The current conflict in the Ukraine is mostly about opening up the Ukrainian economy to foreign capital through free trade agreements that eliminate tariffs and cost domestic jobs, subject workers to austerity through IMF "stabilization" agreements and that eliminate controls on domestic businesses and foreign capital by drawing the Ukrainian economy away from the protections and advantages of the Russian Customs Union offered by Putin. Russia provides the Ukraine with about 60% of the Ukraine's annual natural gas requirements and imports 25% of the Ukraine's exports including most of Ukrainian manufactured steel. Russia has always been vital to the Ukrainian economy's health and Putin has offered a $15 billion loan package with no austerity conditions attached which includes steep discounts on the Ukraine's vital supplies of Russian natural gas.
The IMF has offered a similar loan package with draconian austerity measures sure to make the Ukraine permanently dependent on the EU export markets, loans and foreign capital. The loan package from the IMF asks for conditions that will squeeze workers in order to get foreign banks, to whom the Ukraine is in debt, repaid. It is an enormously unpopular option! It is the main reason that the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych rejected the EU trade free agreement which was recently signed in Brussels by interim president Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The Ukrainian government's $5.4 billion budget deficit will be balanced on the backs of the Ukrainian working class with cuts to vital energy subsidies, public sector pensions and deep cuts to the social safety net. Already, one quarter of the Ukraine's 44 million people live in abject poverty barely surviving on a mere $127/month! Raising taxes on the oligarchy remains out of the question as all of the countries economic woes will be resolved by squeezing the workers.
The most supportive US politicians of the new government is Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John McCain (R-Arizona) who fully endorse Yatsenuk's austerity measures. Cruz's motivation is the prospects of seeing US energy companies replace Russian one's in the supply of the Ukraine's gas. He recently testified to Congress that, “We are on the cusp of a great American energy renaissance that will create both a stronger economy and a stronger America,” in an endeavor to obtain US aid to the new government in the Ukraine. Cruz fully supports the IMF plan's conditions which, among other things, will mean, according to the above Forbes report "...a 47% to 66% increase in personal income tax rates; a 50% increase in monthly gas bills; a 40% increase on gas tariffs for heating companies; and an increase in taxes on agribusiness." Such conditions will cause inflation to rise as annual GDP growth declines. The cause will mostly be the removal of Russia's former generous energy subsidies. Cruz expects the US to profit enormously as American companies replace Russia as the main supplier of the Ukraine's energy needs as the Russian GAZPROM discontinues its support due to the signing of the recent treaty. The Ukrainian working class will be squeezed in the vice of lower income and rising prices all of which will amount to a major income shift from workers to banks and foreign capitalists.
According to one Moscow Times report; "... several U.S. lawmakers have introduced bills pushing the government to speed approvals of U.S. liquefied natural gas exports. They say the extra U.S. supplies would provide Europe with an alternative to supplies from Russia, from which it currently gets nearly a third of its fuel." US corporations stand to profit from the opening of the Ukraine's local energy markets while foreign capital in general, both European and American stands to profit from the IMF engineered opening of the Ukrainian economy. This pattern is typical of corporate globalization; expand corporate profit in the global economy at the expense of workers everywhere. The local forces of fascism that have been unleashed in this frenzy to open the Ukrainian economy while separating the Ukraine from Putin's Russia promise to be more undemocratic and violent than any Russian leaning Ukrainian government in the past. Fascism is frequently the price of suppressing class conflict in favor of capital.
It is a good bet that the supporters of the Orange Revolution ten years ago didn't foresee the takeover of their economy by foreign capital at their expense much less did they see such a prospect as one that conformed to the ideals for which they struggled. The unfortunate consequence of the defeat of failed communist systems over twenty years ago is that corporate globalization and fascist political tendencies have usurped the political leadership role many hoped would be assumed by a workers' movement for a new popular system that would be both democratic and socialist.
It is unfortunate if some readers mistake my arguments regarding the current political crisis in the Ukraine as support for Russian domination past, present and future. They are no such thing! I simply see the current conflict not as one of Ukrainian nationalism vs. Russian hegemony but one consisting of the usual issues that pertain to globalization and the economic imbalances between core powers (like the EU) and peripheral, or weaker, powers such as the Ukraine. I believe that such imbalances are the most salient features of the current problem of Ukrainian political decision making. The bleak prospects of austerity and an ill advised, neo-liberal, export-led growth model for the Ukraine, which can hardly be expected to compete with chronic surplus countries like Germany in the long run, should be the question most Ukrainians should be addressing rather than the history of Russian "hegemony" however bitterly resented. It is true that Ukraine's corrupt, often pro-Russian oligarchs have mismanaged the Ukrainian economy over the last twenty years; the destruction of a once efficient, vertically integrated steel industry that employed many Ukrainians is proof enough of this obvious fact. So is the gradual decline in average annual rates of GDP growth since 1991. But ditching a patrimonial Russian Customs Union for unbalanced, open market trade relations with the EU is simply jumping from the frying pan into the fire! Just ask the Greeks!!