The Epress.am team, which these days reports from Kiev, met with political analyst and philosopher Volodymyr Yermolenko.
During the interview, Yermolenko spoke about the logic behind the Kremlin's behavior, the problem of the legitimacy of the Ukrainian authorities, Europe's delayed reaction, the state's inability to repel Russia's military aggression, and the public's willingness to engage in guerrilla warfare.
Video in Russian only. Transcription in English below.
Transcription of the video interview in Russian (translated into English from Armenian):
The Fascism of a Wounded Empire
This is a global game for Russia, which is a wounded empire. All the fascist movements of the 20th century, it can be said, developed based on the precedent of the wounded empire. Germany in the 30s thought it was wounded, weak, and had to restore its power; Italy, Spain… Russia now follows the same logic. Putin's clear goal is the Eurasian Union, which has to begin in 2015. Kiev, Ukraine is a crucial element, and Russia understands that without Ukraine that idea of a new empire is impossible. Consequently, pressure was applied on Yanukovych to join the Customs Union, and when that didn't work, military aggression was applied.
It's clear to everyone that the ultimate goal is Kiev: it's understandable that they won't limit themselves to Crimea.
Ukraine is Ready for Guerrilla Warfare
Our country was not preparing for war. Over the last 20 years, there has been a decline in the military sector. In '92, Ukraine had one of the most powerful armies, and after that, what happened was either a robbery or staff cuts. There was no sensible military political principle. No one was preparing for war. NATO promised us a Membership Action Plan in 2008, but it didn't deliver it. Then Yanukovych gave Ukraine neutral status, which completely closed the doors to NATO.
Now the ratio of forces is 6–7 times greater in Russia's favor. Mobilization, in my opinion, is still quite poor. The policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense is that we are a peaceful country, we don't incite anyone, we never open fire first, and so on. It creates a good image in the West. The country, however, is not ready to resist aggression in eastern Ukraine, and in case of aggression, popular resistance and guerrilla warfare will happen.
Europe Has Fallen Behind the Maidan
I work actively with Europeans; I know diplomats who work in Kiev, and I can say that they have always been a few steps behind. The parliamentary opposition was one step behind the Maidan, while the European Union and the international community, a few [steps]. Consequently, sanctions against Yanukovych were only talked about, and they entered into force only after he fled [the country], when they decided nothing anymore.
We are Betraying the Crimeans
Everyone understand that Ukraine has already lost Crimea. Even if the Ukrainian troops go to Crimea to fight, it's understood that this will lead to bloody massacres. There's no doubt that the majority of Crimea's population, nevertheless, supports Russia. Though there are also Ukrainians and Tartars there. In the case of Crimea's 2 million population, 300,000 Tartars are not few. First, it's not about the territory, but about the fact that we're betraying these people. By surrendering Crimea, we are betraying Crimea's Tartar and Ukrainian populations. But there is a clear sense that Putin won't be restricted to Crimea. Currently, there is unrest being provoked in Donetsk and Kharkov. Already three deaths have been recorded in Donetsk, two in Kharkov. Why? Because you can place troops in Crimea without any conflict since there are already Russian troops there. But in Ukraine's east, more massive, strong provocation, and greater number of victims are needed so that they can say there is unrest there, they are killing the Russian-speaking population, and so on. And it will become a reason to bring troops there.
The Gap in Legitimacy
It's a big question whether there will be elections or not. It's an important question, since if war starts, then a state of emergency will be declared and there will be no elections. This is where Russia's cynicism lies: its justification for aggression against Ukraine will be "you don't have a legitimate government" — which is a lie because we have a parliament that is legitimate. After Yanukovych fled, this is the only legitimate structure, which appointed the government according to the 2004 Constitution. But, after Yanukovych fled, indeed, a certain gap in legitimacy has remained: we don't have a president; we have an acting president. A president has to be elected for this gap to be filled.
Ukraine's answer to Russia is clear: "We are holding honest elections in May. You can send your observers. All candidates here have a chance of winning." Russia, however, develops the current situation and pushes a military situation in Ukraine, in order to postpone elections.
Everything Happened Spontaneously
No one expected the Maidan. I remember November 21, when termination of European integration was announced, in Lviv we were having discussions with experts, diplomats, and historians. Everyone of course was surprised. And if someone told me then that 3–4 months later we would sign the Association Agreement without Yanukovych, I would think he's crazy.
No one planned this; everything happened spontaneously.
Life and Death Struggle
Russian aggression destroys everything. It destroys the reform program: instead of thinking about reforms, the country is thinking about war.
I wouldn't say that Putin is winning. He lost Ukraine, and if he brings in the troops, he will be met with life-and-death resistance, since it's clear that the people of western and central [Ukraine] will fight till the end. I think, in the east too — seeing Russian tanks, they will experience a small change in their attitude.