Dr. Vlad Sobell (DAIWA Institute of Research), the world’s top expert on post-Communist transition in Eastern Europe and Russia, has published yet another masterpiece: “Ukraine: toward a new balance between Russia and the West.”
Sobell argues that the understanding of Ukraine’s domestic and foreign policies is only possible when taking into account its complex geopolitical situation. Stuck between Russia and the West and split between industrialized, Russian-speaking East and mainly rural, Ukrainian-speaking West, Ukraine suffers from having an inherently unstable internal structure. Sobell goes on by saying:
“The careful balancing between the eastern and western regions (and between Russia and the West) … is the vital ingredient in the preservation of Ukraine’s viability as a unitary state … An excessive move either in a westward or eastward direction might produce internal strains, spelling possible split along Ukraine’s east-west fault-line.”
Previous regimes (of presidents Kravchuk and Kuchma) have largely succeeded in maintaining this broad balance between the West and Russia. The reward has been a decade-long era of relative political calm and sustained economic growth.
The political stability of previous years was violently shattered by the “orange revolutionary” Victor Yushchenko, whose accented pro-Western priorities, including early NATO membership, have ignited the anti-Western/NATO reaction in Ukraine’s eastern regions. Like a tumor, the resulting political spoilage has inevitably metastasized into economy: annual growth slowed down sharply, inflation picked up, investments into economy all but collapsed. It is only after the formation of the “pro-balance” cabinet of Victor Yanukovich that the economic indicators began steadily move upward.
Sobell’s analysis implies that regardless of how one might define Yushchenko’s policies – pro-Western or anti-Russian – the proper definition is this: they are anti-Ukrainian.