Newspaper article International New York Times

Link Ukraine and Europe

Newspaper article International New York Times

Link Ukraine and Europe

Article excerpt

Despite Putin's threats, the West should keep its promises of closer ties.

After centuries of nearly continuous foreign control, we Ukrainians achieved our independence from the Soviet Union 25 years ago, in 1991. In 2005, after a fraudulent election brought Viktor Yanukovych to power, our Orange Revolution helped defeat him. This month, we mark two years since Maidan, the Revolution of Dignity, when we overthrew kleptocratic rule by Mr. Yanukovych a second time. For Ukrainians, it seems the new Ukraine is never here; it's always coming.

But momentum may be shifting. Again and again, our country has expressed its desire to integrate more fully with the European Union; now, for the first time, the European Union -- roiled by nationalism and a refugee crisis -- may need us as much as we need it. We are a rare breed these days: a people in support of the European Union and its shared identity, rather than in contempt of it.

Today, we are making progress toward integration with the help of our allies. The United States has promised at least $2 billion in loan guarantees and direct aid of nearly $760 million. In December, the European Commission issued a report indicating that Ukraine had met standards allowing Ukrainians visa-free travel throughout the union. And last week, the United States Defense Department unveiled a plan to increase the rotating deployment of heavy weapons, armored vehicles and troops within NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe -- a signal to Russia to back off.

Nevertheless, achieving the new Ukraine won't be easy. Russia has annexed Crimea and occupied part of eastern Ukraine, leaving a so- called frozen conflict that could reheat at Russia's bidding. Even in the face of that, some of our politicians are better at arguing and lining their own pockets than at governing. And despite our serial changes in leadership, we don't have enough practice at mutual trust to work together at building a democracy.

Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, respects international rules -- and borders -- only when they align with his interests. We have no illusions that he will change.

But that does not mean the West and Ukraine should shelve their desire for closer ties. Helping Ukraine stand up to Moscow now is in the West's best interest and would spare it the expense of confronting a bigger, more powerful Russia in the future. NATO's enhanced military posture in the region is a start, but what we need most is for the West to follow through on what's already been promised: an investment in the new Ukraine as a powerful model of governance for Eastern Europe, an alternative to Mr. Putin's fictive "sovereign democracy."

Of course, Ukrainians must prove we are ready for the challenge.

In the past, we haven't done so. In 2005, people fell back into apathy soon after the Orange Revolution had rid us of Mr. Yanukovych. When the next regime also proved to be corrupt and inept, people simply became uninterested. …

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