UKRAINE UNDER THREAT – THE RISK OF A GEOPOLITICAL SHIFT

Wall Street Journal’s Ukraine expert U.S. Professor Alexander J. Motyl warns in a new article (March 29, 2010, “Ukraine’s Democracy in Danger – Viktor Yanukovych’s misrule is courting a second ‘Orange Revolution.’ “) that President Yanukovych is a threat to Ukraine’s democracy.

1. The new president violated the constitution of Ukraine when he changed the rules for forming coalitions in parliament.

2. Appointing his crony Mykola Azarov as prime minister opened up risks for corruption, high taxation rates, and hostility to small businesses. Now there is little chance for economic reform.

3. There are now 29 ministers in the cabinet (compared to 25 in the Tymoshenko coalition) which will not improve decision making.

4. Two unknowns are now ministers for agriculture and finance, important key ministries.

5. The worst mistake may be appointing the controversial Dmytro Tabachnik to be minister of education. He believes west Ukrainians are no real Ukrainians and that Soviet era views of history should be introduced in the Ukrainian education system. The result of his appointment has been strikes, petitions and demonstrations against the new administration.

Furthermore Yanukovych has fired the director of the Security Service archives, a fine scholar who permitted unrestricted public access to documents on Soviet crimes in Ukraine. Anti-democratic allies of the new president have been appointed as provincial ministers of internal affairs. This will give them opportunity to clamp down on liberties of ordinary citizens.

Motyl writes that:

Democratically inclined Ukrainians are increasingly persuaded that Mr. Yanukovych wants to become Ukraine’s version of Belarus’s dictator, Alexander Lukashenko. But Mr. Yanukovych’s vision of strong-man rule rests on a strategic, and possibly fatal, misunderstanding of Ukraine.

The Orange Revolution in 2004 has introduced democracy in Ukraine with professionals, intellectuals, students, and businesspeople that are unafraid of the powers that be.

The democratized government in Ukraine cannot serve as a basis for effective authoritarian government.

The new government seems to be ineffective and if Yanukovych fails to fix the economy that has recently been going through a crisis, this might result in strikes and unrest.

Professor Motyl’s conclusion is:

Indeed, if Mr. Yanukovych keeps on making anti-democratic mistakes, he could very well provoke a second Orange Revolution. But this time the demonstrators would consist of democrats, students, and workers. The prospect of growing instability will do little to attract foreign investors, while declining legitimacy, growing incompetence, and tub thumping will fail to modernize Ukraine’s industry, agriculture, and education.

Ukraine is of great geopolitical importance as one of Europe’s largest countries. The West must be very observant of Ukraine’s democracy and carefully watch the rule of President Yanukovych. Should Ukraine turn into a new Belarus it would be catastrophic for democracy in Eastern Europe.

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