Chrystia Freeland’s article in this weekend’s FTmagazine is an excellent summary of the politics surrounding the elections in Ukraine.
After a summarising Ukrainian history to provide much-needed context to the events leading up to Viktor Yushchenko’s vicotry in the repeated election of 26 December.
The election was interesting because of the depth of pro-Yushchenko consensus in the West. As Freeland points out, the EU and US position converged to such an extent that even Robert Kagan described the EU as having “committed a flagrant act of transatlantic co-operation”.
But Freeland’s piece looks a few moves ahead to the tensions that are arising surrounding the inevitable question of a fully democratic Ukraine’s relationship with the European Union.
Freeland points out two factions in the EU: the broadeners and the deepeners. The broadeners are countries like Poland that want to see the EU push the border between liberalism and authoritarianism ever farther eastwards.
The deepeners include countries like France, Italy, Spain, and possibly Germany, that want to concentrate on consolidating the existing EU institutions and fear antagonising Russia.
As for Russia, Freeland points out the significance of Ukraine in its “complex of lost empire”:
The triumph of western values in Ukraine is a significant check on Russia’s neo-imperialist ambitions: historically, the Russian empire has never existed without Ukraine. If Ukraine secures its position in the European political space, Russia’s post-Soviet sphere of influence shrinks to Belarus, the Caucasus and Central Asia — not much of an empire, even for a Russia that has accepted it will never regain its cold war super-power status.
Only Russia and Serbia experienced the breakdown of Communism as a loss of hegemony rather than national idependence, Yegor Gaidar points out.