by Elizaveta Egorova, PhD, and Ekaterina Egorova, PhD
(This is an update of the April 2010 psychological profile of President Yanukovich by Ekaterina Egorova and Elizaveta Egorova.)
Viktor Yanukovich’s choice between the association with the EU or the accession to the Customs Union is quite predictable if you look at this decision in terms of personality of Yanukovich. The President of Ukraine has once again demonstrated his skills of diplomacy based on his purely personal pragmatism that allowed him “to manipulate” the decision to join this or that economic space over such essential for his country issues such as the price of Russian gas and public debt.
The main goals in this game are primarily the presidential elections which results should be recognized by Moscow, and money from Russia which would slightly reduce the pressure of the economic factor in the Ukrainian upcoming elections.
There is a feeling that Yanukovich’s plans to engage with European integration were not serious from the very beginning, since he understands that EU is unlikely to recognize the results of the next presidential elections held under his scenario as legitimate. Both, the EU and Moscow are just figures on the Yanukovich’s chessboard which he move accordingly towards his plan, and yet quite successfully. Maidan square – does not count. This topic as well as the Western reaction towards the tough actions against the opposition is outside of Yanukovich’s interests.
Thus, which psychological characteristics of Yanukovich will help us to understand his behavior in relation to Moscow and Brussels?
Yanukovich grew up in the tough world, poverty, without parental support, and love. His childhood on the streets and days in prison taught him the main lessons – how to survive by relying on himself and how to manage the situation. He perceives the world extremely pragmatic: all profitable works good.
His childhood has formed the lack of emotional ties and obligations to anyone whatsoever. People who surround Yanukovich are the means in achieving his own goals. This mental design has firmly taken its place in Yanukovich’s domestic and foreign policies.
Yanukovich represents a vivid example of the political leader persistently working toward his goal. He had to overcome difficult barriers, humiliation and open hatred to become a president. Yanukovich brands his enemies as liars and calls traitors those who do not share his position. His reaction to criticism is aggressive and very painful. He greatly desires to obtain power over those who do not submit to him. But to rule in the country divided into two is not so simple. If there is no consensus, a politician with such psychological personality structure may operate only by means of compulsion.
Yanukovich is a classical example of a personality whose self-esteem is low and requires compensation. Its roots are in his unhappy childhood. Yanukovich considers himself to be a hero in all victories and blames others for defeats. Each foreign policy failure will be attributed to the behavior of the other party, and the process of reflecting his own behavior will be blocked.
The low self-esteem and lack of confidence in himself, caused by the shortage of love and recognition on the part of his parents, was expressed in his aspiration for occupying a dominating position and his need for power over others. In his interview to newspaper “Vzglyad” Yanukovich emphasized – “Today, Ukraine needs tough mechanisms of power providing presidential government no less than ten years”. 
Force for him is the main element of power. However, the natural pragmatism counterbalances the power orientation dictated by a very high need for power. Yanukovich is likely to demonstrate force approach through obstinacy and stubbornness, if there is no “carrot”. A potential “stick” is unlikely to produce any impression on him. However, a situation of real inconvenience probably will encourage Yanukovich to cooperate, as it happened during his first term prison sentence.
Yanukovich perceives a conflict as an integral part of any policy. Therefore politics is a cruel war where all means are good. Hence, in foreign policy he trusts nobody and is not going to relax. All allies are “friends” only for the time being while they are useful. And their usefulness is determined, in the first place, by Yanukovich’s goals. Since he is aimed at domination owing to his high need for power and the direct domination over the presidents of larger and strong countries is rather problematic, his domination may take a form of using them pragmatically to suit his own ends. As a result, cunning may well replace force, allowing him to solve his problems.
Yanukovich’s low self-esteem gave a push to the development of another major need, his need for achievement. It has a compensatory character as other needs. Therefore, he probably lives it through more sharply than the people with an adequate self-esteem. Yanukovich always tries to reach his goals, to be guided by the result and is ready to concentrate all his forces for its sake. He said about himself: “I am a man of action. It takes little time between my idea and its realization.” It is an important quality for a political leader.
Pragmatism is a key concept for Yanukovich. His pragmatism is focused on the main question: “What shall I get from it?” This question suggests various benefits like political and economic gain, support and recognition, power and influence, status and prestige. The clear understanding of what he may receive in various situations of foreign policy interaction will help Yanukovich to work out his line of behavior. However, the understanding of what he can lose or receive only partly may also facilitate making the right decision.
Even in respect of foreign policy Yanukovich formulated his thought rather clearly: “We will pursue a pragmatic and balanced foreign policy.”
Yanukovich is a good fighter with little fear. He was always ready to get involved in a dangerous situation and to risk. Rules and laws have value for him only if they ensure his own rights. In all other cases, they are only obstacles that should be skillfully bypassed.
His attitude to rules is worth remembering at the time of reaching agreements with Yanukovich and “ensuring” their observance. Yanukovich’s pragmatism allows him to change his position depending on his personal benefit, departing from previous arrangements. If some agreements are unfavorable to him, he simply ignores them. Therefore, the agreement reached as a result of the negotiations may be easily torpedoed, most likely silently. As a pragmatist, Yanukovich is always ready to reorient himself in his alliances, to trim his sails to the wind and capable of maneuvering in the changed conditions.
By virtue of his high need for affiliation Yanukovich cannot accept indifference to his personality. Attention to his personality is required during the interaction with Yanukovich. However, it is unable to arouse an emotional response from him.
Yanukovich is quite capable of strategic planning in his ventures aimed at achieving his goals. He is well aware of the situations around him, skillfully estimating his resources and possibilities. Focused on achieving success, he competently finds out and estimates every possibility that will lead him to the necessary result. He is also able to estimate his obstacles properly and to find a way to bypass them skillfully, maneuvering tactically at that.
In interpersonal relations, Yanukovich is highly distrustful and has a strong paranoid accentuation. If he comes across any counteraction on the part of those with whom he co-operates, it only makes him insist on his own approach even more, moving to the set goal. In other words, the disagreement with his offers or refusal of them is likely to force him even more to implement his plan.
Yanukovich still wins in this challenging game with such serious opponents as the EU and Russia. And if the European Union is experiencing annoyance that it was “used”, Moscow does not feel so. Meanwhile, in Kiev Yanukovich began to actively prepare the ground for the presidential elections and the new set of laws once again demonstrate the Ukraine’s vector of political development under Yanukovich’s rule.
Copyright © 2014 Elizaveta Egorova and Ekaterina Egorova. All rights reserved.