The Conflict over Ukraine

The new member states have made an important contribution to EU policy by championing their eastern neighbors. Poland was foremost in advocating a policy of openness to further “accession candidates” in the east. But a major opportunity to take an active role in Eastern Europe—the “Orange Revolution” in the Ukraine in 2004—arose at a bad time. Though not, in fact, revolutionary, the turmoil of that year did bring about a change of government, increased respect for the basic rules of democracy, freedom of the press, and more cultural pluralism. The demonstrators in Kyiv regarded this as a move closer to the European Union. Ukraine signaled its intention to take the Polish path and not follow Russia, where Vladimir Putin was cementing his autocratic power. Moreover, Putin’s attempt to intervene directly in Ukrainian politics—then still by peaceful means, taking part in the election campaign and supporting the presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych—was not well received.

In February 2005, the new, democratically elected president, Viktor Yushchenko, came knocking at the European Union’s door. It could have been an opportunity to intensify European cooperation with Ukraine, but the EU commission decided on a “bilateral action plan” with Ukraine, explicitly without prospects of accession. The only, vague, decision made was to earmark the year 2007 as a possible date for an association agreement.34 This contrasted starkly with EU policy toward the states of East Central Europe fifteen years previously. The association agreements with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Poland had been signed, sealed, and delivered just two years after the revolutions of 1989, even though the circumstances had by no means been more favorable: in late 1991, Russian troops were stationed in Poland, the region was still in the grip of economic crisis, and it was uncertain whether all the associated countries would ever become stable democracies.

Why did the European Union keep democratic Ukraine at arm’s length? For one, Brussels had its hands full with the recently accomplished expansion of the Union, the impending accession of Romania and Bulgaria and the project of a European constitution. On a more fundamental level, the mental map of the old European Union was hard to shake off: From Brussels’ or Berlin’s point of view, Ukraine was a country far away in deepest Eastern Europe. The attitudes of the German elites (or at least the Social Democrats) were illustrated by former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt in a book he published in 2000, claiming that over the course of several centuries, Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians had “undergone a cultural development that was only related to each other,” and could therefore be regarded as belonging to a “Russian cultural sphere.” Schmidt was apparently unaware of Ukraine’s many hundreds of years as part of Poland (Moscow ruled over a large part of the country for less than two centuries—125 or 146 years depending on the region), the church union of Lublin (by which a part of the Orthodox church submitted to the Vatican in 1596; the Greek Catholic church in today’s West Ukraine became a kind of national church in the nineteenth century), and other Western aspects of Ukrainian history.35 But some German academics and even experts on Eastern European history were no better informed.36

In principle, Yushchenko could have looked on the back of any euro bill to visualize Ukraine’s prospects of integration in the EU. The map depicted there shows the Canary Islands, the Azores, and even France’s overseas territories, but to the east, Europe fades out along a line running from Kherson near the Crimean Peninsula to Cherkassy, Smolensk in Russia, and up to the Arctic Ocean. Ukraine had no place in Europe, at least not on the eurozone’s banknotes, where it was cut through the middle. In the knowledge of the events of 2014, this depiction seems like an ominous, self-fulfilling prophecy. (The more recent-issue 5-, 10-, and 20-euro banknotes show a map shifted around 125 miles to the East. This includes Crimea and areas north of the Sea of Asov.)

Undaunted, Yushchenko headed for Berlin after talks with the EU commission. In March 2005, he was invited to address the Bundestag, a rare honor for a foreign head of state. However, his reception in the German parliament was cool. The Bundestag president, Wolfgang Thierse, greeted Yushchenko awkwardly, announcing that “Ukrainians are just as welcome in Germany as all other guests.” As a former civil rights activist, he might have taken the opportunity, after the Orange Revolution and Ukraine’s move toward the West, to declare the official Ukrainian visitor especiallywelcome.37 Only two members of parliament had taken the trouble to wear an orange scarf or show some other symbolic gesture of solidarity. The applause after Yushchenko’s speech was lukewarm, especially in comparison to the hearty reception he received in Poland.

Chancellor Schröder approached the visitor with chilly reserve (a faux pas by Ukrainian standards of hospitality, which often involve guests being clapped on the arms and shoulders or hugged) and grumpily broke off their joint press conference after only a few questions. The entire visit was clearly overshadowed by the “visa affair.” Yushchenko was not even able to negotiate any substantially easier travel conditions for Ukrainian students or similar minor concession. His return almost empty-handed marked a missed opportunity for Brussels and Berlin and weakened his position in domestic politics. In Kyiv, as the economy slowed, Yushchenko’s leadership was challenged by his power-hungry rival, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. These two former leaders of the 2004 revolt also argued over Tymoshenko’s erratic economic policy. The oligarchs’ influence remained unchallenged; the Ukrainian parliament became better known for brawls than debates. These domestic problems were another reason why the European Union did not seize the moment of the Orange Revolution to develop relations with Ukraine.

Moreover, the European Union was suffering from “enlargement fatigue.” Brussels almost instinctively rejected all further overtures by non-EU states. Turkey, even more than Ukraine, was disappointed on this count. The two countries were frequently mentioned in one breath. As an alternative to full membership (and explicitly not as an interim stage), Brussels introduced the EU Neighborhood Policy in 2003.38 This concept, revised in 2006, applied to all the European Union’s eastern and southern neighbors apart from Russia. Suddenly Ukraine found itself in the same boat as Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and a dozen other North African and post-Soviet countries (Belarus, Moldavia, and Russia also border on the EU). Furthermore, the EU Neighborhood Policy was based on a twofold misconception. For one, Brussels overestimated its allure, especially to Ukraine, whose economy was still closely linked to Russia’s; and second, it underestimated Moscow’s resistance. While bilateral talks between Brussels and Kyiv were deadlocked, Moscow was gradually consolidating its power over the post-Soviet sphere, helped by the German chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Germany and Russia cooperated on the North Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea, strengthening their bilateral relations at the expense of the transit countries lying between them.

The clash between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko enabled Yanukovych—the ballot rigger of 2004—to return to power in 2010. Having won the presidential elections with a comfortable lead over Tymoshenko, he took corruption to new extremes. Within a few years, Yanukovych’s family rose to become one of the wealthiest clans in Ukraine. The country was not able to recover from the economic crisis of 2009 due to the drop in the price of steel (one of its chief export products), a lack of investment in industry and agriculture, and the ubiquitous corruption. Moreover, Ukraine was one of the countries where banks had freely arranged foreign currency loans and still struggled with inherited liabilities. Due to the financial crisis in 2008, the IMF granted Ukraine (and the banks which had loaned too much money in the country) a rescue package of 16.5 billion US dollars. Though this had been arranged with the last Yushchenko government, it benefited Viktor Yanukovych, who thus entered his presidency in 2010 with some start capital. It soon disappeared into the pockets of the presidential family and its allied oligarchs.

Despite the clearly negative developments in Ukraine, including the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko, the European Union pressed forward with its association agreement with Ukraine. It did not want to lose out to Vladimir Putin, who had founded the Eurasian Customs Union in 2011 as an alternative alliance to the EU. In fact, Ukraine was reluctant to submit further to Russian hegemony by joining the customs union. Negotiations with the European Union continued until, in 2012, the association agreement was ready to be signed. Its conclusion was only slowed by concerns over Tymoshenko, who portrayed herself as a victim of political persecution, and casting too positive a light on Viktor Yanukovych.

By 2014, the economy’s continuing decline had plunged Ukraine into a truly revolutionary situation, in contrast to 2004. President Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the association agreement with the European Union was the final straw that triggered mass protests. As soon as news of his refusal broke, tens of thousands flocked to the Maidan in Kyiv. At this stage, they were mostly students, who objected to the ongoing corruption and cronyism and widespread deprivation. Yanukovych probably hoped the demonstrations would peter out after a few weeks due to the cold weather. But in the night of November 30 to December 1, 2013, he made the mistake of deploying Berkut units—the special police force within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. As in Prague in 1989, the Ukrainian public refused to stand by passively as their fellow citizens were abused by security forces. The day after the Berkut crackdown, about half a million people swarmed to what was now dubbed the “Euromaidan,” continuing the protests for weeks and months (see fig. 10.2).

Fig. 10.2.  Thousands protesting on Kyiv’s Maidan against the Viktor Yanukovych administration, December 22, 2013. Photo: picture alliance / ZB / Konstantin Chernichkin.

In mid-January, the government tried to subdue the rebellion by means of new legislation. The parliament hurriedly enacted a tighter ban on demonstrations, anti-NGO laws (following the Russian model), and restrictions on freedom of expression and the press.

This catapulted the conflict into a sphere far beyond disagreement over the European Union or economic policy. It presented the Ukrainian public with a choice between two options: living with a Belarusian-style dictatorship or toppling Yanukovych. For this reason, this second phase of the revolution mobilized many family men and women (including a number of my own acquaintance), academics, small business owners, and white-collar workers to join the protests. Many of them had personally borne the brunt of corruption and cronyism and wanted a better future for their children.

Yanukovych’s restriction of civil rights and simultaneous refusal to enter into serious negotiations with the opposition exacerbated the tensions. One group of protesters, the so-called “pravii sektor” (“right-wing sector”) tried to storm the parliament building. The government responded with more violence: Berkut units kidnapped and abused protesters; the first four fatalities occurred, one of whom was a fellow lecturer at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Ľviv. This escalation destroyed almost all hopes of a compromise between the government and the opposition. In mid-February, the revolution entered into its third phase. Berkut units and snipers positioned on the roofs surrounding the Maidan opened fire on protesters. Between February 18 and 20, at least one hundred people were killed. The mass murder fanned the flames of protest; the government lost control over the center of Kyiv.

Seeing his power rapidly eroding, Yanukovych clutched at a different straw. On February 21, through the mediation of the Polish and German foreign ministers and in the presence of a Russian government representative, he signed an agreement to hold elections and renounce some of his presidential powers. But by this point, the revolution had gained such momentum—fuelled by the violence and killings—that no compromise could last. The protesters demanded that Yanukovych be brought to justice; the president fled to East Ukraine and via Crimea to Russia. He was declared deposed by the Ukrainian parliament on February 22.

The Ukrainian opposition prevailed in this latest revolution in European history—vilified in Russia as a putsch—mainly because of its greater capacity to mobilize. Yanukovych had several thousand Berkut men behind him but, at the crucial moment, was not able to convince the military and police to conduct an inevitably bloody campaign in the center of Kyiv. The opposition, meanwhile, developed a bottom-up strategy. The constant presence of demonstrators on the Euromaidan was ensured by a regular changeover of personnel, akin to shift-working. Ad hoc committees set up in the capital and in Central and Western Ukraine organized the complex logistics of the operation. These committees raised funds to pay for food, clothing, and emergency medical care. With Berkut forces abducting, torturing and, in some cases, murdering injured demonstrators, the latter was a particularly urgent problem.

Russia villainized the Maidan protesters from the outset as nationalists and fascists. Certainly, the “right-wing sector” was a prominent element on the Kyiv barricades. They shot back when security forces opened fire on protesters. But the political base of the right-wing sector, the Svoboda (literally “freedom”) Party, founded in 2004, advocated no more radical policies than the Lega Nord in Italy or Marine Le Pen in France. And its following was a fraction of the size of the latter two. Its presidential candidate Oleh Tiahnybok gained a mere 1.2 percent of the vote at the election on May 25, 2014.39 Insofar as Svoboda politicians participate in government at all (they have seats in Ľviv and some West Ukrainian local parliaments), they have so far pursued a pragmatic course.

Another tendency Ukraine is repeatedly accused of is antisemitism. In a historical perspective, it was indeed rife here. While the Svoboda Party venerates the ultra-nationalist and fascist Stepan Bandera (1909–59) and the anti-Soviet resistance fighters of the 1940s, it tends to ignore the issue of antisemitism, as it does the Holocaust and Ukrainian collaboration with the Nazis. As yet, no xenophobic acts of violence similar to those in Germany in the nineties, claiming the lives of over one hundred non-Germans, have been committed in Svoboda’s stronghold, West Ukraine. The Jewish community in Ľviv leads a peaceful existence; the synagogue does not have to be guarded round the clock, as in Berlin or Paris. In March 2014, a series of attacks on synagogues and cemeteries occurred. But these were confined to the southern and eastern areas of Ukraine that had slipped out of state control. In early March, the chairperson of the association of Jewish communities and organizations in Ukraine, Josef Zisels, and the Orthodox and Liberal chief rabbis defended Ukraine against Russian accusations of nationalism and fascism. In an open letter to Vladimir Putin, they declared that Ukrainian Jews felt neither threatened nor discriminated against.40

Yet Russia used propaganda against Ukrainian fascists, Bandera supporters, and antisemites to prepare the ground for the invasion of Crimea and rally support for the so-called separatists in East Ukraine. President Yanukovych’s toppling proved to be a Pyrrhus victory for the opposition. Although a new government had been installed in the capital, it by no means controlled the entire country. Vladimir Putin immediately took advantage of the power vacuum in eastern and southern Ukraine. Just a few days after Yanukovych’s removal from office, Russian security forces infiltrated Crimea, where they started organizing demonstrations against the new government in Kyiv and occupied the regional parliament. On February 27, 2014, a vote on Crimean independence was staged, and Russia was called on to “protect [Crimea] against violent Ukrainian nationalists and extremists.” Putin then gave the official order for the Russian army to march in. Wasting no time, the new rulers held a referendum two weeks later (on March 16), promptly linking the issue of Crimean independence with the question of annexation to the Russian Federation. Of course the West protested against this blatant violation of international law, but Putin was determined to impress public opinion in Russia, where many still resented the fact that Crimea had become part of independent Ukraine in 1991.

Investigations by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, partly based on an internal strategic document, revealed that the invasion of Crimea and destabilization of Eastern Ukraine had been planned since early February.41 The Russian government persistently denied any involvement of Russian soldiers or secret service agents, but later blew its own cover by awarding medals to several “heroes” of the Crimean invasion. Moreover, Igor Girkin (better known by his martial pseudonym “Strelkov,” meaning “rifleman” or “shooter”), an officer of the Russian secret service involved in the invasion and occupation of the industrial town Sloviansk, gave away more than intended on several occasions. Announcing his appointment as defense minister of the “People’s Republic of Donetsk” and boasting about his military successes, Strelkov disclosed key details of Russia’s involvement.

Despite these blunders in the propaganda war over Ukraine, Russia prevailed on a number of points. In early 2014, Western media ran extensive coverage of the alleged threat posed by “fascists” in Kyiv, and also adopted other terms coined by the Kremlin. In the first half of 2014, there was much talk of the “Ukraine crisis” or the “Ukraine conflict,” as if it were primarily an internal dispute between Western and Eastern Ukraine. In fact, the only part to break away from centrally governed Ukraine was Donbas, where the Yanukovych clan power base was located—not even the predominantly Russian-speaking regions Charkiv or Dnipropetrovsk followed suit, indicating that it was not, as some have claimed, an “ethnic” conflict.42 The “separatists” are still referred to as such, although it would be more accurate to speak of “interventionists,” as their leaders are mostly Russian nationals and intelligence officials. Contemporary history has not yet come up with a word for these actors in the new, hybrid warfare. The Ukrainian government’s reference to “terrorists” is clumsy and misleading.

For the first time since the Yugoslav Wars of 1991–95, the Russian annexation of Crimea has drawn a contested territory on the map of Europe. Indeed, a number of structural similarities can be observed in the two conflicts. Like Putin today, Slobodan Milošević strove to extend his political hegemony to the surrounding countries. As long as these neighbors (in the case of the former Yugoslavia, the newly independent constituent republics) submit to the neoimperial center, the existing borders are respected. Belarus and Kazakhstan have allied with Moscow, but are not secure in their sovereignty—nobody knows how far their mighty neighbor is prepared to go. If a state tries to withdraw from the Kremlin’s (or Belgrade’s) hegemony, its minorities are mobilized. Putin made a rhetorical announcement to this effect in a parliamentary address as early as 2005. Speaking before the Duma, he described the demise of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical disaster of the twentieth century and asserted his role as protector of the “Russian citizens” living abroad.43 In this speech, which apparently only a few experts on Russia took seriously enough to read, Putin envisioned a Russian nation extending far beyond the borders of the Russian Federation. He has referred to this enlarged sphere for some years as the “Russian world.”

A further parallel between Russia and Serbia lies in the role of the church. The Russian Orthodox Church explicitly supports expansionist nationalism, as the Belgrade Patriarchate did in the nineties. Both countries are home to far more radical nationalists than Putin or Milošević, respectively. Events in Serbia have shown that once public opinion has been whipped up by nationalist propaganda, it is difficult to calm. Alongside these commonalities, however, there are also differences. Milošević and his regional allies did not have the necessary resources at their disposal to gain control of the renegade republics, which were supported, moreover, by influential actors in the West. The Russian Federation, in contrast, is absolutely dominant in the post-Soviet sphere. No one country is in a position to stand up to it alone. After all, it is hard to confront a nuclear power by military means. And evidently Russia is needed to resolve international conflicts ranging from the nuclear arms deal with Iran to ending (or at least containing) the war in Syria.

At home, Putin can tap into Cold War–based Russian fears of the West, and particularly NATO, at any time. Although the North Atlantic defense alliance explicitly rejected the idea of including Georgia or Ukraine as new members since the Russian-Georgian conflict over South Ossetia in 2008, the implicit offer of alliance through neutralization still served to tread on Russian toes. In addition, the region’s move toward the European Union in 2013 was perceived as a threat in Russia. Putin’s emphasis on geopolitics is a message to the national public as well as the international community. It drew the focus away from pressing domestic problems, especially the ailing economy and the endemic corruption. On an international level, it has caused Western politicians to think more in terms of spheres of influence, too.

But the conflict over Ukraine cannot be won with political arguments alone. It can only be resolved if the Maidan protests and the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych are understood as a genuine revolution. Eastern Europe has experienced several counterrevolutionary interventions in the past, such as 1792–94 and 1830–31 in Poland, 1849 in Hungary, and 1863 in Poland and parts of today’s Ukraine, each with a negative outcome. The difference now is that Russia has no allies in the West and although Ukraine is weak, it is not powerless. After the presidential election of May 2014, the whole country (apart from the occupied areas) was organized enough to hold regular parliamentary elections by October the same year.

The annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Eastern Ukraine have nevertheless severely undermined the revolution. The protesters in Kyiv wanted to end oligarchic domination and kleptocracy. Similarly to Prague’s Wenceslas Square in 1989, the Euromaidan was a forum for egalitarian ideas and utopias.44 Participants were determined not to repeat the mistakes of 2004 by allowing the revolution to be reduced to a mere change of government. But the Russian intervention prompted the Ukrainian administration to enter into a compromise with the old elites. Nationally known oligarchs were installed as governors in Donetsk and Luhansk, in the hope that they would be able to keep control over the contested regions.45 Kyiv also depends on regional oligarchs in Dnipropetrovsk and other areas in the East and the South. Owning chocolate factories, a shipyard, machinery construction plants and a number of media companies, the newly elected president Petro Poroshenko also belongs to the caste of oligarchs. The parliament in Kyiv continues to be dominated by stakeholders in large conglomerates. Indeed, the scenario increasingly resembles that in 2004, when new oligarchs simply replaced the old ones or the latter quickly changed sides.46 Perhaps Ukraine will be bereft of its revolution for the second time in recent history. The first time, its own elites were to blame; in 2014, Russian intervention was an additional factor.

At least the West has pledged substantial support to the new government in Kyiv. Funds from the IMF, the United States, and the European Union have already been made available. Nevertheless, the economic challenges are enormous and, in some respects, unprecedented. After the Orange Revolution, Ukrainian politics focused on the country’s postcommunist transformation, liberalizing foreign trade and the domestic economy—as in every Western country, telephone companies have mushroomed in Ukraine—deregulation (which occurred predominantly on paper while the economy is de facto controlled by monopolists), and privatization (which took place in the manner of a final sale, with even school and childcare properties being sold off). The standard recipe for transformation, then, has already been applied, with the familiar outcome.

In order to overcome its economic plight in the long term, Ukraine needs to undergo a postoligarchic transformation. This would entail reducing the importance of often illegally acquired private property, breaking up monopolies, and establishing government structures to serve more than the interests of the oligarchs. The rule of law must be consolidated and a “transformation from below” made possible. If Ukraine manages to develop its economy, the European Union should not rule out giving it full membership; if it persists in doing so, as it did with its failed neighborhood policy, Ukraine will remain trapped in a buffer zone—“intermediate Europe”—akin to the countries of East Central Europe between the First and Second World Wars. Ukraine and the entire post-Soviet sphere can be stabilized only if actors in Berlin, Brussels, and Washington, as well as in Kyiv, reassess the reasons for the missed opportunities since 1989.

The conflict over Ukraine has shown that one of the key requirements for the post-1989 order in Europe was peace, based on secure borders. Precisely this precondition was missing in the Caucasus and the former Yugoslavia in the early nineties. The outcome for the economies of these countries was devastating. Since 2008, when Russia invaded the South Ossetia region of Georgia, Moscow’s neoimperialist policy has threatened the stability of the post-Soviet world. Until the conflict over Ukraine sparked, peace in Europe was more or less taken for granted. But European history has shown that it is not a given. In the postwar era, the European Union acted as a force for peace in Eastern as in Western Europe, and must continue to do so. Countries’ prospect of EU membership was made conditional upon factors such as the protection of national minorities. Minority rights were strengthened in consequence, which in turn served to defuse a number of entrenched ethno-political conflicts during the nineties. Historically contested regions such as Upper Silesia, southern Slovakia, and Transylvania have stopped making negative headlines. The minorities came to accept their status which, in some respects, they even profit from.

One conclusion to be drawn from the conflict over Ukraine is that Vladimir Putin perceives the European Union as a rival in a global contest with the West rather than as a peaceful giant. This situation cannot be altered as long as one player regards world politics as a zero-sum game, where one side can only profit if the other loses. The European Union is therefore bound to accept Russia’s challenge to stand up for the security of its member states (especially those threatened by Moscow’s “protection” of Russian minorities), pool its resources, and support Ukraine—probably without Crimea, which appears to be permanently lost—as it did Poland after 1989.

What kind of support should the European Union provide? The experiences of the nineties have shown that the most crucial factor in stabilizing countries is the consolidation of state structures by means of rapid administrative reforms toward more autonomy for regions and municipalities. Structural changes of this kind made Poland’s economic miracle possible. As paradoxical as it may seem, neoliberalism is dependent on regulating governments.47 In addition, prosperity can only be increased if countries strengthen their human capital by investing in disadvantaged strata and regions. Wherever a deep social divide emerged in the nineties, economic development was slower in the mid- and long-terms (see chapter 5). Evidently, broad middle classes are more effective economic motors than are small elites such as the post-Soviet oligarchs. The former found more businesses, invest more, and consume more.

Whether neoliberalism fosters such broad middle classes is questionable. The shock therapy in Poland led to impoverishment and the decline of the educated middle class that had formed under state socialism. By neoliberal logic, the radical reforms were unavoidable and generated the forces that stimulated the later upswing. This was the argument put forward by Andrei Shleifer and Daniel Treisman in an article published in Foreign Affairs in the fall of 2014. But in fact it is highly questionable whether a direct causal link between specific economic policy stimuli and economic performance actually existed.48 Certainly, Poland’s shock therapy was effective in some areas, such as lowering inflation (which can be credited to Leszek Balcerowicz). But the success of the “transformation from below” and the entrepreneurial boom in Poland and the other Visegrad countries were made possible by social resources and human capital developed over a long period.

If Ukraine is to become a functioning market economy, it must give priority to strengthening such resources. Some examples are already emerging: The Carpathian village of Slavs’ke is home to a prettily situated private guest house. An exact replica of an Austrian mountain lodge, it is aptly named Alpiiskii Dvir (Alpine Manor). The proprietor acquired her startup capital by working in Polish-Ukrainian markets and bazaars in the nineties, until she had enough to build her first guest apartment and eventually an entire guest house. Her example cannot be transferred to an entire industrial belt, and far less so a country. But perhaps it could serve as a pointer that Western aid should be directed as much at such businesswomen as at banks and financial institutions.

The revolution of 2014 demonstrated the power of Ukrainian society and the supreme importance of transformation from below. The constant presence of protesters on the Maidan, the transport of supplies despite the traffic blockade between Western Ukraine and the capital, the provision of food and medical care to demonstrators—all of these were organized with great skill by civil society organizations. Taking these as indicators of economic creativity and performance, Ukraine’s future is surely not as bleak as it might currently appear.

The many comparisons here of the situation in Ukraine with Poland in the early nineties are not intended to suggest that the same economic recipes can be applied today in Kyiv as were applied twenty-five years ago in Poland. Subjecting a country where much of the population already lives on the breadline to shock therapy might provoke another social revolt. Simply jumping on the neoliberal bandwagon is not, then, an easy option for Ukraine. The external preconditions are not in place, nor are the internal prerequisites fulfilled—above all a functioning state and a minimum level of prosperity. According to the World Bank, the Ukrainian GDP dropped by 6.8 percent in 2014 due to the war, and continued falling even more in 2015.49 New programs must first be devised to stabilize the country’s economy and society.

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