What does the Ukrainian state now represent?
The Ukrainian State, liberal democracy and the leader of the “Free World”.
In a discussion recently I rhetorically referred to the Ukrainian army as a mercenary army of NATO. In response it was correctly pointed out that there remains a significant motivation in the form of nationalism that sustains the Ukrainian Army aside from the usual motivation of the mercenary and therefore the description of the army as a mercenary army was not appropriate.
However, though the description of the Ukrainian Army as a mercenary army is not an adequate description, there remains the unusual circumstances relating to the nature of the Ukrainian State that provoked my use of that description. The news that brought that description to mind was that last month Zelensky had stated that Ukraine would require around $5 billion a month from the west in order to pay the State’s civil service to keep the State functioning.
A week or so after that statement it was announced that the Ukrainian Army was to be expanded into a million-strong army. Given the dire condition of the Ukrainian State and its decimated economy no longer capable of sustaining the cost of the human element (in the form of its civil and ancillary service – that made the State a functioning entity), it remained a mystery as to how this one million strong army was to be funded and manned. The first part of the mystery was solved with the announcement on 12 July that the US had sanctioned an additional $1.7 billion of non-military aid to pay the salaries of Ukrainian health-care employees (see: https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/us-announces-1-7-bn-in-aid-to-ukraine-to-pay-health-care-workers-122071201170_1.html ). On the same day the European Council also announced its approval of a 1 billion Euro loan to Ukraine (this was part of the 9 billion Euro loan proposed by the Commission in May).
In the current context there is no sustainable distinction between funds that find their way to the Ukrainian Government for non-military aid/loans and for direct military aid. This latest ‘non-military’ U.S. aid package and EU loan facility (which on the surface was meant to pay the salaries of civil servants and health workers) will no doubt be diverted by the Ukrainian Government in a way that helps to pay for the new expanded army. And, given the coincidence of the announcement of the new expanded army and the recent U.S. ‘non-military’ aid this is surely how the $1.9 billion and the 1 billion Euro loan will end up being used.
But how to fund the one-million strong army is only one side of the problem. The other issue is where the manpower is to come from for such an army and this is probably a more intractable problem for the Ukrainians.
From information gathered it seems that the population of Ukraine is only around 30 million. This means that a one million army from such a population represents a ratio of one in thirty active soldiers among the population. Furthermore, allowing for age and physical health, that about half of the 30 million are fit for military activity that means that the ration increased to one in fifteen of the population. That leaves only 14 million people to sustain and service the wider economy and society. Some societies can muster and sustain that kind of ratio – North Korea for example – but Ukraine is not that kind of society. According to the Library of Congress over half of the working population is employed in the service sector and while a significant component of that will relate to non-essential services, a good proportion must relate to more essential services. Aside from that, from a political perspective, the general population is riddled with ethnic and political divisions that make coherence and compliance around such a large army impossible. Also, so many opposition parties having been banned by the Zelensky Government must mean that, among the 30-odd million population there is a significant element who don’t fully commit to Zelensky’s war on Russia.
So, it appears that the one million strong army is in all probability just another fantasy conjured up by the Kiev regime to sustain morale at a time when the army in the south and east has suffered a series of reverses. This is not to say that the Ukrainian Army is incapable of continuing to inflict reverses on the Russians. In fact there is now such an extreme need for the Kiev regime to be able to point to some success that they will have to make a concerted effort to engage the Russians in the South sooner rather than later. The Ukrainians say that this engagement will soon take place in the area of Kherson (though of course that may be a ploy). However, given the wider predicament of the Ukrainian army it is unlikely that they will be able to convert any victories over the Russians into permanent success on the battlefields.
In the meantime, yesterday (13 July), there was another indication of the abject state of the Ukrainian economy when the Financial Times reported that Oleg Ustenko, an economic adviser to Zelensky, had announced that “For the next months, we have to receive $9 billion per month instead of $5 billion” and that it would be “next to impossible” for the country to survive without the funds. This is almost double what Zelensky was saying that the State required only a month ago!
Even allowing for the fact that the Kiev regime needs to exaggerate its predicament in order to motivate its western backers into coughing up sustained and increased funds there seems little doubt that the Ukrainian economy is close to collapse.
This situation must be a factor in how we are to understand the Ukrainian State. What in fact does that State now actually represent? If the US and Europe are bankrolling the civil service, the health service ,transport system, pensions and so forth as well as paying and arming the Ukrainian Army what can we call that State? It appears that the Ukrainian State is now operating to a system of governance for which, in my opinion, there is no historical equivalent.
The bankrolling of the Ukranian State does not in itself provide it with that unique status. Such funding of States has been a characteristic of US military aggression since Vietnam. But in all previous examples where the US took on that responsibility its own armed forces were a significant, if not the most significant, component in the sustaining of that state’s existence. Also, aside from that, the rationale was – if we use the example of Vietnam – to protect the country from the encroachment of the threat that authoritarian communism posed to the free world. Then if we look at the most recent example in the case of Afghanistan, the stated rationale was to rescue the country from the threat posed by an illiberal religious fanaticism. Similarly with the example of Iraq where the stated object was the removal of a despotic tyrant from the country who had become a danger to the wider free world.
In all these cases the country that the United States had come to ostensibly protect were not liberal democracies and in all these cases the alternative that the US was offering was the prospect of a liberal democratic future after the United States had eliminated the current obstacle to that future. It was as part of guaranteeing that future that the US was in the business of State building in these countries through its bankrolling activities and military underpinning of those States.
What the US is doing in Ukraine differs from past practices on two distinct fronts. The most obvious one is the fact that the US has, officially at least, none of its military personnel on the ground in Ukraine. The second one is that Ukraine already had a functioning State that was designed and operated along lines that were moulded by a western liberal democratic model.
It was a State that showed most of the characteristics of a modern liberal democracy and was accepted as such by its European peers. While those peers acknowledged its flaws they rationalised such flaws as something that was part of its totalitarian Soviet inheritance. However, with the right mentoring,and provided with the right environment within which to grow, those European peers believed that Ukraine would evolve into a “normal” western liberal democracy. It was on that basis that the EU became involved in an attempt to solve the Donetsk and Luhansk problem which had emerged as the result of the actions of a core illiberal Ukrainian nationalism. From the EU perspective the Minsk agreement was not primarily meant to provide the dissenting populations of Donetsk and Luhansk with a level of autonomy within the Ukrainian State that might satisfy them. Rather, from the EU perspective, the prime purpose for getting involved with the Minsk arrangement was to assist the Ukrainian State to evolve in the direction that would fulfil the promise that its EU mentors had seen for it and save it for democracy.
And indeed there was always a strong chance that Ukraine would have evolved in that direction. But then the US, in pursuit of its own geopolitical anti-Russian agenda, and fearful of an emerging symbiotic relationship between Europe and Russia decided to “Fuck Europe” and with it Europe’s mentoring of Ukraine.
US plans for Ukraine weren’t only predicated on exploiting the ultra-nationalist component in Ukraine politics. If that was all it consisted of those plans would not have succeeded to the extent to which they have. The other essential component of US plans was to replace the EU influence among the Ukrainian political elite with its own influence. Those members of the elite who had ambitions to make Ukraine into a full liberal democracy were compelled through the conscious efforts of the US to choose between the route to that future offered by the EU and the road offered by the US.
In other words, the route to “Free World” that the EU offered was thrown into disarray by the way in which the US, as the leader of that “Free World”, exploited the ultra-nationalist component in Ukrainian society in ways that left no alternative for the Ukrainian political elite than to follow the route charted for it by the leader of the “Free World”.
Once the leader of the “Free World” embarked upon that line of action – a line of action that had at its core the provoking of Russia and the abandonment of any hope of a peaceful resolution of the Donetsk and Luhansk problem – the sense of nationalism in Ukrainian politics (both liberal and extreme) had no place to go than along the track-marks laid out for it by the US. Given its previous association with Ukraine the only agency that could have prevented Ukraine following those track-marks to disaster was the EU but the EU was never an agency capable of asserting itself against the most powerful leader of the “Free World” and so not only did it quietly comply with the political rape inflicted upon it by the leader of the “Free World” but it also accepted the economic rape that it subsequently had to endure.
In contemporary terms, the real victims in all of this have obviously been the Ukrainian people who have suffered terribly as a result of the dishonest and self-serving actions of the leader of the “Free World”. But in historical terms, there has been another victim and that was the ambition of the Ukrainian political elite who had entertained ambitions of making Ukraine into a modern liberal democracy. To all intents and purpose that has now been destroyed in much the same way that any prospect of the early re-emergence of an independent Ukrainian economy has been destroyed.
In political terms, although it was preparing for the event before then, Ukrainian national politics was taken in tow by the United States in 2014. In economic terms, the Ukrainian economy had gone the same way by mid-2022. The Ukrainian economy as well as its politics now operate as the servant of the United States in a way that not only inflicts harm on its politics and economy but has also corroded the economies and politics of Europe.
This bleak predicament is something that of course cannot be seen by the Government of Ukraine which is sustained in its illusion that, with the aid of the United States, it will defeat Russia. A version of this illusion also seems to permeate a significant section of the wider Ukrainian polity where politicians continue to entertain a belief in the emergence of a liberal democratic Ukraine on the back of a Russian defeat. Once Russia is defeated, the argument goes, Ukraine will be rebuilt not only economically and physically, but politically as well.
However, the simple truth is that Ukraine, having lain in the bed made for it by the US, cannot now leave that bed without the permission of the leader of the “Free World” and that leader has always had its own agenda which it is unlikely to abandon easily. If Ukraine had embarked on this disaster under its own steam and without the interference of the United States it would continue to have the capacity for generating the means to extricate itself from the situation. But it didn’t and it cannot because its predicament has been engineered by the United States and that predicament is sustained by the United States until it wills it not to.
By now, in the face of all that has happened since February, the delusional belief in a Russian defeat must be beginning to diminish in the recesses of the Ukrainian polity. There must be elements of the Ukrainian elite that are beginning to see that the continuance of the present policy can only lead to an ever-greater disaster for the country. That such people exist is surely a foregone conclusion but any prospect that they will be capable of diverting the country from its present course must be weighed alongside what it is that confronts them. For such components of the political elite to exert any effective pressure on the existing Government they must be capable of cohering around some cause that provides sufficient motivation for them to make the effort. But what, in the present circumstances, could that cause be? Would they be taking a stand in the name of liberal democracy? And if so, how could admit that the most powerful liberal democracy and leader of the “Free World” is in fact the cause of their predicament? And of course it will remain a predicament until the leader of the “Free World” decides otherwise, if, that is, it ever makes that decision.