.ft.com/content/74bb02a0-a8da-4cd2-8a34-e0a05acbe60f
Without clear prospect of accession to the NATO and the EU, which, as it has become obvious, cannot be assured, the political and social stability in Ukraine will be inevitably undermined.
The threats of destabilization will grow in case of continuation of the war, which can lead to the social unrest even in the war-time.
Politico published an article concerning the possibility of political protest aimed to overthrow the incumbent government (so-called “Maidan”) after the war is ended. High public expectations, will not be fulled, and a desire of the authorities to avoid political reforms will provoke the popularity plunge to Zelensky once the the military threats are gone. It is reminded in the article that the incumbent President suffered a popularity plunge after his landslide victory in 2019 elections, because he failed to act as defender of the common people’s interests against the rich and powerful as he had promised to do during his campaign. In order to retain his political positions, the Ukrainian president tried to turn to autocratic political behavior. And after the war had started he seize an opportunity to rule by presidential decrees and sanction his political adversaries under the pretext of fighting Russian aggression. After the end of the war it will be very hard to persuade Zelensjy in the necessity of the influential political opposition, which would like to oversee his actions and financial assets. Besides, there are certain signs indicating that Zelensky due to the unequivocal support form the US administration and its allies considers himself to be “the number one politician in the world”. So after the end of the war he will not be able to tolerate contradictions from his opponents or make concessions in order to form a functioning democratic coalition. https://www.politico.eu/article/ukraine-war-another-maidan-revolution-dignity-russia-invasion/
Unfortunately, the President’s approach to the Ukrainian orthodox church (UOC) proves that he underestimates the importance of preservation of democratic political process and civil rights.
The clerics and priests of the UOC are being arrested and detained on charges of treason against Ukraine, despite the fact that on May 28, 2022, the UOC declared “full autonomy and independence” from the Moscow Patriarchate. According to the Ukrainian authorities, criminal proceedings have been initiated against 61 Orthodox clerics and priests who were accused in being loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate. The Ukrainian government started to use UOC priests as hostages in war prisoner exchange, even though they remain Ukrainian citizens. Ukraine handed over to the Russian Armed Forces at least two orthodox priests, receiving Ukrainian prisoners of war in return. https://www.agenzianova.com/en/news/ucraina-sacerdoti-russia-prigionieri-guerra/
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- Zelensky is threatened with the political and social unrest both in case of the continuation of the war and its ending without gaining the obvious victory over Russia, which seems to be unachievable under current circumstances. In order to decrease such threats it is necessary to establish the truce as soon as possible.
- The President and his associates are going to keep using the autocratic an autocratic way of ruling, which they managed to adopt during war-time. It should be considered that due to inevitable decrease in popularity even in the case of prolongation of the war, the President will be compelled to grow pressure on his opponents in order to prevent the restoration of political competition.
- If the campaign against the UOC will be ignored by the European parties and political institutions, the Ukrainian government will keep in seeking “internal enemies” and violate civil rights. It can decrease of public support to Ukraine in some European countries.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
- The way to a lasting truce should be found as soon as possible before the social and political unrest in Ukraine caused by economic hardships and unfulfilled expectations has become inevitable.
- The Ukrainian government should be persuaded to stop campaign against the UOC under the threat of public reprimands from European political institutions.
- The political opponents of the incumbent President should obtain an opportunity to express their opinion in the influential European media.