|POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY IN UKRAINE
MOSCOW. (Vyacheslav Igrunov for RIA Novosti)
The political crisis in Ukraine has been resolved, but uncertainty
persists. The new government is still suffering from the painful
compromise that brought about its establishment.
On the one hand, most key posts in the government have been given to
people free of ideological intoxication and capable of constructive,
pragmatic actions. They know why gas should be stored in underground
depots in summer, why international commitments should be honored, and why
their country should not clash with those on whom its development depends.
They are First Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and Naftogaz head Yury
Boiko. They will be easy to work with, and may be the most suitable
partners for Russia.
The duo of Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and Defense Minister Anatoliy
Hrytsenko, who had laid out the plan for an accelerated integration of
Ukraine into NATO, which determined the policy underlying other decisions,
has remained in place, just like the position of President Viktor
Yushchenko, who pursued the line they had suggested and who remains the
key politician in Ukraine.
Yushchenko’s miraculous victory in the battle against the parliamentary
majority showed that he still has something within him – a fighting
spirit. Any other head of state would have acted in accordance with the
law and nominated the majority’s candidate. But Yushchenko said that the
majority must accept his conditions or he would dissolve parliament
because the creation of “a wrong coalition” distorted the will of the
Surprisingly for observers, parliament did not reject the ultimatum, which
would have buried any other democratically elected president in a
democratic country, but spent weeks discussing it and eventually signed
it, although with compromise conditions.
The catastrophic inability of “orange” politicians to govern the
country has reduced the president’s approval rating to almost zero. (In
his first and best 100 days, Yushchenko had the support of barely 50% of
the people, which is logical in view of the illegitimate way he had come
The parliamentary victory of the “orange trio” – the Yulia
Tymoshenko Bloc, pro-presidential Our Ukraine and the Socialist Party –
seemingly rehabilitated the revolutionary ideals. But subsequent
developments showed that the winners were kept together by their striving
for power, so that the “orange” government was deadlocked by their
fear that one of the partners would gain the upper hand.
However, the ideological foundation of Our Ukraine proved to be
sufficiently strong to prevent a seemingly unavoidable union with the
pro-Russian Party of Regions, led by Viktor Yanukovych, the new prime
minister of Ukraine. Its ideology prevented Yushchenko from implementing
his agreements with the crisis coalition: only 30 of the 80 members of Our
Ukraine in parliament voted for the new prime minister, leaving the party
short of full participation in the new coalition.
This result will benefit Yanukovych, who did nothing to bring it about.
The talks on the formation of the government showed that Yanukovych is a
weak politician, just like Yushchenko. The compromise was mostly reached
through the surrender of his party’s positions. Yanukovych’s stance on
the issue of the Russian language is a relevant example.
During the election campaign, the Party of Regions demanded that Russian
should be granted the status of a second official language. But shortly
before signing the agreement, Yanukovych said that Ukrainian should remain
the only official language and that the Ukrainian Constitution, which
protected all other languages, should be used to ensure this.
His statement sounded like a capitulation in view of President
Yushchenko’s stubborn refusal to implement the European Charter for
Regional or Minority Languages. Lawyers can talk all they want about how
this refusal does not preclude support for decisions to grant Russian the
status of a regional language, but the voters will not believe them.
Another example is Yanukovych’s stance on joining NATO. A possible
compromise might involve making a commitment to do everything necessary to
become a member, with only the formal accession to be approved by
referendum. That Tarasyuk and Hrytsenko have kept their posts in the
government means that preparations for accession to NATO will continue
alongside energetic brainwashing of the people.
But then, a brainwashing campaign might not be necessary, since the
compromise agreement is not a binding document, and agreements survive in
Ukraine only until one of the sides decides to change his/her stand.
Moreover, the new government will be unable to speed up the country’s
movement towards NATO because of the growing civic awareness of the
people. But the Euro-Atlantic factor will complicate economic talks with
Russia sympathized with the Party of Regions, above all because it hoped
to stop Ukraine’s slide towards NATO. Since Ukraine’s stance on this
issue remains vague, Moscow will most likely establish coldly pragmatic
relations with Ukraine, and none of the new ministers, even though they
suit the Kremlin, will be able to dampen its resolve. Russia will operate
according to the “every man for himself” formula, although this may
cost it some of Ukrainians’ sympathy. But the Ukrainian government will
also lose out unless it develops friendly relations with its main economic
By succeeding in the coalition talks, Yushchenko has kept his post until
the next elections but lost broad electoral support. By resisting the
temptation to support the government and get seats in it, Our Ukraine may
remain an opposition force alongside Tymoshenko’s Bloc.
However, the “orange” time is over. The voters that may desert
Yanukovych and his Party of Regions will not support the “orange”
forces, but rather those who more consistently uphold the interests of the
southern and eastern regions of the country. Unrestrained nationalism
survived for as long as the eastern regions slept and maintained their
paternalist Soviet mentality. They are becoming increasingly active today,
as proved by the passing of laws on the status of the Russian language by
This means that we may soon see the emergence of political parties that
will fight for the interests of the majority of Ukrainians, who live in
the southern and eastern regions. If the Party of Regions fails to get
part of that vote, it will anyway not go to the “orange” forces.
Ukraine has started down the path of slow recovery after years of
instability and civil discord. The formation of the new government was the
first faltering step towards this goal. Ukraine’s parliament has won the
battle against the president, and its role will keep growing, together
with that of the majority of voters.
Vyacheslav Igrunov is the director of the International Institute of
Humanitarian and Political Studies. -0-