Why is Putin trying to “restructure” Ukraine?

9 February 2022, 09:35 AM

Russia is trying to reconfigure the Ukrainian state and its constitution, by force. Just like in the jungle, yep. 

You may be tired of endless talks about the Minsk accords. Perhaps, you would even be open to giving in to Moscow’s demands, hoping that it would end the eight-year-long nightmare we’ve been living in, including the terror Putin is amassing on our borders right now. Let me try to explain our fate in that case.

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Firstly, Putin is trying to change our country and its constitution.

Foreign-led restructuring

This is used when a country is defeated in a war. For example, Germany and Japan were handed their new constitutions after WWII. But Ukraine didn’t annex the Sudetenland, invade Poland, conquer France, bomb London, or lose a war to the Allies. Neither did it attack Pearl Harbor and fight in Manchuria. See the difference? Ukraine did nothing that could lead to its transformation by foreign powers. It didn’t embark on aggressive wars against other countries and nations. In fact, it was stabbed in the back by its neighbor. I’m talking about the annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas, by the way.

Moscow is forcing Ukraine to change its constitution not by right, but by might.

In this case, it’s not the aggressor state being fundamentally changed, but an aggressor – Russia – attempting to force its victim to change its constitution. What right could they possible have to do so? Well, the whole concept of rights is out of the window here. Otherwise, we are presented with threats of suffering missile strikes from foreign soil, as formulated by pro-Russian Ukrainian MP Oleg Voloshyn. Natalia Korolevskaya, his comrade, is warning us that the Minsk accords could eventually seem like a pretty sweet deal. The veiled threat in those warning is palpable: concede now, or else.

All this is anxiety-inducing, of course. Not that there’s no reason to be worried. I doubt that anyone could guarantee that Putin will not launch a large-scale invasion, heralded by eight years of Russian pundits screeching about the “Nazi junta” in Kyiv.

The trouble with the Minsk accords is that they do not solve the problem. Putin would get a perfect instrument of control over Ukraine, when the Kyiv government wouldn’t be able to appoint even a “people’s militia” captain somewhere in Horlivka. Essentially, residents of Russian-controlled Donbas (who have since been made Russian citizens, further undermining the treaty) would elect their own local government. They would then send their representatives to our legislature. Ostensibly, a minority of MPs like that would not be a serious threat for Ukraine. But combined with changes to our constitution, this aggressive minority would control the strategic development of the entire country: telling Ukraine which blocs and alliances it can join, dictating our foreign policy. Needless to say, joining NATO and EU would be out of the question. Putin would functionally have remote control of Ukraine.

And the whole time we would be in the looming shadow of Russian troops on our borders, who have been deployed there, most likely, permanently. So, this tool for exerting his influence will remain in Putin’s hands, ready to be used at a moment’s notice.

We would instead be “allowed” to integrate into Putin’s supranational economic and security organizations, along with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Most Ukrainians, however, would not agree to these terms (you may consult opinion polls to verify this claim). Therefore, “implementing” the Minsk accords would set us on a path towards a major political crisis.

Our citizens have, in many senses, already become European citizens, freely traveling from Warsaw to Lisbon. Persuading them to turn around and affix their lives to Moscow’s orbit doesn’t seem possible. Dashing for a weekend to Paris, Milan, Vienna or Stockholm could hardly be substituted for trips to Syktyvkar, Bishkek or Karaganda. In this regard, Putin is late. He’s still trying to scare us with those Iskander missiles of his and engages in the usual natural gas blackmail, but this desperate fist-shaking won’t keep Ukraine in his imperial periphery.

Of course, here, a reader may now want to remind us all that Ukraine agreed to change its constitution by signing the second Minsk treaty, commonly referred to as Minsk-2. And you would be right. It seems such dramatic concessions can be made by presidents, trading the immediate risk of losing the country for a more diffuse one, of political infeasibility.

What is to be done?

First of all, we ought to explain to the world that Russia has, essentially, already denounced the Minsk accords. The very first chapter serves as proof: an “immediate ceasefire” in the Donbas. Not to mention, Russian passports being issued to Ukrainians living under Moscow’s control there. Refusing to become a Russian citizen could make one’s life much more difficult; and none of this is provided by the treaty.

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Next, we should examine the relevant experience of other countries, including our partners in the Normandy Four – for example, German reunification and the reintegration of East Germany. Admittedly, it’s not a perfect analogy. For starters, Ukraine did not start a global war, and therefore could not be dismantled and rebuilt by victorious powers – we covered that above. But since we are dealing not with legal, but with military means, we should declare lands seized from us as occupied.

Temporarily occupied, of course, with everything that entails. And then we need to embark on building an effective state that would care for its citizen’s needs, endowed with just courts, enough gas to satisfy our needs, an incentivizing tax system, et cetera. If we manage to achieve that, we would be in a much stronger position to resists Russian attempts to reshape us by force.

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