Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The possibilities of Ukraine

Ukraine seems to acquire notice only as a place of shifting and unstable politics these days.

The euphoria of the Orange revolution seems to have given way to a war of attrition between the different Ukrainian political blocs. Many are dispirited by this constant bickering and the political merry-go-round in K'yiv. However it seems to me that the situation in Ukraine is drastically better than in neighbouring Russia, despite the negative parallels that some have wished to draw.

Firstly the political problems reflect the fact that Ukraine has a political system. The various regional and economic interests in the country are balanced against each other, and therefore no single group can enforce its will alone- a sharp contrast to the dogmatic authoritarianism in Moscow. Secondly the inability of the centre to impose its sill is a distinct advantage in a country which contains significant diversity. The Eastern, more Russian speaking part of the country does not fear the possibility of compulsory Ukrainian that the more Ukrainian nationalist areas of the West might have forced upon them. Ironically enough this has made the use of Ukrainian more widespread than it might have been- even formerly wholly Russian speaking cities, like Karkhiv, now use more Ukrainian, while K'yiv is now a majority Ukrainian speaking city. Perhaps more importantly, there is far more economic diversity than in dirigiste Russia. Investment is beginning to grow strongly, and major international manufacturing concerns are set to come to the major Ukrainian cities.

Despite the attempt of Putin to drag Ukraine back into the Russian orbit, the lure of the West is stronger- and even the most pro-Russian forces accept that more Western integration for their country is necessary, and indeed desirable. The European Union has shut the door for the moment, but it is clear that Ukraine would like to return to the European orbit (after all the great Prince of Kievian Rus, the Ukrainian proto-State, was Yaroslav the Wise, a direct ancestor of many European Royal Houses, including that of Elizabeth II). While NATO too does not seem willing to expand further, there are voices both inside and outside K'yiv which do not exclude that possibility. In the meantime, the relationship with the EU is expanding, and will grow further following Ukrainian accession to the WTO in the next year or so.

The Ukrainian economy has been growing strongly over the past few years as agriculture and the production of such intermediate goods as raw steel recovers from the maladministration and incompetence of the Soviet era. The steady hand of the Ukrainian central bank has also avoided the volatility and instability of the Bank of Russia's currency management over much of the period since independence. Now, the key will be the opening up of the Ukrainian market and avoiding the temptation of corrupt and questionable economic regulation.

However the news this week that Ukraine, together with Poland, has been made joint host of the Euro-2012 Football championship was something of a Christmas present for the Ukrainians- indeed it is hard to think of anything that would have pleased Ukraine more than being able to see this championship at home. Investment plans are now being dusted off to improve the host cities and also the coast in order to keep the thousands of fans long enough to actually make money from them.

And Vladimir Putin knows that it will help to make Ukraine a far more European place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Cicero see you on the BBC thread. In the East not all good you know. There are some worrying things going on in the Blackhole that is Transdniestra. BTW Nothing on Yeltsin, surely for that momentr in 1991 the world can forgive him everything else, as Edward Lucas says. Gaidar had interesting things to say on his views of Russia after he was retirement.