The American Vice President has brought great change to Kiev.
Originally appeared at Interpolit, translated by Mikhail Alexandrovich exclusively for SouthFront
On the 7th of November American Vice President Joe Biden began a 2 day visit to Ukraine, which for him is already the 7th such visit since 2009. His previous visit to an ‘independent’ Ukraine was in last November following the parliamentary elections, when the political powers were unable to agree to the formation of a coalition. This time the purpose of the trip as some analysts believe, was the revision of the situation. During the first day of his trip the Vice President met with Kiev Mayor Vitali Klitschko, as well as a group of ‘reformers and public servants’, only after this that he held discussions with the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, and was later to meet Premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk. On the final day of the trip the American guest for the first time addressed the upper house of parliament.
In ukraine the American politician was eagerly awaited, it was hoped that he could solve at least some of the problems of ‘independent’ Ukraine, such as promising new lines of credit, offering military assistance or becoming a guarantor for Ukraine’s 3 billion dollar debt to Russia. But for now Biden limited himself to a standard statement of support for Ukraine and the need for reform. At the same time another major theme of his communications with his Ukrainian colleagues was the battle against corruption. The American’s advice to Vitali Klitschko was to ‘knock out’ corruption, and he told the public servants that their positions did not allow them to ‘play at giveaway’.
In this context it is noteworthy, that the Governor of the Odessa region Mikheil Sakashvili used the occasion of the Vice President’s visit to openly accuse the Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatsenyuk of corruption, along with other members of the government and various oligarchs in Ukraine. According to Skashvili, their corrupt schemes siphon off at least 5 billion dollars annually, which adds to the other 5 billion annually that government has lost in profit already. Thus, oligarch Rinat Ahmetov earns close to 2 billion through his machinations in the sphere of railroad logistics, and the owner of “Privat” group Igor Kolomoiskiy – another 2.5 billion through his schemes involving “Privatbank” and “Ukrnaftu”. The customs service has underpaid the government by half a billion dollars, the ports another 300 million. And even through the purchases of medicines and armaments they have somehow managed to lose another 100 million.
“The government will make any decision and Yatsenyuk will sign anything, one hand washes the other. Everyone is involved, from the national bank and the government represented by Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, and the MP’s and party bosses. The only loser is the national budget of Ukraine and state enterprises.” – said Sakashvili.
This move has strengthened rumors that the ex-President of Georgia may make an attempt on Yatsenyuk’s seat, who is constantly at the center of corruption scandals. Moreover, many Ukrainian politicians were convinced that Joe Biden had come to personally authorize the reshuffle in the government. Sakashvili – recently stripped of his Georgian citizenship – does not hide his ambitions and says he is ready to become Ukrainian Prime Minister.
At the same time, the Ukrainian edition of “Apostrophe” aired claiming that sources in Poroshenko’s administration say that Biden’s visit was to stave off such a scenario and give protection to Yatsenyuk.
“A long serving model for our cabinet will be developed with the help of our American friends. The question of the Prime Minister will be raised but I do not believe the conversation will go as far as discussing names for specific ministerial posts, and even more so about replacing of ministers. And another thing – with regards to figures that may or may not be close to the government. There may be hints alluding to some figures that need to be wiped off the political map of Ukraine.” – Said the source.
One person who is likely to become such a figure is the ministerial head of the Parliamentary Committee responsible for questions regarding fuel and energy infrastructure, MP from the ‘People’s Front” Yatsenyuk Mykola Martynenko, who was named almost the main culprit of corruption in the cabinet. On December 2nd he lodged with the upper house of parliament a statement of the resignation of his deputy minister for energy, thus – like Yatsenyuk – shielding himself from corruption allegations by using his subordinates. Another candidate to ‘take off’ could be Attorney General of Ukraine Viktor Shokin.
Director of the Ukrainian branch of the Institute of CIS Denis Denisov believes that a certain reshuffle of the Ukrainian cabinet after Biden’s visit is possible but radical changes should not be expected.
– Everyone understands the level of influence of the United States on the situation in Ukraine. The State Department has influence on many issues including on the reshuffle. Today will see a series of meetings at which Biden will raise uncomfortable questions with the president and the prime minister, in particular, about forcing through reforms and dealing with their many corruption scandals.
– Do these questions justify a major reshuffle?
– To answer that is premature. Consultations are being held now on precisely this, to see what can be done and what is possible. People that say that Yatsenyuk’s departure is inevitable after Biden’s visit do not take into account that his party is in the coalition. And if Yatsenyuk is sent into forced retirement the “People’s Front” will leave the coalition. This would mean a de facto collapse of the parliament and new elections, which would be a big destabilizing factor. Is the US prepared for this? Big question.
On the other hand, it is well known – say sources close to the administration of President Poroshenko – that the possibility of the replacement of Yatsenyuk and subsequent reshuffling of parliament are being considered. It is possible to create a new ruling coalition on the basis of Petro Poroshenko’s party and members of the opposition. Provided that the cabinet of Ministers will be headed by Sergei Lyovochkin, the former head of the presidential administration of Viktor Yanukovich. This would be a certain reverence for the South-East of Ukraine, but we understand that it will be very tough perceived in the nationalist environment. However, this is quite a realistic option, which may be discussed by Biden.
Certainly, some decisions will have to be made following Biden’s visit, but it’s too early to speculate that Sakashvili will replce Yatsenyuk as Prime minister. It’s more likely that Yatsenyuk will be left at his post for some time, as – at least for the time being – there is at least some semblance of stability in Ukraine. Everyone understands that Yatsenyuk is a key player in the shadowy corrupt schemes in the country. But this will not interfere with his being left as Prime Minister, as American authorities are guided by considerations of political solidarity, which are not influenced by corruption.
– Why has Sakashvili made his accusations of corruption during the time of Biden’s visit?
– Given that Sakashvili and Poroshenko are allied, it is likely that these actions were given the green light in Kiev. Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk – being no secret to anyone – ha an unpleasant relationship and seldom see eye to eye. With help from Sakashvili the administration of Petro Poroshenko have shone a spotlight on Yatsenyuk’s transgressions, in order to put pressure on him.
This does not mean that Sakashvili’s accusations are untrue. He isn’t the only one exposing the schemes by which Yatsenyuk and those around him carry out a conspiracy of colossal corruption against Ukraine. But, Like I have already said, political solidarity might win out. And Americans might indeed choose to do so – to leave him in his post – and to turn a blind eye to his corrupt practices.
Political analyst Rostislav Ishenko speculates that the purpose for Biden’s visit is much more serious than just a reshuffling of the cabinet.
– If the conversation merely concerned the firing of Yatsenyuk, it could have been done over the phone. Today, the connection is good. I doubt a person as important as Joe Biden would spend his time, fuel and bring an entire delegation just to swap Yatsenyuk for Sakashvili. Especially since any changes would only be possible after December 11th – when the year long term of the government’s program expires. On the 12th of December forever it will be possible to send Yatsenyuk into retirement, Biden or no Biden. The only thing that depends on is the vote of the parliament.
But I don’t see how Skashvili benefits the Americans any more than Yatsenyuk. He is less popular and less authoritative in Ukraine. Neither can he be called any kind of outstanding figure, which encourages investments of money. The Americans can unbalance Ukraine just as easily with either Yatsenyuk or Sakashvili.
– What then is the purpose of Biden’s visit?
Biden represents those in the American elite that have not only political, but also economic interests in Ukraine. The USA have made it very obvious that their interest is to destabilize Ukraine. The IMF and EU have refused to finance Kiev, and there is little will in Washington to do so also. Biden now needs to solve his own problems. Without funding the government will simply collapse, and Biden surely understands this.
He needs to pull not only his own, but also America’s tail out of Ukraine. In order to clean the slate and progress his interests Biden needs to buy some time. In order to buy time it is essential for there to be at least some kind of authority and central governance exists within Ukraine. Biden will be deciding who to back, in order to maintain any kind of stability in Ukraine over the coming one or two months.
– But what happens after?
– Afterward the government ceases to exist. Even such prominent pillars of the regime as Taruta or Firtash, say that the collapse is inescapable. Firtash gives it until the Spring, Taruta – 8 months. The conversation is about a matter of months – not years. Biden has to make his decisions as the castle crumbles around him.
– You mean the formal dissolution of Ukraine?
– And what do you mean by ‘formal dissolution’? Do you require that it be recognised by the UN? In reality the collapse of Ukraine has already happened. Need I remind you that only as far back as 2013 Crimea and the Donbass constituted parts of Ukraine, but it is not so anymore. This process will simply continue until no central authority remains, and in fact no one will be in charge of the country.
– And does such anarchy suit the Americans?
– It is not that it suits them or does not suit them, they have to reconcile their wishes with that which is possible. If they could maintain a unified Ukraine, they would have done so – but it is clear that they can not, so they are dropping it.
Political scientist Aleksandr Dudchak is convinced, that even a change at the top of Ukraine’s political system will make no significant difference.
– It is likely that Skashvili makes such statements in order to skew Biden’s perspective and increase his own standing. I do not think that it will change the situation. Of course US authorities are not unified, and there is some dissent, but in any case any decisions made in Washington will be made without Sakashvili. I don’t rule out, that this demarche is the initiative of the Governor of Odessa.
But in principle, all of these discussion about whether Yatsenyuk will stay in his post or be forced out, are all marketing tricks, where an illusion of elections is being created where no elections exist. For example we’re offered a choice from the left hand, another choice from the right hand, but in reality both of these ‘choices’ stream from the same source. And any discussion of the elections of one person or the other serves as a distraction from the real issues. If the entire parliament was dismissed, in America as in Ukraine – then the situation would change. But changing Yatsenyuk for Sakashvili or Yaresko has no real meaning. It’s just an attempt to assign blame and present the illusion of political change, and Ukraine will continue down the same path it is already on.