The Interpreter

A special project of Institute of Modern Russia
...in protest of internet censorship in Russia

“Nobody in Europe Needs the Archaic Ukrainian Economy”

A Russian analyst roots for collapse of Ukraine's economy.

Pravda holds this interview with a Russian political analyst. Noteworthy moments — he says Yanukovych is not really pro Russia, he calls Yulia Tymoshenko the “Orange Princess,” and he suggests that the Russians should pull their support for Ukraine, wait for their economy to implode, and then bail them out again. — Ed.


In an interview with Pravda.ru, Konstantin Simonov, a political analyst, spoke about a severe economic crisis, that, in his opinion, is facing Ukraine. “Nobody in Europe needs the archaic Ukrainian economy,” he says.

- What is the position of Moscow towards the situation developing in Kiev? Will they try to negotiate with Tymoshenko?

Moscow’s position should be as tough as it can be, I see no reason now to show any liberalism. We need to face the reality. Ukraine declares a certain European choice, and we have to give them that opportunity, preparing for a new political cycle.

Now the situation looks quite definite. Tymoshenko is the main contender at the upcoming presidential election. Of course, being a seasoned politician, she will have to realize that this is a dangerous path, but the only option for her at the moment, and she, of course, will have to dance to a tune by a notional Maidan, talk about European integration and so on.

What awaits Ukraine now, is quite clear. It’s not about European integration, it’s about the fact that Ukraine now has all the prerequisites for a most severe economic crisis. The only thing that has kept Ukraine afloat was Russian assistance, both direct, i.e. financial, and indirect, through energy.

So, if that hand now is let go, Europe will not save Ukraine, especially considering that Europe doesn’t have any coherent model of economic development of Ukraine. Nobody in Europe needs the archaic Ukrainian economy, and nobody is going to try to pull it out of the crisis at their own expense.

In a situation where the entire south of Europe is engulfed in an economic inferno, and no one there is eager to save Greece, nobody rushes to rescue Spain, and what do you think, they will all rush to save Ukraine, releasing tens of billions of dollars?

I’m afraid that this position will not be supported by the majority, and most of all, I fear that within the Russian leadership a view will prevail that no matter what we we should not abandon Ukraine, we have to support it, we now how to negotiate with Yulia [Tymoshenko], let’s give them loans again – and that would be a mistake.

What I would do, I would seriously consider limiting the economic cooperation of Ukraine, but would prepare a necessary infrastructure in the event Ukraine’s economy collapses, in order to eventually pick up Ukraine, because the situation going forward is predictable. We lost in political terms, which is obvious, so let’s win economically.

Win not in the sense of sponsoring the orange power and helping it get out of the crisis, but to wait for the orange power to pass through the stage of economic collapse, and when the story of Yushchenko repeats itself. He, it has to be reminded, also started out as the leader of the European choice for Ukraine, but ended up with 4% at the following presidential elections, cursed by his former supporters for his inability to organize economic life. Bandera aside, they have to eat, and it’s totally unclear who will feed Ukraine, and we have no reason whatsoever to do that right now.

- I would like to talk separately about the Crimea and Sevastopol. What else can work over there? What are the leverages we have?

We made a huge mistake trying to find some pro-Russian politician who could turn all Ukraine towards Russia – it is not possible. Remember how much enthusiasm there was after the victory of Yanukovych as everyone was saying that now Ukraine will pivot towards Russia, but it was obvious that this was not so.

We were sorely mistaken believing that Yanukovych was some kind of a pro-Russian politician. He never was. He is a Ukrainian politician, which means constant maneuvering and sitting on two chairs – that’s what being a Ukrainian politician means.

Yulia Tymoshenko, by the way, stayed the same, except now she is under pressure by “orange” forces, so she will be forced to move in that direction. She will try to deceive us, she will come here and say “do not worry, it’s was just a maneuver,” and we may buy it.

Speaking of Crimea, we lost a lot of time, almost 4 years, believing in Yanukovych’s pro-Russian sentiment. It was necessary to support the real pro-Russian forces, that would be able to explain that the division of Ukraine into two parts is not some kind of drama, but the only logical way out.

I am convinced that the Ukrainian disaster is not over, it will evolve until Ukraine understands that the only option is to split into two parts and live apart. Some are now promoting the idea, that there is not such thing as two different Ukraines. But they are different and it is yet to show. Even if they manage to preserve the unity, replacing the security forces, it will not solve anything.

Crimea definitely does not want to be placed under the authority of the “Orange Princess”. Now we need to bet on some really pro-Russian political forces that would clearly, without disguises would declare their demands, saying that they are trying to make us follow the choice of western Ukraine, and we believe that you have to ask the Ukrainian people, because now it’s nothing but speculations: this is what the Crimea thinks, this is what Ukraine thinks. Let’s hold a referendum and find out what Ukraine thinks.

These are the forces we need to back, not those oligarchs we used to support, who assured Moscow of their loyalty, while continuing secret negotiations with the West, trying to save their own skin.

- The West is screaming about an unexpected victory for Washington and Europe in their escalated competition with Putin on the geopolitical stage. But isn’t it a Pyrrhic victory?

Europe made a big mistake in Ukraine, but this mistake was manufactured in the USA. Americans came up with a silly theory that “you have to grab Ukraine, because if you will take Ukraine away from Russia, Russia will become an empty shell.”

And Europeans were happy to catch on that idea. Really, that’s the secret! Instead of thinking hard about how to improve relations with Russia. And instead of thinking about how to integrate Russia into Europe, they are looking for ways to make Russia weaker, not realizing that in fact it is only in the interest of the United States that dream about weakening Europe, their economic rival.

And so it is a colossal U.S. victory: once again they managed to play their dirty trick on Europeans, and now Europe must take responsibility for the devastated country of 40 million against the background of the most severe crisis in southern Europe.

Europe has no model to resuscitate Ukraine, has never had, because it was a political approach: let’s grab Ukraine before Russia does, and then we’ll figure out what to do next. That’s what they will have to do now – to figure out what to do with Ukraine. And it is not clear what to do with it. This is a huge problem, and of course, everything is predictable about what Ukraine will be in 3-4 years. We’ve seen that before. Ukraine is a country of political cycles, it goes in circles, it happened when Yushchenko won, for 4 years he was blasted by the Europeans, the same thing will happen now.

Now, of course, there will be euphoria… and then, in 2-3 years, there will be either just an economic crisis or an economic crisis, that resulted from following the European advice. Imagine Europeans come and what would be their advice? Listen, you have some kind of socialism here. How come your energy prices are lower in Russia? You should raise them.

What do you guys think you’re doing, where are the European values? Well, what do you expect, this is a free market, so electricity is 5 times more expensive. So what? Jobs? There’s no work, you are at a competitive market, you have archaic industries, you need a decade to develop them, and for now, guys, sorry, but you have to cut social spending, increase the cost of energy.

And people will clutch their heads. But wait, we are with you, we are Europeans. No, wait a second, you are not Europeans? You are bums. Now you are under an economic quarantine. First build good institutions, and then you can try to join our good company. That’s the way it works. And this will be the moment of truth.

Therefore, for Europeans it will be a serious problem, because unlike the United States, Ukraine is across their borders, not across the border of Texas.

And for Russia, I believe the main task now is to think about what will happen in four years. The worst that can happen it’s we start granting asylum to all these Yanukovychs, Pshonkas and so on. This is the worst case scenario, if we try to clutch on some wreckage. We must regroup, and bet on new political forces in the East, that will say “we want to put the independence of the East on the political agenda, we want to ask the people of Ukraine if they want a federation.” Those are the ones we need to support, not that Yanukovych gang, that somebody in Russia might try to save now. But they should not do it under any circumstances.