Viktor Yanukovych tried to play both EU and Russia but the US had already decided his fate. Rostislav Ishchenko argues that:
- Yanukovych attempted to use Russia’s resources to pay for the integration with the EU
- He was naïve enough to believe that just because he is presenting the West with the whole of Ukraine he will be allowed to stay president
- US and EU wanted free trade agreement with Ukraine to act as the “wormhole” from the US directly into the CIS and make Eurasian Customs Union worthless, thus negating all integration plans of Russia in Eurasia
The text below is an excerpt from a longer essay from Rostislav Ishchenko, a prominent Russian commentator.
At that time [end of 2010], the oligarchic-nationalistic block believed that Russia should be treated as a source of all possible economic preferences, whereas the policy should be geared towards the West. By 2010, the “orange” Maidan team was completely discredited and lacked significant public support. Furthermore, the team had demonstrated total inability to create an acute conflict with Russia (like the one with Georgia) that would have tied up the Russian resources at the Ukrainian direction preventing Russia from interfering with the global affaires.
For that reason, the US did not object against the election of Yanukovich as President in 2010. Washington knew that Yanukovich would try to return to the Kuchma-style policy of multi-vector that presupposed the use of Russia’s resources to pay for the integration with the EU.
At the beginning of 2000s, such policy no longer suited the US, and that was what prompted the coup of 2004. Then Washington no longer needed allies (no matter how loyal and dependent); it needed executors of already made decisions. But in 2010 the situation has changed: the US was pushed to support the Ukrainian multi-vector stance by the general weakening of its global geopolitical position as well as by the growing problems in the American economy. The US no longer had money to support its allies. Now the voiceless vassals were expected to pay for the American policy out of their own pocket.
In the situation of 2010, Yanukovych was the only Presidential candidate suitable for the US. The Yushchenko team (including the present day “heroes" Yatsenyuk and Poroshenko) was completely discredited, and it would require time to restore its image. Timoshenko earned the reputation of been unpredictable and prone to constantly cheat her partners. The only dirt the US had on her (her cooperation with Lazarenko) has already been presented in the Ukrainian media and produced minimal effect. On the contrary, Yanukovych was not only under control of the American agents (the group of Levotchkin-Firtash) but sincerely wanted to “integrate into the EU” by signing the association agreement. Apparently Victor Feodorovitch decided to prove to all who deposed him in 2004 that he was the only one who could “unite Ukraine” reconciling the East and the West. In reality it meant the refusal to honor his election promises and the beginning of the pro-Western policies.
Yanukovych was expected to sign the association agreement that would destroy the Ukrainian industry, completely discredit himself, concentrate everything negative on his own persona and then lose the 2015 elections to the American protégée. To make sure this scenario is followed (in case Yuanukovych refuses to go peacefully), another Maidan was being prepared for 2015.
Yanukovych was naïve enough to believe that just because he is presenting the West with the whole of Ukraine, he would be allowed to get reelected in 2015. To that end, he and his surrounding actively financed and supported Nazi organizations (not only “Freedom” but also “Ukraine Patriot”, UIA-OUN and others). “Dander of fascism” was supposed to unite around Yanukovych the anti-fascist voters from the South-East.
For moderate nationalists and “eurointegrators”, the signed association with the EU was expected to serve as the incentive. Finally, to preserve the loyalty of the majority of the population, particularly those concerned exclusively with their economic wellbeing, it was planned under the pretext of the association to obtain a 15-20 billion credit from the EU, which would be enough, according to Azarov’s calculations, to keep up or even improve the living standards until the 2015 elections.
The plan of Yanukovych was logically perfect. The EU getting its hands on Ukraine – an assest worth trillions – was expected to open up its wallet for a mere twenty billions. Yanukovych and Azarov thought that if Greece received 200 billions, then Brussels could find 20 billions for Ukraine.
The problem was that the US did not plan on keeping in power Yanukovych, who represented the interests of the national industry, and those interests would sooner or later collide with the abstract but unprofitable “European values”. He was supposed to be replaced by completely tame comprador, and the national Ukrainian business was supposed to die out replaced by the European companies.
Maidan instead of the golden key
As result of that 5-year operation, the US would have established in Ukraine by early 2015 perfectly tame and legitimate Russophobic regime. The EU would have the free trade zone with Ukraine, which, first, after the demise of the Ukrainian industry, provided Europe with the 45 million-strong Ukrainian market (albeit with the decreasing buying power but still able to last a while longer), but, most importantly, via the free trade zone within the CIS the EU should obtain the access to the market of all CIS countries, particularly that of Russia. That would have minimized the European losses from the planned free trade agreement between the EU and US that was disadvantageous for the EU. Europe hoped to cover the losses form the free trade zone with the US at the expense of Russia and CIS.
Obviously, the US cared not about the compensation of the European financial and economic losses but about its own geopolitical interests. Most importantly, that free trade agreement acting as the “wormhole” from the US directly into the CIS made the Custom Union [Eurasian Customs Union] worthless and negated all integration plans of Russia in Eurasia. In one hit, the US would restore its political and economic dominance in the world, and the most dangerous American rival – Russia – was expected to pay for it.
That was a very elegant plan, and I can imagine how mad the Washington politicians were when that lummox Yanukovych finally realized that he would never see the European billions to support the social stability and suddenly only three months before the signing of the association agreement postponed the event. Yanulovych thought that he would bargain, get the money, and then sign. To make the EU more amenable, he went to Moscow, in accordance with the old Ukrainian tradition, where the coveted billions were promised to him on much easier terms. Putin tried at the last moment to play the Ukrainian cards he was dealt, that was why the decisions were made quickly and big money was given freely.
In contrast to Yanukovych, people in Washington know full well what the window of opportunities is. All interconnected elements – from the signing of the association Ukraine-EU agreement to Maidan-2015, including the free trade agreement the US-EU – were built into a rigid scheme and coordinated in time. Taking out one block made the whole building come down. As a result, Yanukovych got himself Maidan as early as the end of 2013.