The fight against corruption, reforms, corporate governance, and anti-corruption infrastructure have, in fact, become a cargo cult for most Ukrainians.
The fight against corruption, reforms, corporate governance, and anti-corruption infrastructure have, in fact, become a cargo cult for most Ukrainians, because from the point of view of many Ukrainian experts, meeting Western conditions will allow Ukraine to become a member of NATO and the EU.
In fact, reducing corruption is not a prerequisite for a country to join the EU and NATO. Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania have become members of NATO despite high levels of corruption in those countries. Also, the high level of corruption did not prevent Bosnia and Herzegovina from obtaining the MAP. By the way, Georgia, which has made great strides in the fight against corruption, has never joined NATO, unlike Northern Macedonia, Slovakia and Montenegro, where corruption was higher than in Sakartvelo.
Of course, it would be good if NATO guaranteed Ukraine’s security, but the geopolitical realities of having the desire and the ability are different things. Unfortunately, Ukraine does not have the political and diplomatic weight of Russia, which is able to block our country ‘s accession to NATO at the expense of some countries – members of the North Atlantic Alliance.
Citizens of Ukraine should understand that EU expansion has taken place mainly due to small Eastern European countries, which still receive subsidies from the European Union budget. The largest net donors to the EU budget are Germany, which paid 19.4% to the European Union budget in 2020, France 9.5% and Italy 6.3%. In fact, these are the countries that ensure the existence of the EU.
A natural question arises, and who does receive this money? In the first place, Poland, which receives from the EU budget 12.4 billion more than it pays. In second place in terms of subsidies is Greece, which received 5.6 billion euros from the EU budget, followed by Romania and Hungary, which in 2020 – received 4.7 billion euros.
The EU, first and foremost an economic project, is currently unable to finance further enlargement due to its own budget problems, so Montenegrins, Macedonians, Serbs and Albanians have been waiting for years to join the European Union, which has no money to join.
German experts acknowledge that Brexit has had catastrophic consequences for the EU, as Germany now has to pay even more to the European Union budget. In addition to subsidized Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, the EU also has major problems with Portugal, Greece and Spain, which also depend on grants from the European Union budget. Therefore, the EU is not able to expand at the expense of Ukraine, which is the largest country in Eastern Europe.
When some Ukrainian intellectuals say that Ukraine needs to carry out radical reforms similar to Leszek Balcerowicz’s “shock therapy,” they do not take into account many geopolitical factors. First, the West was interested in the success of Poland, which became a showcase for Eastern Europe and the entire post – Soviet space with the help of the West. Second, in the early 1990s, the Paris Club wrote off half of Poland ‘s foreign debt of the previous communist regime and 80% of overdue interest on loans. Also in 1994, an agreement was reached between Poland and the London Club to write off 50% of the debts of Polish private banks and reduce the total debt on preferential terms by another 6.6% of dollars. Poland’s debt write-off was primarily due to the political considerations of the collective West, which needed an outpost of democracy in Eastern Europe.
It was very important for Germany to improve its international image, which had suffered greatly after the Second World War. In addition, the relocation of the EU border to the east strengthened its political and geographical status. Due to Poland’s accession to the EU, Germany ceased to be a frontier between West and East. Germany, which shares a long border with Poland, was guided by its own security interests, and it benefited from the neighboring state being economically and socially stable. Comparing Ukraine and Poland is completely inappropriate, because no one in the West is interested in the economic success of our country.
The talks and statements of our Western partners that Ukraine is not ready to become a member of NATO are primarily due to the fact that they are not ready to fight against Russia together with the Ukrainians. In February 2020, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll in which respondents from 16 NATO countries were asked whether their country needed to use military force to protect an ally during a military conflict with Russia. Only in 5 NATO member countries, namely the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands and Lithuania, respondents answered in the affirmative. In other countries, the majority of respondents opposed coming to help the Allies, for example, in Germany, 60% of respondents opposed the participation of their military in a possible military conflict with the Russian Federation.
Ukrainians finally need to become more pragmatic, realizing that every major geopolitical player cares only about their own benefits. A great example for Ukraine should be Germany, which, using the narrative of democratic values and human rights, promotes its economic interests aimed at obtaining cheap gas from Russia and cheap labor from Ukraine.
Imperialist Russia cannot be stopped by the declarations and deep concerns of our Western partners. Russia will be stopped only by the unity of Ukrainians and the high fighting capacity of the Ukrainian armed forces. But billions of dollars are needed to have a modern air defense system and modern aviation. That is why Ukraine is in dire need of economic modernization, which requires time, which our country can gain at the expense of neutral status.
Many Ukrainians completely mistakenly believe that Ukraine was a neutral country until 2014, so from their point of view, non-alignment has not stopped Russian aggression. In fact, Ukraine was a neutral country only de jure, as its non-aligned status was enshrined in the Law on the Principles of Domestic and Foreign Policy, but de facto Ukraine was under the external control of the Russian Federation. What kind of neutral status can we talk about under Yanukovych’s presidency, when Ukraine’s armed forces, special services and the Interior Ministry were under full Russian control.
For Ukraine, neutral status is an option that can be activated only if the Kremlin agrees to end the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine.
The meeting of President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy with US President Joe Biden clearly showed that our country will receive neither large-scale security assistance nor the status of the main US ally outside NATO. Paradoxically, Pakistan, which provided all necessary assistance to the Taliban terrorist movement, has MNNA status, while Ukraine, which gave up nuclear weapons and saved a trillion dollars for the US budget, according to Igor Smeshko, did not receive this status. As it turned out, “you can’t spread a memorandum on bread.”
The Americans’ claims about corruption in Ukraine are a manifestation of double standards, because the high level of corruption in India and Egypt does not prevent the United States from providing large-scale security assistance to these countries. Unfortunately, Ukraine is on the periphery of their national interests for the United States.
The political elite in the United States greatly underestimates the Russian Federation, which, in their view, is declining economically and demographically. Russia, despite all its economic and demographic problems, has the strongest armed forces in Europe and, in my view, the strongest intelligence services in the world. Unlike China, where Confucian values prevail, modern Russia has an ideology that is attractive to many Europeans and Americans. Vladimir Putin positions himself as the leader of world conservatism, which allows Russia to have supporters in many EU countries.
It is unfortunate that Western political elites do not understand how important successful and independent Ukraine is for the security of the West. Economically successful Ukraine, with the support of the West, could become a showcase of democratic success for Russia and prove the advantages of a democratic system over an authoritarian one.
Kremlin ideologues are absolutely convinced that the absorption of Ukraine will allow Russia to increase its influence over the whole of Europe, which will result in the geopolitical defeat of the United States. No wonder the famous French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy said: “Europe without Ukraine is a suicide.”