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Ukraine’s Destiny

Will democracy prevail in this former Soviet state?

December 15, 2004

Will democracy prevail in this former Soviet state?

Ukraine, even by its very name, has long been a “borderland” — of Russia, Europe and Asia. The events of November and December 2004 mark a stunning turning point in the country's history, one which many Ukrainians hope will offer them a brighter future. Our Read My Lips feature examines various crossroads faced by Ukraine today.

What's the big question for Europeans?

“Where does Europe end — and Asia begin?”
(William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune columnist, December 2004)

And the answer?

“If Ukraine is ‘at the edge’ today, it was also once at the center. This is no remote steppe emerging belatedly from Asiatic servitude. This is Europe.”
(Tony Judt, director of the Remarque Institute at the New York University, December 2004)

Does everybody agree?

“Historically and sociologically, Ukraine is no more than a vague, badly structured area that has never been the origin of any important events of modernization.”
(Emmanuel Todd, researcher at the Paris-based National Institute of Demographic Studies, January 2003)

Then why do some European opponents to Turkey's EU membership feel vindicated by developments in Ukraine?

“The Ukraine is more European than Turkey.”
(Frits Bolkestein, former EU internal market commissioner, March 2003)

Despite this view, why should Turkey be on a faster track for EU membership?

“In terms of its economy and its democracy, Turkey is already far better prepared than, say, Romania, Ukraine and Albania, to mention just three.”
(Quentin Peel, Financial Times columnist, September 2004)

How do people on the street perceive events in Ukraine?

"The most important days in a thousand years."
(Unnamed Ukrainian citizen, December 2004)

What recent European legacy are Ukrainians continuing?

"In fighting for democracy without spilling any blood, Ukrainians kept alive the spirit of 1989."
(Matthew Kaminski, deputy editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe, December 2004)

Just what does Moscow have to worry about amidst all this?

“With real democracy in Ukraine, more and more Russians would view the Putin regime as an anachronism.”
(Zbigniew Brzezinski, former U.S. national security advisor, December 2004)

Do some Russians agree with that analysis?

"We have witnessed an event which could have greater consequences for Russia than the expansion of NATO or the European Union."
(Lilia Shevtsova, senior analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, December 2004)

What was Yushenko's major worry until recently?

“There are ominous signs of a neo-Soviet revival here.”
(Former Ukrainian Prime Minister and leading opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, September 2004)

Did the country's current leader at least pay lip service to reforms?

“Real success of transformation processes is possible only when reforms and their results meet the interest and expectations of wide circles of population.”
(Ukraine’s outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, June 2002)

And what's his view of globalization?

“Globalization opens huge possibilities for humanity. At the same time, globalization brings substantial threats — making for division of countries into ‘civilization center’ and ‘peripheral zone’.”
(Leonid Kuchma, June 2002)

Did Russians have a special status in Ukraine?

“A Russian businessman is not really a foreigner.”
(Leonid Kuchma, June 2001)

And finally, is it really surprising that Ukraine would undergo a democratic revolution before Russia does?

"More akin to the Poles, the Ukrainians are characterized by individualism, the Russians by collectivism."
(Mykola Kostomarov, 19th century Ukrainian intellectual, in 1861)