What the future holds for Ukraine after pro-EU elections

Transcript of video interview with Professor Stefan Hedlund.

Has the Ukraine election given President Poroshenko a mandate to cement relations with Europe?

Professor Hedlund:

I think Poroshenko has every reason in the world to be happy with the outcome. The progressive parties did very well, the Communists did not even get into the parliament, and the extreme Nationalists did poorly. So it is a very strong mandate for his policy of closing up with the West.

How will Ukraine address its relationship with Russia?

Professor Hedlund:

Well that’s a totally different issue. The election was the easy part, now comes the hard part.

The Ukrainian government will now have to implement very, very tough reforms that will be very painful for the population. And it will have to be with the fact – well, it’s been a fact all along – that it is very dependent on Russian trade, Russian credit, and above all Russian gas. So this is where it starts getting tough.

What impact will a pro-West result have on the Dombass region?

Professor Hedlund:

Well, the Dombass region is in a pickle right now because there has been no voting in Dombass in the Ukrainian election. The so-called People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk will have their own election on Sunday (November 2), whatever outcome that may be, if any Ukrainians will take part.

The important part is that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Russia will respect both elections. They will respect the election that was held in Ukraine, in Kiev, and they will respect the election that is held in the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. And this indicates that Russia is still not decided on what to do with these people who are inside Ukraine but claim they want independence. So this is where it starts getting tough for the Russians.

How will Russian President Vladimir Putin react to the result?

Professor Hedlund:

This is not going to be easy for Putin. It seemed like everything was going well for the first few months of the crisis.

Now, it is becoming difficult for him to talk about a fascist junta in Kiev because the Nationalist parties have done very poorly. He is in a pickle when it comes to how to handle the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics that demand freedom. I mean, they demand independence, not autonomy. And this discussion with Kiev is about some sort of devolution of power of autonomy.

And he has a big problem at home because of all this nationalist fever he has whipped up over New Russia, Crimea, and all of that. Simply abandoning the people in Dombass will produce a backlash at home.

So I think that on the one hand politically it’s getting very difficult. He is waiting now for Ukraine to collapse under the social and economic weight of the troubles that Ukraine has. Then he can say ‘Look, this is what I said all along. Ukraine is not a state, it is not viable. So now we need to talk.’

But its a very split issue for Putin. We’ll have to see how he plays it out.

Have the elections improved Ukraine’s outlook?

Professor Hedlund:

The political outlook is much more positive today than it was before the election because the country is much more united.

There is not a big problem with the Communists in the parliament, nor with the extreme Nationalists. So it looks better to the outside world, which is important. It will be easier for Poroshenko to start pushing through the vital reforms that he now has to start with.

But it does very little to remove disaster of the Ukrainian economic and social development that they will now have to face. And there will come a day when someone will have to inform the Ukrainians that the difference between ‘gifts’ and ‘credits’ is not merely semantic. The credits will have to be paid out of resources that Ukraine will have to create. And that is not going to be easy.

So politically much better, but economically still very troublesome.