Ukraine Coalition Seeks NATO Membership, Reforms

Five pro-Western parties form a coalition in Ukraine to pursue economic reforms and NATO membership.

Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatseniuk makes a speech, August 22
Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatseniuk makes a speech, August 22 (Arseniy Yatseniuk)

Five pro-Western parties in Ukraine announced on Friday they would form a ruling coalition, a month after parliamentary elections prompted renewed fighting in the southeastern Donbas region where Russia supports a separatist uprising against the government in Kiev.

The incoming administration is unlikely to assuage Russia’s concern that its former vassal will slip into the Western camp. Rather, the five parties intend to confirm Ukraine’s intention to join NATO by law.

Fear that Ukraine — the largest of former Soviet republics besides Russia itself — would join the Western military alliance after it entered into an association agreement with the European Union earlier this year prompted Russia to occupy and annex the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. The territory headquarters its Black Sea Fleet.

Russia later deployed tanks and troops across the border to help rebels in the areas around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk declare breakaway republics. When they appeared on the verge of being defeated by the Ukrainian army in August, Russian support allowed the separatists to hold on. The military situation in southeastern Ukraine has stalemated since.

The civil war has devastated the Ukrainian economy. It posted a 5.1 percent contraction in the third quarter. The hryvnia has lost almost half its value against the euro since last year. The government’s borrowing costs are unsustainably high. Without financial support from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Ukraine would risk default.

Ukraine’s economic predicament is not wholly due to the unrest in the southeast, however. Previous governments failed to stamp out corruption and liberalize large industries, including energy. The incoming five-party coalition promises to enact such reforms now — which they are also obligated to carry out under Ukraine’s European treaty.

President Petro Poroshenko’s relatively liberal supporters and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk’s more nationalist People’s Front had been expected to continue their alliance. Both got around 22 percent support in October’s election.

The new Christian Democrat Samopomich party, led by Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi, joins the coalition. So will the less compromising Fatherland and Radical parties.

Fatherland is led by former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko who came to power after the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution that preceded this year’s pro-Western revolt. Large protests were triggered by former president Viktor Yanukovich’s unexpected withdrawal from the European association treaty. His successor, Poroshenko, signed the accords in June.

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