Books on Ukraine
Update No: 328 - (28/04/08)
In Betwixt and Between
Ukraine is the Bugbear of the Western world. The Bear is of course Russia. But
bugging the Russians and the West is this recalcitrant bugbear, in betwixt and
The original capital of Rus is Kiev. The eastern provinces are Russian-speaking
and inclined towards Moscow and its ways. The western ones are Western-bound, in
sympathy at least. They are in a substantial majority and staged the Orange
Revolution in 2004 that brought about a transformation of the prospects of its
own part of the world, central to Europe after all.
What's happening in Ukraine is natural for the stage of political development
the country has found itself at. This stage is called electoral democracy.
Having some traits of the power of the people, it still falls short of the
accountability of mature democracy.
The voters determine the composition of governmental bodies, but they cannot
influence the way politicians behave during their terms in office. Politicians
have learned to compete openly, even getting keen on campaigns with all their
adrenalin and unpredictable outcome.
But they are not that good at the bureaucratic routine - be it work in the
government or in the shadow cabinet.
The post-electoral debacle
Ukraine held an unsatisfactory election last year, with an inconclusive outcome.
One can't hold another election again. President Yushchenko won't dissolve the
parliament for a second time within a year. Taking into consideration the low
approval rating of his "Our Ukraine" Bloc, he can easily find himself
a general without his parliamentary army. The Party of Regions has been seized
with in-fighting’s. Its leading activists take posts in the
"anti-national" government without being accountable to the party,
which is to be explained to the voters actually.
Even the rally queen Tymoshenko has nothing to compete for. On the one hand, she
can't reckon with anything more substantial than the post of the Prime Minister,
on the other hand, voters can blame her for the inflation. Finally, one should
keep in mind that the sponsors' purses are not bottomless. Within three years
and a half they have been emptied three times, and the presidential campaign is
just around the corner, due in 2009.
But elections are necessary to make new "friends". The thing is, the
white-and-blue and the orange are reluctant to explain betrayal somehow, even
when they call it "tactics."
So the challenging and senseless odd-man-out game keeps on, with all its
squabbles, putting spokes in the government's wheel in the form of a ban on
privatization and land auctions, a show "Stop NATO" with balloons and
An opportunity missed
Kiev is now paying the bill for its dilatoriness in reforms. The Bucharest
decision to deny NATO's membership action plan to Ukraine appears a message from
the West implying that neither Brussels nor the leading European states are
going to take up the reform rhetoric for real reforms. In this context it
doesn't matter much whether the Kiev political mess was the reason or pretext
for the refusal.
Kiev can pay even a higher price. Today the question is addressed whether
Ukraine will quickly join Europe, or it will never catch up with its neighbours
of Central Europe in terms of democratic institutions and economic development.
The more time is lost, the higher the chance that experts will keep on convening
in Kiev for conferences called "Ukraine between Russia and the EU."
At the same time, all leading political parties are unanimous in the denial of
the possibility of this "in-between" status. No politician in Kiev
doubts the necessity for Ukraine to get admission to the EU, which gives the
country an opportunity to change for the better.
The feud continues
It was Churchill who said that there could be no real friendship between those
in the highest reaches of the state. He also said that there is all the
difference in the world between being number two or three or six or being number
one. He knew that in WWII, in June 1940; with profound consequences, Halifax,
the alternative PM, was planning to sue for peace.
In Ukraine the president and the premier are bitter enemies, despite being on
the same side on the Orange Revolution in autumn 2004. President Yushchenko
cannot abide the constant carping of the querulous queen of Ukrainian politics,
Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko.
On April 21 she accused Yushchenko of blocking by his decree, about 20
initiatives aimed at increasing transparency in the economy and necessary for
the fight against corruption. According to her, the reason is that the president
sees her as the key contender at the presidential election of 2009. "The
president has now de-facto blocked these initiatives by his decree. It is very
difficult to find an explanation to that," the prime minister said in an
interview with the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
"I think the reason is that the president is very intensively thinking
about the presidential election of 2009, and sees me as his competitor. However,
this competition must not stop transparency and reforms in my country," she
According to her, "a ban on strategic privatisation destroys the investment
climate in Ukraine". Focusing on price growth in the country, which made up
9.7 percent in the first three months of 2008, she accused the Central Bank of
Ukraine of "importing inflation." "We are dealing with an
inherited problem, and I believe that the measures we are taking will curb
inflation," she said. "But we have a restricted number of instruments
for that," Timoshenko added. "The government has no influence on the
Central Bank. However, it is known that it very closely pegging our currency to
the dollar," the prime minister continued. "Foreign experts say that
thus inflation is imported," she stressed.
Timoshenko also stated that she had never said anything that could undermine
"a democratic coalition" in Ukraine. "For me, the unity of our
democratic coalition is the most important thing. That is why, I have never said
anything that could undermine our strategic union," the prime minister