Will Democracy Rein In Ukraine?

KIEV, Ukraine -- If you haven’t been following the political situation in Ukraine since the nearly fatal dioxin-attack of former President Victor Yushchenko and the peaceful Orange Revolution, which the world watched after former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych stole the 2004 election, you probably aren’t alone.

Independence Square - Kiev, Ukraine

I have family members who are currently stationed in Ukraine for work, which is why the latest political unrest has been especially of concern to me.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union was within my lifetime, they have only existed as an independent state since 1990, and struggles with ethnic and linguistic fragmentation.

What has happened since is something more complex and intriguing than could have ever been written in spy novels.

All things considered, the transformation of Ukraine after the democratic revolution has been impressive.

Once considered a hotbed of political corruption, in an effort to join the EU the new Ukrainian authorities are working to transform the country into a more transparent market economy, where quasi-government-like companies such as UESU could never exist.

And despite the global economic slowdown, the reforms are working, as the country’s economy grew by 5.2% in 2011, with a 37% growth in exports.

In addition, serious reforms have been noted by the Council of Europe Group of States to combat judicial and political corruption.

Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s Parliament, recently adopted significant reforms to its judicial system that will replace its Soviet-era Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

The new CPC equalizes the powers of defence and prosecution lawyers in addition to numerous other reforms that bring Ukraine’s justice system in line with European standards.

And, as a positive sign of reform in Ukraine, they are opening their parliamentary elections this month to outside observers.

This issue is delicate for US interests, and it especially unnerving to watch Russia continue to work in former communist countries to undermine the interests of the West and open markets.

Politics is a dirty business, and those who campaign under the banner of reform can have ulterior motives.

A prime example of this is former Prime Minister Tymoshenko, who shot to power during the Orange Revolution.

Once applauded by neoconservatives in Washington as a democratic reformer, she tried to sell Ukraine out from under the Ukrainian people when she signed an illegal gas contract with Putin’s Russia.

In fact, as Russia continues to exert pressure on Ukraine to try to influence election outcomes, we have seen a curious spike in sympathetic coverage of Tymoshenko in the West.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and President Viktor Yanukovych seem intent on continuing reforms in Ukraine and having the country join the European Union.

While Putin, who has frequently questioned Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, is doing his best to have Ukraine move back into Russia’s sphere of influence by encouraging them to join the Customs Union, which is designed to rival the EU, and the two associations are incompatible.

America should not stand in judgment of Ukraine, which is growing far more rapidly than the US economy and is on path to be just as economically free.

It is a delicate situation, and it is best for Ukraine to continue its path to becoming more European.

Source: United Liberty