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Ukraine: Being a Victim

Ivan Verstyuk
April 2, 2015

Listening to the Ukrainian government officials these days is a little bit depressive. All of them keep reiterating that the country is a victim of Russia's aggression, which is why the economy fell by 6.8 percent last year and will keep falling this year, down by 5.5 percent.

Something is terribly wrong with seeing the country as a victim.

Ukraine is an unexperienced country, that's for sure. Having obtained independence in 1991, it has never fully relied on itself. Being dependent on the Russian energy supplies up until now, as well as on the sentiments of Western democracies, it used to think that the outside partners will never let the country down, which is not the best political approach.

Now is the time for Ukrainian government to take the full responsibility for the decisions that are being made. World will stop buying Ukraine's victim status pretty soon if domestic economy will not make a pivotal shift to the market-based development model, which includes rational pricing policy and stimulating the entrepreneurial spirit.

It's not that easy to stop being a victim. You keep thinking that somebody else has to take care of you and your problems. But it's not the International Monetary Fund's headache to make the wages in Ukraine higher and it's not Barack Obama's direct responsibility to create new jobs in Ukraine. One might blame Russia's Vladimir Putin for decades for what's going wrong in Ukraine, but that simply doesn't reflect the state of the things.

Ukraine has been enjoying the poetry of Taras Shevchenko, a XIX-century preacher of the country's victim status, for too long. But Shevchenko simply can't provide the modern nation with all the answers it needs.

Same thing with Vyacheslav Chornovil, a Soviet dissident who ran for presidency in 1991 but lost competition to rival politician Leonid Kravchuk, a former communist. One may keep dreaming for ages on what would happen if Chornovil won the 1991 election campaign, but little would be changed even if he did. He was a follower of the dangerous victim psychology which has been ruining the Ukrainian mentality for too long.

The argument that the oligarchs keep exploitating the nation's resources for the sake of personal enrichment is pretty weak too. Ukraine's developing market is a pretty tough one, but no one keeps anyone from entering the competition on it. Local league of oligarchs hasn't seen any new faces for a while - for some reason, not too many dare to face the competition from Rinat Akhmetov, the country's richest man, and Igor Kolomoisky.

Take a look at Israel. After being a victim of the Nazi repressions, the country stopped pushing this argument at some point and realized that only the economic strength will allow it to enter the league of the world's truly great nations. It's Israel's tech sector that turned what used to be an orange exporter into an economically developed country that plays the leading role in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

It's too easy to view oneself as a victim. In such a case, you don't have to take the responsibility for the life you live and for the results you get. But it's wrong. In 1991, Ukraine made a choice to be independent, which means nobody - whether Russia or the West - will have to take care of the nation's business. It's the nation itself that has to take care of it.