What is happening in Ukraine shows that if there is sufficient courage and strength in numbers, people power can make a difference, says Carnegie analyst Judy Dempsey. The sheer pressure of individuals and civil society movements across most of Ukraine is leading to reforms. This is despite the continuing ubiquitous power of the oligarchs, who are agile at adapting to new circumstances, especially Western sanctions, she writes for Strategic Europe:
In the case of Ukraine, the European Union, the United States, and international financial institutions have played an immensely important role by linking political, economic, and social reforms to financial assistance and by being present on the ground. There is little doubt that if that pressure and scrutiny were lifted, the momentum for reform and real change would be lost. The negative consequences for Ukraine—and the West—would be enormous.
Ukraine is about to enter a more difficult and dangerous phase, with the biggest challenge coming from domestic politics and the growing public dissatisfaction with austerity measures, analyst Chris Weafer observes:
The impact of that big price hike will be felt later this month and into November when households start to get the first of their revised heating and hot water bills. The opposition parties are already planning to stage major nationwide protests against these measures and the opinion polls show that they can expect considerable support.
Nearly three full years after protests began in Kyiv, and two and a half years after Maidan, despite making great strides, since 2014, many of the promises of the revolution remain unfulfilled and the window of time for reform is closing rapidly, argues Dr Christopher A. Hartwell, President of the Centre for Social and Economic Research (CASE) in Warsaw and author of Two Roads Diverge: The Transition Experience of Poland and Ukraine
For months, Ukraine has been a platform that allowed the US to prove the theory that ousting a dictator leads to greater prosperity and a just society, Sergii Leshchenko (right) writes for the Atlantic Council:
The pool of Americans interested in Ukraine is quite small. Among Washington’s think tanks with programs on Ukraine are the Atlantic Council, the McCain Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Kennan Institute, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and the National Endowment for Democracy. These are the idea factories where policy recommendations are made and public opinions shaped. Here again, patience has run out. Kyiv has not only turned a deaf ear to its own people but also to US policy advice. Hence, a recommendation by policy experts to impose sanctions on President Petro Poroshenko’s top corrupt officials may soon gain political momentum.
The United States has committed its reputation and resources to support this cause. As a result, the news from Kyiv is disappointing. But it is still not too late for Kyiv to come to its senses, adds Leshchenko, a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy. Otherwise, US-Ukraine relations could reach the point of no return.
The new U.S. president must learn to discern Ukraine’s true reformers from those who made anti-corruption crusades into a lucrative business, and be able to distinguish real action from empty words, analyst Mark Pfeifle writes for Foreign Policy’s Shadow Government. If not, the two and a half decades-long Ukrainian experiment with independence may boil over completely.
Ukraine’s government needs to draft a mid- and long-term national action plan for smart diplomacy that outlines benchmarks and explains the responsibilities of every governmental unit; it should also include stronger NGO involvement, argues Victoria Khaladzhy, a member of Public Council of the Committee for Foreign Affairs at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. We are simultaneously witnessing and taking part in the creation of a new type of diplomacy in Ukraine. If it succeeds, it will give impetus to reforming the whole system, she writes for the Atlantic Council (HT: FPI).The European Union should also take a number of specific steps to sustain Ukraine’s democratization process, analyst Gustav Gressel writes for the European Council on Foreign Relations:
- Don’t let the Minsk process detract from reform efforts. The Minsk process focuses too much effort on transforming the war in the Donbas from a full-scale armoured manoeuvre war into a sitting-war. The Minsk format is still useful to deal with practical issues on the front line, and to keep up dialogue between the warring parties, but the Minsk agreement does not provide a proper roadmap to peace nor is progress on implementation a precondition for military de-escalation. ….
- Communicate Minsk progress with the Ukrainian public. The Minsk II implementation process was diplomatically well-coordinated, but represented a communication failure of the first order – both on the part of the West (above all by France and Germany, but also the US to some extent) and that of the Ukrainian government, particularly President Petro Poroshenko. The West failed to explain the agreement to a wider audience in Ukraine – particularly lawmakers and reformers – or to engage with those who shape public opinion about its merits and shortfalls. ….
- Focus on reform of the judiciary. All other reforms on domestic issues, including the fight against corruption, will be unsustainable if the judiciary remains in its current state. The top priorities should be abolishing the influence of political affiliation on promotions within the judiciary, removing the strict hierarchical structure of the judiciary, paying competitive salaries, and introducing independent disciplinary commissions to deal with complaints of corruption against judges.
- Push harder for specialised reform-implementation bodies in each Ukrainian ministry. Deputy-ministers and high-level officials in the ministries are too busy with their other duties to effectively dedicate time to pushing through reforms. Instead, there should be special bodies focusing on this task – particularly on core reforms such as reform of the judiciary, decentralisation, and administrative reform. …
- Be open to lethal aid, if conditions are met. The EU should deliver lethal aid, on the condition that certain reforms are made in Ukraine’s defence sector — particularly reforms of logistical structures, procurement, control, oversight and disciplinary processes, and reform of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) — rather than “geopolitical” considerations vis-à-vis Moscow.
- Stick to commitments. If the EU agrees to deliver Ukraine certain benefits in exchange for progress on reforms, it must stick to its promises once Ukraine fulfils the relevant criteria.….
- Be blunt about the shortcomings of Ukraine’s reforms. European diplomats should take Ambassador Jan Tombinski as their example and be as straightforward as possible when pointing the finger at those responsible for delaying reforms. Only by doing this can real progress can be made.