Ukraine Creeps Westwards as Russia Looks On: The Electoral Victory of the Westward-Leaning 'Orange Revolution' in Ukraine's Elections Is Reshaping Europe's Economic and Political Landscape. Many Believe Ukraine May Even Leapfrog Turkey to Become a Member of the EU
Inozemtsev, Vladislav, European Business Forum
Last December, Viktor Yushchenko was elected president of Ukraine, changing the post-Soviet political landscape with as much force as the tsunami that struck South-east Asia the same day.
President Putin had staked his prestige on defeating Yushchenko, and $600m of Russian cash was invested to ensure it would happen. But rival Viktor Yanukovich was decisively beaten, and with his defeat went any illusions of future Russian influence on the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Putin's dashed hopes for his man in Ukraine were captured by Anders Aslund, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in his recent testimony before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: "Mr. Putin proved himself poorly informed, anti-democratic, anti-western and ineffective."
The implications are profound for the political status quo in Europe and for future trends of western investment in the region. Suddenly there is a large former Soviet republic looking to Brussels for future membership in the European Community, and Brussels is listening. Ukraine may even become an EU member before Turkey.
Should Yushchenko's success have surprised us? Perhaps. Last summer, when I interviewed him, just before he was poisoned, I did so because I dreamed of--rather than expected--victory for his 'hopeless cause'. He was confident, expansive and impressive but I couldn't imagine him over-coming pressures from Moscow.
And yet he declared his vision unequivocally: "I have never had any doubt that Ukraine is a European country. I am a Euro-optimist," he told me.
Shortly after the interview appeared in Svobodnaya Mysl (Free Thought), pro-Kremlin 'spin-doctor' Vyacheslav Nikonov rang to say he pitied me, noting that he saw no sense in trying to change something that was predetermined.
A bit later in Washington, I had occasion to meet with former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. He told me he shared my enthusiasm for Yushchenko but felt that a democratic movement in Ukraine was rather more wishful than probable.
During the 15 years since the break-up of the USSR, Ukraine was not taken seriously, although its people and institutions have developed faster and further than Russia.
* Unlike Russia, Ukraine fielded at least 10 political parties in this election, each of which enjoyed remarkable popular support.
* Unlike Russia, the survival of Ukrainian business has depended not on the distribution of government licences on natural resources development, but on modernisation of industry.
* Unlike Russia, both independent media and relatively independent judiciary have been established in Ukraine.
Why did these two countries take two completely different paths? First, Ukraine has a very different history from that of Russia. For centuries Russians saw themselves belonging to a huge power on a continental scale, surrounded by satellites and foes. The logic of the Russian attitude to neighbouring states was shaped by a crucial question: are they with us or against us?
Ukraine, a much smaller country with no experience of genuine independence, was finding its way forward via alliances with Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Germany, and even Sweden. So the logic of Ukrainian attitude to the major powers of Europe was shaped by another question: who are we with, and who are we against?
This difference makes it easy for the new Ukraininan leadership to talk about joining the EU, while the Russian elite continues to speculate upon securing its 'sphere of interests' in the fight against networks of people with no positive programme--labelling them instead as international terrorists.
Another factor is Ukraine's economic development. Once again, unlike Russia, Ukraine is not rich in resources, so Ukraine needs to capitalise on the creativity of its people and the professionalism of its government and managerial class. …