Political activity, political impact of social problems and war effects (18.09-28.09 )
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The problems caused by an offensive launched without adequate resources have been aggravated by the recent foreign policy blunders of the Ukrainian government and the international reaction to them.
Zelensky demands for the increase of financial and military aid has obviously become a burden for the US administration, which cannot satisfy them without provoking a heavy criticism from the Republicans. Due to that the Biden administration has to demonstrate that the support provided to Zelensky is not unconditional and the US will request the elimination of corruption in Ukraine as a requirement for the further assistance.
This change of the attitude of the US administration towards the Ukrainian government and lack of the international enthusiasm to Zelensky’s demands to support Ukraine until it wins the war undermine the legitimacy of the Ukrainian government. In Ukraine the domestic acceptance of the government’s authority traditionally depends on the level of international (especially Western) recognition of the government’s actions. The inevitable reaction of the US and the EU to Zelensky’s attempt to dictate his conditions of cooperation and his inability to establish a good governance is paving the way to the political crisis which can be combined with the deterioration on the battlefield due to the Russian counteroffensive.
The most damaging issue for the Ukrainian government seems to be the problem of a wide-spread corruption which cannot be denied because the US administration insist on its immediate suppression.
The US appointed lead inspector general of the Ministry of Defense Robert Storch as the chief controller of aid to Ukraine. He is to take up his new position on October 18 and is supposed to work with the State Department and USAID monitors to oversee how American aid is being distributed and implemented. https://www.obozrevatel.com/ukr/politics-news/milyardi-potrebuyut-naglyadu-scho-stoit-za-priznachennyam-ssha-dekilkoh-kontroleriv-za-dopomogoyu-ukraini.htm?utm_source=wpush&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=webpush
This practice will restrain the Ukrainian government and will be covertly opposed by it.
But despite that the US administration is going to put restrictions on financial activity of Ukrainian authorities in order to soothe criticism of some influential Republicans who has started to show their mistrust and wariness of Zelensky.
This attitude was openly demonstrated by House speaker Kevin McCarthy who refused to allow Zelenksy to address members of the House during his visit to Capitol Hill. It was a completely different reception from the Republicans comparing with the previous visit of Zelensky in December 2022, when he was invited to address the US Congress and was welcomed by both parties. https://edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2023/09/21/mccarthy-zelensky-capitol-hill-2022-now-cnntm-vpx.cnn
Republican hard-liners used Zelensky’s visit as an opportunity to demonstrate their opposition to aid for Ukraine. They publicly demanded answers from the US administration that they say are essential to their decision to agree on more funds for Ukraine and a small group of House Republicans declared that they had voted against the Department of Defense spending bill because it included security assistance for Ukraine. https://thehill.com/policy/4217669-zelensky-mccarthy-suggested-he-supports-ukraine-aid-but-faces-challenges/
It compels the US administration to increase pressure on the Ukrainian government weakening its positions inside the country.
Mike Pyle, the Deputy National Security Advisor to the U.S. President, has sent a letter to the Multi-agency Donor Coordination Platform for Ukraine which was established by G7 in December 2022 in which it was stated that Ukraine should implement a set of reforms in order to receive more international aid. These reforms include strengthening anti-corruption struggle and improvement of the judicial system. https://worldview.stratfor.com/situation-report/ukraine-us-washington-proposes-timeline-ukraine-reforms
It was reported that the same letter was also sent to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and the Office of the President of Ukraine.
In his letter Pyle insists that some of the reforms has to be implemented immediately, within a three-month period.
The list of such urgent reforms encompasses strengthening the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO) (it requires special legislation passed by the parliament) and substantial increase the number of detectives of National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) which should be granted independence and exclusive investigative authority over high-profile corruption matters. The new head of the National Agency for Corruption Prevention (NACP) should be appointed in alignment with OECD standards, which entails complete transparency and independence of the selection process. https://www.pravda.com.ua/eng/news/2023/09/25/7421354
It should be noted the all the aforementioned agencies are controlled by the US administration and their strengthening will inevitably diminish the influenced of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), which is governed by Zelensky’s associates.
The political position of the Ukrainian government has been also undermined by its contradictions with the Polish political leaders, because many Ukrainian citizens expect this dispute over Ukrainian grain export to have repercussions for their friends and relatives who live in Poland.
It should be noted that according to a survey conducted by United Surveys on behalf of Wirtualna Polska 66.1 percent respondents think that the grain crisis has led to the deterioration of relations between Poland and Ukraine. Only 17.7 percent respondents believe that the grain crisis has not worsened Polish-Ukrainian relations. https://wiadomosci.wp.pl/ochlodzenie-w-stosunkach-z-ukraina-polacy-podaja-powod-6945519040408416a?utm_medium=push&utm_source=pushpushgo&utm_campaign=WPWiadomosci-push&utm_content=6514744bda36e406de0fab8b
Poland before the grain crisis broke out had been Ukraine’s greatest political ally and had been regarded in this way by the Ukrainian society. The conflict with Warsaw, which Kyiv could have prevented is going to affect the public confidence in ability of the government to concentrate the efforts on achieving military success.
Now there is a high probability that the Ukrainian government will not be able to avoid or postpone parliamentary and presidential elections, despite that some high-ranking Ukrainian officials connected with the president has been defying the elections until the end of hostilities.
It has been reported that Western officials press Ukraine to hold elections despite war martial law, which was used by the Ukrainian government as a pretext for the postponement. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/09/24/ukraine-elections-war-russia-west/
Meanwhile, the government keeps on making efforts to weaken the local administrations in order to prevent their heads from becoming taking part in political opposition once the political process has been recommenced. The new draft law which was passed through the first reading the parliament is to deprive communities of military personal income tax and considering the government plans for a new mass mobilization the heavy loss of revenues for city budgets should be anticipated. Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klychko who is going to be heavily affected by this law has denounced it and demanded to stop its passage. https://interfax.com.ua/news/general/937118.html
The forecast for potential development of current trends:
- Zelensky will not be able to avoid conflicts with Ukraine’s partners because he needs to demonstrate that the shortage of foreign aid and insufficient military assistance affected the situation on the battlefield and deprived Ukrainian troops of military success. His main problem is inability to openly criticize the police of the EU and the US because of the danger of provoking retaliation. He will have to substitute overt criticism with half-concealed insinuations. It will not allow to achieve a desirable effect domestically and increase tension with international partners.
- If the elections cannot be postponed or avoided the Ukrainian government will try to suppress the political activity of the opposition and prevent the appearance of popular media capable of attacking the president. Ukrainian legislation and political practice should be monitored in order to observe and hinder such actions.
- It should be anticipated that in the upcoming winter the Ukraine is going to face not only challenges caused by the economic collapse and infrastructure destruction, but also political crisis that can be used by Russia to strengthen the impact of its counteroffensive operations.
Recommendation for the European institutions and organizations:
- The Ukrainian government will not be able to avoid a political crisis caused by the undermining of its legitimacy due to the lack of military success and acknowledgment of the wide-spread corruption under the influence of its Ukraine’s Western period. It seems to be necessary to get prepared for the crisis and find the way of its political solution.
- Measures against the attempts to weaken the political opposition should be urgently taken. Otherwise even if the Ukrainian government is compelled to conduct the elections, it will be impossible to implement political changes required to reinvigorate political democracy in Ukraine.