Oleh Lyashko's nationalist Radical Party has got more than 7% of votes, which gives them a more seats in the country’s parliament, Rada. The party, registered in 2010, promised to get rid of oligarchs and to end the military operation in Donbas by use of force.
Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its concern: "There is increased danger that again calls will be made from the tribune to use force and military methods, as well as bloodshed to solve all the problems [in Ukraine] because straightforward nationalistic and chauvinistic powers have received support and will become representatives in the Verkhovna Rada [parliament]. This is extremely dangerous," Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said Monday.
Says Richard Giragosian, Director of the Yerevan-based Regional Studies Center (RSC):
I think overall the elections were an important achievement, if you will. But the real challenge was not in Sunday’s ballot or vote. The real challenge will face the incoming new Parliament, its composition and whether the professional and political will of the new Government will be able to meet the challenges. So, therefore, the elections were important, but it is only the beginning of the real challenge that is to come.
When Mr. Poroshenko travelled to the US, what exactly were the issues discussed there? And what are the US’ expectations regarding Ukraine and Mr. Poroshenko in particular?
Richard Giragosian: That’s a very good question, because what is most interesting – the Ukrainian President’s visit to Washington was much more interesting, than the usual visit of a head of state for two reasons. First, he actually angered many in the Obama’s White House, by violating an agreement he made and a promise to President Obama that he would not ask the US Congress for a specific military assistance or aid. Nevertheless, he did anger many US officials, who were embarrassed by the Ukrainian President’s desire to go further and seek for a more direct military assistance.
The second interesting result from that visit was: for many who remain skeptical of the Ukrainian President, he did little to reassure. In other words, this is still a former oligarch, a businessman, who has yet to really change the Ukrainian political system.
But do you think that he could live up to the challenge?
Richard Giragosian: I don’t know. In other words, his real burden and challenge is – seeking an opportunity for a more robust anticorruption campaign and to actually address the systemic problem of corruption in Ukraine. And he doesn’t do much to inspire confidence.
However, what is interesting about the composition of the new Parliament is that this is no longer a one-party system; he will have to form a coalition Government. And, most likely, his number two – the Prime Minister – who is in a much stronger position with this election, may actually force the President to compromise much more than he ordinarily would. So, in this sense, the legitimacy for Ukraine is more than just one election, but this is an important step in that direction.
In that sense, do I get you right that, perhaps, this election has reduced the corridor of opportunities for Mr. Poroshenko?
Richard Giragosian: Well, I think with every passing day we do see the pressure of time mounting. In other words, we saw the three key developments: this election coupled with the second, which was a decision with the EU to delay the implementation of the association agreement reforms, and the third decision in terms of putting off or delaying some of the more difficult domestic reform agenda items. Therefore, with every passing day that goes by, the further these problems are not addressed, the bigger they will become.
And on the other hand, there is the financial issue and, as far as I understand, the major international lenders are not exactly happy to give more money to Poroshenko.
Richard Giragosian: Of course!
And like you said, the people in the US were a bit upset, when he actually turned for a military assistance. What is going to happen? I mean, could the international community come up with more financial aid to Ukraine? Would the US be prepared to support the regime financially?
Richard Giragosian: This is the ultimate paradox. And the problem is – Ukraine has now emerged as a test of credibility and commitment, both of the EU and even of the US. Whether they like it or not, this is now their burden. And from the Western perspective, it should be clear that opposing the Russian President Putin is no longer enough to justify blind checks of support and financial assistance. Ukraine and its Government must now deliver on the reforms and the expectations. And this is the real question.
And what are the prospects of military cooperation with NATO? Many accounts coming from Ukraine suggest that the Ukrainian military force is being equipped with NATO equipment, it is being trained by NATO instructors. Is that really so?
Richard Giragosian: Well, what we see is an interesting case similar to Georgia in its previous train and equip program. In other words, we see NATO and Western assistance, and the delivery of non-offensive equipment to the Ukrainian armed forces. But what this means, however, having recently been in Ukraine myself, the state of readiness and actually the rather inferior conditions facing the Ukrainian army, it means that this is probably too little too late. And it is clear that neither NATO, nor the West in general seeks any kind of proxy war with Russia and, in this context, will not necessarily deliver offensive capabilities to the Ukrainians.
What about the prospects for NATO membership? Georgia has been NATO membership — sooner or later. Is it the same case in Ukraine?
Richard Giragosian: I think these are different cases, of course. But the one similarity is that this round of NATO expansion is most likely over for the foreseeable future. Not only because of the wrong message it sends to Moscow and to other neighbors, but because simply Ukraine and Georgia do not qualify, to not meet the minimum standards for NATO membership. And as cold as that may sound, the German position is probably the best, in drawing the line by saying that Ukraine is not now, nor in the immediate future will be a member of the NATO alliance.
And finally, you said you’ve been to Ukraine. Could you share some of your impressions with us?
Richard Giragosian: I'm concerned, because for the capital city Kiev, there was little sense of crisis or urgency, yet the sings of crisis only deepen. Having said that, my grounds for optimism over the medium to long term is that the civil society in Ukraine has generally taken the initiative and filled the gap from the Ukrainian Government. And in this sense, we may see higher standards of expectations of the Ukrainian Government by their own citizens, meaning that if this Government doesn’t meet the obligations, there may yet be another Maidan in the immediate future.
Mateusz Piskorski, Head of the European Center for Geopolitical Analysis in Poland:
We can definitely say that the Ukrainian political system is still kind of an oligarchic system, where several business tycoons and several people, who try to solve their private interests, are making politics and are participating in the electoral process. And this is the same case, because if we look at the most important political parties, they were either created by some oligarchs, or supported and sponsored by some oligarchs. So, we cannot say that it is the Ukrainian elections of a new quality. Everything is the same, as it was during the several years and several elections in Ukraine since 1991.
I would even say that we have only one new factor, which is quite depressing. And this new factor is that for the first time the oligarchs are using the ideology of extreme nationalism so much, even of neo-Nazism and that such people as Dmytro Yarosh – the leader of the Right Sector – thanks to the direct support of several oligarchs have entered the Ukrainian Parliament for the first time. It is very symbolic that Dmytro Yarosh was the candidate to the Parliament of Ukraine from the Dnepropetrovsk region, which is headed by Ihor Kolomoyskyi – one of the sponsors of the extreme right-wing and nationalist parties in Ukraine.
So, unfortunately, I'm not very optimistic when it comes to the prospects of searching for a political solution by the new Parliament of Ukraine. The Parliament will be divided at least into seven different groups or parties. The parties will probably negotiate and it will be very hard for them to negotiate a coalition agreement. No one has the majority to create a stable and non-extremist Government in Ukraine, which will be ready for the political solutions of the crisis in the country.
Like you are saying, the ultra-rightists have made their way into the country’s Parliament. But, as far as I remember, the US and Europe, at least on the face of it, used to be rather disapproving of the prominent role the ultra-rightists have played in the developments in Ukraine.
Mateusz Piskorski: First, you have a real social unrest in Ukraine. And when you have the social unrest and protests, you could use the negative social energy either in the direction of creating and strengthening, let’s say, the socially-oriented political parties and those parties which promote the welfare state and the idea of supporting those people who have lost a lot because of the crisis and the transformation of the Ukrainian economy; or you can use the American model, which is called the backlash model and which is based on the idea that you can control the social unrest.
And using this social unrest and its energy you can create extremist political groups and political parties, like the ultranationalists who will use the public protests and pessimism not to destroy the oligarchic system, which is a real problem of Ukraine, but just stir the hatred towards the other countries, other nations, minorities and so on.
So, this is the simple way. This is the American model, which was used by the Republicans during the campaign of George W. Bush, to control the public protest and to direct this protest into those nationalist and extremist feelings, and not towards looking for a solution of the really existing social problems.
This is the quite similar case. And when it comes to the West and the US in particular, I'm more than sure that they are totally aware of this scenario. I'm even sure that they are still controlling the whole political process in Ukraine, which means that they don’t mind if the extreme nationalists like Dmytro Yarosh and his comrades will enter the new Parliament. And they probably will try to use them.
As we perfectly know, Mr. Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, who is the chief of the security services in Ukraine, is directly controlling the activities of the Right Sector from the political point of view. And Mr. Nalyvaichenko is the representative of the US in Ukraine. He didn’t not even try to hide that he was closely connected to some US elites.
So, I think that the US doesn’t care about the political correctness when it comes to Ukraine and those political parties which are easier to be controlled. And those political parties, which are vehemently anti-Russian and vehemently nationalist, can get the American support of the sponsors of the so-called Ukrainian revolution.
Are you talking about the money?
Mateusz Piskorski: Yes, including the money. I think that this is a public knowledge that the American Department of State and other institutions have sponsored several groups and political parties in Ukraine during the 1990’es, and also after 2000. And even Victoria Nuland has confirmed that they have put there a lot of money, something like $5 billion, which is of course a huge amount of money for such a country as Ukraine.
And I guess that they are continuing doing that. Probably, they also use the help of those who have the funds in Ukraine, of people like Ihor Kolomoyskyi and other oligarchs.