A new Ukraine was born a year ago in the pro-European protests that helped to drive President Viktor F. Yanukovych from power, note philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, and investor-philanthropist George Soros. And today, the spirit that inspired hundreds of thousands to gather in the Maidan is stronger than ever, even as it is under direct military assault from Russian forces supporting separatists, they write for The New York Times:
The new Ukraine seeks to become the opposite of the old Ukraine, which was demoralized and riddled with corruption. The transformation has been a rare experiment in participatory democracy; a noble adventure of a people who have rallied to open their nation to modernity, democracy and Europe. And this is just the beginning.
It is instructive to compare Ukraine today with Georgia in 2004. When he became president that year, Mikheil Saakashvili immediately replaced the hated traffic police and removed the roadblocks used to extort bribes from drivers. The public recognized straight away that things had changed for the better….., Mr. Saakashvili was a revolutionary leader who first stamped out corruption but eventually turned it into a state monopoly. By contrast, Ukraine is a participatory democracy that does not rely on a single leader but on checks and balances. Democracies move slowly, but that may prove an advantage in the long run.
“Unfortunately, just as democracies are slow to move, an association of democracies like the European Union is even slower. Mr. Putin is exploiting this,” they note.
“Right now, yes, most European leaders do appreciate the scale of the problem [of Russia’s military build-up],” says Keir Giles, an expert at London’s Chatham House foreign policy think tank.
“European leaders come and go. And Russia benefits from a continuity of leadership and also from strategic patience, which none of its adversaries can match.”
A Ukrainian female army pilot may die in detention in Russia where she is on hunger-strike, her lawyer said on Monday, calling on President Vladimir Putin to release her, Reuters reports (HT: FPI).
What is at stake in Ukraine is the future of NATO and the stability and security of Europe, analyst Andrew Michta writes for The American Interest:
It’s true that since Ukraine is in Europe’s neighborhood the United States has the right to expect greater determination from Berlin, London, and Paris to stop Russia’s war. But it is only partially true. Ukraine is our common problem as an alliance. This is about the growing threat of a wider war in Europe. It’s time for Washington and its European allies to act accordingly.
What does future hold for Donbas?
This past weekend’s intensified fighting and shelling in southeastern Ukraine, from Donetsk to Mariupol, escalated the Ukraine crisis to a new level. As more people die, political negotiations and eventual diplomatic compromise look less and less likely. What, under these circumstances, does the future hold for Donbas? Carnegie Moscow Center asks:
Alexey Malashenko, Scholar in residence, Carnegie Moscow Center’s Religion, Society, and Security Program
The status of Donbas remains uncertain. Russia still insists that it is in favor of the region being part of Ukraine. However, Russian politicians and, of particular importance, President Vladimir Putin himself, already refer to Lugansk and Donetsk as republics rather than regions. In other words, their statements demonstrate that they effectively consider the regions to be state-like entities.
Still, it’s not viable for Russia to implement the Abkhazian scenario in Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR). …. Donbas is to remain an instrument of Russian politics for a long haul…..the defeats in Donbas might be used to expose Kyiv’s military and political weakness to Ukrainians and point to the fact that Ukraine has no allies in the West that are prepared to take extreme steps on its behalf. …
Balázs Jarábik, Visiting scholar, Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment
Donbas is in a downward spiral. With Russia’s support, the conflict has been worsening: …. Kyiv have been able to mobilize their constituents using nationalistic wartime propaganda. Kyiv is caught between a rock (austerity/reforms) and a hard place (war), and will have a difficult time justifying social welfare cuts to the Ukrainian people and lack of reforms to the IMF. The recently introduced state of emergency in Donetsk and Lugansk regions taken together with the ongoing mobilization indicates that Kyiv has decided to take up the military challenge. The battle for Debaltsevo will be the first test of how solid—and efficient—its efforts are.
Andrei Kolesnikov Member of the board, Yegor Gaidar Foundation
It’s clear that Donbas has joined the ranks of the unrecognized republics like South Ossetia. Each case is different, of course, but the typology of such quasi-state formations is almost identical.
Ukraine’s struggle for democracy, independence, and territorial integrity has consequences for the whole world, The National Endowment for Democracy’s Carl Gershman writes:
And it’s why the US has a profound stake in its success. By standing with Ukraine, we are not merely supporting their struggle. We are also defending our own national security and advancing the values of human freedom that America, with all its troubles, continues to represent, he argues in World Affairs.