Why Kleptocracies Donĺt Get Along
Published: August 28, 2013 (Issue # 1775)
PresidentáVladimir Putinátraveled toáKiev onáJuly 27. Theáofficial reason foráthe visit was theá1,025th anniversary since Kievan Rus adopted Christianity, but theáreal reason foráthe trip was that it was apparently Putinĺs last attempt toáconvince Ukrainian PresidentáViktor Yanukovychátoájoin theáCustoms Union with Russia.
Those talks failed, andáonly two days after Putinĺs visit,áGennady Onishchenko, Russiaĺs vigilant chief sanitary inspector, suddenly discovered benzopyrene ináchocolates fromáUkraine andábanned their import intoáRussia.
Theáfactory that produces these chocolates belongs toápastry king Petro Poroshenko, whose extensive assets ináUkraine also include auto-assembly plants. Under pressure fromáPoroshenko, theáUkrainian government imposed prohibitive import duties onáforeign cars, particularly those produced byáRussiaĺsáAvtoVAZ, aácompany near andádear toáPutinĺs heart.
Ukraine did not understand theáwarnings. Yanukovych not only had no intention ofájoining theáCustoms Union, but planned instead toásign anáagreement with Europe establishing aáfree-trade zone.
Then, Putin reportedly instructed his officials toárestrict Ukrainian exports. Andábecause Russia has no real system ofágovernment andáeverything is carried out based onávague orders fromáthe top, officials became overly zealous andáended up banning all imports fromáUkraine.
Russia has invested anáinsane amount ofámoney andáeffort inádiscrediting theáOrange Revolution, andáPutinĺs inner circle has always had huge andácompletely unrealistic plans foráKiev. They assumed that after theácollapse ofáthe Orange Revolution, Putinĺs men would be able toábuy up everything they wanted ináUkraine. It has been reported that after Yanukovych came toápower, Russiaĺs presidential administration sent anáextensive list ofáfactories, newspapers, steamships andáso onáto Kiev that St. Petersburg businesspeople with ties toáPutin had wanted toápurchaseá foráa song. They got nothing. Everything they were after went instead toáYanukovychĺs friends, supporters andábusiness partners ináDonetsk.
Ináfact, Ukraine has nothing toádiscuss with Russia. Theáonly thing that makes sense is foráKiev toánegotiate with Europe, which has transparent rules.
What can Russia offer Ukraine? Corruption? Know-how onáimprisoning opponents onátrumped-up charges? New skills andátechniques onáhow toáseize private property? Ukraine has enough expertise ináthese fields so that they hardly need Russiaĺs help.
Democratic states enjoy aácertain camaraderie among themselves, andádespite their shortcomings democracies manage toápeacefully coexist. Atáleast, they do not behave like unruly neighbors, tossing beer bottles intoáeach otherĺs yards. But inácontrast, there can never be anáinternational brotherhood ofákleptocracies. All ofáthe deals Putin struck with Belarussian PresidentáAlexander Lukashenkoáor all ofáthe pow-wows Putin once had ináLibyan leader Moammar Gadhafiĺs tent did nothing toáchange this.
Theávery nature ofámodern authoritarian kleptocracies makes it impossible foráthem toáhave meaningful working relationships. Such states are built exclusively upon theáprinciple that theápresident distributes theácountryĺs wealth among his friends. Andáwhen two such leaders come together, they can smile all they want foráthe press andáclaim toáhave reached an agreement onáthis or that issue, but they canĺt pretend that businessmen ináSt. Petersburg own factories ináUkraine that have already been sold toálocal business moguls ináDonetsk.
Yulia Latynina hosts aápolitical talk show onáEkho Moskvy radio.