U.S.: Reach Out To Ukraine Before Russia Does

LVIV, Ukraine -- As Ukrainians go to the polls today to elect a new president, the Obama administration is showing signs it is waking up to the importance of Central and Eastern Europe.


It's about time.

On a recent trip to Paris, Hillary Clinton spoke in favor of EU and NATO enlargement and said today's elections were "an important step in Ukraine's journey toward democracy, stability and integration into Europe."

Those are welcome words in a country that has felt forgotten by Washington. While President George W. Bush was a vocal supporter of Ukraine and Central Europe, the region has felt neglected by President Barack Obama, said Roman Kalytchak, a political science professor at Lviv National University.

"It's important to know you have someone you can rely on," Kalytchak said. Ukraine needs moral support, he said, in order to overcome challenges such as corruption.

With a land mass slightly smaller than the Lone Star State and a population of 46 million (nearly double that of Texas), Ukraine isn't some obscure shoebox of a country that matters only if you're competing in a geography bee. Ukraine borders both the European Union and Russia, and crucial natural gas pipelines run through the country.

It's in America's interest to pay more – not less – attention to Central and Eastern Europe.

"There is a lot of unfinished business in Europe," warned Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

"Central Europe has been and is a dangerous neighborhood; Russia continues to flex its muscles in its periphery."

Last fall, Russia simulated a nuclear attack on Poland. And remember Russia's invasion of Georgia?

Feeling vulnerable, Ukraine eagerly wants to join Europe.

In an op-ed for the Kyiv Post, presidential candidate and Princess Leia look-alike Yulia Tymoshenko wrote: "The choice is simple: a country that embraces European-style democracy and living standards, versus a Ukraine trapped in an ill-defined gray zone between East and West."

Tymoshenko – a pro-European who has also been flirtatious with Russia as Western Europe has increasingly ignored Ukraine – is running against a re-branded Victor Yanukovych, the former darling of the Kremlin whose attempt to steal the presidential election in 2004 led to the Orange Revolution.

Six years after Ukrainians told the West they were eager to join the free and democratic club of nations, little progress has been made on membership in the European Union or NATO.

Obama had hoped to let the European Union handle Eastern Europe, but the Franco-German-dominated EU remains diplomatically impotent and has left Ukraine drifting.

The U.S. has to take the lead in promoting further Western integration for countries like Ukraine. If we don't reach out to Ukraine, Russia will. That'd be a missed opportunity; there is tremendous potential here.

Stagnant Old Europe is a museum – unable to integrate immigrants, unable to take leadership and unable to project power. But here in New Europe, people are hungry for change.

Oleh Berezyuk, director of the Lviv mayor's office, said Ukraine is experiencing a "great generational shift," saying young Ukrainians "have drive" and are "full of energy, potential and an urge to live a better life."

That's not the case in Western Europe, which is about as energetic and dynamic as a retirement community.

"In France, they already have their place in the world and are OK with it. But in Central Europe, many young people want to change their lives, change their place in the world," observed Lytvynov Olesandr, a university student in Lviv.

That type of hard-working spirit pays off. Just look at Poland.

Under the headline "Poland's strong economy: From horse power to horsepower," The Economist recently chronicled Poland's impressive economic performance: It was the only European economy to experience growth last year.

As evidence of the rising importance of New Europe, the article reports: "Germany now claims that it wants its relations with Poland to be as close as they are with France."

And last month, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told The Financial Times: "Who would have thought we would see the day when the Polish economy is talked about with greater respect than the German economy?"

With ample support for much-needed political reforms, a Ukraine firmly integrated in the West could have the potential for similar success. When I stopped by Tymoshenko's Lviv campaign headquarters, deputy campaign manager Yavorska Iryna confidently told me: "Ukraine is the future of Europe."

It can be, if we give Ukraine the attention it needs.

The U.S. has a lot on its plate, but ignoring Central and Eastern Europe now would be shortsighted. The future of Europe is not in tired, Old Europe in the West, but in a dynamic New Europe in the East, a Europe the U.S. should have a hand in shaping.

Source: Dallas News

Comments

wesley rodgers said…
MANY THINGS HAVE CHANGED IN RECENT YEARS IN THE UNITED STATES AS MANY GEO POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS HAVE IN EAST AND EAST CENTRAL EUROPE FOR YEARS.

AS AMERICAN JOURNALIST AND BEING HONEST THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OUGHT TO APPLY FOR
AN APPLICATION FOR A THEME PARK IN DISNEYWORLD BECAUSE IT DEFINIETLY QUALIFIES.!!

.IT IS ABOUT OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY AS CAN BE ESPECALLY WHEN ALL THE SOLDIERS FIGHTING TERRORISTS AND HAVE HAD TO BEG FOR MEDICAL BENEFITS AND HAVE LOST THE FOCUS OF HELPING AMERICAN WORKERS-- THEIR GOOD ALLIES FROM UKRAINE HONORABLE AND HELPED..GOD BLESS THE UKRAINE!!..THERY ARE NOT AFRAID!!


RIGHT NOW WITH THE 911 ATTACK-NOT THE FIRST TERRORIST ATTACK AND OTHER ATTEMPTS AND A TERRIBLE ECONOMY THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT HAS ABOUT AS MUCH BRAIN POWER AS A DISNEY WORLD THEME PARK WHEN IT COMES TO UNDERSTANING EAST AND EASTERN CENTRAL EUROPEAN COUNTRIES--WHAT THEY MEAN-WHAT THEY STAND FOR OR MANY GOOD AND DECENT CONTRIBUTIONS THEY HAVE MADE TO THE WEST AND THE UNITED STATES IN PARTICULAR!

THE NEW PRESIDENT ELECTED HERE HAS SPENT MORE TIME IN TURKEY THAN ANY PRESIDENT I CAN REMEMBER,!
AND WHAT HAS TURKET DONE TO FIGHT THE WAR ON TERROR--WHICH IS TRULY A WORLDWIDE PROBLEM WHETHER PEOPLE OR COUNTRIES WANT TO ADMIT IT OR NOT.
..IF NATO COUNTRIES DO NOT WANT TO COMMIT TO STANDING UP AND FIGHTING THE THEN SHOULD BE KICKED OUT AND THEY ARE NOT MAKING A CONTRIBUTION IN HELPING THEIR BROTHERS AND SISTERS,!!
..HOWEVER..UKRAINE, HAS BEEN THERE FIGHTING WITH THE U.S AND OTHER COCUNTRIES AND OFFERING THEIR SOLIDERS, AND THEIR HONOR AND BLOOD TO HELP AS IT IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM.
AND THIS HERE ITSELF IS ONE OF THE MAIN REASONS WHY MANY PEOPLE FEEL THAT NATO IS A DYSFUNCTIONAL ORGANIZATION.!

OVERALL IT IS A GOOD ORGANIZATION AND WITH GOOD INTENT BUT WE MUST SET HIGH STANDARDS FOR MEMBERSHIP AND NOT LET JUST ANYONE TO JOIN BECAUSE THEY WANT TO JOIN THE ' COUNTRY CLUB."

ALL MEMBERS MUST BE WILLING TO MAINTAIN THE GREENS AND PAY THEIR DUES OR GO TO DISNEYWORLD
AND SET UP THEIR OWN LITTLE FAIRYLAND."
..MANY COUNTRIES ARE ALSO AGAINST NATO MEMBERSHIP BECUASE THEY AFRAID THAT NATO MAY GET THEM IN A MAJOR CONFLICT!1
...WELL DID NATO CAUSE THE INVASION OF GEORGIA??...DID A LACK OF NATO MEMBERSHIP CAUSE RUSSIA TO THREATEN AN ICBM ATTACK ON UKRAINE--NOT REALLY BECAUSE RUSSIA WOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF SOME REASON TO THREATEN UKRAINE IF NOT THAT.!!
...THE OIL AND GAS SUPPLY CUTOFF WAS NOT NATO BUT POSSISBLY A LACK OF IT AND AFTER THE GEORGIAN ATTACK DID EUROPEAN MEMBERS COME TO THE AIDE OF GEORGIA OR UKIANE AND DID THEY REPRIMAND RUSSIA FOR WHAT THEY DID--No-NO-NO BECAUSE ETHEY ARE SOMEHWHAT GUTLESS AND EASTERN EUROPE DOES NEED SOME FORM OF PROTECTORATE BECAUSE RUSSIA IS NOT GOING AWAY, NOT ASKING THEM BUT WE MUST REMEMBER THEIR MINDSET-CONTROL AS MUCH AS THEY CAN AT MOST COSTS..
AS FOR THE U.S.OBAMA KNOWS ABOUT AS MUCH ABOUT EAST EUROPEAN AFFAIRS AND THE UKRAINE AS HE DOES ABAOUT SOUTH JERSEY AND HE STILL HAS NOT PRESENTED PROPER IDENTIFICAZTION AS TO HIS PERSONAL BACKGROUND SUCH AS PROPER BIRTH CERTIFICATION.
!!!...UKRAINE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN DEPRIVED ENTERING THE U.S. AT THE
COST OF AALLOWING ILLEGAL MEXICANS FROM ENTERING TO SELL DRUGS, NOT PAY TAXES AND USE THE SYSTEM.
..AS AN AMERICAN AND AMERICAN JOURNALIST I WOULD DO WHATEVER I COULD DO ASSIST UKRAINE TO GET HELP FOR UKRAINE AGAIN BECAUSE THEY TRULY ARE GOOD BROTHERS AND SISTERS.
AS FOR TODAYS ELECTION IT IS VERY INCUMBENT ON THE PEOPLE OF UKRAINE TO VOTE WISELY AND MY HEART GOES OUT TO THE UKRAINE PEOPLE,MANY WHO ARE FRIENDS AND FEELLOW JOURNALISTS AND I WANT TO TAKE AMOMENT HERE TO THANK THEM FOR HELPING THE UNITED STATES AND THANK NICCHOLAS AS AN EX PAT TO COCDUCT SUCH A MOST RESPONSIBLE WEBSITE FROR UKRANIANS AND CONCERNERD AMERICAN FOR UKRAINE..
..I WIL PRAY TODAY FOR DESTINY OF UKRAINE..SINCERELY.. DODBRY DEN..WESLEY RODGERS PATRIOTSTV.COM!