Gleb Vyshlinskyi, “The Kremlin Doesn’t Want to Occupy Ukraine, But Destroy It”
Novoe vremia, 23 August 2014, 10:32
Translated by William Risch, Georgia College
Translator’s note: Gleb Vyshlinskyi is assistant director of the GfK Ukraine research company
Putin wants to seize our souls and make us give up. He wants to deprive Ukrainians of happiness and a normal life and lead us to a point where a horrible end is better than horror without end. Flower shops are temples to happiness and a carefree life. Fancy and humble celebrations, first dates and hundredth dates, cannot happen without flowers. But the closest flower kiosk near my home will be closed as of September. It’s not just about the devaluation of the currency and the economic crisis – celebrations and happiness are in short supply.
The main question that has filled Ukrainians with alarm these last few months has been, “What does Putin want?” A hood brandishing a knife wants money and a phone, a separatist wants to separate his region into an individual state, and a terrorist wants to fulfill the demands he’s put forward. But since February 22, Putin has never said once what exactly should happen so that his state would leave us alone.
This very fact explains what Putin wants. He simply wants to deprive Ukrainians of happiness and a normal life, lead us to a point where a horrible end is better than horror without end. He wants to make us become weighed down in an atmosphere of constant fear, of crippling alarm and depression. That’s exactly why Putin is making us feel like the family of an aggressive drunk whose anger is unpredictable and inevitable. That’s why Donbas cities are shelled, why terrorist attacks are committed, and why dozens of sites in Kyiv are being “mined.”
“The worse, the better.” That is what Putin thinks about Ukraine when he wakes up. Unlike a drunk, Putin is completely rational. If he left us alone, there would have been a lot more reforms done in Ukraine already, investments would flow in, and happy citizens who’d overthrown a regime of thieves would direct their energy toward developing the economy. Could he really let that happen? Of course not – our example would seem too infectious for Russians. According to Levada Center polls, the share of people approving Putin’s job by November 2013 had fallen to 61 percent, the lowest such figures in 15 years. The economy, weary of his many years of rule, grew by only 1.3 percent. At the same time, GDP growth was 7.7 percent in China and 4.3 percent in Turkey.
“Crimea’s ours” and “civil war in Ukraine” have done their job. Putin’s approval rating in June shot up to the record numbers he had during the last war – the one with Georgia in 2008 – to 86 percent. The share of Russians confident that their country is going in the right direction has reached the record set at the beginning of 2008, Russia’s best year economically. Yet Russia’s impoverishment by sanctions and confrontation with the rest of the world is inevitable, and so success needs reinforcement. Ukraine must be strangled economically and shattered politically. Putin in fact is playing the Georgian scenario again: “a dangerous example of regime change and anti-Soviet reforms – war, intensified by powerful internal propaganda – economic blockade – regime change.”
This similarity gives us a chance to understand Putin’s further plans. Support a bloody conflict in the Donbas for as long as possible, without overstepping lines that could lead to truly crippling sanctions by the West. This benefits him in many ways. For the domestic audience, he can create the necessary scene of horrors that a violent change of regime is fraught with. For Ukrainians, every week of the war becomes human losses, spending on the army, and the destruction of the region’s social and industrial infrastructures, where 15 percent of the country’s population lived. And these are just direct losses. The indirect losses – like putting off business projects, investments not coming in, and flower kiosks closing – are much greater.
Along with squeezing out terrorists from the Donbas, they will change their roles into those of saboteurs who through terrorist acts keep the tensions’ heat up. Russian Federation soldiers will be standing at the border, making nervous and distracting Ukraine’s leadership with constant provocations. Ukrainian imports into Russia will be limited to the extreme, and in the gas sphere, the main task will be to make the winter of 2014-15 the coldest for Ukrainians, especially in the Donbas with its destroyed infrastructure. “The worse, the better” – that’s the thought Putin has about Ukraine when he wakes up each day.
How do you counter this? Don’t panic, do your own thing, remembering that exactly in that way you help the country and yourself. Be aware that the enemy at the gates is here for a long time, and that you can make a decent life in these conditions if you unite – Israel’s experience is proof of that. Don’t give in to provocations, which are the most important part of this war. Stories about “bad refugees,” frightening predictions of “intervention tomorrow,” that “soon the value of the hryvnia will be 20 per dollar,” atomize us and force us to use up our emotional energies in vain.
I remember that tragic week of February, which ended with the Saturday session of the Verkhovna Rada on the 22nd. That feeling of happiness and becoming clean after the first votes, when it all became clear that all that was not in vain. Putin wants to prove to us that it was in vain. He won’t succeed. We will return our happiness.
Original link: http://nvua.net/opinion/vyshlinskiy.html