Ukraine’s Turn to the East: A Geopolitical Accident

“Imperialist Putin “Steals” Ukraine”… If only all those hysterical newspaper articles were true!

In reality, the only thing he stole was Ukraine’s credit card debt. He’s no idiot, of course, and is in no rush to pay it off. The drama certainly hasn’t ended. But a geopolitical pivot on the model of Khmelnitsky’s 1654 decision this is not.

Let me try to explain the actual motivations of everyone involved:

(1) The EU wants the Ukraine. No, have to be more precise. The Poles, Balts, Swedes, and Anglos want Ukraine in the EU, without Yanukovych. Scratch that. They want Russia without Ukraine without a Yanukovych. As long as Ukraine politely waits in the queue alongside Turkey and Egypt and all those other peripheral countries enjoying the glories of “European civilization” with Associate memberships, all is well.

(2) Putin wants a weak Yanukovych – because Yanukovych is loyal to his oligarchs, not Putin (duh!) – in control of Ukraine. He also wants Ukraine in the Customs Union. (But not its credit card debt). To do this he has been applying pressure, with Russia banning the import of Roshen chocolates, which belong to a particularly outspoken proponent of the EU, the oligarch Petroshenko. There are warning that EU Association will mean the setting up of tariffs on Ukrainian imports (Russia does not, after all, wish to have to compete with European goods on level territory at this stage). Russia’s long-term goal (with the Eurasian Union) is gradual convergence with EU standards, and eventually even integration. But that is very far off (2040’s maybe). The greater the scope of the Eurasian Union, the more advantageous the terms on which said integration can occur. There is no hurry.

(3) Yanukovych wants what the Donbass oligarchs want. The Donbass oligarchs want to legitimize and secure their wealth by integrating into Western institutions. But the Donbass oligarchs also want their main protector to remain in power. And unfortunately, things like raising gas prices by 40%, salary freezes, and big spending cuts – as demanded by the IMF in return for loans – is going to collapse whatever remains of Yanukovych’s support in the east and south. And why does the EU/IMF demand such stringent concessions? See above. They want a Ukraine without Yanukovych! It’s all logical.

Hence, when PM Azarov says that the decision to suspect the EU deal is “tactical,” he is in all likelihood saying the truth – as opposed to opposition claims that it is all some kind of elaborate conspiracy concocted with Putin to deny Ukraine its “European choice” and return it to imperial moskali domination.

It is also worth noting that during much of the summer, Ukrainian TV channels were propagandizing the benefits of EU association. This is presumably what caused support for the EU to start exceeding support for the Customs Union/Eurasian Union. It would have been exceedingly stupid and irrational to carry out this information campaign with the ultimate intention of performing a volte face and turning back to Russia. It would just piss off the Ukrainians who had become more energized about Europe. An own goal. Why would they possibly do it?

Now that we have a more realistic idea of how things actually work – as opposed to the fanciful tales that the Lithuanians are spinning of Russian blackmail towards Yanykovych, and its faithful repetition in the Western media – we can now look to the future.

That future revolves around February 26, 2015. That is when the next Ukrainian Presidential elections are going to take place. Yanukovych, presumably, wants to win them. But he is not very popular. He has a long-standing reputation as a thug, and a slightly less long-standing reputation as an idiot. Internet commentators frequently call him a “vegetable.”

But he does want to remain President. So Tymoshenko remains in prison, while a law is being introduced to make it illegal for Klitschko to run for the Presidency, seeing as he is a tax resident of Germany. (Aside: If I were Ukrainian, the fact that a tax resident of a foreign country is probably the most popular candidate for leadership would make me profoundly depressed).

The logical course, then, would be to sign up to the Russian deal, which could stave off what many in the financial community are considering to be imminent collapse. But EU membership remains a strategic goal for the Party of Regions and the oligarchs too. So we continue to observe very arduous attempts to have the cake and eat it too. I am talking about their pleas for a three-way trade commission between the EU, Ukraine, and Russia. But too bad for them, the EU isn’t interested. Because the EU doesn’t want Yanukovych. “Look soldier, you don’t like me, and I don’t like you.” “But I like you!” “Okay. You like me, but I don’t like you.” That’s the EU and Yanukovych, in a nutshell.

So that option is out of the window. The days of playing the EU off against Russia to extract concessions is drawing to a close.

What is going to happen now?

Sign up to the Customs Union and be done with all the rigmarole. This is not a choice: Extensive Russian support is predicated on joining the Customs Union.

This is what the opposition, the worshipers of the “European choice” and haters of “Aziopa,” so fervently fear. But I suspect those fears are misplaced. The Ukrainian population under 50 is more pro-EU than pro-Eurasia, and as older people die off, the balance of electoral (not to mention street) power is going to shift West. In this scenario, the Party of Regions will bear a mounting electoral toll for depriving Ukrainians of their “European choice.” The oligarchs will be none too happy either.

Incidentally, this puts the Party of Regions in a fundamental bind. Their core electorate is very slowly but surely dissipating. But should they try to tap the electoral power of younger age groups by signing the Association Agreement, the result would wreck eastern industry and collapse their existing electorate. So they would want to postpone this until after the Presidential elections if at all possible.

Another choice is to default now, devalue the currency, and hope for recovery to pick up in a year’s time, just in time for the elections. (This is what Belarus did in 2010, minus the elections). But this is very risky. Russian gas imports will become even more expensive, and crippling to the budget – and they would be loth to throw Yanukovych a lifeline. If they maintain pressure, Yanukovych would be truly doomed in 2015, even if Tymoshenko and Klitschko are both out of the game. The EU/IMF wouldn’t help either, of course (they don’t want Yanukovych). All they’d have to do is play the waiting game and just wait for a pro-European President to come to power in 2015.

Yanukovych has no good options, that much is clear. All are fraught with varying degrees of risk. But surprisingly enough, it actually appears that – in the absence of any further involvement with the EU, which has basically thrown a hissy fit and wants to have nothing more whatsoever to do with Yanukovych – the Customs Union path is the most promising one for him. Not a good one, mind. The younger people west of Donbass and north of Crimea are pissed off at him, and presumably the oligarchs are none too happy either. But unlike the alternatives – alienation of the core electorate – these are fundamentally manageable problems. Younger people are more active, sure, but the power of the street is overrated (it was a court decision, not the Maidan, that was central to the Orange Revolution); and elderly people are more likely to vote. And what other choice do the Donbass oligarchs have?

All in all, a carnival of errors. The Party of Regions making EU integration a core part of its platform to the extent of funding an information campaign in favor of it. The EU for being so hardline on fiscal matters, which was ultimately a threat to Yanukovych’s political survival and hence unacceptable. Putin is the only one who appears to have played all his cards right.

Well, this train of thought has come to a most unexpected point. I suppose the “hysterical” articles aren’t so hysterical after all… But the outcome is accidental, not having been intended by Yanukovych.

And it goes without saying that things remain very unpredictable. For instance, there’s also the Chinese variant.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Incidentally, the “EuroMaidan” is now in full swing in Kiev, Lvov, and Kharkov. (IIRC Odessa was planned too, but I suspect no-one turned up there).

    Kommersant is providing live coverage.

    Kharkov has 600+ protesters. It’s a city of more than one million people. For perspective, it’s like 5,000 protesters in Moscow.

    Lvov has 700 protesters at the central square. Now that IS surprising – out of all places, I’d have thought it would have more. Maybe many of them went to Kiev instead. Funny occurrence:

    Одновременно с этим вблизи «евромайдана», возле фигуры Божьей Матери, прошли мирные богослужения секты Догнала. Прихожане секты Догналов раздавали в центре Львова, в том числе и на площади Шевченко, листовки с призывом легализировать их церковь. Кроме того, сторонники Догнала выступили против однополых браков и усыновления такими семьями детей, тем самым выражая протест Евросоюзу. Студенты, пришедшие на митинг в поддержку евроинтеграции, расценили действия «догналовцев» как провокацию.

    Some religious cult set up shop and began to preach against European homosexuality laws. Moskali vs. eurogays, who do you hate more? hehe Pro-EU students calling it a provocation.

    Claims of 50,000 – 200,000 in Kiev itself. From the videos I’ve seen, I’d say 50,000 is the maximum realistic upper plank. The 100,000+ claims are every bit as fantastical as Navalny’s.

    Kiev has about a quarter the population of Moscow, so in practice a 50,000 turnout (which I suspect is too high but let’s wait for serious geospatial estimates) would equate to 200,000 in Muscovite terms. That’s twice as big as the most successful Meeting for Fair Elections (in February 2012). On the other hand, whereas Moscow protests only involved the non-official opposition, the Kiev protests have leaders of the systemic opposition as speakers, so it’s not surprising that enthusiasm would be a bit higher.

    Still, overall it appears to be a flop.

    UPDATE: 3,000 in Lvov now. Now that’s more in line with reasonable expectations. Cell phone connectivity apparently disappearing in central Kiev (because of overload I imagine).

    • My sources say that Kharkov demonstration is not so epic. The Odessan city council banned all demonstrations. I think they are afraid after the arrest of Igor Markov. Not that it would be much epic if it did happen. The demonstration in Kiev is average. Lvov looks like the most impressive of all I have seen.

  2. Reposted straight from my comments on his article from my own wall at Anatoly’s request:

    Anatoly Karlin’s analysis is excellent and succinctly stated (as usual) – with two small but sharp exceptions I would draw:

    1. “Russia’s long-term goal (with the Eurasian Union) is gradual convergence with EU standards, and eventually even integration”

    – This might once have been Putin and the Russian foreign policy elite’s goal. But no longer. Certainly not since Libya and Syria and Putin’s subsequent decision to return to the Presidency. Russia wants to consolidate as much of the post-Soviet space as possible into the Eurasian Union – that that is the priority of his Presidency he has made clear from day one. Second – Russia is looking economically to the dynamic and growing East in their own ‘Asian pivot’ as is only sensible – not only China but the Koreas, Japan, and even SE Asia as well.

    Such as tattered remnants of a ‘Common Europe’ dream (at least from the Azores to the Urals) still exist – they are fading and fond but fanciful memories of a 19th-20th century Europe that was, but is no longer (having been replaced by the postmodern liberal/neoliberal Transatlantic EU). That Europe no longer exists. Putin would still love an eventual condominium with that previous Europe, a Europe on his terms, but the likelihood of that happening is the same as the McFaul’s vision of the West subsuming a “Western” Russia that is just as much a part of his imagination.

    Eurasia and Europe are separate civilizations and drifting farther apart in identity, geopolitics, and numerous other facets. Putin has increasingly been forced by events and reality to accept that and it shows. It is not just ideology and identity anymore, but pure realism and pragmatism. And those are things he understands…

    2. “The Ukrainian population under 50 is more pro-EU than pro-Eurasia, and as older people die off, the balance of electoral (not to mention street) power is going to shift West…The younger people west of Donbass and north of Crimea are pissed off at him,”

    This is vastly overstated IMHO, although Anatoly hits it closer on the second try. There is no evidence that the youth of the East and South are ‘Westernizing’ to anywhere the extent of the Western Ukraine. And there is no evidence that the East is depopulating any faster than the West. This just leaves a demographic, identity, and electoral stalemate – and as in every country once the youth get older, they become domesticated and have vested economic interests, and become more conservative. For the foreseeable future the Ukraine will remain an identity-divided nation with the West looking West and the East and South looking to Russia.

    • Re-1.

      Might well be true. Mark Sleboda has a lot more connections with Russian policy-makers (via Dugin) than I do. Although whether integration with the EU (eventually) is on the cards or not, either way the trade bloc as a whole is more rational with the Ukraine in as opposed to out.


      Here I have real differences. Well, not I as such, but statistics.

      There is no evidence that the youth of the East and South are ‘Westernizing’ to anywhere the extent of the Western Ukraine.

      No, they are not, but its worth pointing out that Donetsk 18-25 year olds (from one of the most pro-Russian areas) support Customs Union accession (38% vs. 29%) to about the same extent as the average Ukrainian (40% vs. 33%). This is a H-U-G-E generational split you have there in the east, with support for Eurasian integration being almost unanimous among the elderly in Donetsk.

      And there is no evidence that the East is depopulating any faster than the West.

      Via commentator AP:

      • That map has to be coupled with the populations of each area to be of any use. The Donbass and Transcarpathia do not have the same initial populations to begin with, so a loss of 200,000 people in the southeast could represent a much smaller percentage loss than the color coding and raw numbers would lead many to believe. I actually did compare the map’s numbers with population figures (if I can dig up my calculations again I will post them) and I remember coming to the conclusion that the overall balance between the various political regions of Ukraine wasn’t going to be that badly affected depending on which way the regions voted.

        • Luhansk and Lviv oblasts have similar populations (2.2 million vs. 2.5 million, respectively). Yet since 1991, Luhansk oblast has lost 273,500 voters while Lviv oblast has lost only 27,100 voters.

          Here is a map of percentage losses per oblast:

          The raw numbers of voters are meaningful with respect to nation-wide political races such as the presidential elections the proportional party-line part of the parliamentary elections. AFAIK Ukraine doesn’t do redistricting according to census results so the individual candidates portion of the parliamentary election isn’t affected by population change.

      • Okay, so using the populations of the oblasts detailed here:

        We can break down the populations (for 2010) as follows:

        – South and East Ukraine (the areas that normally vote PoR): 21,663,695

        – Central Ukraine (the area of Ukraine that was in the USSR prior to 1939 excepting for the South and East): 14,833,221

        – Western Ukraine (the parts annexed into Ukraine between 1939 and 1941): 8,107,679

        – Transcarpathia: 1,246,323

        From the maps the losses (or gains) for the same regions between 1991 and 2013 (a 22 year period) is as follows:

        South and East: -1,320,000 (-60,000 per year between 1991-2013)
        Central: -495,100 (-22,504 per year)
        Western: +160,100 (+7,277 per year)
        Transcarpathia: +104,800 (+4,763)

        Transcarpathia tends to vote for the pro-Western parties but also seems to be somewhat of a swing region, hence why it’s numbers are detailed separately.

        Western Ukraine tends to vote for extremely pro-Western and anti-Russian figures while Central Ukraine (Tymoshenko’s main base) tend to be pro-Western but also not against having good relations with Russia (exactly what relations Ukraine should have with Russia varies depending on the individuals, especially in Central Ukraine). South and East Ukraine tends to be more anti-Western and pro-Russia excepting for the younger generations who seem to have views more akin to what one finds in Central Ukraine.

        So what this means is that electorally is that a person like Tymoshenko could usually count on Central and Western Ukraine for support while Transcarpathia would be a toss up.

        Assuming the rates of loss or gain remain the same, then by 2015 the figures should look like:

        South and East: 21,363,695
        Central: 14,720,698
        Western: 8,144,065
        Transcarpathia: 1,270,141

        The PoR region would thus be between 21,363,695 and 22,633,836 (if they can win over Transcarpathia) and the anti-PoR region would have between 22,864,764 (without Transcarpathia) to 24,134,905 (with Transcarpathia). If the total populations can be used to approximate the voting age population and the actual voters then it would mean that going forward elections will continue to be as close as they were in the past and generally split 50:50 for quite a few years yet.

        • Generally correct. a couple of minor corrections: Transcarpathia is much less nationalistic than Galicia across the mountains, and is the least Orange of the Orange oblasts, but is still not a swing region. Rather, despite being in the extreme West, it behaves much like central Ukraine. In 2010’s second round Tymoshenko won Zakarpattia 51.66% to 41.55%. In contrast, Tymoshenko didn’t get more than 33% in any of the Blue oblasts.

          Yes, elections will continue to be close but the demographic edge for the pro-Western side will continue to increase every year. From 2010 to 2015 the West will have gained about a .5% demographic advantage in terms of voters.

      • I have an ignorant question: why does western Ukraine have relatively good fertility numbers? Is it significantly more religious than the rest of the country?

        • That is certainly part of the equation.

          Another contributing factor may be that it was originally part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, not the Russian Empire. Nor was it part of the pre-WW2 USSR. So what’s the connection? Well, nobody really understands, but those old empires have left patterns that continue to be reflected in socio-cultural life to this day.

          They are also predominantly rural places, and rural areas consistently have higher TFR’s than urban areas, including in the USSR areas (in 2012, urban Ukrainian TFR was 1.39 urban and 1.87 rural). For instance, Galicia, which is substantially more urbanized – it has Lvov – than oblasts like Rovenskaya, has a far more modest TFR – though still well above the Ukrainian norm. OTOH, the most urbanized area in Ukraine is Donbass, which also has one of the worst demographics (though not quite as bad as the areas around Kiev).

          I’m sure AP will be able to come up with more factors.

        • I think the bottom line is that it is more traditional (which includes being more religious). Western Ukraine actually has a few very distinct regions with their own histories, but they all have in common the facts that:

          1. They avoided the brunt of Soviet social engineering in the 1920s and 1930s
          2. By the time the Soviets came into these areas the local cultures were developed enough (in terms of literacy rates, “national consciousness” which were related) to better resist Sovietization efforts. The people didn’t believe what they were taught.

          It’s not simply an urban vs. rural thing, because rural areas in the rest of Ukraine have much worse demographics than do rural or urban areas in western Ukraine. Wikipedia has a lot of detailed maps. Here is the rural population:

          Note that rural areas in northeast are a demographic black hole, in striking contrast to those in the northwest.

          As I noted, western Ukrainian regions, while having in common the fact that they didn’t joining the USSR until 1939 or 1944, had diverse histories. Galicia and Bukovyna were part of Austria since 1795, Zakarpatiya was part of Hungary for centuries. But Volhynia (Rivne and Volyn oblasts) was part of the Russian Empire before passing to Poland in 1919. And here we can directly see the impact of Soviet rule in the 1920s and 1930s. Prior to 1918, what are now Volyn, Rivne and Zhytomir oblasts were all part of the Tsarist Volhynian Guberniya. These areas shared a history for centuries. But in 1918 the Volhynian Guberniya was split between Poland and the USSR. Volyn and Riven oblasts became part of Poland, Zhytomir part of the USSR. They were reunited briefly in 1939 and permanently in 1944. Today the contrast between these areas is quite striking:

          The ultra-high natural growth rate in Rivne stops abruptly at the 1919 border.

          • Well, the Baltic states had a similar experience to the Volyn and Rivne oblasts – they were in the Russian Empire, then out of Russia’s orbit, then brought into the USSR by Molotov-Ribbentrop. Yet they have low fertility now. And Polish demographics aren’t doing well either. The Wikipedia has maps of natural population growth in Belarus. The west doesn’t appear to be doing better than the east THERE.

            Is there any place in Europe besides western Ukraine that has above-replacement fertility? Off the top of my head I’m only coming up with Iceland. Something unique (or nearly unique) is going on in Western Ukraine.

            • Here is a table (via Wiki) of TFR by Ukrainian oblasts. None of them are quite replacement level, though Rivne is really close (2.08).

              The TFR of both the UK and France is at 2.0, so logically they will both have plenty of counties and departments at above-replacement TFR. Irish TFR briefly surpassed replacement rates in 2006-7 but is now at 2.05. Here is a full list.

              In short, while Western Ukraine has top-range fertility rates by W. European standards, they are by no means outliers.

            • I suspect that with Poland and the Baltics, EU membership has meant that many young fertile young people have moved West (many western Ukrainians have too, but I suspect it’s for illegal seasonal work rather than long-term settlement and that it’s harder for young families to leave as units). There may have been an erosion of cultural traditions, that had been preserved under communism, due to EU membership. Western secular values aren’t as subject to resistance by the population as Soviet ones were.

              Ironically, although western Ukrainians want into the EU, the separation from it may be a factor in the relatively good demographic situation in their territory.

        • Another point: Here is a 2009 map of languages spoken at home.

          If you speak Ukrainian, you’ll have a high TFR; if you speak Russian or Surzhyk at home (no matter which), it will probably be lower.

          • “If you speak Ukrainian, you’ll have a high TFR; if you speak Russian or Surzhyk at home (no matter which), it will probably be lower.”

            Which, I think, is linked to traditionalism.

            I wonder about their definition of surzhyk. I’ve been to some deep orange areas on this map this summer and the language I heard there was pretty much Ukrainian. There were a few Russian words being used (probably no more than English words such as “business lunch” or “wow” being used in modern Moscow), but it seems the threshold for Surzhyk must have been pretty low if this area was considered Surzhyk rather than Ukrainian speaking. Yellow must be really pure Ukrainian.

            • I seem to find that Ukrainians either speak Ukrainian with Russian vocabulary, or Russian with Ukrainian vocabulary. Either of these is basically Surzhyk I would say…

              • It would depend on the extent of the Russian vocabulary. Post-1990 Russia has adopted a large number of English words (my wife, who left in the early 90’s, and still speaks proper Soviet Russian, is often surprised by such changes in the language). I remember when spending the summer in Moscow about 10 years ago a very popular movie was called Антикиллер. Restaurants advertise бизнес ланч, “wow” became a frequently used expression (this has gone down somewhat lately), people say “super,” etc. Yet,nobody would claim that Russians have ceased speaking Russian and speak “Rusglish” simply because mass exposure to the English language through media has resulted in some English words and phrases being adopted into modern Russian.

                My observation in an allegedly Surzhyk-speaking oblast in central Ukraine is that, unlike in western Ukraine, people speaking the Ukrainian language use Russian words occasionally – not noticeably more often than they use English words in Moscow. I may be wrong, but this seems to be an overly broad definition of Surzhyk.

            • Or could it be that the areas they have colored simply represent the plurality of the language spoken at home? For instance if in Kiev, 40% spoken Surzhyk at home, 39% spoke Ukrainian and 21% spoke Russian then the map makers would color Kiev with the Surzhyk color even though the majority of people did not actually speak Surzhyk at home and almost as many people would speak Ukrainian at home….

        • Western Ukraine is significantly more religious than the East. And this goes both for the Uniate Galicia as it does for the adherents of the canonical Orthodox Church in Transcarpathia.

  3. Excellent analysis and summary. Would be interesting to read Alex’s opinion.

  4. Good analysis. But worth mentioning the alleged Russian restrictions on Ukrainian trade (especially chocolate) since August no?

    I’m most interested in the IMF dimension: How coercive is it? What would be the impact of IMF conditions – presumably liberalization, austerity and selling off the State’s family jewels to Western firms – on the Ukrainian economy and power structures? Hmm!

    • Yes, added that section. As I understand, the banning of Roshen chocolates for their “toxicity” is symbolic, much like prior bans across the years on Moldovan wine and Georgian Borjomi. It doesn’t hurt economically (how much of Ukraine’s GDP does Roshen account for) so much as the intention being to send a message. Though I think its a rather crude method and suspect its overall effect is sooner negative.

      There has been a substantial collapse of Ukrainian-Russian trade in the past year, but this is probably related to the recession in the Ukraine (5 quarters of negative growth now IIRC) and the slowdown in Russia.

      The IMF conditions are stringent: 40% increase in gas prices to households (Ukrainian subsidies to domestic gas users are very generous but also very costly to the budget), a freeze in state salaries, and bid budget cuts. I don’t know if there are any privatization requirements. Regardless, the other conditions are untenable enough by themselves. If the Party of Regions were to follow through on them, short of Yanukovych becoming a Lukashenko-like dictator, they WILL lose the Presidency in 2015.

      The assistance the EU is providing is minimal; as I understand it, their main contribution is to grease up the IMF to make the loans. But the IMF package will come with all those conditions.

  5. 1. Well I wouldn’t want to overestimate the amount of influence Dugin has on the Kremlin elite. Its probably less than you would think. More so now than in the Medvedev/Surkov years, but still…Let’s say that that is my reading of the foreign policy actions and statements and leave it at that.

    2. Interesting. Those numbers are actually much more encouraging to me than some of the others I have seen. There is always a generational split in political opinion between liberal-conservative – whether in the Ukraine, the US, UK, Russia…etc. Which is where my comment about the maturation of voters as they become tied down with jobs, families, etc. Many of those young voters will ‘grow up’ and become more conservative – which in the Ukraine’s case generally means pro-Russian, esp. socio-politically.

    This is even more important when the factor you correctly mentioned – that the elderly actually vote much much more reliably than the young do is factored in.

    If an actual referendum (not that direct democracy of the masses should ever be the deciding factor for complicated issues such as foreign policy) was held on the bipolar choice for the Ukraine between the EU and the Customs Union (not that the EU likes referendums and democratic votes – when referendums go against the EU elites they tend to ban them and never have them again…or make you vote again and again till you say yes…lol) the Customs Union might very likely win by a small amount, or there would be a dead tie.

    2. I stand rightly corrected on the population decline disparities by region and bow to the statistics. It is more severe than I thought. However the fact of how much more populated the East is than the West still is and the possibility of internal migration (overwhelmingly to Kiev) must also play a role, those citizens will not automatically change their voting habits and cultural preferences simply because of migration to the capital. One must also imagine that a greater percentage of Western Ukrainian emigration is external (to the West) rather than internal to the capital when compared to emigration from the East and South. Whether that is significant enough to actually play a factor is another question…

    • “However the fact of how much more populated the East is than the West still is and the possibility of internal migration (overwhelmingly to Kiev) must also play a role, those citizens will not automatically change their voting habits and cultural preferences simply because of migration to the capital.”

      If mass migration to Kiev from the East accounted for a lot of the change in voter numbers, we would have expected Kiev to have gotten less nationalistic since independence. Instead, the very opposite has occurred. Natural growth rate is probably a big factor. Here is a map for 2012 (the trend has been similar since independence):

      “There is always a generational split in political opinion between liberal-conservative – whether in the Ukraine, the US, UK, Russia…etc. Which is where my comment about the maturation of voters as they become tied down with jobs, families, etc. Many of those young voters will ‘grow up’ and become more conservative – which in the Ukraine’s case generally means pro-Russian, esp. socio-politically.”

      While this is undoubtedly true of the very young, the cut-off in Ukraine between support for a Western orientation vs, for an eastern one is age 50.

      • A note about mass migration from Donetsk to Kiev. Actually, there may be some such migration – however it would probably be western-oriented Donetskers attracted to Kiev. Just as New York attracts liberals from the Midwest and the South, Kiev attracts pro-western or nationalistic people from the south and east. Presumably Russian-oriented people from the South and East would tend to stay in their region or move to Russia rather than move to increasingly nationalistic and western-oriented Kiev. I don’t have data for this, it’s my hunch.

        • I think that would make sense.

          Such an influx of Europhile but Russophone immigrants would also explain why Kiev remains predominantly Russian-speaking, despite the otherwise steady trend of Ukrainization.

      • I have personally read Ukrainian Russophiles complain about Galician settlement in Kiev. Don’t know how much that is true.

  6. @Craig James Willy – a few details of the IMF’s demanded neoliberal shock therapy “reforms” if you haven’t already seen them.

    “The government has been trying to play off Russia against the EU and International Monetary Fund, but the strategy has blown up in their faces. The IMF suspended a $15bn stand-by credit in 2011 for non-compliance, and has continued to demand radical reforms before any more money is released.

    Mr Azarov said the “straw that broke the camel’s back” on the EU deal was a fresh list of harsh demands by the IMF this week, including a 40pc rise in gas bills, a salary freeze, big budget cuts, and lower energy subsidies. “All they were willing to lend us is enough to pay them back again,” he said.

    An IMF spokesman said Ukraine needs “deep-reaching structural reforms” and exchange rate flexibility, IMF code for a devaluation.”

  7. So consensus is converging on ~50,000 in Kiev.

    The opposition claimed 110K; the police claimed 24K. As in Russia (and France re-the anti-homosexual marriage protests), the real number is almost always close to the middle between the police and opposition estimates.

    Here is a photograph:

    At first it looks very impressive, but on closer examination one notices that the crowd thins out beyond the square, and even within certain parts of the square. There are even parked cars close to its center.

    • It looks like the government is going to bring in the paid (anti-EU) crowds:

      • In fairness, they’re not the only ones at it; is a liberal paper out and out.

        А вот 66-летняя пенсионерка Анна Васильевна оказалась на Европейской площади по зову «старых друзей из оппозиции», которые за трехчасовое участие в митинге заплатили ей авансом 100 гривен (400 рублей). «Мне не стыдно. Я на все акции оппозиции хожу. Правое же дело. Сколько можно уже верить в дружбу с Россией, если она уже 100 лет последних так над нами издевается. Голодомор кто организовал? Газ, самый дорогой в мире, нам кто продает? Я считаю, что русские нам враги, а не друзья. А раз за нужное дело еще и деньги дают, то я всегда за! Хай дают мне 100 гривен в день, я тут буду стоять хоть месяц подряд. Власть мне все равно ни черта не дает», — рассуждает она в беседе с корреспондентом «Газеты.Ru».

        Своих сторонников в центр Киева, но только на соседнюю Михайловскую площадь привела и правящая Партия регионов. Правда, их было в разы меньше — порядка 20 тыс. человек. Большинство из них свезли в Киев из восточных регионов Украины специальные автобусы. За участие в акции каждому платили от 60 до 90 гривен (от 240 до 360 рублей). Участники митинга в поддержку властей держали в руках плакаты «Нет — Ассоциации с ЕС» и «ЕС — гомодиктатура».

      • Do you honestly think that nobody paid anyone at the Euromaydan? You think they are all true believers. The amount of bums and students at that protest suggests otherwise. Plus, note the paraphernalia and other things such as buses bringing people from regions, there is money behind the event.

        As is the tradition in Eastern Europe, such protests almost always have paid actors, and it does not matter whether they support the government or are against it. I personally consider paying people to protest rather normal. I would personally not hold a banner in cold weather if I wasn’t paid for it.

        • Anatoly’s post demonstrated that one can be a “true believer” and still accept money for something one would have done anyways. I wonder how many of the ones paid to attend the pro-government demonstration can be characterized in this way.

          • There is an anti-Maydan movement, and it existed before the government decided to give Eurointegration a pause. There is particular Holy Rus’ church going grannies contingent. They seem like prime example of what can be called “true believers”…

  8. Viktor Yuschenko has decided to chime into the debate:

    Europe needs to help Ukraine escape from Russia – The EU has the ability to help Kiev avoid an imperialist nightmare, writes Viktor Yushchenko.

  9. Whatever shit happens in Ukraine now, Putin owns it. It was incredibly stupid not to let Ukraine sign the agreement, because in the end it is just a fucking declaration of intent. Nothing more.

    Putin already had Ukraine in the pocket – Sevastopol will be his until 2042, and as long as that stays there will be no way Ukraine would be able to obtain full membership in EU or in Nato. With the association agreement in force the EU would have pumped Ukraine sick of cash, and what they would have done with it? Paid what they own to Russia! Now Putin has to subsidize Ukraine so that they just won’t fucking collapse tomorrow.

    You know what is gonna happen next? In order to punish Yanik Eurojerks will try to reduce gas imports through Ukraine. And they will succeed, with the help of American shale shit. And even worse – they are gonna initiate all sorts of giggly “social programs”, “twin-city initiatives”, and student exchanges. They will probably introduce visa-free regime with Ukraine, just to piss Putin. All this will turn Ukrainians more and more away from Russia. Ukraine is is gonna be just one more freaking difficult province to govern. Russia really doesn’t need that now.

    I was a Putin fan. Because he was the only counter force to naively liberal-pederast West. But no more. He has screwed everything, he has no more friends in Europe, everybody hates him, and whatever he does or says is just ridiculed. Hopefully someone will do a coup and restore Russia’s position in the world (at least to where it was about 2007). And this time, please let it be a man of normal height for fuck’s sake.

    • Who will introduce Visa Free regime with Ukraine again? На зло москалям и Путину? The country I live in is certainly not going to do it, they would not even do it to piss Putin off. Putin would probably laugh in their face and ask the British whether they need any help getting Ukrainians out of this island.

      “Social programs”? For who? Ukrainians? Don’t be silly, the EU has its own to take care of, so does the US. “Twin cities”? “Student exchanges”. But that is already happening.

      You must understand that there are far reaching interests in turning Ukraine away from Russia. You have all types of Western NGOs, revanchist diaspora, Ukrainian zapadniks and nationalists. Each with their own little grudge against Russia. What is Putin supposed to do against this wave? These people were there long before anyone even knew the name Putin, I don’t think they can be wished away.

      Sure, I hear how Russia should help the Russophiles in Ukraine. Every Russophile project in Ukraine that had some success was ruined by Ukrainian siloviki. In Moscow (Meshkov), in jail (Markov), or on the margins of political life is where you find successful Russophile projects. Even the Ukrainian government wants Ukrainians to turn away from Russia.

      So, even if you replace Putin with Navalny (or whomever) there is little chance the latter would be able to do anything about the situation. He would be faced with the same obstacles Putin is facing now. Putin put it well: “Ukraine, no matter where it is moving, will inevitably be together with us.” All those Western NGOs, revanchist diaspora or Ukrainian zapadniks and nationalists have their limits. There is no better illustration of it than the current situation.

  10. We all know that EU doesn’t want Ukraine as a full member now or possibly ever, but, even assuming that at least it actually wants Ukraine as an associate free trade partner, its behavior still makes no sense to me.

    Has anyone been able to explain it? This is simply not how I’d expect EU to behave if it really found integration with Ukraine to be worthwhile.
    For one thing, why the hell now, and not some 5 years earlier? How the hell is Ukraine any more ready for association today than it was then? The circumstances today could not possibly be worse for integration, on both ends. Consider this:

    1. EU’s image has been somewhat damaged by the crisis and it is still only in the middle of recovering from it
    2. it has very limited funds to throw around on prospective members than it used to, and less political will too with the nationalist forces rising
    3. Ukraine’s economy is in deep shit and needs huge bailouts
    4. Ukraine has a pro-Russian government and parliament in power which naturally finds it politically difficult to pursue EU integration
    5. There is now actually an alternative in the form of Russian-backed customs union and common economic space, there was no such thing just a couple of years before

    Why didn’t they pursue this association agreement back in, oh I don’t know, 2005 or 2007, when everything was relatively rosy and easy? Instead back then all the fuss was about NATO, and it was none other than Europe which ultimately blocked Ukraine’s membership there at the last moment.

    But wait, the Eurocommissars obviously didn’t consider the situation to be quite terrible enough already, so they worked extra hard to make it all but impossible.
    1. They promised Ukraine absolutely nothing in the way of monetary compensation either for losing Eastern markets due to tariffs or for losing jobs and industries back at home due to European competition.
    2. They made it conditional for the Ukrainian government to humiliate itself by releasing its main political opponent from prison, having finally jailed her just two years back.

    Given all that, I have serious doubts that they want the current negotiations to succeed. I think, perhaps, they are rather interested in simply keeping Ukraine out of the Russian integration sphere for as long as possible, and making it as costly as possible for Russia to integrate with Ukraine – so costly that it wouldn’t even make any sense. The Balts, Poles, and Swedes may actually be interested in EU-Ukraine integration for some economic, but mostly security/political reasons. But they are not the EU and they don’t drive its policy. But hey, they don’t lose anything from failure either. At the very least it gives them a good opportunity to loudly rant about evil Russia and hopefully damage its reputation and relations with the West.

    • All very good points, pikachu.

      That said, there are a couple of major differences between now and then:

      (1) The EU in 2008 had just finished swallowing 12 new countries since 2004. Today, the only recent new member is tiny Croatia.

      (2) I don’t think budget constraints have become a much bigger issue. The EU budget (the German Wiki is the one with the precise year-by-year numbers) shows the EU budget has continued growing throughout the crisis.

      (3) There is now actually an alternative in the form of Russian-backed customs union and common economic space, there was no such thing just a couple of years before. And this, of course.

      Mind you, I do think by “EU” it is mainly a Polish/Balt/Swedish initiative to get Ukraine in (or rather out – of Russia’s sphere). And they have really stepped up their efforts. For instance, BNE – which has really good ongoing coverage – a day ago reported that the EU had supposedly dropped Tymoshenko’s release as a pre-condition. This might reflect a kind of last minute realization/desperation on the part of Visegrad/Swedes.

      But they also argue that the main constraint is money, not Tymoshenko. I agree with that. The EU is very rich and can afford to be generous, but it is very tight-fisted. They were willing to risk a financial crisis by their policies on Cyprus, whereas a bailout would have cost $10 billion. Ukraine’s allegiance (at least for the short-term) is approximately that amount. If they weren’t going to spend that on Cyprus, they – as in Germany, the master of the purse-strings – certainly won’t spend that on Ukraine either.

    • Despite the current Ukrainian government being viewed by many as pro-Russian, the Party of Regions has always declared Western vector of integration to be its policy. Like its predecessor, the current government pursued the Association Agreement.

      As for the EU, it does not lose much from keeping Ukraine out.

    • Hmmmm. Interesting points to consider. I had concluded that Yanukovych’s way of backing out would have lead to private sighs of relief in the EU because they wouldn’t have to worry about actually going through with their threat of not signing the agreement without Tymoshenko’s release. But as Alexander has pointed out and as AK has also pointed out the EU’s Ukrainian policy seems mainly to be driven by a set if countries rather than all of them. So Germany doesn’t seem particularly concerned and may in fact welcome the breakdown of the association agreement but countries like Poland, Sweden, the Baltic States and to a lesser extent France were probably hoping for the signing.

      Perhaps it could even be that some countries in the EU kept holding out for conditions they knew the Ukrainian government would balk at in the hopes that Ukraine would walk away from the agreement. In which case failure could have been the plan.

      • It is really only Poland, and the Baltic states that are very enthusiastic about Ukraine becoming part of the EU, or at the very least not part of any Russian integration project. To them it is a way to get at Russia, and score some anti-Russian points.

        When it comes to more Western countries, the politicians there believe in the EU mission to civilise post-Communist barbarians, and might be even swayed by East European moaning about Russia. But in the end they are not that enthusiastic about 45 million Ukrainians competing for their jobs.

  11. “(1) The EU in 2008 had just finished swallowing 12 new countries since 2004. Today, the only recent new member is tiny Croatia.”

    While that is true of course, I’m not sure why exactly it should matter how much time had passed since then. It’s not even accession which the EU is negotiating with Ukraine, it’s association. NATO also finished swallowing about the same number of countries by 2008, yet NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia was very much on the agenda until the Europeans decided to shut it down.

    “(2) I don’t think budget constraints have become a much bigger issue. The EU budget (the German Wiki is the one with the precise year-by-year numbers) shows the EU budget has continued growing throughout the crisis.”

    Isn’t that precisely the problem? The EU expenditures are growing even when its economy is shrinking. And what that page lists is just the tip of the iceberg, because from what I can tell it does not include various extra-budgetary bailout mechanisms which sprang up in the last couple of years like mushrooms after rain. Some of those instruments are backed by the budget as collateral, but they are not part of the budget per se, instead they borrow money directly from the financial markets, from the European governments, banks, ECB, etc – and transfer the funds directly to the designated bailout targets. Which basically means that they are taking upon themselves the burden of the debt held by the troubled Eurozone nations. The European banks have also been forced to write off some of their bond holdings in “haircuts”, which again means they suffered serious losses as a result, as if the banking system was not strained enough already. And the crisis is not really over just yet. Time after time we keep hearing that one or another Eurozone member nation might not be able to make it and require additional funding. With everyone in Europe now implementing austerity and tightening their belts, they’d have to be nuts to throw large amounts of money around to take care of basketcases like Ukraine, which is not even a EU member. Now in 2005 or 6, doing so would not look anywhere near as insane.

    “For instance, BNE – which has really good ongoing coverage – a day ago reported that the EU had supposedly dropped Tymoshenko’s release as a pre-condition. This might reflect a kind of last minute realization/desperation on the part of Visegrad/Swedes.”
    Yeah, I’ve heard that, but it’s too little and way too late. If EU was seriously planning to associate with Ukraine at this time, it should have never imposed such ridiculous demands in the first place.

    It’s plain obvious that nothing will be signed at this particular upcoming EP summit, but I don’t think even a year later we will see any progress. Judging from the reactions in Europe and in Ukraine itself to the “postponement”, they are acting like a self-fulfilling prophecy that will make association impossible under the current government.

    • sorry, should have used the reply button instead 🙂

    • FYI, the EU has recently agreed to reduce expenditures:

      EU Observer: MEPs finally back seven-year EU budget

      I strongly suspect that this will be revised upward (coz the Brussels is a law unto itself, sic the handling of the Euro) when and if the general health of EU economies pick up.

      Poland received EUR12 billion in funds in 2012. Funds for new states are being more strictly controlled along with general cut backs on EU bureaucrat contracts and conditions.

      On this Ukraine thing, I can certainly see the shit flying far and wide, with plenty landing on the EU, it just might take a little time to stick. No one will admit responsibility of course. Maybe Brussels thought the Ukraine would do a Serbia and would be desperate to say ‘Yes’. Quite a massive miscalculation. Fools.

  12. Congratulations on your analysis briefly and clearly explains what really happens in Ukraine.
    We are witnessing a repetition of history of centuries ago. With Polish and Baltic Russia attacking all possible means as puppies from their masters , while the former Central Powers observed what happens silently , but with satisfaction .
    While the oppression of Russian speakers in the Baltic States that violates all human rights is silenced by the EU.
    England and the United States have been subsidized and subside now all opposition against Russia. The international media , dominated by Anglo-Saxons , attack or ridicule Putin continuously , and often with more violence than African or Arab countries devoid of any respect for human rights. A Spanish proverb says ” dogs bark then we ride ” , just look at the continued media attacks against Russia and Putin and compared with the Yeltsin´s era to know who makes the game that Western business suits .
    The EU just wants to Ukraine as a market for their products and cheap labor for their factories work, its 40 million inhabitants make it very appetizing is like having wages of China in Europe with saving transport involved. Ken Loach ‘s
    film ” It’s a free world” (2007) is prescient .

    The recent EU statements on Ukraine and its President violated all diplomatic norms and are a clear interference in the internal affairs of another country, but we know it does not matter when who does it are the Western powers.

    It’s amazing the stupidity of the Baltic countries and Poland, instead of gaining the friendship of his neighbor and fellow compatriot, Russia, seize every instrument to attack her. They repeat the mistakes of the past and “the country that forgets its Historis is bound to repeat it.” Do you really believe that someone move a finger for save the Baltics? Are the English or French willing to hazard their cities for them ?

    It´s surprising the Russian patience with so many puppies by continually attacking all its borders spurred by England and the United States mainly.

    • What is amazing is the power of brainwashing. The attitude of Poles, Baltics and I must add Romanians is irrational. Only people blinded by some emotional bias can act against their best interests.

  13. Usually the news about Ukraine repit english or american news but this is an interesting article and more neutral that usual. You can traslate it with Google translator or others tradictors easily.

  14. Ukrainian identity is a fabrication. Ukraine itself is a fabrication. A century ago there was no Ukraine and a century in the future there won’t be one either. The whole thing happening there right now is a mass hallucination and truly reminds me of the Mikhail Bulgakov’s “White Guard” pages. At the time described in the Bulgakov’s book, the whole Ukrainian situation ended-up with a civil war, polish occupation, economic collapse and massive die-out. I bet the result today might be similar if the Ukrainians themselves continue long enough with this delusion.

    I pray to God Russia stays out of the (dirty) Ukrainian affairs.

    Russia doesn’t need Ukraine, what Russia needs is all the pro-Russian Ukrainians (the ones who remember who they really are i.e. Russyns/Ruthenians/Russians) to emigrate to the north as their ancestors did during the Mongols’ devastation of Kievan Rus’ and join their Russian brethren there as their ancestors did during the Russian wars against Lithuanian and Polish domination of the Ruthenian lands.

    If I was Putin I would gladly open the border and distribute to them passports.

    As per others-the westernized scum, let them join EU and enjoy the consequences, as the ancestors of Galytsians/Halytchane did when their princes decided to join with the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth. They became slaves to the Polish and Lithuanian overlords.

    History repeats itself.

    Let the Ukraine rot and stink in the EU…