Spotlight on Geopolitics

Next month, Ukrainians will be called to the polls to select their next president. As the 2004 Orange revolution has backfired against its initiators, the presidential election is a two-horse race between pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovich and the current prime minister, Ms Yulia Tymoshenko.

Beset by serious economic woes, Ukraine is also striving to find its identity within a geostrategic context that has transformed the country into a battleground between Russia and the United States. In the opinion of Mark Medish, former director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs on the National Security Council during the Clinton presidency, “Russia and the United States tend to view Ukraine as a key battleground in a cosmic proxy war between East and West. Both have a bad habit of trying to pick winners in Ukrainian politics. These interventions, naive in their own ways, tend to backfire, often at Ukraine’s expense.” (source: IHT)

The Orange revolutions, which led to the electoral wins of Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine and that of Traian Basescu in Romania have led nowhere. Both countries are politically dysfunctional and, economically, severely affected by the financial crisis, as well as dependent on IMF’s bailout packages. True, Basescu succeeded in getting himself re-elected this month, but his Pyrrhic victory will not significantly improve the country’s situation or diminish US experts’ meddling into Romanian politics. As for Viktor Yushchenko, his single-digit approval ratings and continuous squabbles with Yulia Tymoshenko have brought Ukraine to a standstill.

In more ways than one, the uneasy relationship between Russia and Ukraine is similar to that between Germany and Austria within the German-speaking world. The languages and culture are similar, only small differences between them justify the nationalistic aspirations of the Ukrainians. Most, if not all, of the latter would like to see their country become a member of the European Union, although the bid to join NATO, which fortunately failed at the Bucharest summit, was by-and-large a counterproductive exercise.

Over the last few winters, European Union countries have repeatedly had to suffer the practical consequences of this tug-of-war between Russia and the US over Ukraine. Before long, EU enlargement officials will have to choose between admitting Ukraine or Turkey into the Union. As matters now currently stand, the accession of Turkey is more important to the security of Israel than that of the Union – hence the strong US diplomatic lobby on its behalf. A non-NATO Ukraine, on the other hand, could prove a more useful EU member than Turkey, as geopolitically, religiously and culturally the country is an integral part of our continent.

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