Ukrainians rely more on their own strength


Maksym Khylko, political expert from Ukraine talks about Ukraine`s view of political developments around Russia, as well as political intrigues in Ukraine.


Interviewer: Rusif Huseynov



Huseynov: Lately Russia`s image has been badly hit both economically and militarily: Oil prices see decline almost every day and Russian jet was downed by Turkey, a NATO member. What is the general opinion of Ukrainian public regarding these developments?


Khylko: For the sake of preserving his own power, Vladimir Putin makes Russia sinking to the bottom in economic, political and moral dimensions. Mass protests of 2011-2012 and  negative dynamics in popularity rating pushed Putin to search for a way of asserting his power. Russian economy was moving towards stagnation at least from 2012; and the victory of Ukraine's European choice ruined Putin's geopolitical plans to restore the USSR in the format of the Eurasian Union. And Putin chose the way of his Soviet predecessors, who used aggressive propaganda to consolidate society against an external enemy – either real, or fake. But the problem is that to keep the society mobilized for his support, Putin needs continuing his risky foreign undertakings, while Russia’s resources – both economic and military – are limited.

Turkey’s downing of Russian jet showed the real limits, at which Russian military machine can run into disaster. NATO pursued very cautious policy, but Russia itself provoked the launch of returning to the deterrence policy. The USSR came to a sticky end, spending too much on armaments and military adventures and relying too much on petrodollars. Putin’s Russia goes down the same road being even more dependent on the global economy. 



Because of recent refugee crisis in Europe and Russia`s involvement in Syria, as some experts say, Ukraine almost slid off Western radar. Do Ukrainians feel abandoned?


Developments in Syria really pushed the issue of Donbas and the Crimea into the background, and in this sense Russia partially reached its goal. But it would be an exaggeration to say that Ukraine slid off the Western radar. Moscow has lost credibility, and the majority of Western leaders are well aware that Russia’s real goals in Syria differ much from what the Kremlin declares.

Do Ukrainians feel abandoned? No. We feel the support of the EU, the U.S. and NATO and we appreciate it. Of course, we would like to see more resolute support, both economic and military, but it would be incorrect to talk about being abandoned. We'll see, of course, if the EU extends the sanctions against Russia, but it is not only the issue of support for Ukraine, but also about the EU’s commitment to its own values.

It should also be noted that the Ukrainians rely more on their own strength. Let us remember that in 2014 the Russian invasion was halted by Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers.



Is relocation of international attention to Middle East influencing the Donbas conflict? Some claim the problem is going to get frozen just like other conflicts in the post-Soviet area.


Yes, there are influential Western leaders, who seem to be willing to "freeze" the conflict in Donbas. For some of them it is enough to prevent the conflict from escalating into large war with all the negative consequences, including the millions of refugees. Some others truly believe that at this stage "freezing" the conflict is the optimal scenario, because the only other alternative is war. They can also consider that eventually the economic sanctions will persuade Russia to change its policy, and then the temporarily frozen conflict may be resolved peacefully.

But the problem is that Russia does not want the frozen conflict. Moscow sees Donbas as a factor of influence on Ukraine either in the form of autonomy with veto in foreign policy, or as a permanent military conflict of low intensity to continuously exhaust Ukraine and to divert it from reforms.



An incident inside Ukrainian government immediately became known to public. Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov, who himself is of Armenian origin, told Mikheil Saakashvili, ex-Georgian president who is now governor of Odessa, “to get out his country”. Although Ukrainians strengthened their national identity during Euromaidan, Ukraine is still a multi-national country. What does Ukrainian society think of the incident in particular and of foreign-born Ukrainians in general?


No, I do not think that the conflict between Arsen Avakov and Mikheil Saakashvili has something to deal with the issue of national origins. Rather, Avakov meant that Saakashvili has only recently received Ukrainian citizenship, so it was about the citizenship, not about the ethnic origin. There is a tough political competition between the political teams, represented by Avakov and Saakashvili; and sometimes their disputes and private accusations are rudeness. But I have never heard any xenophobic statements from them, as well as from the others top-level politicians.

Ukraine is a good example of multi-national country, where the people of different ethnic origins are united in a single modern political nation. During the Euromaidan, Ukrainian political nation was shaped and strengthened – and it was not about the ethnic origin, but about the common values. At Maidan people of different ethnic origins fought for the freedom and European choice of their common country, as they do now at the front in Donbas, and all of them are a part of large Ukrainian political nation.