“In many ways the locus of Yatsenyuk’s path to victory that stresses ending the political rancor between the Regions Party and the Tymoshenko Bloc, and building a new sense of national unity and purpose mirrors Barak Obama’s road to the White House in the 2008 elections.”
Unless a transformational figure emerges to capture the imagination and majority of Ukrainian voters in the January 2010 national elections, Kiev’s drift back to Russia will accelerate and the Orange Revolution will perish in its infancy. Five years after millions of Ukrainians defiantly overturned a fraudulent election orchestrated in Moscow to usher in Victor Yushchenko’s reform movement, corruption is rampant, chaos reigns in government and nostalgia to re-establish the bonds of affection with Russia is metastasizing across Ukraine. While Ukraine has been a strategic battleground between Europe and Russia, it is Kiev’s dysfunctional leadership that has furnished the means of its own nation’s destruction. Today, the one leader who is uniquely positioned to save Ukraine from itself may be Arseniy Yatsenyuk, whose meteoric rise is altering the political calculus of Ukraine’s upcoming elections. If Yatsenyuk enters the race, his road to the presidency will be as difficult as it is unlikely.
Ukraine’s next president will inherit a nation in the throes of a spiraling
economic crisis still searching for the bottoming out point. With the fourth highest debt level on the planet, industrial output plummeting 30 percent last year, inflation at 24 percent and its national currency (the hryvna) in free fall; economic circumstances in Ukraine couldn’t be worse. The January gas crisis with Moscow that shut off natural gas flows to twenty European countries has exacerbated Ukraine’s problems, and made it an unreliable provider of energy transiting to Europe. While Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko valiant attempt to reassure the European community at the recent Munich security conference that Ukraine has the capacity to shoulder its energy transiting responsibilities to the west, plans are moving forward on three natural gas pipelines from Russia and Central Asia that would all bypass Ukraine. Further, when the IMF conditioned the release of the second tranche of Ukraine’s $16.4 billion package to re-capitalize the banking sector and service its external debt, Ukraine was obligated to submit a plan for a balanced budget. Prime Minister Tymoshenko’s government presented a plan riddled with account deficits; prompting the resignation of Ukraine’s Finance Minister.
The gas crisis and Ukraine’s embarrassing proposal to the IMF are just two revealing examples of how deeply Ukraine’s political leaders have been living in a fantasy world since the Orange Revolution. The Yushenko-Tymokshenko Orange coalition disagreed on virtually everything once they took power in 2004. Since Tymoshenko was tossed out after the first eight months in office the two
leaders and factions haven’t stopped fighting. Worse than the Ukrainian government’s incompetence is the atmospherics of adolescent carnival its leaders have exhibited in conducting the nation’s affairs. Their governmental decorum has all the dignity of a primary school dining hall food fight. In short, Ukraine is not ready for rapid ascension into the European Union or NATO, nor is NATO ready to receive Ukraine. Even Russia has its doubts about its dealings
with Kiev. On February 16, Ukrainian leaders threatened to expel Russian Ambassador Chernomyrdin after his recent criticism of the nation’s leadership as totally disorganized.
President Yushenko’s fight for the supremacy of the Ukrainian language, uniting Ukraine’s Orthodox Church and building international recognition of the 1932-33 Holodomor as Soviet genocide will do nothing to solve the Ukraine’s crisis. That is precisely why his popularity in the polls is down to three percent. Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko is a far superior administrator of state affairs than Yushenko and former Prime Minister Yanukovych. She managed
to unite with Yanukovych’s Regions Party in 2007 to form a governing coalition and then defeated the Regions Party’s recent attempt to topple her from the Prime Minister’s post with a “no confidence vote.” Tymoshenko also deserves credit for negotiating a deal with Russia to end the gas crisis, eliminating energy transit middlemen who were gouging profits and attempting to restore credibility to the nation’s wages and pension system. But Tymoshenko is distrusted by vast numbers of Ukrainians who view her as part of the problem and are fatigued by her constant fighting with President Yushhenko and Yanukovych.
Going forward to the Ukraine’s national elections, Yulia Tymeshenko’s bloc does not have enough parliamentary seats and she doesn’t have the nationwide support to forge an effective governing coalition and lead a genuine reform movement. While Victor Yanukovych’s Region’s Party has a slim parliamentary majority he also lacks sufficient support to form a governing coalition. He is currently running behind Tymoshenko in the polls by a few points, and is facing a backlash in his party for fumbling the last attempt to dipose Timoshenko from office. As for President Yushenko, his spectacular fall from grace has virtually sunk his “Our Ukraine” coalition.
Against the backdrop of Ukraine’s crumbling economy and gross malfeasance in leadership, Arseniy Yatsenyuk has a tremendous opening to break out as a uniting force to save Ukraine’s flagging ship of state. While Yushenko, Yanukovych and Temoshenko fight, Ukraine is sinking and Yatsenyuk’s popularity is rising. As a former banker, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Speaker of the parliament, the 34 year-old Yatsenyuk is experienced and conversant in Ukraine’s byzantine politics. He is young, relatively scandal free and has the best chance to represent the next generation of a new
post-partisan Ukrainian leadership.
But can Yatsenyuk be the sober visionary leader who can impart a new sense of realism that implores Ukraine to clean up its own financial house? Does he have the charisma to inspire Ukrainians to take their destiny in their own hands and not look to Europe or Russia for salvation or blame them when things go wrong? Can he reign in Ukraine’s oligarchs who have ravaged the country in the same
way that Russia’s oligarchs did during the transition from state ownership to free enterprise without Putinizing the system? Will Yatsenyuk finally craft a sensible forward-leaning Ukrainian energy policy that modernizes its infrastructure and restores its credibility in Europe? Can Yatsenyuk try to articulate a vision that bridges the cultural and religious divide between Ukraine and Russian nationals? And can he lead a parliament to get things done with significant numbers of members from the Tymoshenko Bloc and the Regions
Although Yatsenyuk lacks money, party organization and a program for
Ukraine’s resurrection, he has two things working in his favor; the Ukrainian peoples’ desperate search for new leadership and his political rival’s incessant infighting that makes him a more attractive alternative. What Yatsenyuk needs now is a clear and compelling vision of a new Ukraine, and a new theory of nation-building that departs with the failed attempts of the past. He cannot simply split the political difference between the major parties. He can
be a radical pragmatist proposing solutions that benefit all Ukrainians
struggling under severe economic conditions, but he cannot be a soft centrist who tries to be all things to all Ukrainians. The fact that Yanukovych and Tymoshenko have started attacking Yatsenyuk instead of ignoring him now provides him with greater opportunities to highlight policy differences and new reforms, rather than engaging in personal smears. Yatsenyuk can and will have to be tough in taking on his detractors; he cannot be equally as dirty.
Yatsenyuk has formed a new organization called the Change Front Citizens Initiative. Unlike the Orange Coalition that was powerful enough to overturn a corrupt government in 2004, but too weak and too divisive to govern effectively; Yatsenyuk must build his own independent base of disaffected citizens and Ukraine’s youth that are anchored to his core vision. By doing so early in the process, he can position his campaign to break off sections of Ukraine’s other
major and minor parties on principle and policy to forge a winning coalition as the January 17 elections draw near.
In many ways the locus of Yatsenyuk’s path to victory that stresses ending the political rancor between the Region’s Party and the Tymoshenko Bloc, and building a new sense of national unity and purpose mirrors Barak Obama’s road to the White House in the 2008 election. Can Arseniy Yatsenyuk be the change that the new Ukraine believes in?
COMMENTS FROM BOOKER RISING WEB-BLOG ON ARTICLE
I think…he doesn’t understand a few things.
Eastern Ukraine has a border with Russia politically but culturally there is no border.
Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus were one nation of Eastern Slavs until Genghis Khan’s son came in and took over control of Russia.
Ukraine was split up and most of Belarus (White-Russia) went to “more Western Catholic Slavic” Poland-Lithuania (I know the Lithuanians are Balts..but)…
So today you have the Western have of Ukraine that is more Western centered and looking…which culturally is more similar to Catholic Poland and is Ukrainian speaking, which is really a dialect of Russian with a lot of Polish words.
In the East you have Russian speaking Ukrainians and Russians and if you ask a Russian many will tell you there is no such thing as a “Ukrainian”…they are just Russians who speak a dialect. In Russia, Ukrainians are not usually considered a “separate people like Chechen, the various Turkic and Mongol tribes, etc).
That being said, people in Eastern Russia watch Moscow TV, speak Russia, have family in Russia, often go to Russia, etc.
So what you have is an urbanized, more educated Western Ukraine (which I also believe is more industrialized) that wants to be part of the EU and NATO and almost half the nation wants to be part of Russia.
Hell the dictator of Belarus tried to rejoin Russia but at the time it was Russia that rejected reunification!
I’m not sure how to alleviate this issue, because slavic nationalism is deep…Russian nationalism is deep…you have a cleft country.
For more proof of what I”m saying check out this map.
Imperial Germany is the area that the Prussians took from the Poles, but the fact German and Polish dominance influenced the culture of the West part of Ukraine results in the same thing.
Dragon Horse | 03.01.09 – 4:53 pm | #
MY COMMENT: What? An article/comment about the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine, and nada about the National Endowment for Democracy?
You gotta be kidding me.
>WASHINGTON – The Bush administration has spent more than $65 million in the past two years to aid political organizations in Ukraine, paying to bring opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko to meet U.S. leaders and helping to underwrite an exit poll indicating he won last month’s disputed runoff election.
U.S. officials say the activities don’t amount to interference in Ukraine’s election, as Russian President Vladimir Putin alleges, but are part of the $1 billion the State Department spends each year trying to build democracy worldwide.
No U.S. money was sent directly to Ukrainian political parties, the officials say. In most cases, it was funneled through organizations such as the Eurasia Foundation or through groups aligned with Republicans and Democrats that organized election training, with human rights forums or with independent news outlets.
But officials acknowledge that some of the money helped train groups and individuals opposed to the Russian-backed government candidate – people who now call themselves part of the “Orange Revolution.”
For example, one group that received grants through U.S.-funded foundations is the Center for Political and Legal Reforms, whose Web site has a link to Yushchenko’s home page under the heading “partners.” Another project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development brought an official with Ukraine’s Center for Political and Legal Reforms to Washington, D.C., last year for a three-week training session on political advocacy.
MY COMMENT: As Condi said…”no one could have predicted” or some such.
Care Bear | 03.01.09 – 6:09 pm | #
carebear…what exactly are you trying to say? Like any country the U.S. has interests, but if the Ukraine eventually joined NATO and the EU because of U.S. meddling would the average Ukrainian be better off or worse off than if they stayed in Puti…I mean ‘Russia’ orbit?
Dragon Horse | 03.01.09 – 6:26 pm | #
MY COMMENT: The so-called “Orange Revolution” was not authentic (Bought and paid for by the US via the NED.) These “movements” often flounder (When the cash stops) and we fools (Tax payers) are left wondering “what went wrong?”
Hence my “no one could have predicted” quote.
The next “no one could have predicted” event? Iraq. We bought and paid the Militias to stand down, so Gen P and the Neo-Cons could claim that the “surge worked”
Let’s see what will happen when the payment stops.
Care Bear | 03.01.09 – 6:43 pm | #