MUNICH — When the Winter Olympics ended Sunday evening, the second part of the Ukrainian revolution began. Now the country’s cohesion and its chances of economic survival will be decided.
After a dramatic week in Kiev, a civil war was avoided when the Ukraine Parliament removed the president from power. And now even Ukrainians in pro-Russian regions are beginning to see the opportunities that present themselves following fallen President Viktor Yanukovych’s oligarchy.
But the actual reasons for the revolution have not been settled by any stretch of the imagination. Although she is being hailed as a force of healing, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has way too much political baggage to alleviate the tough societal conflicts at play. And the revolution hasn’t changed Ukraine’s economic dependence on Russia.
On Sunday, the Ukrainian parliament gave interim presidential authority to the speaker, opposition leader Oleksandr Turchynov. President Yanukovych had been ousted on Saturday. Meanwhile, another opposition leader, Vitali Klitschko, encouraged demonstrators to keep a critical eye on the political process.
Now that the Sochi Olympics are over, Russian President Vladimir Putin will want to exercise influence on his neighbors. He considers Ukraine an important, if not constitutional, part of his area of influence. But one truth remains as clear now as it was before the revolution: The country cannot become the front for a new Cold War. Yet as long as Putin divides the world into areas of influence, he will not release Ukraine from its role as buffer.
The EU stands at the center of all expectations. What began in 2009 as a negotiation towards partnership now looks as if it might become a sort of duty. It was the EU promise of freedom that gave Ukrainians hope for a better future. The EU stands for the rule of law, for life without corruption or the power of oligarchs. With the Maidan protests, Europe has inherited a major development project.
Part of the project will mean dealing with another strong figure in Ukraine — Yulia Tymoshenko. Perhaps the charismatic politician will be able to convince the Russophile population that a united Ukraine is in everyone’s best interests. But Tymoshenko is herself burdened by associations with a dubious economic and power elite. She lacks the integrity that a leadership figure must demonstrate with regard to Russia. She doesn’t have the credibility to take on the oligarchs.
The first part of the revolution is over. With impressive courage, the people revolted against despotism, corruption and bad leadership. But the real revolution in Ukraine still lies ahead.