The 30th anniversary of Ukrainian independence is a somber time to reflect on what went wrong over the years with his previously promising country. Far from being the industrialized superpower that its leaders at the time swore that it was destined to become, the Eastern European nation has rapidly deindustrialized, suffers from abject poverty, has uncontrollable emigration rates, is incorrigibly corrupt, wreaked by an unresolved civil war, bitterly divided between its native ethnic groups, and under the control of foreign powers. It didn’t have to be this way, which is why learning more about what happened can be very instructive for other countries in order to avoid going down the same path of self-destruction.
The Ukraine of 1991 inherited the glorious legacy of Soviet industrialization which was responsible for redeveloping its rich territory after the tragedy of World War II. It was one of the most industrialized and prosperous places in the former USSR. Its people lived respectable lives and many observers predicted that Ukraine’s future would be bright. The problem, however, was that it couldn’t control the oligarchs that rose from the ashes of the Soviet collapse. These corrupt elements of society quickly captured control of the state and profited at its expense, which in turn quickly worsened the living conditions of the country’s tens of millions of people.
They allowed the country’s industrial capacity to crumble, which resulted in the famous aerospace company Yuzhmash becoming a shadow of its former self and Ukraine’s one-time first-class shipbuilding industry in Nikolaev and Kherson to all but cease to exist. As its people became poorer, they naturally became more desperate for change, which predisposed them to falling under the influence of externally propagated ultra-nationalist and liberal-democratic ideologies. It took some time, but these processes ultimately reshaped many of the Ukrainian people’s perceptions of their country and the future that it should have, which eventually led to many of them being exploited as pawns in the West’s geopolitical struggle against Russia.
The West cultivated Color Revolution cadres in order to deploy as foot soldiers on demand whenever it felt like its interests might be threatened by certain politicians in power. Ukraine’s leadership has always been corrupt and ineffective at properly governing the country the way that it needed to be in order to reverse its slow-motion collapse, but some leaders weren’t as bad as others from a comparative perspective, or at least didn’t accelerate this process as fast as some of their alternatives could have. The West benefited from Ukraine’s oligarch-driven deindustrialization because it removed serious competitors to their own industries and also catalyzed large-scale emigration which could then be exploited for cheap labor.
The only thing standing in the way of Ukraine’s sudden collapse has always been some of its leaders’ desire to retain some degree of pragmatic relations with Russia, which were mutually beneficial and helped cushion that first-mentioned country’s fall from grace. The Ukrainian people could always rely on the Russian labor and export market, which arguably stabilized many of their lives during those tough times. From the Western perspective, however, this was something that had to be stopped as soon as possible in order to push Ukraine into economic free fall. This explains why they activated their Color Revolution cadres in late 2013 after its leader at the time balked at the last minute when it came to signing the EU Association Agreement.
The fast-moving sequence of events that this set into motion led to the spree of urban terrorism popularly known as EuroMaidan and Crimea’s democratic reunification with its historic Russian homeland, both of which in turn laid the basis for the West’s New Cold War against Russia. The outcome was that Ukraine’s corrupt oligarchs fell under the full control of foreign forces, who then ruled the country by proxy in order to carry out their goal of triggering its irreversible collapse. The subsequent Ukrainian Civil War in Donbass was taken advantage of as the pretext for cutting off practically all ties with Russia, which pushed Ukraine over the edge and made its prior nearly two-and-a-half decades of independence look like a cakewalk.
Never before had domestic divisions been so acute between its native Ukrainian and Russian people. The foreign puppet government that was installed after EuroMaidan embraced the seemingly contradictory ideologues of ultra-nationalism and liberal-democracy, the first of which arguably manifested itself as Neo-Nazism while the latter was only superficial and embodied all the dysfunctional problems of that model. The state’s discriminatory policies against its native Russian minority combined with its outlawing of almost all opposition groups to create a tyrannical system unlike any other in modern-day Europe. Elections are still held, but they aren’t free and fair, only being carried out for the sake of optics to appease the Western public.
Looking back on everything, it’s clear to see what went wrong. Ukraine couldn’t control corruption, which was its first national security threat. This gradually destroyed its economy and made its people susceptible to externally propagated ideologues designed to further destabilize it with time. As the country entered its slow-motion collapse, its increasingly impoverished people either emigrated or resorted to crime for the most part, with others getting drawn into radical political movements that would later be weaponized on command when the time was right. That moment arrived when the West got greedy and wanted to trigger the country’s sudden collapse by provoking the pretext to cut Ukraine off from Russia like what happened after 2014.
Upon losing its only reliable partner, Ukraine entered into free fall, quickly becoming the worst place in Europe by most metrics and equivalent in these respects to a typical “Global South” nation despite the glorious legacy of Soviet industrialization that it inherited. The irreversible collapse of its industries and seizure of other national assets by foreign-controlled oligarchs who sold them out to their Western patrons removed any structural basis for the country’s eventual recovery. It’s permanently handicapped in the developmental sense and unable to seriously recoup any of its considerable losses. All the while, many members of the population remain distracted by the government’s divide-and-rule strategy of pitting its ethnic groups against one another.
Ukraine is both a cautionary tale but also an astounding success depending on one’s perspective. Objectively speaking, no patriotic person anywhere in the world would ever want their country to go down a similar path of self-destruction, but Western powers nowadays consider Ukraine to be the perfect model of what they’d ideally like to export abroad to other industrialized countries. If foreign forces can co-opt other countries’ corrupt oligarchic elite, then they can easily replicate the Ukrainian model by facilitating society’s acceptance of externally propagated ideologues after rapidly impoverishing them. Upon that happening, they can then prepare to seize control of the state by proxy via a Color Revolution and turn that country into the next Ukraine.
The only way to defend one’s country from this devious strategy is to either prevent it from becoming that corrupt in the first place by supporting genuine anti-corruption forces in power and/or assembling patriotic forces to run for office in order to implement that agenda if those who are already in power aren’t trustworthy. If it’s too late to preempt that, then all responsible efforts must be undertaken to peacefully counteract the growing Color Revolution movement within that same country and ensure unity between its disparate demographic groups so as to avoid another divide-and-rule scenario. If rapid deindustrialization begins, however, then the targeted country might be doomed since the consequent processes might be irreversible.