Analysts: Ukraine's Challenges Are Also Russia's

December 29,2014

KYIV— Ukraine's pro-European revolution succeeded this year in replacing its Russia-backed president with leaders favoring European integration. But the Kremlin's annexation of Crimea, and support for pro-Russia rebels in east Ukraine, has many worried the country will remain unstable or conditions will deteriorate into all-out war. Political analysts say the Kremlin's actions are a threat to both countries.

Ukraine's leaders marked the one-year anniversary of Ukraine's Euromaidan revolution not with celebration but as a somber occasion.

Relatives of protesters killed in the clashes that led to the ouster of Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych have yet to see justice. And the costs of revolution are adding up.

Thousands have died in ongoing fighting with Russia-backed rebels in the east, a major challenge for Ukraine's new leaders, says Yuri Yakymenko with Kyiv's Razumkov Center.

“For the first time in the history of independent Ukraine we are in a state of war against the biggest aggressor, we can even say adversary. We should call it like it is,” said Yakymenko.

But most Ukrainians, like Euromaidan protester Valentina Bilan, say the sacrifice for a European future is worth it.

“We’ve elected a parliament. Let’s hope that it will work. Everything will be fine in time. We will remember my words. I went through the Orange Revolution (Ukraine’s 2004 pro-democracy uprising). The scariest thing after [a] revolution is that people should not be disappointed,” said Bilan.

The fighting has drawn attention away from much needed economic and political reforms in Ukraine and Russia, as both economies are on a downward spiral.

Russian Academy of Sciences' Yuri Pivovarov says President Vladimir Putin's expansion into Ukraine is also a threat to Russia's democratic achievements.

“Through the politics of aggression, annexation, and intervention in Ukraine, the Putin regime is simultaneously taking the same line internally. That is, the political climate has cooled sharply. The risks for people who think differently, alternatively, for the opposition, have increased significantly. In this sense, the war in Ukraine is also a war in Russia, where the whole government apparatus is warring against dissidence, against people with a differing opinion,” said Pivovarov.

Carnegie Moscow Center's Director Dmitri Trenin says there is little appetite for a much needed compromise between Russia and Ukraine.

“Particularly in the West, because any compromise at this point will be seen as a concession to Putin. And this is totally unacceptable. But if that's the case, then the only exit out of it should be the collapse of the regime here. And, since this is how it is more or less read in the Kremlin, this raises the stakes enormously high for Russia,” said Trenin.

Ukraine's leaders will have their work cut out for them as they try to deal with a resurgent Russia while dismantling the corrupt political culture that sparked the Euromaidan revolution.