I begin by stating how truly proud I am of the Ukrainian people as their determination, perseverance and resolve over the last several months, have brought them to this historic point. Ukraine one again finds itself in a place of tremendous opportunity – at the crossroad of independence.
This is not the first time in Ukraine’s recent history that it stood before the balance of freedom. In 2004 the protests of the Orange Revolution, spurred by anti-government corruption, began to unlock the shackles of covert and underhanded tactics of the former Soviet Union – Russia.
The Orange Revolution was declared victorious and in 2005 Victor Yushchenko became known as Ukraine’s “First Real President.” But the progress made during Yushchenko’s presidency was disappointing and during this pivotal time, Yushchenko failed to bring economic reform to Ukraine. When Yushchenko left office, the country was in deep in financial crisis and disillusioned by the theme of the revolution.
But Yushchenko’s presidency did accomplish something very important. Yushchenko brought back Ukraine’s national identity. He was a champion of Ukrainian language, heritage, culture and traditions. And although the focus of these efforts came into question at the time, they will one day prove to be a crucial step as Ukraine not only strives for independence, but more importantly, for differentiation.
Since the formation of the Soviet Union, tremendous efforts have been made to “Russify” Ukraine by burning its books, rubbing out its language and stealing both its history and its genius. This has left Ukraine with such an identity crisis that people living east of Kiev don’t realize that there is a difference. So now with the current situation, what should be a revolution, has become a civil war.
The future of Ukraine remains murky with a glaring gap in leadership. Although the legality of Yanukovich’s ouster remains in question, I believe that his fate has been sealed with a parliamentary vote, followed by his attempt to flee the country. New presidential elections will be held on May 25th and Ukraine has until then to produce a viable presidential candidate.
This is a summary of the presidential prospects: Vitaly Klitschko has done well as a leader of the opposition, but his lack of political experience hinders his potential candidacy. Yulia Tymoshenko now free from prison, has become an international icon of political injustice, but her wealth is tied to corruption and her candidacy would only bring more of the same. And finally there is Petro Poroshenko the wealthy business man who although lacks political experience seems to be the most popular choice at the moment.
But in meantime Ukraine faces more dire challenges including Russian retaliation. As expected, Russia has already announced that funding to Ukraine will be cut, I am certain gas will be cut as well. But the greater challenge will be Putin’s unwillingness to let Ukraine go – [which is what brought Ukraine to this point in the first place] – Ukraine is just too large of a country and too critical to Putin’s imperialist plan.
To make matters even more difficult for Ukraine, both the European Union and the US fear Putin. And it is doubtful that either will back Ukraine militarily, if it comes to that – even though Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons as part of the START program, with the promise that its borders will be defended. Nevertheless, the most that we can hope for is some type of economic backing for Ukraine from either the EU or the IMF.
The situation remains tenuous and fluid, with critical events unfolding at a rapid pace. What the people of Ukraine have accomplished is amazing because now the entire world is watching Ukraine. But what’s even more remarkable is that for the first time in my lifetime, no one has mistaken me for Russian.