Friendly Ukraine regime could ease tensions

Freedom New Mexico

Ukraine’s Central Election Commission has certified Viktor Yanukovich as the winner of the Feb. 7 presidential election, although his opponent, current prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has promised to challenge the decision in court. This development has concerned some observers who worry abut the possibility of Russian expansionism or aggressiveness in neighboring countries.

In some ways, however, this could be a welcome development.

Yanokovich was widely considered the pro-Russian bad guy in the disputed 2004 election that led to the popular uprising called the Orange Revolution, during which Yanokovich finally stood aside and allowed the real winner, Viktor Yuschenko, to assume power.

Yuschenko, however, proved to be a disappointment, failing to privatize land or eliminate Soviet-era subsidies as the economy faltered, and he was voted out during the first round of elections in January.

A generally pro-Russia president in Ukraine, however, could relieve tensions rather than exacerbating them. While it seems an absurd concern just now, Russia – which was invaded by Napoleon in 1812 and by Hitler during World War II – has long worried about invasion from Europe. Having a friendly or at least non-hostile regime in Ukraine could ease some of those worries.

The other development is that Ukraine, against some serious odds, has become something resembling a real democracy. Observers genuinely did not know who would win. This stands in stark contrast to Russia, and the contrast does not put Russian leaders in a good light.

Yanukovich’s immediate challenges will be mostly economic. Can he stabilize natural-gas prices with Russia while continuing to open up economic relations with Europe to the West? It won’t be easy, but if he is successful he could eliminate Ukraine as a point of friction between East and West.