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

Rutte Persuades EU Leaders to Rule Out Membership for Ukraine

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives for a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, February 12, 2015
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte arrives for a meeting with other European leaders in Brussels, February 12, 2015 (European Council)

Other European leaders budged to pressure from the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte on Thursday to explicitly rule out future EU membership for Ukraine.

Rutte hopes the concession, together with assurances from the EU that is not committed to Ukraine’s defense, will be enough to persuade lawmakers at home to save an economic and security pact that Dutch voters rejected in a referendum in April. Read more

Rutte In Bind as Parties Balk at Endorsing Treaty Fudge

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte meets with other European leaders in Brussels, March 16
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte meets with other European leaders in Brussels, March 16 (European Council)

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte failed to convince other parties on Friday to support his attempts to amend the Netherlands’ ratification of a European association agreement with Ukraine, despite warning that withdrawing from the accord could trigger instability on Europe’s eastern border.

“This is bigger than the Netherlands alone,” Rutte said at a news conference.

The leaders of the Christian Democrats, liberal Democrats and Green Party were not impressed. 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

Ukraine Would Be Better Off Cutting the Donbas Loose

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observe damage in the area of Donetsk, Ukraine, May 27
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observe damage in the area of Donetsk, Ukraine, May 27 (OSCE/Evgeniy Maloletka)

We haven’t heard much from the Donbas recently, but the two separatist republics there are still slowly being annexed by Russia. It may ultimately be for the best for the rest of Ukraine.

Alexander J. Motyl, a Ukraine scholar, reports for World Affairs Journal that the Donetsk People’s Republic alone now spends more on propaganda than Ukraine’s Ministry of Information Policy. Its newspapers, radio and television stations constantly denounce the Kiev “junta” and the “fascists” who have supposedly taken over since the more pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovich, was ousted in a pro-European coup in 2014. Local museums are devoted to exposing the “atrocities” committed by the Ukrainian army.

In the Luhansk People’s Republic, a children’s magazine recently featured a story about an evil Fasciston (Washington) being defeated by a valiant Vladimir Putin-like Papa.

Economically, the two self-declared republics are drawing closer to Russia as well. They use the ruble as currency. Residents can apply for Russian passports. The Russian Ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs control the territories’ soldiers and security forces. Finance, infrastructure and transportation are all run through an interdepartmental commission in Moscow supervised by Putin’s advisor, Vladislav Surkov. Read more

Groisman’s Elevation Does Not Bode Well for Ukraine

Michel Lebrun, president of the European Committee of the Regions, listens to Ukrainian politician Volodimir Groisman in Brussels, October 8, 2014
Michel Lebrun, president of the European Committee of the Regions, listens to Ukrainian politician Volodimir Groisman in Brussels, October 8, 2014 (Open Days)

Ukraine’s parliament confirmed Volodimir Groisman, its speaker and an ally of President Petro Poroshenko, as prime minister on Thursday, following the resignation of Arseniy Yatseniuk earlier in the week.

Groisman is supported by the two largest parties: Poroshenko’s Solidarity bloc and Yatseniuk’s conservative People’s Front.

Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party had been in talks to rejoin the coalition, which it left in February, but demanded a reintroduction of energy subsidies at the eleventh hour which have been cut to qualify for $40 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund. Read more