‘Three Steps Forward – Two Steps Back’: Ukraine needs assistance – and reform


It’s time for the US to come to the aid of Ukraine, says Antony J. Blinken (@ABlinken), a managing director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, and former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration.

Since invading Ukraine three and a half years ago, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has mastered the tactical rheostat, turning up the heat at will, then cooling things down when the United States and Europe push back. In this way, he hopes to keep Ukraine permanently destabilized, fueling domestic discontent at Kiev’s inability to end the occupation, buying time to buy back the influence Russia lost by invading and bullying Ukraine into a Russian sphere of influence, he writes for The New York Times:

The administration enlisted a smart, seasoned diplomat, Kurt Volker, to run point on its Ukraine policy. He succeeds Victoria Nuland, whose dogged diplomacy gave the Kremlin fits. Hiring Mr. Volker at the same time the State Department is busy firing virtually every other special envoy sends a message to Moscow that Washington remains focused on ending the occupation, not ignoring it.

Ukraine is also in urgent need of electoral reform, argues Brian Mefford, a senior nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. Genuine reform would involve five things, he says:

  • First, the Central Election Commission (CEC) members must be re-appointed. The terms of thirteen out of the fifteen members have expired, with a dozen members already more than two years past their expiration dates. …
  • Second, Ukraine must address the issue of voting by internally displaced persons (IDPs). Due to the Russian annexation of Crimea and occupation of parts of the Donbas, there are more than 1.6 officially registered million IDPs…..
  • Third, Ukraine continues to be plagued by election fraud and violations because of the country’s failure to prosecute electoral offenses. …
  • Next, political finance reforms need to be strengthened by introducing electronic financial reporting to allow the public to track and verify political party spending. …
  • The fifth and perhaps most contentious issue will be deciding which electoral system to use for the next round….

Following the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, Ukrainian civil society has engaged in an ongoing campaign for institutional reforms that enhance government accountability and increase transparency.

This campaign produced several early victories, such as government agencies tasked with investigating, prosecuting, and preventing corruption. Yet progress has slowed, leaving major goals unfulfilled. The system is fundamentally unaltered. Despite some improvements, Ukraine remains the most corrupt in Europe, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.

Civil society was the main driver of anti-corruption reforms, which were among the most prominent demands of the Maidan. Recently activists have been experiencing increased government pushback and persecution, which threaten to stall the process permanently. At a forthcoming forum at the National Endowment for Democracy, Daria Kaleniuk and Taras Shevchenko will discuss the role civil society has played in the reform process, particularly in designing and deploying anti-corruption tools that have markedly increased government transparency. They will also discuss prospects for furthering reforms and maintaining Ukraine’s pro-democratic course.

Post-Maidan Reforms in Ukraine

Three Steps Forward – Two Steps Back

Daria Kaleniuk (right)

Executive Director, Anti-Corruption Action Center

Taras Shevchenko

Executive Director, Center for Democracy and Rule of Law

Board Co-chair, Reanimation Package of Reforms, 2016-2017

Moderated by:

Joanna Rohozinska

Senior Program Officer, National Endowment for Democracy

Friday, October 13, 2017


Lunch 12:00-12:30pm

1025 F St. NW, Suite 800

Washington, DC 20004


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