Friday, November 30, 2012

Defining ‘Europe’

 During the keynote speech at the Kyiv Post Tiger Conference held on November 27th, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili labeled identity as the most important component to promote the democratic process in Ukraine.  He defends this statement by declaring the Ukrainian, Georgian, and Moldovan identity as European. 

Although identity does influence behavior, Saakashvili places a stronger power in the European root rather than the national identity.  Society needs to focus on the inherent European values to encourage and enable a more democratic system.   This attention to a European identity can manipulate a nation into becoming more European.   However, the creation and use of identity has its limits. 

In her book The Politics of Becoming European, Maria Mälksoo discusses the ideological gap between Eastern European nations and their Western neighbors.  Mälksoo asserts that the East is conceptualized as inferior – as ‘Europe, but not quite Europe’.  History has created a distinct division in the middle of Europe that countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Baltic states have attempted to bridge.  But, overcoming the past means reconstructing their identities.  In order to gain accession into the EU, the symbol of achieving ‘Europeanness’, one must embark in identity or security politics.  Reorienting Europe has less to do with geography as it does with civil liberties, economics, and education.  Aligning ideology within the Western framework has been the standard for the past decade to ‘become’ European.

Although Saakashvili is accurate in advocating the development of a more European identity, unfortunately Ukraine is ‘feeling’ less European.  Surveys conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology and Russian Research from 2000 throughout 2010 show that a European self-identity is declining.  Significantly, the media has also noted the shift in democratic values.  Former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Steven Pifer, warned in an interview that Ukraine was moving backwards and branded recent movements in the government as undemocratic.   The compelling correlation highlights the relationship between identity and democracy.

These conclusions lead me to wonder if Ukraine can become more democratic by building a European identity.


“Saakashvili Talks Up EU Integration Path.”  KyivPost.  29 Nov. 2012. 

“We Have to Be in the European Family.”  KyivPost.  29 Nov. 2012.

Maria Mälksoo.  The Politics of Becoming European: A Study of Polish and Baltic Post-Cold War Security Imaginations.  Routledge: New York.  2010.

Stephen White and Julia Korosteleva.  “‘Feeling European’: the View from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.”  Contemporary Politics.  Volume 12(2).  2006.  193-205

Stephen White, Ian McAllister, and Valentina Feklyunina.  “Belarus, Ukraine and Russia: East or West?”  The British Journal of Politics and International Relations.   Volume 12.  2010.   344-367.

Natalya Humenjk.  “Стівен Пайфер: «На Заході є загальне бачення, що сьогодні Україна вже не демократична держава»”  (Steven Pifer: “In the West there is a general view that today Ukraine is already not a democratic government”).  Тиждень.  19 November 2012.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Overview of the Russian Auto Market

                During the soviet era, the only cars available to Russian consumers were domestically produced soviet mark vehicles. These cars we released by series, as opposed to years, and were only able to fulfill 40% of domestic demand. Today the streets of Moscow have radically transformed and the Russian consumer now has the luxury of choosing from a wide range of vehicles from all over the world. This presents foreign producers with a tremendous opportunity as Russia is poised to surpass Germany as Europe’s larger auto market by 2014, with sales projected to rise to 3.4. Million vehicles sold annually. Moreover, Russia accession to the WTO has provided foreign producer’s cheaper entry into the market as the price of tariffs for imported goods has fallen and will continue to fall. Whether this will actually have the effect of reducing the cost of entry is undetermined, but what is certain is that total revenues for automakers doing business in Russia has surged to $75 billion and growing.    
                The heavy hitters in the market are increasingly foreign marks, with Chevrolet, Renault, Kia and Volkswagen leading the way. Russia’s booming market is great news for Detroit and auto manufactures around the world as it provides some reassurance if profit to compensate for the flailing European market. Even with the surge in imported vehicles, AutoVaz produced “Lada” still holds a commanding lead in sales, accounting for 18% of the market place. While this number is substantially higher than the number two competition, General Motors, AutoVaz’s share has been rapidly declining in recent years, falling from 24% a year ago. To give a picture of how much the Russian market has change in a few short years, Russian domestic producers had a 93% market share in 2000. 
                Projections estimate that much of the growth will benefit foreign manufactures and while the Russian Lada will still be somewhat competitive, most consumers in favor of an import will overlook it. Recently, in a sign of life from AutoVaz, the company agreed to let Renault and Nissan raise its stake in the company, to 75%, giving them a controlling stake and allow them to dictate the future of the brand. This will allow the Lada to become more competitive and efficient in its production by utilizing the technology of the foreign manufactures in its production line. One of the main complaints Russian consumers have with the Lada is it is cheaply made and lacks the quality of the foreign competition. The Russian government has for a long time attempted to protect the industry but that no longer seems possible with the rise in Russian consumer capital and increasingly strong Russian auto market. has recently released a report the Lada will receive a makeover in the next year, potently making it more attractive to consumers. The future of the Russian automotive market seems very lucrative but Lada’s place in the market seems less secure. They must improve the quality of its product to become more competitive, something AutoVaz seems willing to do.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Periphery

The good thing about the roundness of the Earth is that anywhere can literally be the center of the world.  But, in the everyday life of geopolitics, what happens when you are stuck in between two peripheries?  Positioned between two competing powers of influence, Ukrainian political reality is continuously being critiqued and affected by their neighbors.  Although globalization has enabled an increase of policies supporting equality and strengthening living standards, it appears that the impact on politics is loosing its charm for Ukraine.  Whereas under former president Yushenko Ukraine only looked West, today the regime is accepting critique from both sides.  However, they are rarely compatible. 

While most Western sources expressed disappointment with Ukrainian election procedure, sources in the East, including Russian and Chinese mass media, complimented the fairness and success of the October parliamentary elections.  Additionally, the East interferes less with Ukrainian autonomy allowing Ukrainian officials to identify and interpret their own needs.  As Ukraine has found acceptance within the East, the expectations that are supported by the EU are neglected.  This inconsistency complicates the future of Ukrainian progress as the lack of reception by the West results in a lack of productivity in EU objectives.

Although it appears that this lack of efficiency is caused by internal problems, the EU also has some responsibility.  For example, the ambivalence of EU demands results in a struggle of interpretation and idealization of Western values by Ukraine.  As they proceed to attain these vague desires, the expectations evolve and are altered.  Thus, the results are never achieved or are simply manipulated by the ruling party.  (This is evident in the language law passed this summer that created conflict as the regime attempted to warrant this as meeting the Western requirement to meet the needs of minorities.) Currently, disparity has developed between the wants of the EU and the needs of Ukraine. 

This ambiguity also highlights doubt in the EU interest to promote ascension and shift their boundaries further East.  The EU has had a vital responsibility in promoting state building and reaching out to post-Soviet states.  Implementing programs and funding initiatives such as women’s rights, election monitoring, and educational programs all require observation and submissiveness by Ukrainian policy makers.  In the end, international efforts perform many functions for the state.  Although the intentions are to create a foundation for the state to build upon, how should the state sustain these programs independently?

EU membership has been dangled in front of many Post-Soviet countries like a reward on a stick, but the temptation for the honor of membership is not enough to instill lasting changes in the Ukrainian society.  As the EU has become more reluctant to negotiate integration, Ukraine will not be excluded in the East.  Europe existed before the EU, and Ukraine may determine its contribution to Europe independently of the EU.

Oleksandr Horyn.  “Legitimizing the Regime”  The Ukrainian Week.  November 5, 2012.

 “Washington Post: Україна скотилася до псевдодемократії”  (Washington Post: Ukraine falls to psudodemocracy.). BBC Ukraine.    November, 9, 2012.

Nicholas Wheeler.  “Protecting Fortress Europe: International Approaches to Strengthening Institutinal Capacity in Mew EU States.”  Conference Paper.

Marc P. Berenson.  “‘Europe’ and the European Union in East-Central and Southeastern Europe.”

Nadia Shapkina.  "Between the State and Global Feminism: Post-Soviet Women's NGOs Navigating Local and Global Politics."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Democratic Society

Although I may be underestimating my peers, the majority of KU undergraduate students have no idea where Ukraine is geographically.  However, the student newspaper recently reported on the Ukrainian parliamentary elections as destroying democratic potential within the government.  It summarized the lack of transparency, misuse of finances, and “abuse of power” that took place in these elections.  Many Western observers, including Hilary Clinton, labeled these elections as a “step-backwards” and a digression of progress.

Western NGO’s have trained internal monitors for the elections and reported live of voting fraud or violations.  Live surveillance was broadcast at major voting stations.  In fact, the majority of financial aid from the West is directed specifically for programs and events to promote democratic principles.  Yet, rumors of stuffing ballot boxes, bribes, and magic pens persisted throughout these elections.  Even with precautions and financial support, parliamentary elections evaded translucency and democracy. 

The West funds Ukraine to enable and encourage more democratic principles.  Therefore, these agencies have the ability to rate the outcomes of these projects.  However, Ukraine is failing to meet their expectations.   Despite the financial contributions and commitment to democracy, these institutions will not facilitate change from a top down approach. 

The fact that this problem persists in Ukraine is not because of it politics or parties.  Ukrainian corruption is found throughout society.  From traffic law violators, to marshytka drivers, hotel owners, and the man who reads the water meter, each can and many do enable profiteering. Repetitive variations of stories persist of traffic violations where the innocent party is threatened by the police to plead guilty because the marshytka driver has bribed (and can afford to) the reporting officer.  In the professional world, an employer of the water company assigned to read the meter proposed to the owner of a laundro-mat to be paid personally for the first few months before he began reading the meter.

Sociologist Oleg Demkiv stated that the problem with Ukrainian corruption is not a political problem but rather a societal problem.  The political behavior is a microcosm of society itself.  Condemning the leaders of parties is not enough; an innate change in society is required to bring to pass a more democratic society.

If students are willing to sell their votes on social networking sites, bribes by politicians will persist.  Solzhenitsyn explains that it is a historical component of society and becomes part of the character of a nation.  However, it is misunderstood by outsiders and cannot be assessed adequately.  Incomprehensible to Western observers, selling democracy is a sociological issue that cannot be condemned or critiqued fairly by other cultures.  Only understanding society can enable change. “Democracy - is primarily the responsibility of all citizens in the state of affairs in the country.”  Exercising individual will is the only way to instill lasting democratic principles.

Obviously there are Ukrainians who are ready for change.  Consider Ydar’s canididate Klychko whose campaign advocates ending corruption.  Promoting these leaders and integrity in society will have much more influence than installing programs or video cameras.  A bottom-up approach may be the best and only option for a more democratic Ukraine.  


Associated Press. “Democratic Potential Halted By Election Results.” University Daily Kansan. October 30, 2012.

Держдепартамент США вважає, що вибори в Україні стали кроком назад на шляху до демократії
30 жовтня 2012, 07:32

Парламент, який обереться у жовтні, не буде потрібним суспільству
Костянтин Матвієнко _ Вівторок, 10 липня 2012, 15:10

Oksana Pachlovska.  “Не-європейська Україна”  (“Un-European Ukraine”)

“США та Євросоюз стурбовані ходом виборчої кампанії в Україні.”  (“U.S. and EU concerned about the course of the election campaign in Ukraine”)
24 жовтня 2012, 20:35

Анатолій ОРЕЛ.  “Iнтеграційні проекти: де майбутнє України?”

Oleg Demkiv.  “Permissiveness in Ukrainian Society.”  University of Ivan Franko.  June 2012. 

Solzhentsyn, Alekandr.  “A World Split Apart.”  Commencement Address, Harvard.  June 8, 1978.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cooperation in Research and Development

            General Motors and the Government of St. Petersburg have signed a memorandum to promote the principles of cooperation of field research to promote the successful development of the Russian automotive industry. Such cooperation is a sign of progression and partnership between Russia and foreign corporations. Currently, inefficient production and substandard products holds the Russian automotive industry in shackles. The government has long protected this industry by imposing astronomical tariffs of 30% on imported vehicles. Such protectionist policy has allowed the automotive sector to become complacent in its production. Currently a resident of Russia can purchase a X for a fraction of the price it would cost to purchase an imported vehicle, such as a Ford or Chevrolet. However, this is all about to change as Russia has joined the WTO which mandates a scheduled of concession which includes a gradual reduction in the tariffs of automobiles. Consequently, the Russian automotive sector must make itself competitive if they intend to remain relevant. Cooperation with automotive giants, such as GM will allow this to happen because they can utilize they can implement foreign production method into their own factories.
            The Russian auto market has previously been overlooked, but now forecasts project that the Russian markets offer huge potential for foreign investors. As I have discussed in previous posts, with the falling price of oil Russia is desperate for a new source of revenue, one of those being foreign direct investment. Foreign manufactures, such as GM and Ford see huge potential in the nation’s automotive markets as projections suggest that demand will grow at a 6-8% rate over the next fifteen years. While this is exciting news for automakers outside of Russia, domestic automaker and their employees are justifiably trembling at the reduction of tariff rates. Much of Russia’s hesitation in joining the WTO stemmed from specifically that reason. Russia was only ready to join the organization when a deal to allow for the gradual reduction of automotive tariff’s was put in place. Russia’s trepidation stems from fears of lost jobs and a loss of sovereignty. Issues that is present in many counties. However, Russia and its citizens must face the realties that WTO accession will present and either become competitive in the auto industry or specialize in other sectors.
            The Russian government has attempted to circumvent its WTO obligations by past discriminatory legislation. On July 13th the Russian Duma passed a law imposing a utilization fee cars which has an effect of discriminating against imported vehicles. The utilization fee is purported to address environment concerns regarding the disposal of vehicles but it provides exceptions to domestic manufactures. Under the WTO GATT article, III a country must provide national treatment to all imports. In effect, this is an equal protection clause, requiring all imports to be taxed equally to domestic “like products”. Taxes of this nature are a violation of the principle of the WTO and will not help the Russian auto-manufacturing sector in the long run. What the industry must do is just what St. Petersburg covenant with GM seeks to accomplish. That is cooperation and advancement of the industry so that it may compete of imports without any sort of protectionist laws.

IET Manufacturing Engenerr August/September, The Russian invasion by Mark Venables

20 марта 2012 Материалы о вступлении России в ВТО

В России снижены импортные пошлины на автомобили