Why the West Is Willing to Overlook Corruption in Ukraine

Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko is seen in Kiev, November 21, 2014
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko is seen in Kiev, November 21, 2014 (Press Service of the President of Ukraine/Palinchak Michael)

After the bungled arrest of Mikheil Saakashvili, a former president of Georgia and governor of Odessa, Leonid Bershidsky argues it is clear the West has backed the wrong man in Ukraine.

Saakashvili enjoys little popular support but had been trying to reinvent himself as an opposition leader by campaigning against corruption in President Petro Poroshenko’s government.

Protesters freed Saakashvili from a police van on Tuesday after he had been dragged from his apartment in Kiev by security forces. Read more

Ukraine Might Be Better Off If “Little Russia” Did Secede

Military vehicles of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic are seen in eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015
Military vehicles of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic are seen in eastern Ukraine, May 30, 2015 (Wikimedia Commons/Mstyslav Chernov)

Separatists in the southeast of Ukraine have declared a new country: “Little Russia”.

The announcement by Aleksandr Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, amounts to little, argues Gwendolyn Sasse of Carnegie Europe.

She points out that leaders in Luhansk, Ukraine’s other breakaway region, have distanced themselves from it. Russia, which otherwise backs the Donbas uprising, hasn’t voiced support either. And the local population doesn’t want independence. A survey conducted earlier this year found a majority in favor of remaining in Ukraine. Only a third want to join Russia.

Yet it might be better for Ukraine if the region does secede. Read more

Despite Historical Ties, Moldova Unlikely to Follow Romania’s Path

View of the Ștefan cel Mare boulevard in downtown Chișinău, Moldova, April 7, 2009
View of the Ștefan cel Mare boulevard in downtown Chișinău, Moldova, April 7, 2009 (Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike my colleague and friend Irina Staver, my culture and native language are not Romanian. I am an expatriate living in the neighboring Republic of Moldova, a country with close cultural and historical ties to Romania.

Yet I have observed with great interest the parallel evolutions of these two countries. A number of similarities thus spring to mind, so that I might be able to draw from the current Romanian context a few lessons for Moldova. Read more

Watching from Across the Border as Romania Awakens

Romanians protest against corruption in Bucharest, February 4
Romanians protest against corruption in Bucharest, February 4 (Albert Dobrin)

As an active political journalist in the Republic of Moldova, I have been closely following the street protests in neighboring Romania, which are the largest of its kind since the fall of communism.

I was born after the Revolution of 1989, so I can’t know what that movement must have felt like. What I do know is that Romanians united then to bring down the totalitarian regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu and they are rallying now to rid themselves of another “red plague”, namely the Social Democratic Party.

The largest in the country, the party currently rules in coalition with the center-right liberals. One of the first acts of this new government when it came to power in January was to pardon non-violent offenders and decriminalize low-level abuses of office in cases where the damages were less than 200,000 leu, or €44,000.

The measures would have made a mockery of anti-corruption efforts in the EU member state. Read more

Romania Rising: Populism by Different Means

Romanians demonstrate in front of the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, January 29
Romanians demonstrate in front of the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, January 29 (Paul Arne Wagner)

The tale of 2016-17 has been of anti-neoliberal populists hijacking great parties and great states, forcing policy change down the throats of elites who believed they had arrived at a permanent consensus. They have largely been the harbinger of an uglier form of politics, giving breath to nationalists, racists and irrational bigotry that are a strain on the powers of their states.

Romania is not immune to the winds of populism. But unlike the rest of the European Union, here the rising is by those who are demanding more rational, more efficient government. It is still populism, but without the ugliness.

Since February 1, Romanians have been braving frigid winter temperatures to call for the resignation of their two-months old government. For their new government is up to the tricks of their old one and for many Romanians that is a bridge too far. Read more

Moldova’s President of Smoke and Mirrors

Presidents Igor Dodon of Moldova and Vladimir Putin of Russia deliver a joint news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, January 17
Presidents Igor Dodon of Moldova and Vladimir Putin of Russia deliver a joint news conference at the Kremlin in Moscow, January 17 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

Moldova’s new president is no friend of liberal democracy. Igor Dodon, who came to power in December, enjoys basking in the glow of Vladimir Putin and his entourage. Read more

How Culture Keeps the Russians and Ukrainians Steps Away from War

Russian president Vladimir Putin observes a military parade in Moscow, May 9
Russian president Vladimir Putin observes a military parade in Moscow, May 9 (Presidential Press and Information Office)

The Ukrainian civil war has been easy enough to fall off the world radar; with headline-grabbing terrorism striking the heart of Europe, Donald Trump running his irrational mouth and the EU rendering itself asunder, the conflict in Donbas, the eastern province now split away from Kiev’s central control, seems like a whisper of a war we’d all forgotten about.

Now reports are abounding that Moscow is deploying large and powerful military units both within Donbas and in annexed Crimea. It all began with accusations that Ukrainian special forces had slipped into Crimea to bomb a highway full of officials. True or not, it resulted in a deployment of tanks and artillery on both sides of the de facto border. Worry emerged that both sides might begin blowing one another up.

While the Russians don’t seem keen on an all-out battle, and neither do the Ukrainians, the whole mess bears examination. There are essential truths to learn, both for Russia and Ukraine and the wider world. Read more