Originally appeared at Life, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
Political scientist Dmitry Drobnitsky on the fully exhausted twenty-five year Ukrainian independence experiment.
In the Western political lexicon there is a concept called “failed state”.
The Russian language does not have an exact translation of the term. Sometimes they talk about the insolvent (failed) state, sometimes about the state loser. Well, among themselves the political scientists, as a rule, will use the English term.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica gives the following definition of failed state: a government, unable to fulfill two of its main functions, protects its boundaries and exercise its authority throughout its territory.
In the 19th century, the German philosopher and sociologist Max Weber defined failed state as a government unable to keep the monopoly of legitimate application of force within its borders.
Today these definitions are considered too narrow, because in addition to purely law enforcement functions of the state it has many other tasks and obligation, their nonfulfillment will objectively make it a “loser”.
The American think tank “Fund for Peace” a few years ago created an index of “insolvent states”, which are defined by twelve parameters, from the condition of the economy and demographics to criminalisation of government structures and the degree of division of the elite. Every year Foreign Policy publishes a list of 178 countries, ranking them based on their proximity to a status of failed state.
This list has often been rightly criticised for being too subjective and politicised. Moreover, many experts considered the index of “Fund for Peace” irrelevant to the essence of the term “failed state”. For this, in 2015 the index was renamed. Today it is called the indicator of “fragility”.
It is unlikely that anyone will argue with the fact that the first position in the list is correctly occupied by Somalia.
From the end of the 20th century the term “failed state” can no longer be scientifically dismissed. On the contrary, the term is of great practical significance. With an insolvent government, other countries do not treat it as a full-fledged member of the world community. If the government is not subjective, unstable and unable to keep its word, money will not be invested in it, agreements will not be entered into and no business will be done. And even sovereignty and territorial integrity of such a government are not considered sacrosanct.
Of course in the constitution of the UNO and other international organisations there is no such understanding. And it is obvious why. Too many opportunities are opened up for abuse and unfriendly actions.
However governments and diplomats of many countries readily use the term failed state. And it is understandable why as well. After all, a failed state is not necessarily not to protect, or even to notice. And, even more so, to take into account the opinion of its rulers.
No one for the longest of time has paid any attention to Somalia, except for the rare anti-pirate raids, which, frankly speaking, the government of this much-suffering African nation does not ask for a resolution.
If any neighbouring state and group of states divided between them the territory of Somalia or introduced troops and placed there a puppet government, and it would provide stability in the region, no one would object.
In 2006-09 Ethiopia tried to so something similar but without success. Ten years previously, American and then the other divisions of the UN peacekeeping forces left. It is very difficult to help a country that cannot help itself. So Somalia was simply forgotten.
But that is far-away Africa. It seems that in 21st century Europe such a thing cannot happen.
Alas it can.
When the disgraced deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Oleksandr Onischenko fled the country and gave the dirt on President Poroshenko at the disposal of the US Department of Justice, I think, he was very well aware of what he was doing.
He in fact gave the American leadership more proof that the “young Ukrainian democracy” is Somalia in Eastern Europe.
And the timing was well chosen: in Washington the Trump transition administration already has access to all documents of all departments. In contrast to the Obama administration, to which the “young Ukrainian democracy” had an important ideological meaning, the new landlord of the White House will only need a reason to get rid of the corrupt customers of Joseph Bidden and Victoria Nuland.
Already in his election campaign Donald Trump repeatedly said that Ukraine is a European problem. If Brussels wants to carry this baggage without a handle, let it carry it. The US distraction in the failed state of Ukraine will be minimal, if at all.
The signs abound on the Ukrainian government’s insolvency.
According to Max Weber’s criteria, a variety of paramilitary groups act in parallel with official government groups, and in certain regions they were replaced a while ago.
The conditions of the economy are appalling. In fact, Ukraine is holding on only thanks to the US and IMF financial help. The Washington and IMF terms for loans are constantly violated.
Kiev is required to reform and to restrain the corruption as well as austerity measures. None of it, it seems, is possible to achieve. The fight against corruption is possibly only a sham, since all the political elite is involved in the illegal schemes. Reforms are not possible because they are unprofitable for the oligarchs that support (or tolerate) the new government. And the austerity measures lead only to growth of discontent of ordinary Ukrainians.
All this is well known in Washington. And not only from American emissaries, plying between Ukraine and the USA. It was frequently and written quite thoroughly by reputable American publication as early as 2014.
The experts were not listened to, but the matter simply did not go beyond persuading Petro Poroshenko and his ministers. In the most critical moments Nuland and Biden visited Kiev and were resolving the situation on the ground.
But nothing changed systematically. Money in the meantime to help the Ukrainian authorities was regularly allocated.
At first from Russia’s neighbouring state they wanted, it seems, to make a kind of exhibit of achieving liberalism, a billboard of some sort for the Russians. Look, they say, a similar country to yours, and how people live! See how it is important to listen to all instructions from Washington!
Afterwards, when the situation in Ukraine went sour, its power was supported more by inertia and a reluctance of “to do a favour” to Vladimir Putin.
The Ukrainians failures were more frequently blamed on the “war with Russia”. However this argument is a time bomb. The fact is that even if any other country is involved in the territorial losses and economic failure, the government that is not capable of solving these problems independently, is still considered a failed state.
Not the loss of Crimea, or the civil war in the East of the country, none of it strangles the Ukrainian government as corruption.
The well-known American analyst Mark Pfeifle working in 2007-09 as a national security advisor of the US, in the pages of the journal Foreign Policy actually brought a verdict on Kiev:
“The new President (of the USA) must learn to tell the difference between real Ukrainian reformers from those who made the anti-corruption campaign their own profitable business. He will also have to work hard to distinguish true readiness to act from empty promises. If this does not happen, then the twenty-five year Ukrainian independence experiment will completely exhaust itself.”
But here is the question: will Trump engage in Ukrainian affairs? Why would he learn to distinguish between one set of representatives of the Kievan elite from others? Alter all they were all clients of his recent opponents.
In the administration of the elected 45th president of the US there is a lot to do. In his first 100-days plan there is not a word about Ukraine, especially about learning to understand the Ukrainian political and economic mess.
Isn’t it why he skilfully avoided a meeting with Petro Poroshenko in New York in September of this year?
And when among other papers on the table in front of Trump will be laid the report from the Department of Justice on corruption in the highest echelons of power in Ukraine, Big Donald, I think, will be relieved.
And he will admit the obvious – that Ukraine is a failed state, with all its ensuing consequences.
In the long run, there is only one question remaining: when it will happen, how many days or months will be needed for the new president of the USA to read the documents prepared for him on Ukraine and close the financing of the “twenty-five year experiment”.