Is Ukraine lost?


Is Ukraine lost? Again? Is the social contract between state and citizens fundamentally flawed?

We are now well past the “honeymoon period” of the post-Maidan street protests that ultimately led to the rather fast departure of the then president Yanikovich, who fled to Russia in 2014.

A spate of ministerial resignations at the start of 2016, an economy in dire straits and with a huge external debt overhang, having lost up to a third of its economic base from the loss of territories and ongoing conflict with Russia and being supported by western-supported international financial institution packages including dollops of soft EU macro-financial assistance, a false dawn with the so-called Orange revolution in 2004 and the Maidan of 2014…so which way reform?

Before I answer these questions, I invite you to view this video of a recent Cabinet meeting – it is fairly X rated… and  it gives a flavour of the difficulties of copy-pasting a reform agenda without genuine political will and huge conflicts of interest. Many will have recognised Mikheil Saakashvili, who was former president of Georgia and now part of a group Georgian bureaucrats, fluent in Russian, brought in to help support the reform effort and given Ukrainian citizenships jousting (with glasses of water) with the Minister of Interior responsible for the police and security services,  himself an “oligarch”.

My starting point is to look at the data. And the picture is mixed. Global Governance indicators (that basically hoover up all available country risk indicators published) show that Government Effectiveness has risen.

Ukraine 1

But Rule of Law?

Ukraine 2

Not so good – in fact its even worse. And the picture is the same when looking at Regulatory quality or perceptions of corruption.

Ukraine’s (Lithuanian-Ukrainian) minister for economic development and trade, Aivaras Abromavicius, announced his resignation in early February, citing corruption levels in the state.

Neither me, nor my team have any desire to serve as a cover-up for the covert corruption, or become puppets for those who, very much like the ‘old’ government, are trying to exercise control over the flow of public funds

… saying what many have been complaining, that there are too many bent officials trying to continue their corrupt ways.

There is now a real political risk that the government will fall, possibly through a vote of no confidence. And there is scant evidence, despite a flurry of ad-hoc measures, of a clear roadmap of reform  – which is worryingly familiar territory given previous false dawns and stabilisation plans effectively written at the IMF.

Despite a huge groundswell of popular support in what remains of Ukraine for a pro-EU direction of travel, it is not an EU candidate country forced to go through hoops and checklists to comply with the EU body of law, the acquis.

The disconnect between the elite and the rest is the effect, but the fusion of political and economic control in the hands of this narrow elite that is an unfortunate legacy in most of the ex-Soviet space is THE core root cause.


* With experience across academia, think tanks, central banking, EU Accession and reforms across 40 developing and transition countries, Dr Rupinder Singh works with multilateral organisations and governments as an independent adviser. He is an Executive member of Liberal International (British Group).

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  • Tsar Nicholas 18th Feb '16 - 7:21pm

    Why do Liberal Democrats continue to ignore the illegal and unconstitutional siezure of power from the legitimate and democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovic in February 2014?

  • Barry Snelson 18th Feb '16 - 7:22pm

    Ukraine reprises what we see in the ashes of the Arab Spring. Yanukovich was driven out of office by a mob. What do you think were the feelings of those who had voted for him?

  • Eddie Sammon 18th Feb '16 - 7:57pm

    Good point about corruption in general, but I’ve heard the protests were mainly about police brutality against pro EU protesters, rather than for the EU itself.

    We need to be careful about propaganda on both sides. It seems the pro Russian side started the violence, but let’s not believe Ukraine is full of starry-eyed pro EU people.

  • None of this comes as any surprise. Amongst the MPs who took over in 2014 were people who beat up TV news producers live on air to force them to follow their agenda. How could this have turned out any different?

  • I find the hypocrisy from Europe and the political establishment in the uk (this includes the lib dems) over the events in the Ukraine sickening.

    A democratically elected president and government was overthrown by people who wouldn’t accept the results of a legitimate election. And you are surprised that it turned out badly?

    If it had been the other way round and a democratically elected pro eu government was illegally overthrown by a pro Moscow group you guys would say it wasn’t right. Cant have it both ways. The revolution was an illegitimate violent coup and the results reaped will be appropriate to this. So the future doesn’t look rosy there.

  • Is Ukraine lost?
    Lost to who,… (whom?)
    As a preamble – By all accounts Crimea voted [freely], to adjoin with Russia in a referendum in 2014. Unless someone can show otherwise, ..Crimea post referenda, appears to be stable, happy to be Russian and have no internal grievance issues.? In a democracy,.. surely such voter acceptance via a referendum, is paramount?
    So back to Ukraine,.. I’m encouraged that the thread comments so far, represent a more candid perspective of the reality of events in Ukraine than was evident over the last couple of years. Two years ago, any mention of Washington DC ‘s interference or of Victoria Nulands ‘cash laden’ involvement in the erasure of a democratically elected Ukrainian government was held with either derision or with total silence. Now thankfully, the truth is much more apparent and readily accessible.
    The 2014 Ukraine government ‘usurp’, was a NATO inspired ‘bridge’, that Washington paid for, and Nuland administered. If you doubt what I say, ask yourself one thing,. Who gains by the pursuit of a NATO ‘nose’ up close and personal against the Russian border ?
    Sorry to break the sad news to you, but Washington is a ‘user’ of the UK and the EU, is definitely not our friend.

  • Pro Russian Lib Dems are so staggeringly naive. What sort of state of democratic normality would exist in any country when part of it has been annexed by a superpower and the rest is under threat? And what sort of democratically elected president is truly democratic when he steals so much and then skips off to shelter with the enemy?

  • @Alistair

    “Pro Russia”? Try pro rule of law. Feelings towards Russia (positive or negative) have nothing to do with any off it.

    The EU bear some responsibility for what happened when they sided with violent criminals over a democratically elected government for selfish and ideological reasons.

    The seeds that have been sown will determine the crop reaped. So things don’t look good.

  • No, things dont look good, because Russia is on an expansionist drive and the populations to its west dont want another 50 years under Russian control.

  • @Alistair. Russia’s expansionist drive is one half of the equation. The other half is the EU backing the illegal and Undemocratic overthrow of legitimate governments. The EU are as much to blame for this as Russia is. But both sides are so self centred and hypocritical that they can only see their own side of the arguement.

  • I do think that there is a third area of concern. Setting aside a democratic election twice is not a good record, whatever the reasons. And the second coincided with the more aggressive stand from Putin. It is a great shame and I do not see an easy solution.
    The rather unstable background does not help in calling Putin’s bluff over ‘Russian speakers’ and is generally unhelpful

  • J George SMID 19th Feb '16 - 10:27am

    The Ukrainian government did survive the vote of confidence, but only just and only with the most unwanted result: The position of Jacenuk is the same: Weak. It cannot function, it cannot move forward with the reforms.

    The government commands only a minute support: 8% prefer the current government to stay, 70% wanted the resignation. But that is not a proof of “illegal and undemocratic overthrow of legitimate governments” (Rsf7). All and every communist government has been overthrown by a popular uprising. It is worth remembering that the governments themselves (communist, dictatorship etc.) can become ‘illegal’. Ukraine needs time and space to sort itself out. In the end Putin will have take Ukraine over, splits the country or pull out. It is up to us (Liberal Democrats of any country) to make sure Putin gets out.

  • @SMID

    The yanukovic government that was overthrown was democratically elected and still serving within its time limit according to the country’s constitution. In what sense was overthrowing this government not illegal and not undemocratic? The protesters who resorted to violence simply refused to accept the results of a democratic election because they didn’t like it. And the EU supported this.

    The EU cannot therefore complain that Russia’s annexation of Crimea is illegal having supported illegal actions in the country themselves.

    Overthrowing a legitimate government because it didn’t have the “correct” ideology does not make the act any more legitimate, that’s the logic of the taliban.

  • Alaistar.
    It’s not a case of being pro Russian. it’s more a case of being anti interference and reheated cold war era rhetoric. I keep hearing about expansionist Russia, Russia is a threat etc and I don’t really see any evidence for this. I do see rather too much support in the UK for the faux progressive militarised politics of regime change and irrelevant comments about Communism with regards to Russia which is a) not actually a communist country, b)gave up its rule on other countries with about the same ease we and the French gave up on our empires. Further more I note that lots of neo lib/neo cons or whatever you choose to call them absolutely love China and talk in glowing terms of its industrial/economic miracle when it is actually both a communist country and stealthily increasing its sphere of influence across the globe.

  • Barry Snelson 19th Feb '16 - 3:40pm

    I am a Liberal Democrat but don’t enrol me in support of an unlawful government imposed by a mob and which is now unravelling. Imagine how you would feel if you lived in East Ukraine had voted for Yanukovich.

  • A Social Liberal 19th Feb '16 - 4:08pm


    You don’t see evidence of an expansionist Russia? Do you not see the reports of fighters over Estonia or Latvia. You didn’t see the reports of Russian bombers flying missions which, if not intercepted, would have encroached on British airspace – and flying those missions with their transponders switched off so they could not be identified.

    The annexation of the Crimea was not after ‘free and fair’ referendum, and neither was the effective annexation of Eastern Ukraine. This is ehtnic cleansing, with the stated aim of bringing back vast swathes of Eastern Europe back under Russian control. If Russian actions are not expansionist then I don’t know what is !

  • A Social Liberal 19th Feb '16 - 4:15pm


    Imagine how you would feel if your government got in with promises of looking to the EU for the future and then the President has a meeting with the Russians and suddenly he decides that the government would tear up the soon to be signed EU agreement and look instead to – funnily enough – the Russians.

  • Barry Snelson 19th Feb '16 - 6:59pm

    A Social Liberal,
    A politician making a promise and then breaking it as soon as he gets into power?
    Has that ever happened before?
    Well that’s democracy for you and what is supposed to happen is that the electorate remembers and punishes aforesaid politician at the next election.
    Remind you of anything?
    The alternative of violent mob taking power can only result in violence from those who were disenfranchised.
    Many people have lost their lives because of that mob rule.

  • A social liberal.
    Where has Russia actually expanded too and why you guys talking as if Russia is still the USSR.

  • Tsar Nicholas 20th Feb '16 - 3:18am

    Interesting discussion on here.

    When people talk of an expansionist Russia, they ignore the fact that the Soviet Union withdrew its troops from eastern Europe in exchange for a promise that NATO would not expand “one inch” to the east. That promise was broken in the 1990s and now NATO is up to and within the borders of the former Soviet Union.

    War is peace; ignorance is strength.

  • Was it ever found, in the first place?

  • @Glenn Was annexation of Crimea not an expansion?

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Apr '19 - 9:08am

    The Presidential election on 21/4/2019 was a landslide.
    Should it be interpreted as a NO CONFIDENCE vote against the incumbent Petro Poroshenko?
    If the real issue is the level of corruption, how will it be tackled?

  • Richard Underhill 22nd Apr '19 - 9:17am

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