Fighting in eastern Ukraine has picked up sharply in recent weeks, residents along the front line, commanders and European monitors say, The New York Times reports. Ukrainians marked the second anniversary of the deaths of the “Heavenly Hundred,” a term used to refer to 104 people who were killed during Maidan demonstrations of 2014, Radio Svoboda notes (above).
Two years after a pro-Western revolution provoked a conflict with Russian-backed separatists, Ukraine faces a graver threat from rampant corruption — the problem that sparked its 2014 revolt in the first place, USA Today reports:
Amid the ongoing attacks, Ukrainian leaders have implemented some needed economic and political changes, but not enough to satisfy their European donors and reformists at home. Ukraine created a new, more professional national police force, it closed banks that were involved in money laundering and cut subsidies for gas and electric service, causing prices to rise four-fold, said Anders Aslund, an economics analyst at the Atlantic Council think tank.
An electronic state procurement program saved 2% of economic output by reducing corruption and increasing competition for government purchases. Reductions in regulations and a free-floating currency resulted in minimizing Ukraine’s debt service for the next four years, Aslund said.
The change Ukraine really needs
Reform, so elusive to Ukrainians until now, is not an end result, but rather a process that ultimately leads to an improvement in the quality of life for Ukrainians, notes Serhiy Lyovochkin, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and one of the leaders of the Opposition Bloc political party. The essential component of making this process possible….. is to change the way government institutions interact with one another. And that requires changing the constitution, he writes for TIME:
The constitutional reform must include redesigning the judicial system. As long as Ukrainian judicial system stays a hostage of current political infighting, citizens will never see the benefits of the rule of law. Looking at the history of political transitions in Eastern European countries, one can find very few examples of a successful “lustration”—a purge of civil servants who worked under the previous government—and yet a fraction of Ukraine’s officials have made a fetish out of this term. In reality, lustration in Ukraine has become a cover for new corrupt officials and a tool for suppressing political opponents—a modern version of witch-hunt—and a perpetuation of un-ending political games.
In a recent analysis, independent economist Timothy Ash suggested that the best way for rule of law to take root in Ukraine is for politicians to stop using the pretense of it as a weapon against one another. It’s time for a new standard: Let’s call it “economic patriotism.” Ukraine’s success lies in the creation of an efficient economy and a business environment that would attract investment. Investments will flow into the country only when rule of law protects them from raidership.
The German and French foreign ministers have praised Ukraine for its reforms thus far but are urging Kyiv to push for greater progress in battling corruption, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty add (HT:FPI).
Unfortunately, the West ultimately can’t help those who can’t or won’t help themselves. But that doesn’t get European and U.S. leaders off the hook completely, Walter Russell Mead & Damir Marusic write for The American Interest:
The lift in Ukraine was always going to be very difficult, and with the stakes being as high as they are, a lot of engagement and concerted pressure for reform was called for. Western leaders—divided, distracted, and demoralized by a whole rush of crises—have by and large just thrown money and advice at the problem, hoping that the reformers would naturally prevail. They haven’t, and while the odds against their success were and continue to be very high, it’s impossible to describe what is happening as anything other than a serious setback for the West.