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Ukrainian soldiers muster at a point close to Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Aug. 20, 2014 (AP photo by Petro Zadorozhnyy).

Dividing Lines: Ukraine and the Future Shape of Europe

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ever since the 2004 “Orange Revolution” that led to its first turn toward the West, Ukraine’s future alignment between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic bloc has been the subject of much debate and speculation. The promise of a durable Western shift, already dimmed by 2010, receded even further under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, who tried to steer a middle course between Moscow and Brussels with some success until pressure from Brussels and Moscow, but also Ukraine’s pro-European public opinion, made nonalignment no longer tenable.

Since the Euromaidan protests that drove Yanukovych from power in February 2014 and through the emergence of a Russian-supported separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine, both optimistic and pessimistic scenarios for the country’s future have been advanced. Although much diminished in recent months, the optimistic scenario assumed that Ukraine’s “civilizational choice” to join the West would be reciprocated by a major Western effort to assist the country in its transition—akin to the resources mobilized a generation ago to help the countries of East and Central Europe rise from the ruins of the Soviet bloc and transform themselves into successful free-market democracies and eventual members of both the European Union and NATO. In this scenario, the new pro-Western government in Kiev would quickly enact critical reforms and jump-start a flagging economy, while concerted Western action would preclude Russia from intrusive meddling. ...

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