Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Shrivelled orange - Ukraine turned West, and the West turned away

By Aussiegirl

I couldn't agree more. Excellent opinion piece from the Times of London:

Shrivelled orange - Comment - Times Online

Thirteen months ago, the world was transfixed by the spectacle of a freezing but peaceful revolution unfolding on the streets of Kiev. Televisually, it presented a shimmering canvas of orange banners and driving snow. It also offered the compelling narrative of Viktor Yushchenko’s struggle against corruption, stagnation and would-be assassins. The villain was the dour, Russian-backed Viktor Yanukovych, whose eventual defeat appeared to leave Ukraine’s forces of reaction in full retreat. Not quite. After parliamentary elections next month, Mr Yanukovych is likely to become his country’s new Prime Minister.
Given the heightened expectations of Mr Yushchenko’s supporters — formed more by the brief misrule of his predecessors than any experience of democracy — a political hangover was inevitable. But few foresaw a crisis as profound, avoidable or salutary as the one that now threatens to return Kiev to its pre-revolutionary torpor.

From his first day in office, Mr Yushchenko has been pulled off the course of democratic, market-led reform by a vengeful Kremlin and by his own venal subordinates. President Putin has seized every chance to undermine him, including the demand, in the middle of one of the coldest winters on record, for a fourfold rise in Ukraine’s price for Russian gas. Mr Yushchenko was already too weakened domestically to mount more than token resistance, having been forced to sack his two most powerful ministers before their squabbling, scheming and alleged corruption derailed his reform agenda entirely. He has now been weakened still further by parliament’s dismissal of the rest of his Government over its handling of the gas dispute.

Every element of this triple blow to the Orange Revolution’s legacy was widely foreseen. Mr Putin has been consistently ruthless in his use of Russian energy as an instrument of foreign policy. Mr Yushchenko’s divisive former Prime Minister, Yuliya Tymoshenko, was, likewise, a known quantity — angelic but no angel. And the groundwork for the parliamentary coup that has now left Ukraine without a functioning Cabinet was laid at the height of the revolution, when Mr Yushchenko accepted curbs on presidential powers in return for fresh elections he was bound to win.

He has proved less charismatic than his revolutionary persona, and less adroit than the tumult of the past year has demanded. He had no strategy for pre-empting Russian pipeline blackmail, and he waited too long to act against Mrs Tymoshenko. What he could not have foreseen, however, was the speed with which Western enthusiasm for the Orange Revolution turned to indifference in its aftermath. The European Union and Nato have hastened only to emphasise that Ukraine’s membership is a long way off. US aid, as Mr Putin recently noted, is trivial compared with continuing Russian energy subsidies.

The paradox of aspiring to EU membership is that it involves reforms that can make life worse before they make it better. On current evidence, Ukrainians’ lives look destined to get worse, and stay worse.


At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yushchenko and Tymoshenko together will still have more seats than the Proffffesor Yanu. It is going to be a hard fight, but I still believe in the ultimate success of the OR.


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