Can Ukraine achieve a reform breakthrough?



It is easy to characterize Ukraine’s latest attempt to reform as a repeat of the unrealized potential of the 2004 Orange Revolution, analysts John Lough and Iryna Solonenko write for Chatham House, the London-based foreign policy think-tank:

This view is premature and disregards the fact that Ukraine has changed significantly since then. The country today has a much stronger sense of independent identity, symbolized by its rapidly developing civil society. The external environment is also markedly different. Moscow’s break with Europe and its efforts to compel Ukraine to be part of a Russian sphere of influence have finally forced Ukrainian elites to make a choice between modernization on a Russian or a European model. Fearful of the danger of Ukraine’s destabilization, Western countries are also showing an unprecedented level of support for its reform efforts.

“Ukraine’s weak institutions and its experience of 25 years of misrule since independence place an extraordinary burden on reformist forces. The pressures driving reform at present marginally outweigh those impeding them,” they observe. “However, the struggle of the ‘new’ against the ‘old’ is playing itself out slowly and painfully, making it impossible to judge definitively at this point whether Ukraine’s reforms are destined to succeed or fail.” RTWT

The Minsk-2 Agreement, brokered by the Merkel-Hollande tandem in negotiations with Putin and Poroshenko and signed on February 11-12, 2015, with the goal of structuring an exit from the Russo-Ukrainian war, has become a test not only of Moscow’s and Kyiv’s ability to find a political solution for the conflict that unraveled the post-Cold war order, but also of Western unity and readiness to formulate a response to the new challenges, analyst Lilia Shevtsova writes for The American Interest:

The West engaged in the Minsk process believing in the power of its persuasion, in reason, in the mechanism of give-and-take, and in the parties’ desire to find a win-win solution. Russia engaged in the process with other goals in mind: that the deal would help it to preserve its gains and help it not only control Ukraine but also force the West to endorse its understanding of the new European and global order. The Kremlin has succeeded thus far in winning its hybrid war; why shouldn’t it succeed now in guaranteeing a hybrid peace?

Ukraine’s democratic progress would undoubtedly be easier without the myriad obstacles thrown up by some of Kyiv’s venal officials. Luckily, Ukraine’s civil society activists are committed to keeping the country’s reforms on track, Atlantic Council analyst Josh Cohen writes.

Until last week’s Dutch referendum on Ukraine, we hadn’t seen a good example of how Russian influence actually works in a Western European election, notes analyst Anne Applebaum. On Wednesday, Dutch citizens were asked to express their feelings about a European trade agreement with Ukraine, the same treaty that Ukrainians fought for, and died for, in February 2014, she writes for The Washington Post:

Many of the “no” campaign’s themes, headlines and even photographs were lifted directly from Russia Today and Sputnik, Russia’s state propaganda website. According to a poll cited by a Ukrainian foreign ministry official, 59 percent of those who voted against the treaty listed, as an important motivation, the fact that Ukraine is corrupt; 19 percent believed that Ukraine was responsible for the crash of MH-17, the plane that Russian separatists shot down over Ukraine in 2014; 34 percent believed that the treaty would guarantee Ukraine’s membership in the European Union.

“Of those three points, the second two are certainly false,” notes Applebaum, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. “The first, while true, is hardly a rational argument against a treaty designed to reduce corruption in Ukraine.”

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