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Ukraine: the price of independence

Ukraine has been a part of the USSR for 74 years before gaining its independence, and it has now been independent for the third part of that period. It has always been important to me to acknowledge the fact others prefer not to talk about: this is independence from Russia, from the soviet “legacy”. However the real independence is just starting to come to us now, and our future depends on how successful this process is. What’s more important, we are about to see whether we will in a few years be able to reach the level the other former-Soviet countries who have surpassed Ukraine in their development. And whether we will be able to protect our own interests.

The 15 countries of the former Soviet Union were quite alike, but in 1991 they all had different start positions. According to all characteristics Ukraine’s situation was one of the most favourable. The country had powerful industry, agriculture and great scientific potential. We were often compared to France that was similar to Ukraine in size, population, land capacity, advantageous geographical location and even in diversity of traditions and the role of culture in everyday life. But it was all these factors that played a dirty trick on us.

There turned out to be many people with enough resources and power to make these advantages work for their own benefit. This started corruption, and oligarchy emerged as the most wild form of ruling the country and managing its riches. But the soviet habit of grabbing everything that is not nailed down and running lead to civilized investment practices being overshadowed by the “carve-up”. The country began losing its competitive advantage.

When compared to the Baltic countries we don’t look as good in terms of politics. Being a wealthy country (despite everything), we have let our political elite first to swim between two waters (the West and Russia), and after that – to fall under Moscow’s influence, that is to say, Soviet influence. When the people realised what had happened, they started Maidan. But that was later.

We cannot allow ourselves another 25 years to ponder where to go and whether to go there.

I may be saying obvious things, yet even now not everyone understands that the European choice for Ukraine and its desire to join the EU and NATO are essential to its survival in the context of Russian aggression. Even if we disregard the occupation of Crimea and Donbass, it is still very important for our present and future. We are just beginning to grasp the things the Baltic countries understood 25 years ago. And, sadly, we still need time.

Given all this, I am still the advocate of economic patriotism. I’m convinced that Ukraine should unite around European values and collective security system while protecting its own interests in both politics and economy.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about “protection of domestic manufacturers” – we all know where that strategy got us in the automobile industry, we started making cars with quality better than in Zaporozhets, but far worse than in Opel. The main thing we need to learn is that by letting foreign manufacturers enter our market freely we damage our manufacturing. This always leads to the country becoming no more than a mere supplier of raw materials and cheap labour. This country does not become exporter, does not develop science, does not earn currency, does not create well-paid jobs or surplus value.

All this does a lot of harm to Ukrainian independence in every sense of the word. You have to agree that one can be independent but poor, but not for long.

In order to adopt this point of view and proceed according to it we need to turn around our state administration philosophy. This is one of the main conditions for any changes in Ukrainian society.

Our country is learning how to live with considerable parts of its territory being separated from it. Occupation and russian aggression are just like bleeding wounds on the body of our country and the spirits of its people. But this struggle has helped us understand the price of our freedom and independence. We realized that we are capable of surviving, withstanding, and then – evolving and developing in order to become really independent, to become free.

But we cannot allow ourselves another 25 years to ponder where to go and whether to go there.

Happy Independence Day!