THE AUTHOR ON POLITICS IN UKRAINE
Many people remember hearing about the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 which lead ultimately to the election of current president Viktor Yushchenko but many may not know about or understand what has happened since then.
I was fortunate to take my first trip to Ukraine in the spring of 2006 at a time of another election. I found a populace encouraged and enthusiastic not only about the election but the future of Ukraine. I wish I could say this is the same today but things are much different today.
Relations between Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko have gone from cordial and cooperative in 2004 to adversarial in 2009. There infighting has largely ground Ukraine government to a standstill. There is so much to be done to improve the life of Ukrainian citizens and yet today virtually nothing is accomplished and things seem only to get done in managing crisis after crisis and even that is accomplished only with great difficulty. On my last visit to Ukraine I found attitudes had turned sour and sarcastic towards government leaders. Many do not believe this government is capable of solving the nations problems. This is born out in recent public opinion polls.
There is the prospect of an upcoming presidential election if they can come to some kind of agreement of when to even have it. Polls show President Yushchenko has little chance to be reelected and Tymoshenko is fading in popularity. The leader seems to be Viktor Yanukovych the man Yushenko beat in the election to become president. One saving grace is that recent elections have lacked any irregularities or charges of corruption.
Lay all of this against the backdrop of severe economic crisis in Ukraine currently and the very strained relations with neighboring Russia and the future of Ukraine is at best uncertain.
Next month I will explain why what happens in Ukraine in the future is of great importance to USA.
THE AUTHOR ON THE IMPORTANCE OF UKRAINE TO USA
Last month I wrote about my observations of the political situation presently in Ukraine. Today I want to give you my thoughts about why what is going on politically in Ukraine today should be important to America.
First I suppose not surprisingly is the strategic location of Ukraine. If you include Ukraine as part of Western Europe it is the largest country in Europe area wise. Its location is a gateway between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It is a major transport route for gas from Russia to many parts of Europe. Its fertile soils and favorable weather make it an important agricultural center in the region. Although much updating needs to be done to remain competitive in the world Ukraine contains some rich mining regions and is important in the manufacture of steel and related equipment. There is a major seaport in Odessa which link Ukraine to the Mediterranean and the rest of the world. However all of these things aside I believe the major importance to the future well being of Ukraine do not lay in its strategic location or its resources but rather in its democracy.
Most important of all is that Ukraine remain a democracy and able to determine its own future. All of the countries of the region of the former Soviet Union have struggled to various extent since the end of the Soviet Union. Latvia, Belarus, Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Moldova have all to various degrees stood on their own independent of Russia.
Likewise some of the former Iron Curtain Countries like Poland and Czech Republic have already integrated into Europe and NATO.
For other countries like Ukraine the answer to these questions will come sometime in the future.
What is important is that the people of Ukraine make these decisions. Fortunately with all of the problems of politics in Ukraine today holding free and fair elections has not been one of them since the Orange Revolution. Relations with Russia have been tense and we have already seen with Georgia, Russia’s willingness to use force to retain some control of these former Soviet Union territories. Statements have been made by high up Russian government officials of their desire and right to claim the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.
Most important to America, Europe and the region is that Ukraine is able to determine their own future. Future decisions about joining NATO or closely aligning with Europe need to be made not by Moscow or Washington DC but rather by Ukrainians themselves.
The USA, the world and most of all Ukraine will benefit most by Ukraine remaining a free and democratic state.
- Thomas C Almond