6 Ways For Ukraine To Win Over Russia

Mariupol, East Ukraine after intense shelling of residential neighborhoods that killed 30 on January 24, 2015. Photo: Hromadske.TV

By Tymofiy Mylovanov, co-founder and member of the Editorial Board of VoxUkraine; Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh

An offensive in the East of Ukraine launched by Russian troops and Russian-backed separatists, and shelling of Mariupol, exacerbates disillusion of Ukrainians with lack of fundamental changes. writes VoxUkraine’s Tymofiy Mylovanov in his op-ed.  He urges, that it is becoming evident that the Ukrainian government is not up to the task of stopping Russia. In order to win, Ukrainian public, business and government should jointly undertake several simple non-military steps to show that Ukraine is gone to the West forever and that there is no going back, regardless of how hard Russia tries, Mylovanov suggests.

Over the last several days, Russian troops and Russian-backed separatists have launched an offensive in the East of Ukraine, taking Donetsk airport and shelling Mariupol. Ukraine has sustained losses and and lost territory. In Mariupol, rockets landed in densely populated neighborhoods (see videos here and here), killing and wounding scores of civilians.

These recent barbarian attacks, together with the history of Russia’s actions over the last year, leave no doubt that Russia will stop at nothing in order to destabilize Ukraine and bring it back under its influence. Russia is ready to sustain loss of life, both Ukrainian and Russian citizens, sanctions and economic crisis, and international isolation.

In order to survive, Ukraine must stop Russia. Victory over Russia must become the highest and the only priority for Ukrainians. A year ago, Yanukovych regime collapsed only because Ukrainians had committed to victory over Yanukovych. The enemy Ukrainians face today is much more formidable, but it has become clear that negotiations, treaties, and deals will lead to nowhere and the enemy will not stop until Ukraine ceases to exist.

It is also clear that Ukrainians cannot expect meaningful support from the West and the international community more generally. Diplomatic statements will be issued, UN Security Council meetings will be called, legislative acts passed, and more promises of financial and other aid given. Yet, almost a year into the military conflict with Russia, Ukraine is still to receive substantive military and economic support from other countries. Unfortunately, in its fight with Russia, Ukraine is almost on its own.

Let’s also be honest to ourselves and admit that the Ukrainian government is not up to the task of stopping Russia. The government does not control the course of events, myopically focusing on immediate and urgent problems, and postpones developing its capacity and conducting fundamental reforms. It is not even clear if the leaders of the country understand what’s required of them – the government has failed to communicate to the public any clear ideology or systemic approach required in the times of this crisis. In short, the leadership of the country does not lead.

More than that, the government and the parliament are losing legitimacy and public support, which further limits their ability to influence the events. Ukrainians are becoming disillusioned by lack of fundamental changes, absence of investigation into the murders on Maidan and in Odesa, slow, if any, prosecution of corrupt officials, accusations of new corruption, blatant violations of the rule of the legislative process in the Parliament, and alleged infighting within different branches of the government. The business is worried about increased tax burden, collapse of the financial system, and possible default.

What should Ukraine do to win? First, we start by getting clear that Russia’s goal is to force  the Ukrainian government into submission or replace the current Ukrainian government with another government it can control. More generally, it would like to teach the Ukrainian public that they should give up and that democracy and the prospect of joining the EU in the future is not on the table.

In order to win, Ukraine should convince Russia that it is has become a true and stable pro-EU democracy and that there is no going back, regardless of how hard Russia tries. Simultaneously, Ukraine should provide economic incentives for Russia to end the conflict.

These are 6 steps for Ukraine to prevail over Russia, and most of them are not military ones:

  1. Ukrainian public should continue to insist on transparency of the Ukrainian government so that secret deals between Russian regime, oligarchs in Ukraine and Russia, and Ukrainian government become impossible. (A year after Maidan, where is the transparency and accountability of the Naftagaz activities? Why was the 2015 budget prepared in secrecy and passed with such urgency? Why doesn’t the government communicate its anti-crisis strategy, if it has any, to the public?)
  2. The government should bring in the government, agencies, military, etc., as many Western-leaning, Western-lived, Western-trained professionals as humanely possible, and fire, without hesitation, most or all of the old guard.
  3. Sell the assets of interest for Russia to the Western companies (think pipelines, large manufacturing, critical military production lines, etc.), weaken the business prospects of Russia-leaning oligarchs, introduce visas and prohibitive import/export duties with Russia, and provide incentives for the businesses to reorient themselves to the West.
  4. Default on Russian bonds and sue Russia in English courts for being a vulture creditor. Restructure the rest of the financial obligations excluding Russia from the bargaining table.
  5. Arrest and prosecute, or at least fire for incompetence and inaction. It is the time of war!
  6. Do substantive reforms – clean up Naftogaz; negotiate EU buying gas at Ukraine-Russian border; give Europeans a stake in transit facilities (truba); secure general property rights in Ukraine; address systemic risks due to the loss of assets in the East; focus on the security of the financial system; cut inefficient spendings and reduce taxation burden; open up markets for FDI in all possible ways and close the markets for oligarchs and Russians; cut privileges everywhere; provide security to vulnerable; increase salaries in the government to attract pros; outsource every function possible to the foreigners – judicial, privatization, etc; change legislation to make it easier for the US and other authorities to prosecute corruption using foreign legal systems; allow the public to sue the government for corruption; and sue oligarchs in foreign courts.

Ukrainians must rise united and face the aggressor, as they did a year ago, without waiting for the West or the government, and show the world that the Russian King is naked.

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16 Responses

  1. David says:

    Dear Tymofiy Mylovanov,
    What you have said about the failure of the leadership is true. I think that the biggest failure of the ukraine leadership is the war. They should not have tried to fix the opposition in the east by sendind the army.. Those who start a war will soon or later pay a price. More over you have a big neighbour called Russia. The should have first show that they deserve to lead by bringing reform, transparency, getting rid of corruption. Send the army was the biggest fault.

  2. Joe Smith says:

    To summarize your article, stack your government with foreigners who have no loyalty to the Ukraine, sell off state assets at fire sale prices, default on Russian bonds, based on english law that was written to block corruption etc. You sound like one of Nulands pet neocons, but no visa to EU or US for you.
    With suggestions like yours, no wonder the Ukraine is losing against Russia.

    • Dmitriy Bernasovskiy says:

      Joe Smith — As opposed to what? Continue having it stacked with pro-Russian officials like it has always been?

      Ukraine needs as many westerners as possible right now, to help clean out corruption and the old ways, because guess what…most people in the Ukrainian government are stuck in the old way. Nothing wrong with asking for help.

  3. Darby Freeman says:

    The article makes a lot of sense. The future for Ukraine is toward the west. The past is to the east. The sooner Ukraine disengages from kleptocratic petrostate Russia the sooner it become a modern European country.

  4. Martin Meyer says:

    @ Joe Smith, I am a foreigner but I would be loyal to Ukraine. I am sure there are many more people like me. And its “Ukraine” not “the Ukraine”. Asshole.

  5. Owl says:

    He’s right. In view of Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its vandalization of two other provinces, its pirating of the Ukrainian fleet, and its causing the deaths of 5,000 Ukrainians, it is clear that Ukraine’s damages against Russia vastly exceed any claimed debts owed for past gas sales or other loans. Therefore, Ukraine should declare its debts to Russia null and void, and the West should declare it a just action, not a default. If Russia cuts off its gas in retaliation, Ukraine can send a couple of divers to the Baltic with 50 kg of explosives and break open the Nordstream pipelines (it’s easily done, they are in less than 60 m of depth.) And please don’t say such an action is too radical. If Russia goes around killing people and smashing up tens of billions of dollars worth of property, it can hardly expect not to see its delicate pipelines broken in return. Good luck in getting the salt water out afterwards, Vladimir Vladimirovitch.

    • EvanLarkspur says:

      Yes. It’s long past time for this war to become desperately expensive for Putin. If the west won’t help Ukraine with simple things like effective anti- tank weapons and secure communications, not to mention satellite data of enemy movements, Ukrainian saboteurs need to begin taking this war to Putin themselves. It is also quite easy to make nighttime streets in Donetsk, Gorlivka and Luhansk an absolute graveyard for any terrorists moving about in groups smaller than 5. The chaos the terrorists have created there can most certainly be used against them by partisan warriors.

    • Phyrexian says:

      Gee, are you really want to pave the way for occupation of whole Ukraine?

      You have to be a realist. Ukraine can’t play tough with Russia as it will only hasten its demise.

  6. Barrie Hebb says:

    The underlying problem with this article is that the author forgot to take into consideration the most important factor, the people living in Ukraine. I fail to see how any or all of these six steps will benefit the people of the country, in the short term, medium term, or longer term. There is no overall stated set of objectives, such as social well being or welfare, impact on wages, employment or any other set of dimensions I think most people would consider to be “positive” outcomes, nor any statement as to how these steps are the best out of a set of strategies to achieve them. weakly, poorly written, but I suspect it will simply satisfy anger rather than be part of any serious approach to improving the lives of people in the region.

  7. Pawel says:

    Point # 4: “Default on Russian bonds and sue Russia in English courts for being a vulture creditor. Restructure the rest of the financial obligations excluding Russia from the bargaining table.” can be extremely effective. A default combined with a lawsuit in an international court would be both economically effective and would make it impossible for Europe and US to ignore the causative role of Mr. Putin. I would also consider a separate lawsuit regarding the reparations for the conflict-related damages.
    One of the key problems problems with the European policy towards this conflict is lack of a clear definition of the role of russia and Mr. Putin personally as the aggressor. The situation is extremely similar to the conquest of Czechoslovakia by Mr. Hitler in 1938. In both cases, the political elites in France and UK felt that it is possible to satisfy an inetrnational Bully by sacrificing a smaller nation. Well the key sacrifice of 1939 was the post WWI world order and the principle that one country is not allowed to claim the territory of its neighbors. By allowing Mr. Putin to have his way in Ukraine, the free worls will sacrifice the principles whcih kept this world in a (relatively) good shape for the past 60 years.
    We already failed to do anything about Georgia. Do we believe that Ukraine is going to be the final stop. Or Moldova perhaps? Baltics? Or the reconstruction of the Soviet Empire within its 1988 borders, including Bucharest, Praque, Budapest, Warsaw and Berlin?
    The world badly needs clarity on this issue ….

    • Pawel says:

      … In other words: do we take seriously the stated goal of Mr. Putin of creating the Eurasiatic Union, which would stretch from Lisbon to Vladivostok, perhaps better said, from Vladivostok to Lisbon, and what does it mean to Russia, Europe and the World.

  8. PorKoshenko Ukr Pres says:

    hard to think author doesn’t know that
    for holy mother Russia no matter the price
    when problem is Ukraine

    They have demonstrated this for centuries
    and proved this again in this year of UKR indipendence
    keeping this part of their empire as if it was the favorite son .

    So the Problem is simply this
    for nobody
    nor for UE , nor for US , nor for NATO
    Ukraine is so important
    as it is for russia .

    So the question is
    how long US EU NATO will pretend to be able to play
    on a table where plays who is ready for an “all in” ?

  9. Lawrence Foreman says:

    As a foreigner student in Ukraine for few years now.. I witness the uprising in Kiev till it reached my former city of Lugansk. Yes, I do support Ukraine as a country. And I rather see Ukraine as a neutral country then joining EU or The Russian Bloc.

    As I observe things, both EU and Commonwealth Bloc of Russia want to take advantage of Ukraine.
    1. EU want to turn Ukraine into their dumping place for all the goods not real wanted in EU as Ukraine has high population longing for European products.
    2. If Ukraine and when Ukraine join EU, they become modern slaves of ECB, not to mention IMF and WB. And Ukraine will never ever break from this institute! Who are the people to pay the cost, the average Ukrainians.
    3. Why is EU and USA so in a hurry to make sure that Ukraine join the EU, while there are countries such as Turkey, Kosovo, Iceland, Croatia, Albania and many others have being waiting for their EU membership to be approved ever since 2005 upwards. Matter of fact, Turkey’s EU membership will not be approve because its a Muslim state, and they have to wait for another 15 years to be lied to again.
    4. Why can’t Ukraine run their own economy and benefit from both sides as a neutral country and instead learn from countries such as Greece that is suffering under the hands of EU? The sad reality is Ukraine benefited more trading with Russia than EU.. If EU is real democratic as they claim, why should they give Ukraine a choice of Ukraine to eat only from one pot, while they can eat from two pots? I’m not saying its not of Russia interests to have Ukraine in their Bloc, but it seems like Russia doesn’t have a problem with Ukraine having major trade with EU as long as they don’t join EU, while EU has a problem with Ukraine trading with Russian Bloc as the same time trading with EU. Now, where is the so called democracy EU preaches? Ukraine must wake up and smell the coffee. They are better off on their own, because under EU, Ukrainians will suffer more then before as EU terms and conditions are the ones slowing down other countries to full develop. Only three countries will never suffer and benefit more in EU because they control everything within the EU and that is Germany, UK and French. The rest, especially the small states are merely breathing became they opted to become slaves of the European Central Bank. EU is only beautiful when one is in Brussels, and as you start to slowly move away from Brussels, you can see countries in the ICU of EU.

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