Not to become dragon: what is needed to avoid becoming Russia 2.0 after victory
What will happen the day after the victory? When martial law is lifted and the train brings thousands of soldiers home from the war. Having slain the dragon, the main thing is not to become the dragon itself. Or rather, not to become Russia in miniature.
First of all, it is worth reminding that we are not the only ones and not the first in the world to fight a defensive war and fight for independence. If we take the most similar example with a bunch of current problems, Croatia is the closest example. President Franjo Tudjman managed to accomplish a lot during his two full terms in office: firstly, his country gained independence. Secondly, he conveyed an important message to Western countries that Croatia is the West, defenders of Christianity, Catholics, and an outpost of central Europe.
But as soon as the ink was dry on the Dayton Accords, Tudjman found himself face to face with internal problems. Poverty, devastation, 20% of Croats became refugees, and later settled in neighboring Germany, Austria, and Italy.
The opposition criticized Tudjman for putting pressure on the media and using state television in the interests of the ruling party. The year 1996 was marked by a scandal when the president refused several times to approve the mayor of Zagreb, who had been elected from the opposition. More and more people began to think that it was time to talk about the problems that were 'out of order' during the active phase of the war - that there was zero democracy, censorship, and human rights violations, and that rallies were being dispersed with batons.
In the 1997 elections, Tudjman used the image of a war winner to dominate television and win the presidential election with 61% of the vote. And then the country seriously thought about the future - the cult of personality and decay or the movement towards NATO and the EU.
This is a very accurate analogy for us, because without the umbrella of the North Atlantic Alliance, every 5-10 years there is a chance to change fashionable sneakers for military boots. And to stir the mud in the trenches, occasionally answering the question of what we did wrong to make things go so wrong.
When its newest symbols, such as Dmytro Kotsiubailo, Da Vinci, die in the war, there is no time for half-tones or attempts to sneak in. Our final break with Russia is too costly - we cannot afford to waste our last chance for a normal life.
A final break with Russia is too expensive - you can't just waste the last chance for a normal life.
When the US budget for 2024, at Joe Biden's personal request, includes a proposal for USD 1.7 billion “to help Ukraine win the war and lay the groundwork for reform and reconstruction to achieve peace, as well as other partners affected by the war,” it does not mean that American taxpayers will fund us forever. They will help us win the war. It is up to us not to squander the fruits of victory.
What is the minimum task? It is to slay the dragon and not become a dragon in the process. Not to plunge headlong into inferiority, not to exchange freedom for buckwheat. And it's also about making new idols just because someone didn't run away. Everyone who is currently in power clearly understood where they were going in 2019. That this is a country at war, and this imposes some additional responsibility for citizens and defense. The last thing we need after the war is a cult of personality and monuments made of gold in honor of certain leaders.
Then there is the constant search for profit and corrupt money. It so happens that the current mono-coalition and its most recognizable figures are deeply anti-Western. It's no secret that in the summer of 2021, when Secretary of State Blinken sent a clear list of reform requirements, our government signed agreements on cheap Chinese loans. It just so happens that China is now pumping the Russian army with technological gadgets, while the United States is directly providing us with weapons and money. So our current government is very reluctant to follow the advice of its Western partners, and so they start dancing with criminals against Kobolyev and super-fast elections of the head of Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau to suit their candidate. For people deep in the political process, such stories are worse than Russian missiles. Against the Kalibrs and Kinzhals we will have Patriot and teams of trained specialists who are now studying science in Oklahoma. When anti-corruption reforms are curtailed, this is a course for further erosion of the state structure from within.
Thirdly, we will definitely have a major demographic crisis, and its glaring consequences have already been briefly described by Ella Libanova, director of the Ptukha Institute for Demography and Social Studies. That we may lose 5 million citizens who will remain abroad. This is exactly the 20%+ who usually leave their home country after major shocks. But people are the engine of the economy and the labor force. Who should we hire instead? Should we bring Russians here? They have been waiting for this to happen, so that they could take Kyiv by bayonet or in a comfortable Intercity train. Inviting Belarusians who have been inert for over a year and have not carried out any tangible actions against someone else's war using their territory? Let's leave these theories about multiculturalism and fraternal ties to the new faces of parties like Arestovych.
The Russian elites and propagandists there already fully understand that in the event of a military loss, they need a plan B. And it was perfect - to re-establish Ukraine as an unreliable, corrupt, and clumsy partner. Skabeyeva and Kiselev, Simonyan and Solovyov are seriously saying that Ukraine will be given money for reconstruction. But the question is whether it will be wooden masonry or a solid highway. It can create jobs.
The Marshall Plan for Ukraine. We will be helped to rebuild our economy, because it is not only Ukraine that needs it, but Europe and the United States themselves need it badly. And the key thing here is where Russia and its tentacles of influence will slow down all the processes - Ukraine's success or failure will matter to Russia. If Ukraine becomes a successful and rapidly developing country, it will put an end to Moscow. That's why all these 'Portnovs' and 'Tatarovs' who are hanging around on Bankova Street are the best agents of influence to undermine confidence in Ukraine.
And it is very important not to lose democracy. The leaders of the largest donor countries constantly emphasize the importance of decentralization reforms, the normal work of the opposition, and, ultimately, democratic elections. After all, covers and photos with world leaders become pages of history. And preserving democracy is our real prospect. So even if our current government officials did not want to play the game of thimbles and hold quick electronic elections in Diia, there is a serious ban on this from our partners. Why is this so? Because there is already one Erdogan and one Orban in Europe. And the boat may not be able to take a third. An important point is that Turkey and Hungary are NATO members. We must not miss our chance again. Even after a third of the country is defeated. All of this brings us back to the example of Croatia, which rejected the cult of personality and electoral fraud in favor of perspective.
Why should we be inspired by Croatia's example? In 1992, Croatian President and Commander-in-Chief Franjo Tudjman began to think about how to present Croatia to Western partners in a favorable light. He came with an interesting proposal to our President Leonid Kravchuk. Tudjman suggested that the young state of Ukraine create a coalition of Central European states that would pave the way for European integration together. Like, let's sell ourselves to the West as real agents of change in post-communist Europe. For this coalition, Ukraine would have to sell some weapons for the Croatian war of independence. But it would have gained a reliable ally for foreign lobbies.
However, our Kravchuk and the communist majority existed in a different reality. The prospects of NATO and the EU seemed distant. Russia seemed to be something as safe and fraternal as possible. So Tudjman went home empty-handed.
The results of this choice by Ukraine in 1992 were peculiar. Croatia did find the weapons it needed, buying S-300s from the Russians. Tudjman won the war for independence, and his opposition successors took up the issue of joining NATO and the EU in earnest. Ukraine, on the other hand, gained neither new friends nor prospects. And it also became a victim of war because of fraternal illusions.