15.06.2008
A Special Case?
№2 2008 April/June
Arkady Moshes

Arkady Moshes is Program Director of the EU Eastern Neighborhood and Russia Research Program at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.

Ukraine, in the wake of its Orange
Revolution, has earned the image of a leading post-Soviet country
regarding the pace of liberal reform. However, this perception of
the country is to a large extent a kind of payment in advance
rather than a reflection of actual results. Kyiv would not likely
be in this leading position if one looks at the current integral
index that draws together the indicators of political
democratization and economic reform, both of which are of crucial
significance when measuring the rate of the so-called ‘democratic
transition.’ Moreover, Ukraine is lagging behind some of its
regional neighbors in several aspects of the transformation (see
Table 1). Yet it is rightfully and unambiguously in the lead in
terms of expectations.

On the one hand, Ukraine still says
that it is committed to change along the Central European model, a
factor making it radically different from other former Soviet
republics where tendencies toward political and economic
centralization have prevailed. Ukrainian politics is based on
plurality; elections have turned into an instrument for settling
political differences and presidential power is greatly restricted
by the Constitution and parliament.

Unlike in Moscow, the political leaders
in Kyiv have come to a consensus on joining the World Trade
Organization and launching talks with the European Union on more
extensive free trade. This proves that Ukraine has accepted a
universal method of engaging in international economic relations
and feels confident of its own ability. Finally, Ukraine has made a
choice in favor of full integration into European and
North-Atlantic organizations instead of selective cooperation with
them.

On the other hand, if one compares
Ukraine to other post-Soviet countries with similar types of
domestic and foreign policy – Moldova and Georgia – it naturally
has a greater potential for implementing its plans. It has a
relatively large and developed economy, and since its declaration
of independence Ukraine has managed to avoid ethnic tensions and
has kept a balance of interests between regions and political
groups.

How did Ukraine manage to assume the
role of the engine of the democratic – and not just
market/capitalistic – transformation in the territory of the former
Soviet Union? It seems there were no prerequisites for this at the
start. The country has a large percentage of ethnic Russians (22
percent in 1989 and about 18 percent in 2001) and a still bigger
share of the population are Russian speakers, which implies
Russia’s strong political and cultural influence. Like other CIS
countries, Ukraine’s Soviet-era party and economic elite remained
in power by and large after independence. The initial reforms were
more than just painful – they were so ineffective that Ukraine
received the status of a market economy later than Russia
did.

A system based on clans and oligarchies
gradually took shape in the country. The authorities mastered
manipulative technologies to reproduce themselves – an illustrative
example of this is the 1999 election, in which President Leonid
Kuchma was “placed” to run against a Communist contender in the
runoff, which automatically guaranteed him victory. By 2000,
Ukraine had become a country with a governable democracy and
virtual politics where the ruling elite could only emulate reforms.
The main thing is that Ukraine did not have very many possibilities
for becoming a full-fledged member of the EU at that time (and does
not have any now either), while this very promise served as the
main stimulus for and a trigger of transformation processes in
Central European and Baltic countries.

There must be an answer – albeit an
ambiguous and multifold one – to this question of “how.” Some of
its elements are axiomatic and lie at the surface, while others are
theoretical and obviously disputable. It seems, though, one can
single out three main components.

The first one is the logic of
independence. There has been a drift away from Russia after it
became impossible to build a structure of alternative leadership
within the CIS. This has led to an ever-increasing need to accept
Western norms and rules.

Second, there is Ukraine’s
polycentrism. If constructs of this kind do not fall apart at once,
they become flexible and pluralistic. It is against this background
that the Western Ukrainian region of Halychyna plays a very special
role and factors like this are not found in any other
country.

Third, there was a chain of
circumstances. This means that Kyiv’s choices could not have been
predicted in 1992, but they can be explained in 2008.


A DRIFT AWAY FROM RUSSIA TOWARD THE
NORTH ATLANTIC CHOICE

The basic impulse that determined the
course of Ukraine’s development was set in many ways by the 1991
referendum, where nine-tenths of the population voted in favor of a
divorce from the Soviet Union. For Ukraine, genuine independence
could only mean independence from Russia and that is why Russia
almost immediately found itself in the position of the main – if
not the only – challenger to Ukrainian statehood. Moscow’s
immediate territorial claims to the Crimea aggravated the
situation.

The majority of the then-ruling
Ukrainian elite viewed independence as an instrumental and not as
an all-sufficient goal. Those people treasured sovereignty because
of the economic opportunities and power inherent in it, and not
because it meant a victory over a foreign or even “occupational”
force, as the Baltic countries saw it. Yet this factor does not
matter much since the defense of power and property is no less a
motivating factor than one’s self-identity or ethnic/religious
incentives.

Moscow and Kyiv were embedded in
arguments over the splitting of the Black Sea Fleet and the
deployment of the Russian part of the fleet in Sevastopol, over
supplies and payment for natural resources and over humanitarian
problems. The two countries have still not resolved these
issues.

The perception of Russia as a
challenger and of Ukraine’s geo-strategic situation as being highly
vulnerable could not but have prompted a search for interaction
with Western institutions as a counterweight to Russia’s influence.
That is why Ukraine signed an agreement on partnership and
cooperation with the European Union already in 1994; it became the
first CIS member-nation to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace
program in 1995; and it signed a Special Partnership Charter with
the alliance in 1997. In general, Kyiv was in favor of NATO’s
eastward expansion, and this added to the Ukrainian-Russian
divisions. The logic of building partnership relations with the
North-Atlantic Alliance paved the way to signing a number of
documents with the goal of Ukraine joining NATO. They were signed
at the time when Leonid Kuchma was president and Victor Yanukovich
was a first-term prime minister. Ukraine officially requested a
Membership Action Plan for itself in 2008. All of this took place
while the very idea of such membership was supported by a very
small portion of Ukrainians.

It is worth noting that the West has
never initiated a policy of drawing Ukraine into NATO. It is true
that in the 1990s, the U.S. and NATO espoused Zbigniew Brzezinski’s
idea that Russia would never be an empire again without Ukraine and
they gave direct or tentative support to Kyiv. But they would
rather consider making Ukraine a buffer zone than including it in
the Western security zone as such. This purely geopolitical
approach was counterbalanced by a perception of Russia as the
flagship of transition in the region and the realization – to a
certain extent – that Moscow, with its traditions in state-building
and resources, could take on the responsibility of maintaining
stability and preventing a collapse of post-Soviet countries. All
the more so that Ukraine, which was reluctant to carry out real
reforms and aroused suspicions that it was supplying weapons to
regimes unfriendly to the U.S. and the EU, caused serious
disenchantment in the Western ruling milieu.

The situation changed in 2003 and 2004,
however. After a number of East European countries joined the EU
and its borders reached Ukraine, Brussels was forced to consider
ways of stabilizing its new frontier. Simultaneously, Russia made
an unambiguous claim to revise the status quo and launched a
tougher and more conflict-oriented policy toward Ukraine. As a
result, the West’s policy toward Ukraine became complicated and
multifaceted and offered more flexible responses to the calls
coming from Kyiv. Still, the EU’s reaction did not go beyond the
format of the so-called European ‘neighborhood policy.’ Its very
name speaks of its anti-integration essence, and yet it would not
be correct to ignore the potential for a rapprochement embedded in
it.

Interaction with the EU and the U.S.
was not the only resource that Ukraine tried to make instrumental
in its search to counteract Moscow’s influence. It conscientiously
sought the position of leader in the territory of the former Soviet
Union. In 1992-1994, Ukraine procrastinated with a renunciation of
nuclear weapons, although its inability to maintain the status of a
nuclear power and the fact that this scenario was unacceptable for
the West was obvious. The same reason was behind its willingness to
take the reins of power in GUAM – an association of countries
having serious problems with Russia.

But as betting on the alternative
leadership in the CIS became more and more of an illusion and the
plans for regional integration in Central Europe turned out to be
unworkable after Ukraine’s western neighbors joined the EU and
NATO, Ukraine had no other options than the limited cooperation
offered by the West.

At the same time, NATO’s own experience
shows that a rapprochement stimulated by geopolitical factors and
taken per se does not imply a democratic change. EU membership is a
different story in this sense. It looks like Ukrainian society and
the political class shifted their accent to the “European choice”
at the beginning of this decade. This shift envisions acceptance of
reforms along European standards.

Polls taken over many years by
Ukraine’s Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Research show
that since 2002 more Ukrainians are in favor of the country joining
the EU. In the fall of 2002, when the EU was preparing its final
decision on incorporating Ukraine’s neighbors, the positive
attitude toward a United Europe hit 65 percent.

It is also true, however, that
Ukrainians have been much more critical of the European Union in
the past few years. In the first place due to the EU’s reluctance
to respond to Kyiv’s aspirations to become integrated in Europe.
Still, the majority of respondents younger than 59 years old – and
especially those younger than 39 years – answer with assuredness
that they personally, and the country as a whole, stand to gain
from EU membership. The huge changes in neighboring countries and
the millions of Ukrainians who have left the country to find jobs
in the West have furnished Ukrainians with the invaluable
experience of assessing the advantages of the European model. The
process did take some time, but most Ukrainians acknowledge the
benefits of integration today, and the national debate on this
problem has evolved toward a realization that reforms should be
viewed as an internal necessity and not as a ticket for admission
to Europe.

It is still an open question whether
Moscow could prevent or at least slow down the drift of its
southern neighbor. Theoretically such a possibility existed – for
instance, as part of the concept “To Europe with Russia!” which
Kyiv put forth at the beginning of this decade – but in reality
this option was scarcely possible. Moscow failed to accept the
principle of equality and its policies boiled down to bribery and
forceful pressure. Nor did it find ways to attract partners for
cooperation without sinking into full-scale subsidizing, which the
partners used quite skillfully – and which Belarus is still doing
to this day.

A transition to genuine interstate
relations between Russia and Ukraine began only after the Orange
Revolution in Kyiv. Moscow had to admit that the opportunities for
coexistence with Ukraine in a single economic and political space
and with Moscow retaining its role of the leader have been
exhausted, while Kyiv had to recognize that reforms require a
renunciation of privileges in the field of energy
resources.


UNITED IN DIVERSITY

The main trait of Ukraine’s internal
structure is polycentrism. Not a single center of power found in
that country is capable of monopolizing all the power and resources
or even holding the top position for a long time. Political
plurality matches this type of structure best of all. This
structure has not been stable, as centers of power have alternately
appeared and disappeared, or at times they become stronger or
weaker.

The competition between the centers of
power is more pronounced in the regional factor. Russia has
traditionally spoken of a contention between the so-called
Left-Bank Ukraine and Right-Bank Ukraine – a reference to the banks
of the Dnieper River. Yet the current breakdown of electoral
preferences actually reflects a division between the “historical”
and “newly populated” (i.e., populated after the 18th century)
parts of the country. Although the full picture is far more
complicated, this does not change its essence.

Regional leaders are not seeking a
breach of the state – they put the emphasis on coming to power in
the center and proliferating their influence through the capital
city and the central agencies of power. To achieve this, even the
strongest ones need allies and the skills to make arrangements with
others. Attempts to preside over all others rather than being the
first among equals soon lead to a political defeat – as the
representatives of the largest – Donetsk-based – regional group
could perfectly see in 2004 and 2007.

In addition, conflicts between regions
and regional elites have an element that plays a unique role in
settling the question of the European choice – the Halychyna
[Eastern Galicia – Ed.] factor or, in a broader sense, all of
Western Ukraine as a political phenomenon.

Halychyna is smaller and weaker than
Eastern Ukraine, but it has an advantage – a homogeneous vision of
the world and a cohesive self-identity. For Western Ukrainians, the
country’s independence is a value in its own right and the return
to Europe is as natural as for the Poles, Estonians, Latvians and
Lithuanians, since the western parts of what is now Ukraine were
incorporated in Soviet/Russian imperial territory only in
1939-1945. By contrast, Eastern Ukrainian leaders view independence
as an instrumental thing. They are unable to create a new ideology
for the new state or to explain to their Russian-speaking voters
their own choice for existence outside of the Russian state, and
this compels them to rely on the political leaders from the western
regions in that sphere. While the “Halychyans” can configure their
nation state with the European choice, Eastern leaders are unable
to combine their country’s independence and its integration with
Russia (a logical end to that option would be subordination, if not
territorial incorporation) and hence they have to call on their
proponents to exercise an amorphous “cooperation” and
”rapprochement” with Moscow.

There is ample observation to
illustrate the homogeneity and consistency of Western Ukrainian
politicians. Some Eastern Ukrainian leaders have joined the
country’s Western power-wielding quarters on quite a number of
occasions after 2004. The last person in that resounding sequence
was Raisa Bogatyryova, a key figure in the Regions party, who
agreed to take the post of Secretary of the National Security
Council in President Victor Yushchenko’s administration. There are
practically no instances of a reverse West-to-East movement. One
can hardly imagine, for example, that Borys Tarasyuk, leader of the
People’s Movement of Ukraine, or Rukh, would accept the post of
Security Council Secretary in the administration of a President
Victor Yanukovich.

Western Ukraine is thus winning the
ideological competition step by step. Suffice it to recall
presidential elections where the candidates would be associated
either with the “Western” or “Eastern” set of values.

The nationalist daydreamer and Rukh
leader Vyacheslav Chornovil received only 23 percent of the votes
in December 1991 in a contest with Soviet-era party bureaucrat
Leonid Kravchuk who received 62 percent. The latter got only 45
percent of the votes in a runoff election in 1994 as he tried to
lean on slogans close to the hearts of Western Ukrainian voters. He
lost to Leonid Kuchma – a representative of the Eastern regions who
promised among other things to make Russian an official language –
and got 52 percent of votes. Since Kuchma reneged on his electoral
promises, he could not run as a representative of Eastern Ukraine
in the 1999 election and the campaign took place under the slogan
of “preventing a Communist relapse.” In the repeat runoff in 2004,
Victor Yushchenko, who was viewed as an advocate of the nationalist
democratic ideology, got 52 percent against the 44 percent taken by
Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich, a native of Donetsk [the cradle
of the Eastern political elite – Ed.] whom Leonid Kuchma had chosen
as his successor.

Since the divisions among regions are
getting narrower, it cannot be ruled out that this election was the
last one in which the issues of language, culture and foreign
policy will play a significant role. One could predict that the
2009 election will focus on social and economic issues and have
stricter requirements for the personalities of the
candidates.

The nature of Ukraine’s oligarchic
system was directly linked to the mutual positioning of different
geographic and administrative regions – and not so much along the
West-East line. Business empires not only embedded themselves in
the country’s polycentric construction, they magnified this
polycentricity. Financial and industrial groups based in Donetsk,
Mariupol, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhia and Kyiv have
incessantly looked for models of coexistence that would match the
present-day reality. No guarantees of their mutual loyalty – and
all the more so subordination – have ever existed. It is well known
that some of the clans gave feeble support to the seemingly common
candidate Victor Yanukovich. They feared that he would facilitate a
steep rise of his own group.

On the other hand, big business, which
from time to time overtly sponges on the government, has never been
strong enough to subjugate it. The clans did recognize Leonid
Kuchma’s role as an arbiter in the fighting within their own ranks,
but his personal closeness to the Dnipropetrovsk group (his
son-in-law, Victor Pinchuk, is one of the richest people in
Ukraine) made it difficult to draw a line of division between the
presidential and business aspects of his activity. Still, the
financial and industrial groups proved strong enough to survive
after the Orange Revolution, although protests against oligarchies
were one of its driving forces. The repartitioning of property
ended with a re-privatization of the Krivorizhstal steel mill,
which international steel major Mittal Steel bought from
businessmen close to Kuchma.

A possible explanation for this
situation is that the interests of Ukraine’s big business and
reformist authorities overlap today. Unlike in the mid-1990s,
Ukrainians can make huge fortunes now in areas other than the
selling of Russian natural gas. Liberation from “oil and gas
addiction” pushes businesses to search for new markets and
international legitimization of their revenues, while a gradual
slimming of Russian energy subsidies makes them think of a
transition to civilized rules of conducting business and
modernization programs at large. It was not accidental that Victor
Pinchuk became a major lobbyist for Ukraine’s pro-European choice
on the international scene.

Finally, systemic rivalry between the
president and parliament also played a role in the rise of
Ukrainian polycentrism. The head of state has never had an
opportunity to resort to forcible policies since the very
declaration of independence, however dismal the repute of various
sessions of Ukraine’s parliament – the Verkhovna Rada – might have
been.

Against this background, the positions
of the president have been gradually weakening. The 1995
Constitutional Agreement gave the president more powers than the
1996 Constitution. Kuchma’s attempt in 2000 to beef up presidential
power by introducing constitutional changes through a referendum
failed. The referendum did take place, but the authorities did not
find any legal mechanisms for enforcing its results, which once
again exposed the weakness of the head of state. Next came
constitutional amendments adopted during the Orange Revolution.
They made the cabinet of ministers unaccountable to the president
and turned Ukraine into a mixed parliamentary/presidential
republic. A new redistribution of authorized powers may take place
in the next few years, but full subordination of executive power to
the office of president has been simply ruled out, and this feature
objectively brings Ukraine closer to the Central European models of
state governance.

THE POWER OF CIRCUMSTANCE

The aforesaid external and internal
political environment may not have been enough for choosing and
maintaining Ukraine’s democratic course had it not been for an
entire chain of events and circumstances, which were mostly
accidental (although lovers of conspiracy theories will likely
disagree with this). Let us mention a few of them.

In the first place, there was the 1994
election. What matters here is the fact that Leonid Kravchuk agreed
to an early election. As a result, state power went over to the
opposition – a factor that was critical for the country’s future
developments. Even more important was the fact that the losers
stayed in the political arena. In spite of the scale of the
standoff, Kravchuk returned to national politics and eventually
emerged as a leader of the pro-Kuchma forces in 2002–2004. Thus a
tradition of tolerance to opposition was created, opportunities for
cooperation between former adversaries emerged, and the
totalitarian principle “the winner takes all” was
dumped.

Pressure was exerted on former Prime
Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, Yulia Tymoshenko (who was closely linked
with him in the mid-1990s) and on businesses affiliated with them,
but this was more the exception than the rule. Yet those two people
had an opportunity to take part in the 1999 election, with
Tymoshenko eventually taking the post of a deputy prime minister in
Victor Yushchenko’s cabinet. Thus political differences did not
become synonymous with personal animosities, and this laid the
foundation for a flexible and steady political system.

It is worthwhile in this context to say
a few words about Leonid Kuchma’s personality – a most ambiguous
one that still awaits a biographer to explore it. During the Orange
Revolution most Ukrainians passed negative judgments on his stay in
power and rejected his successor. Yet it is important that several
of his decisions – whether taken by instinct or upon scrutiny –
were in line with the country’s general ideological and political
evolution and did not contradict it.

First, Kuchma learned to speak
Ukrainian and used the language in public, thus reasserting his
willingness to be a president of an entire Ukraine and not just one
part of it. This was a profoundly symbolic precedent that compelled
Victor Yanukovich to do the same.

Second, Kuchma refused to use
force to suppress political protests. He took this line during the
escalation of tensions in the Crimea in 1994 and 1995. The
peninsula reverted to Ukraine’s legislative realm through
agreements.

Third, Kuchma had enough
resolve to publish a book called Ukraine Is Not Russia that said
the divergence between the two countries is unavoidable. He did it
in spite of his frequently stated eagerness to bridge positions
with Moscow and to pursue a multifaceted foreign policy.

Fourth, Kuchma did much to
streamline Ukraine’s relations with the West. In 2002, when his
reputation in the West had already collapsed, he went as far as to
suffer personal humiliation as he took part in a conference of the
Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Prague to confirm the
sincerity of his country’s Euro-Atlantic choice. The participating
heads of state and government were then purposefully seated
according to the French alphabet, not the English one, so that the
U.S. president and the British prime minister would sit at a
specific distance from the Ukrainian president.

Last but not least, Kuchma
dispelled fears when he resigned as required by law.

The next critical episode after the
1994 election came in 2001 when Major Mykola Melnychenko, a former
presidential bodyguard, published his audio recordings. Although
the outburst of oppositionist activity it produced subsided quickly
enough, the ‘cassette scandal’ changed the context of Ukrainian
politics. People started looking at the Kuchma regime as not simply
immoral, but as criminal. Public opinion interpreted those
recordings as proof of Kuchma’s involvement in the assassination of
opposition journalist Heorhiy Gongadze – even though the details of
the crime, which had a serious impact on Ukraine’s development, are
still not clear to this date.

The scandal had specific political
repercussions. As rightfully noticed by Ukrainian political
scientist Mykhailo Pohrebinsky, then liberal Prime Minister Victor
Yushchenko, the West’s enfant cheri, lost his chance of becoming
Kuchma’s successor. Pohrebinsky says that the campaign demanding
Kuchma’s resignation made sense only for as long as the power could
go over to the prime minister, who was popular with the opposition.
As Kuchma rescued himself, he had to fire Yushchenko.

The dismissal of Yushchenko, a person
who was completely loyal to the president, provided the opposition
with a leader and a banner at the same time. It also forced Kuchma
to lean more on the oligarchs, shift the balance of forces toward
the Donetsk clan, and seek ways of rapprochement with Moscow. But
most Ukrainians and their political leaders did not support either
of these steps.

The West, on its part, paid more
attention to developments in Ukraine in general and to the 2002
parliamentary election in particular. Since Kuchma did not really
want a fight with the West – it would produce greater dependence on
Russia eventually – he did not use his administrative resources in
that election very actively. As a result, the election propelled to
parliament the radically anti-Communist Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (7.3
percent of the votes on the party ticket). Tymoshenko thus obtained
immunity and access to the public rostrum. Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine
party received 23.6 percent – even more than the Communists did,
and became the tentative winner in the election. This circumstance
made regional bureaucracies disorganized and they lost confidence
in the ruling party’s ability to keep the situation under control.
The political process was no longer “successfully
governable.”

The road to the Orange Revolution was
open now. Its outcome was logical and the causes of the events in
the fall of 2004 have been described in great detail. However,
given the polarization of electoral preferences and the approximate
parity of forces at the start of the campaign, Yanukovich’s victory
was not altogether impossible. Two factors eventually seem to have
tipped the scales in Yushchenko’s favor:

The attempt to poison him in September
2004 that evidently gave him the people’s sympathy and made
behind-the-scenes arrangements impossible for him
personally;

Russia’s interference in the election
campaign on Yanukovich’s behalf.

The latter factor caused an
unparalleled protest, above all in Kyiv, where a new generation of
Russian-speaking proponents of Ukrainian statehood had matured by
that time.


WHAT’S NEXT?

Ukraine’s democratic transition may
have been reversible before the Orange Revolution, but that is
hardly possible now considering the events in the years after it
consolidated the nation’s choice.

First, Ukraine will continue
its step-by-step integration into Europe, both economically and
politically. Ukraine’s “European choice” will remain the core of
the country’s foreign policy. A breakthrough may be possible by the
introduction of broader free trade between Ukraine and the EU –
although this will not take place earlier than 2012 or 2014 – and a
major liberalization of travel restrictions may come in its wake.
Ukraine’s self-adjustment in the European system of energy security
will continue. Ukraine will co-host the European Football
Championship in 2012 along with Poland and this will give a boost
to Ukraine’s infrastructure, raise the level of its compatibility
with Europe and, most importantly, will help the country foster the
image that it is an inalienable part of Europe.

All of that will not furnish Kyiv with
sufficient grounds for making guaranteed claims to a full-fledged
integration in the EU and relevant influence inside it, yet it
could open up the prospects for a Norwegian style of integration,
suggesting incorporation in the European economic space combined
with NATO membership. It looks like Ukraine would be quite happy
with this.

Second, the country will not
discard political plurality and the democratic electoral system.
After three successive opposition victories in the elections of
2004, 2006 and 2007 the situation apparently pleases all political
forces, as it leaves them a chance to regain power.

Third, external conditions,
including a growth in prices for energy resources, will continue to
dictate the need for economic reforms.

Developments in Ukraine pose a serious
challenge for Russia, since the historical paths of the two
countries are diverting. While previously the case in hand was
confusion and the sorting of economic issues between political
leaders, today one can speak of a growing misunderstanding between
the two societies which still speak one language and have similar
customs, but have different values and view their future
differently.

Currently, this challenge is confined
to sporadic outbursts – compensation for devalued Soviet-era bank
deposits, paying child benefits that exceed those paid in Russia by
several hundred percent, and an upcoming military reform that will
abolish mandatory military service – that are easy to cushion off.
But if the reforms facilitate Ukraine’s transition to European
social policies in general and, correspondingly, improve people’s
lives, the challenge will take on a systemic character. As people
in both countries continue to keep close contacts, contrasting the
two “verticals of state power” and “electoral democracies” will be
inescapable. This factor may appear more crucial than the now
hypothetical shifting of the borders of the Euro-Atlantic zone
toward Ukraine’s eastern frontiers.

It does not pay to make far-reaching
forecasts though. The rate of Ukraine’s further transformation may
be too slow and it is too early to judge its overall success. It is
unclear where the limit of the Ukrainian economy’s adaptation to
new prices for gas lies. Polycentrism may degenerate into endless
blocking among political forces and a desire to untangle all the
knots through elections may breed populism. A liberal political
system does not guarantee efficient governance, while systemic
corruption can reduce the reformers’ efforts to naught. Also, it is
equally unclear now if the EU can offer Kyiv a policy that will
correspond to the progress of reforms.

In other words, the intrigue is still
there. Ukraine may simply remain an exceptional case in the
territory of the former Soviet Union – an interim transitional
type, a country treading after its Central European neighbors, but
never catching up with them as regards the development of
democratic institutions or the degree of economic modernization.
And yet it may implement the declared “European choice” in one form
or another.