After 25 years, can Ukraine turn the corner?


The International Monetary Fund is today widely expected to approve a disbursement of least $1bn for war-torn Ukraine that was delayed for a year amid a domestic political crisis and concerns over reform commitments, The FT reports:

In an interview with the Financial Times ahead of a vote by the IMF’s executive board, Ukraine’s finance minister Oleksandr Danyliuk said the country is ready to accelerate reforms, Roman Olearchyk reports from Kiev.

The news coincides with reports that Ukraine has created a new council to fight money laundering.

There are many reasons to believe Ukraine can turn the corner if one sets realistic expectations, argues Max Bader, Assistant professor of Russian and Eurasian studies at the University of Leiden.

“A sober look at the reform process since the 2014 revolution reveals that many pieces of much-needed legislation have been passed,” he contends, in a contribution to a Carnegie Forum. “A crucial issue is how the reforms are implemented by the state at different administrative levels. Ukraine will continue to need international engagement, including funding, to help turn the reforms into successes.”

The cultural and political diversity in Ukraine has prevented the consolidation of authoritarianism for any length of time, but this diversity has, in the past, also prevented the emergence of a nation with a consolidated national identity, said Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy. Ukraine has been through a long, difficult and violent struggle over the past 25 years, he told today’s ‘Ukraine in Washington’ conference. But through it all, the struggle and suffering have contributed to the growing unity of the country and have created a wave of civic activism not seen anywhere in this region, he suggested:

Ukraine is different from Russia, where (as NED’s Nadia Diuk has pointed out) the state has been the concept around which all ideology and values have revolved, whereas in Ukraine, society or “hromada” has been at the center, and NGOs have been called “hromads’ki orhannizatsii” or civic organizations… Ukraine has always been a place where diverse confessions and ethnic groups co-existed, which created the foundation for a functioning pluralism. …

No territory is more significant than Ukraine when it comes to Russia’s engagement in New Generation Warfare, notes analyst Martin N Murphy, PhD. Russian leadership worries about the erosion of a zone around Russia’s borders where politically dangerous ideas can be stifled before they undermine the regime’s hold on power, he writes in a new Heritage Foundation report.

Ukrainian civil society and various Western actors play a much larger role in Ukraine’s public life now than before Euromaidan, and they are coordinating their assault on Ukraine’s post-Soviet system. Sooner or later, they will prevail, notes Andreas Umland, senior research fellow at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv. What is much more worrisome is that Ukraine’s coming resurgence could be also its curse, he adds:

As the West remains timid in terms of both applying sanctions against Russia and supporting Ukraine’s military, Moscow will remain free to use its agents, proxies, and troops on Ukrainian territory and along the Russian-Ukrainian border to destabilize Ukraine. If the current situation of fragility and insecurity along the border continues, eastern Ukraine will become more unstable. This could then provide a suitable background for more Kremlin meddling of the sort seen in 2014.

A corrupt system built up over three generations of communism cannot be rooted out quickly, argues Gershman:

It’s not just political, social and economic reforms that are needed.   What’s also need is a cultural change, a change in the way people think about individual social responsibility. That’s the central message of Svetlana Alexievich (right), the Nobel Laureate for Literature from Belarus, who talks in her new book Secondhand Time of the need to replace Homo Sovieticus, the mindset of people who live in the secondhand time of old prejudices. It’s one thing to remove the external trappings of communism, she has said, but “cutting it from one’s soul is something different.”


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