24 August 2007

Ukrainian independence day

On the sixteenth anniversary of its emergence as a sovereign state, eastern Europe's second-largest country finds itself poised for yet another contentious election, the fourth in three years. There is some prospect that the pro-Western reformist coalition (BYuT and Our Ukraine) could edge out the conservative Party of Regions to dominate the parliament, ending the current period of divided government (conservative majority in parliament vs. reformist President Viktor Yushchenko) and strengthening the country's pro-Western orientation.

The next Presidential election in Ukraine is in 2009. Even among reformist voters, there is a consensus that Yushchenko's rule has been a failure, because he has not done enough to eradicate the corruption which plagues the country. His supporters are shifting toward the other major reformist leader, Yulia Tymoshenko. If Tymoshenko runs and wins in 2009, she will be Ukraine's most firmly independence-minded and pro-Western President yet -- and the first female leader of a Slavic nation since Catherine the Great.

Though many Americans probably could not find Ukraine on a map, the fate of its independence will influence the global balance of power in the years to come. In the Putinist regime's campaign to re-establish Russian domination of eastern Europe, Ukraine is by far the largest prize. If we think Russia is creating problems now, that's nothing compared to what it would be capable of doing if it managed to drag Ukraine back into its empire.

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