Ukraine: reasons for pessimism – and cautious optimism


Time is up for Ukraine’s President to convince society, politicians, and Western partners that he’s prepared to fight corruption. Every day of delay proves the opposite. By not interfering, Poroshenko only proves that he is the main beneficiary of the status quo, activist MP Sergii Leshchenko [left, a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy],writes for The Atlantic Council

Withholding aid while empowering civil society sends a message to Poroshenko, Ukraine, and the world: we are committed to the country’s people, not to the political fortunes of its leaders, analyst Josh Cohen writes for Foreign Policy’s Democracy Lab

Ukraine’s vibrant civil society is the country’s greatest asset in the war on corruption. The country’s myriad non-profit organizations, volunteer initiatives, and civic movements brought the people onto the streets to take down the old regime. They resisted Russian aggression when the army was unable to do so. Now, they are Ukraine’s best hope of ensuring that the new government honors the sacrifices of the revolution by making good on promises of reform. Enabling them to put yet greater and more effective pressure on politicians is one of the best things the West can now do for Ukraine.

But there are at least four reasons to think that the new government team may enjoy some success with reform, says The Atlantic Council’s John Herbst:

First, in the weeks-long discussion of the new Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groisman, skeptics painted him as simply a functionary of the President, a misleading caricature. As a young mayor in Vinnytsia, he built a strong reputation as a reformer. …. He has also reassured a number of reformers in the Rada and civil society of his intention to proceed with reform. Importantly, he will not follow the bad advice of some critics of the outgoing government and seek to renegotiate the IMF agreement.

Another factor in Groisman’s favor is his standing in the Rada. As speaker he established cordial relations across the parliament and should prove a more persuasive advocate than his predecessor for reform legislation. The fact that several new ministers are also fresh from the Rada may have the same effect—if they are committed to reform.

A third reason for guarded optimism is Yatsenyuk himself. He remains a critical figure in Ukrainian politics and has let it be known that he intends to support the reform program of the new government. He wants to ensure that the reforms that began on his watch are brought to fruition. ….

The final reason for cautious optimism is the role the West and the IMF play in Ukraine. Given the legacy of the Soviet Union and twenty-five years of misrule in independent Ukraine, reform after the Euromaidan was destined to be an ugly spectacle, requiring an alliance of civil society, the young reformers to take important but second-tier positions in the Rada and the government, and the West to encourage reform at the top levels of Ukraine’s government. …


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