UKRAINE – GEOPOLITICS AND GEOECONOMICS

It was wrong to believe that the Orange Revolution of Ukraine in 2005 would last forever. Only one revolution in modern history has lasted: the American. The most important reason for the reverse of the Orange forces in Ukraine was the 2008 world wide recession that had a devastating effect for Kyiv.

Ukraine is geopolitically important. It remains to be seen if the apparent victor in the election on February 7 will mean that Russia moves forward its position in the West. The period between 2005 and 2010 has been an important step in Ukraine’s history. President Viktor Yushchenko has devoted much time to establish firmly the historic roots of the country. In 2008 – 2009 Hetman Ivan Mazepa was celebrated. He was the first Ukrainian leader who sought independence from Moscow. He failed in the beginning of the eighteenth century but remained a national hero. He has now been brought back and firmly planted in national memory. Importantly under President Yushchenko other national figures in Ukrainan history have been celebrated and the Holodomor, the hunger genocide of Ukrainians by dictator Josef Stalin, is now part of Ukrainian history and firmly recognized in the West as the true horror it really was. In 2010 the first Ukrainian constitution of Hetman Pylyp Orlyk will be celebrated (it was affirmed by oath of Orlyk on April 5, 1710).

As Anne Applebaum pointed out in today’s (February 9) Washington Post:

The only thing that has remained consistent over the past four years is the democratic process itself… Six years after the Orange Revolution, Ukrainian political culture remains open, unpredictable and interesting…

We don’t know if a possible President Yanukovych will stand by the democracy created by the Orange Revolution. If he does not he will surely be ousted in the next election. It will be easy to judge him by comparing him to Prime Minister Putin in Moscow.

Geopolitics will remain in the forefront. Will Ukraine join NATO in the future? Will it seek European Union membership? Ukraine is the largest and most important country in Eastern Europe. Any sign that Russia will move forward its position in that country will be an indication of what will happen. The reaction of a President Yanukovych to such a Russian offensive will be crucial. If he defends the independence of Ukraine it might be a sign that he has changed since 2005.

Geoeconomics will play an important role in the coming five years. Ukraine would need much support from the West in order not to be drawn into the Russian sphere of power. It is important that Ukraine holds on to the control of gas- and pipelines from Russia. The economy of the country needs to be diversified away from heavy industry in the sovietized eastern part of Ukraine. The IMF influence needs to grow. Visa and trade agreements are vital further steps in relation to Western neighbors.

The East Slavic roots of Ukraine can never be in dispute. Kyiv is the cradle of the East Slavic civilization. But cultural roots does not mean that Ukraine needs to accept Russian style autocracy. It never did in the past and hopefully it will never do in the future. The Orange Revolution in 2005 was crucial for Ukraine. The coming five years will also be important. Should Yulia Tymoshenko be the opposition leader in Kyiv she will be a guarantor for democracy and a strong free enterprise in Ukraine.

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