Politik und Gesellschaft Online
International Politics and Society 2/1999


Andreas Wittkowsky:

The nation state as rent source
Determinants of Ukrainian politics

Vorläufige Fassung / Preliminary version

The economic crisis has in the meantime become the most serious threat to Ukraine, independent since 1991. The power struggle preceding the Ukrainian presidential elections in October 1999 has resulted in political blockades which are hindering a rapid solution. Although it is difficult to make a detailed forecast of medium-term developments in the Ukraine, a number of fundamental determinants of Ukrainian politics can be identified in its recent history which will continue to be of decisive influence: (i) The national consensus in Ukraine has rested on a fragile "historic compromise" between various actors in society. Their relationship to the nation state and their political orientation are characterised to the present day by very different expectations which continue to make a consensus on the direction in which the nation state will develop unlikely. (ii) Ukrainian politics are strongly determined by economic interests often with a short-term view. These are focused on the distribution battle over rent-producing sinecure appointments which can be acquired by the exertion of influence on the Ukrainian state. Such rent seeking has in the past definitively contributed to the political consolidation of the nation state – irrespective of all the explosive fault lines of ethnic conflict. (iii) The Ukrainian actors are concentrating essentially on internal processes. That is why in Ukrainian external relations increasingly pragmatic action in the country's own interest has replaced the strongly ideologically coloured conflicts over the delineation of Ukrainian territory from Russia which still dominated in the direct aftermath of independence. These three determinants will continue to characterise Ukrainian politics after the presidential elections. Here the negative aspects of rent seeking have meanwhile come to dominate since they are the most important factors blocking reforms. The latter only have a chance if political groups whose own interests coincide with the requirements of reform manage to assert themselves in the political process.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition juliag | April 1999