Ukraine's Unfulfilled Promise

TOLEDO, OH -- Among Eastern Europe's large countries, the most consistent under-performer since the demise of the Soviet Union has been Ukraine, which is bogged down once again in a major intra-government scrap that stands in the way of economic or any other progress.

With a population of 47 million, Ukraine is not only big but it also benefits from having a lot of friends around the world, not the least of which is the United States.

America is home to many Ukrainian-Americans who support aid to the country in consolidating its independence and building up its economy.

Nonetheless, for a variety of reasons, some of them hard to justify, Ukraine has lagged behind other Eastern European countries in moving forward to take advantage of the opportunities open to it, in terms of political development and in improving its prospects to join the European Union, generally considered a positive step in that part of the world.

Instead, nasty political blood-letting continues unabated between rival elements in Ukraine.

The most recent round involves familiar names, President Viktor A. Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich, opponents in the 2004 presidential elections which featured, among other examples of viciousness, an apparent attempt to kill Mr. Yushchenko by poisoning.

The incident left the president disfigured and close to death for a while.

A fundamental problem appears to be divisions among Ukrainians based on regions and languages.

Rather than see these as splits in national unity that need to be resolved for the country to move forward, Ukrainians continue to dwell on their differences.

It is in part this problem that also contributes to the extensive corruption that pervades the government, a considerable barrier to foreign aid and investment, as well as to efforts on the part of domestic business people and financiers to do something with the country's considerable economic resources.

These include industry, agriculture, and mineral wealth.

Ukrainians also generally have the bad habit of blaming their problems on the Russians.

There is undoubtedly some truth to this, but rather than seeing such outside influence as an obstacle to overcome by facing Russia from a position of national unity, Ukrainians seem to play into the Russians' hands with their own political scrapping and wrangling.

What's needed are early elections, free of the viciousness that has characterized past voting.

These could come in September.

Otherwise, Ukraine is doomed to the same sort of hapless non-development that has characterized its first 16 years of renewed independence - a sad loss to its people, as well as to the rest of Europe and the world that awaits fulfillment of Ukraine's considerable promise.

Source: Toledo Blade