Political Uncertainty In Ukraine Persists

MOSCOW, Russia -- The political crisis in Ukraine has been resolved, but uncertainty persists. The new government is still suffering from the painful compromise that brought about its establishment.

On the one hand, most key posts in the government have been given to people free of ideological intoxication and capable of constructive, pragmatic actions. They know why gas should be stored in underground depots in summer, why international commitments should be honored, and why their country should not clash with those on whom its development depends.

They are First Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and Naftogaz head Yury Boiko. They will be easy to work with, and may be the most suitable partners for Russia.

The duo of Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and Defense Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, who had laid out the plan for an accelerated integration of Ukraine into NATO, which determined the policy underlying other decisions, has remained in place, just like the position of President Viktor Yushchenko, who pursued the line they had suggested and who remains the key politician in Ukraine.

Yushchenko's miraculous victory in the battle against the parliamentary majority showed that he still has something within him - a fighting spirit. Any other head of state would have acted in accordance with the law and nominated the majority's candidate.

But Yushchenko said that the majority must accept his conditions or he would dissolve parliament because the creation of "a wrong coalition" distorted the will of the people.

Surprisingly for observers, parliament did not reject the ultimatum, which would have buried any other democratically elected president in a democratic country, but spent weeks discussing it and eventually signed it, although with compromise conditions.

The catastrophic inability of "orange" politicians to govern the country has reduced the president's approval rating to almost zero. (In his first and best 100 days, Yushchenko had the support of barely 50% of the people, which is logical in view of the illegitimate way he had come to power.)

The parliamentary victory of the "orange trio" - the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, pro-presidential Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party - seemingly rehabilitated the revolutionary ideals. But subsequent developments showed that the winners were kept together by their striving for power, so that the "orange" government was deadlocked by their fear that one of the partners would gain the upper hand.

However, the ideological foundation of Our Ukraine proved to be sufficiently strong to prevent a seemingly unavoidable union with the pro-Russian Party of Regions, led by Viktor Yanukovych, the new prime minister of Ukraine.

Its ideology prevented Yushchenko from implementing his agreements with the crisis coalition: only 30 of the 80 members of Our Ukraine in parliament voted for the new prime minister, leaving the party short of full participation in the new coalition.

This result will benefit Yanukovych, who did nothing to bring it about.

The talks on the formation of the government showed that Yanukovych is a weak politician, just like Yushchenko. The compromise was mostly reached through the surrender of his party's positions. Yanukovych's stance on the issue of the Russian language is a relevant example.

During the election campaign, the Party of Regions demanded that Russian should be granted the status of a second official language. But shortly before signing the agreement, Yanukovych said that Ukrainian should remain the only official language and that the Ukrainian Constitution, which protected all other languages, should be used to ensure this.

His statement sounded like a capitulation in view of President Yushchenko's stubborn refusal to implement the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Lawyers can talk all they want about how this refusal does not preclude support for decisions to grant Russian the status of a regional language, but the voters will not believe them.

Another example is Yanukovych's stance on joining NATO. A possible compromise might involve making a commitment to do everything necessary to become a member, with only the formal accession to be approved by referendum.

That Tarasyuk and Hrytsenko have kept their posts in the government means that preparations for accession to NATO will continue alongside energetic brainwashing of the people.

But then, a brainwashing campaign might not be necessary, since the compromise agreement is not a binding document, and agreements survive in Ukraine only until one of the sides decides to change his/her stand.

Moreover, the new government will be unable to speed up the country's movement towards NATO because of the growing civic awareness of the people. But the Euro-Atlantic factor will complicate economic talks with Russia.

Russia sympathized with the Party of Regions, above all because it hoped to stop Ukraine's slide towards NATO. Since Ukraine's stance on this issue remains vague, Moscow will most likely establish coldly pragmatic relations with Ukraine, and none of the new ministers, even though they suit the Kremlin, will be able to dampen its resolve.

Russia will operate according to the "every man for himself" formula, although this may cost it some of Ukrainians' sympathy. But the Ukrainian government will also lose out unless it develops friendly relations with its main economic partner.

By succeeding in the coalition talks, Yushchenko has kept his post until the next elections but lost broad electoral support. By resisting the temptation to support the government and get seats in it, Our Ukraine may remain an opposition force alongside Tymoshenko's Bloc.

However, the "orange" time is over. The voters that may desert Yanukovych and his Party of Regions will not support the "orange" forces, but rather those who more consistently uphold the interests of the southern and eastern regions of the country. Unrestrained nationalism survived for as long as the eastern regions slept and maintained their paternalist Soviet mentality.

They are becoming increasingly active today, as proved by the passing of laws on the status of the Russian language by regional assemblies.

This means that we may soon see the emergence of political parties that will fight for the interests of the majority of Ukrainians, who live in the southern and eastern regions. If the Party of Regions fails to get part of that vote, it will anyway not go to the "orange" forces.

Ukraine has started down the path of slow recovery after years of instability and civil discord. The formation of the new government was the first faltering step towards this goal. Ukraine's parliament has won the battle against the president, and its role will keep growing, together with that of the majority of voters.

Source: RIA Novosti