In the context of geography, history and economic factors, Ukraine’s drive for independence from Russia often appears hopeless. Ukraine and Russia are – in many economic sectors – so organically joined that Putin’s 19th-century-style land-grabbing and fomenting of separatism feels almost sensible: Russia cannot afford to allow Ukraine to integrate with Western institutions. Russia’s status as a nuclear power prevents outside powers from enforcing a roll-back of Moscow’s unilateral redrawing of European borders. As the Western response has thus far been short of military intervention, and will likely remain so, optimism does not run high when pondering the fate of the former Soviet Union’s second-most populous republic.
Yet optimism for Ukraine is still possible when pondering Russia’s future. As a raw-material exporter with nothing in the way of finished goods any other country wants except for military hardware, its economy looks set to continue to nose dive as long as Western sanctions are not relaxed. Russia’s currency cannot be maintained at its current rate without further depletion of the country’s hard currency reserves. In this commentary, a Ukrainian writer gives her prognosis for Russia: the “gas station run by the Federal Security Service” will not survive within its current borders beyond 2017. It is at once an ominous and uplifting notion: in the event of a break-up of the Russian Federation, the country’s nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of rogues and terrorists, but at the same time a weakened state that is run by ex-KGB and mafia functionaries would no longer be a menace to the rest of the world. From Ukraine’s Gazeta.ua online newspaper, here is Oksana Zabuzhko…
By 2017 Russia will no longer be standing. Ukrainians have already torn up the check – Zabuzhko
“By the end of 2017, Russia will no longer exist within in its current borders. The main task of the Ukrainian elite is to save the country and carry it between the reefs when the empire falls – to make sure its fragments do not crush us,” says writer Oksana Zabuzhko. Her forecasts and interpretation of the year’s major events can be found in the latest issue of Kraina, 25 December.
“The year of war, including the Maidan, demonstrated that Ukrainians can handle themselves in an emergency situation, ‘horizontally,’ in an absolutely dysfunctional state. But at the same time, we are feeding and maintaining this state. Before, the country was run the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party, and now – by the tax inspectorate. And just as there was no budget transparency before, so there is none now. And until then – until the government is accountable to us for the money spent on the principle of “money on the table” – until then all the talk of reform will remain just that. It’s necessary to create another bureaucratic center for the fight against corruption. This is the same shovel in which all questions had one answer – “select a committee and direct it to establish a plan of work.” We now have to live in a 3D regime and solve problems on multiple tracks at the same time. But even so, we will not be creating any illusions for ourselves: these 23 years should have taught us that as long as we are side by side with this FSB [Russian Federal Security Service – Ed.] empire, we will have no life,” Oksana Zabuzhko says self-assuredly.
“This empire stood and stands on a lie. And any lie is toxic. Everything there is fake, terrible, monstrous theater, a synthesis of the Lubyanka and Hollywood. Peter Pomerantsev has written about this very well, and his book has just been released in the US. The section “Cracks in the Kremlin matrix” had already appeared on the Internet before the war. Pomerantsev worked as a journalist for eight years in Moscow and was a witness to this dramatization of political life in Russia. A Potemkin village – huge, scary, bloody – with Internet and TV. And all of this war – is a dramatized performance. And people do not know what to believe: what is truth, and what is fake, what is dramatization, and what is reality? And they themselves have become the victims of their own propaganda memes: Ukrainians are fools, they do not know how to fight, they have no army. ‘We will invade, and all the girls will be ours.’ And everyone will run to us with bread and bacon. Note: they really believed it. Definitely, we destroyed this scenario for them. We have gained from the fact that they had such poor knowledge of us,” says the writer.
“By December 2017, in three years, the empire will no longer stand, because it has exhausted its resources. This is because it started this hot war. This resource-based empire has no chance of surviving in the 21st century. Plus, the whole concept of energy is changing: oil will never again be at $100 a barrel. There is a reformatting of the world map. I am more than confident that the EU cannot remain in its present form. I simply see how the future of the Baltic-Black Sea zone is becoming defined. Look how the allies of Ukraine are increasing now – Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, Poland, Romania – contrary to the logic of economic cooperation with Russia.
In 2020, the map of Europe will look different than it does now. These lines of division are already visible. Germany, for example, has a many more internal problems than we think. She has far from “licked” her division. All this is a reckoning for the “old” historical diseases. And they only had 12 years of Nazism! The “gas station operated by the FSB” is just playing on its problems. This they can do: put pressure on the problems in each country with an “individual touch.”
On the question of whether the Putin empire has long to go, Oksana Zabuzhko says no. She explains: “We, Ukrainians, have already torn up the check.”