Political events in Ukraine in November and December of 2004 attracted attention of the world community to this country as the wind of democratic changes came to this former republic of the Soviet Union. Even though the Soviet Union collapsed 13 years ago, historical political and economical bounds between those 15 new independent states where quite strong and even though these countries became independent, their dependence upon the policy of Kremlin remained. All 15 countries chose the way of democratic reforms but their totalitarian past and no experience democracy prevented from any effective realization of their reformative policies. In fact, this 15-year period was characterized by hyperinflation, extreme poverty and sharpening social contradictions. Russia had preserved its dominance over the politics of its close neighbors: Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan dictating them its conditions of economical development which were Moscow-oriented. The corrupted governments of these countries with corrupted legislative and executive branches of power had turned their countries into full dependence upon Moscow's will.
Before discussing the modern political tendencies of Ukraine it's important to revise 15 years of Ukrainian independence in order to understand the nature of contradictions and crisis of political power which revealed itself at the end of 2004.
Communist experience of Ukraine was the main break factor which prevented country from integration to Europe, free equal trade with western and eastern partners, military reform and other essential reforms of civil state. Pro-Russian parliamentarians, who were former members of the Communist party continued to be loyal to Russia and Russian domination in Eastern Europe, so they did their best in order to keep "warm relations with big brother" and did what Kremlin wanted them to do. For a decade Ukrainian politicians were lost what side to support: Russia's or the side of Europe. As a result of such corruptive and selfish political management Ukraine became backward country with ruined heavy industry and collapsing agricultural sector. Inflation reached unbelievable rate (100-000% if compared to 1991)
and average salary in the year of 2004 was approximately 100$
. But the problems of the country were not limited only to economical problems.
In early 1990's Ukraine fully experienced what separatism meant as the Crimean region officials, sponsored by Russian political authorities who wanted to secure Russian military bases in the port of Sevastopol wanted to separate from Ukraine and join Russian Federation. Crimea became autonomous, which now has economical autonomy from official Kiev (the capital of Ukraine), but it doesn't mean that standards of living in Crimea are higher than in Ukraine. Crimea was just an object for Russia to demonstrate its power and prove Ukraine its political weakness and dependence.
Besides, recent events show that Ukraine was turned into Russia's energy slave as main energy resources: gas and oil are exported from Russia. In order to secure domination on energy market of Ukraine, Russian oil companies became the owners of 15 biggest oil-refining plants which in the past guaranteed energy independence from Russia. It wouldn't happen in any democratic country with a true government, but corrupted Ukrainian officials promoted this policy as the compensation from the side of Russia was a political support.
Another important particularity of Ukraine is that ethnic Ukrainians form only 73% of its population, ethnic Russians - 22%.
But the Russian speaking minority is 40% of the country's population. Independent Ukraine failed to promote its cultural nationalization policy; the language issue remains to be unsolved: in the eastern part of Ukraine there is miserable number of schools where subjects are taught in Ukrainian, Ukrainian is neither used in universities in the eastern part of the country.
But the most terrible and shameful for the image of the country became total corruption of state institutions: starting from the administration of president and going all the way down to high school counselors. If in 1994 before Leonid Kuchma was elected as a president, the word "corruption" was rarely used either in media or in politics and was associated with the world of Sicilian mafia from the movies, then in quite a short period of time the nation experienced the effects of corruption and mafia on themselves.
Disrespect of the nation towards government and oligarchs caused political crisis of 2001 which turned into numerous actions of protest in Kiev led by consolidated opposition: socialists, right nationalists and communists with the only slogan "Kuchma go away!." But this action of protest failed and president remained in his office.
Soviet bureaucracy was substituted by a new ineffective anti-people's government, which had no idea about country's development and looked either on Moscow or on Western Europe, but in fact its policy did not satisfy any of these sides. Orientation on Moscow and flirt with Western world were the main attributes of former Ukrainian president's policy. Legacy of former Ukrainian president impresses:
Pro-Russian government which always fulfilled the order of Kremlin, which always participated in fraud and money-laundering as well as loyal majority of Ukrainian parliament to president prevented country from dynamic development.
Oligarchs (less than 30 families) who control 75% of nation's wealth
. During privatization of state enterprises in early 1990's using money of mafia certain groups got the control over the most profitable enterprises: steel mills, heavy industry plants, pipelines. Besides, all private enterprises which have an income of more than $500.000 are controlled by regional organized crime. Fore more than a decade government was closing their eyes on lawlessness and chaos.
During the regime of former president more than 30 journalists were murdered as they criticized government in anti-people's activity and personal enrichment. Oligarchs had tax privileges which promoted national impoverishment as the budget was losing billions of dollars of unpaid taxes.
Ukraine couldn't even dream about integration to any European institutions without the approval from Moscow. Black sea Russian navy which is dislocated on the territory of Ukraine in the city of Sevastopol (Autonomous republic of Crimea) demonstrates the dependence of Ukraine.
Besides, the administration of former president and Ukrainian ministry of defense was involved into international scandal as they sold unique radar systems to Iraqis leader Saddam Hussein which contradicted to all international obligations and treaties signed by Ukraine. This issue made the U.S.A. And countries of European Union to revise their attitude towards Ukraine and cut off financial aid and investments to country's economy. In order to change the attitude of the U.S.A. towards Ukraine for better, the country sent its 1650 troops to Iraq as a member of coalition.
But tragic event of Jan. 8, 2005 when "eight Ukrainian soldiers were killed in an explosion at an ammunition dump caused The Ukrainian parliament to call Tuesday for immediate withdrawal of the nation's 1,650 troops in Iraq. The vote was nonbinding but reflected growing national dismay over the mission. The blast was reported as an accident, but a top commander later raised suspicions that it could have been an insurgent attack."
In fact according to the report of corruption monitoring organization Transparency International, Ukraine ranked 108th from 133 possible (between African poor countries of Sudan and Zimbabve); Russia with its well-known lawlessness ranked 128th, while none of European Union countries appeared to be lower than 67th in corruption rank.
These factors became those very obstacles which prevent Ukraine from quick and successful integration in to European institutions and NATO.
The events of "orange revolution" or velvet revolution which took place in December of 2004 had changed political orientation of the country. Yushchenko, new Ukraine's president who is a pro-western democrat stands for independence of Ukraine from any foreign influence, stands for promoting democracy in the country and future integration into European Union and NATO. He chose a thorny way as he has to fight prolonged poverty, corruption, oligarchs and what is the most important he has to overcome distrust to the U.S.A. And Europe which remained in mentality of Ukrainians- citizens of the former Soviet Union.
The author of the article Yushchenko vs. Putin published in International Herald Tribune mentions that though Putin and Yushchenko are indignant at corruption and oligarchs they have different views on the solution of this problem. Putin wants to consolidate power and feels nostalgia about "powerful Soviet union," while Yushchenko has an aim to fight these vices promoting democratic values and building civil state.
Economical programs of Putin and Yushchenko are alike, as both of them stand for development of a free market economy. Both countries use fixated income tax (13%), but the priorities of development are different. Russian economical legislature is more advanced and is closer to world standards, but the shift towards authoritarism and state control over business prevents it from dynamic development. Ukraine has more perspectives in this direction.
Ukraine's new political priorities look very radical for conservative political elite of the country and even look frightening for Moscow officials. Western observers mark that Putin had lost the battle for Ukraine once and probably forever. Absence of any definite political strategy towards Ukraine had resulted in the failure of pro-Russian candidate despite falsifications and violations during presidential elections.