Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ukraine May Fall Back Into Russia's Orbit

The Ukraine was once a member of the Warsaw Pact, also known as the Soviet Union, those countries over which the central government in Russia exerted control.

Since the demise of communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union they have pursued a more westernized democratic form of government. With elections just three weeks away, however, the pro-Russian candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, is leading in the polls. He wishes a return to good old days where the central government exerted more control and he is very friendly with Vladimir Putin's puppet Dmitry Medvedev.

He's advocating a tighter clamp on free speech, rejection of membership in NATO and instead joining a European Security Group championed by Russia and opposed by the rest of western Europe.

His main talking point is about corruption in the government. I don't know where he was when the Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union, but if you wanted a model of corruption, there it was.
"So what did this Orange Revolution give us?," Yanukovych asked in an interview with The Associated Press. "Freedom of speech? That's very good. But what price did the Ukrainian people pay for this? For the development of this democratic principle in our country, the price was too great."
The Ukraine has the main pipeline for gas flowing from Russia to the rest of Europe. Earlier conventional wisdom said that Obama's attempt to normalize relations with Russia may imperil the pipeline because Russia would take military action to ensure that it stayed under their control. Now with their candidate leading in the polls, this scenario seems to be moot.

What will it mean for Europe's gas supply if Russia does indeed get an ally in Ukraine is anybody's guess at this time.

What is disturbing is that these emerging democracies from the former Soviet Union seem to slowly be drifting back into Russia's sphere of influence, trading stability for freedom.

I would hope that for all of its warts, the people of the Ukraine would rather live free than to once again live under the iron rule of a central government, but sometimes when a way of life is all you have known, experiencing something new which does not blossom as quickly as you would like leads you to head back to your comfort zone.

I hope this isn't the case, but only time will tell.

No comments: