According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), this agreement has reduced Ukraine's financing needs for the next four years by no less than $15 billion. This is a huge achievement for Ukraine's government, and Kyiv managed to accomplish this without having to impose a moratorium on debt repayment.
The current escalation indicates Russian discontent with Ukraine's refusal to make unilateral concessions such as allowing the creation of a demilitarized zone in Shyrokyne near the city of Mariupol without reliable guarantees that Russian-backed separatists won't take back this area after Ukrainian forces withdraw.
Putin's main problem is that he needs to keep acting. He didn't invade Ukraine because he feared for the rights of its Russian-speakers. Rather, it was a diversion from problems at home. He expected a walk in the park when he returned as president in 2012. Instead, he encountered the largest anti-government demonstrations since the fall of the Soviet Union. Nothing terrifies Putin more than popular protests. As a KGB-agent in Dresden, he saw firsthand how East Germans toppled the oppressive system he had dedicated his life to preserve. What if Ukraine's Euromaidan had inspired Russians to do likewise?
In just over a year, Russia has seized 9 percent of Ukraine, killed 6,200, wounded 30,000, displaced 1.38 million people, and shot down a commercial airliner with 298 people aboard.
Even so, European and American retaliation has been soft, and ineffective. The Russians have ignored a February ceasefire agreement and captured another 28 towns and villages, 250 square kilometers, and killed 200 Ukrainians. It's also moving tanks, artillery, troops, and equipment into Ukraine by the trainload.
Ukraine ranks 142nd out of 175 countries on Transparency International's latest annual Corruption Perceptions Index. Of the fifteen former Soviet republics, only Tajikistan and Uzbekistan score lower. Official graft is widespread, but public procurement corruption tops the Kyiv government's list of challenges. In early 2014, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk noted that 40 percent of the $25 billion spent annually on public procurement "stays in the corrupt pockets of the people who carry out these purchases." Under the old regime, 50 percent kickbacks in state tenders was considered normal, and a survey from Business Environment and Enterprise Performance discovered that an astounding 99 percent of firms expect to pay bribes to win government contracts.
If only this were true. In fact, even though Russia hasn't yet attacked Ukraine head-on, and the time for such a full-scale offensive is slipping away—not to mention the crippling impact sanctions and falling oil prices have had on Russia's economy—the Kremlin threat has not gone away.
The day I learned about Mr. X's remarkable academic achievements, the weekly magazine Vlast Deneg named Education Minister Serhiy Kvit the most successful reformer in Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's cabinet. The press praised Kvit for adopting the Higher Education Law, which broadened universities' autonomy and brought Ukraine's higher education systems in line with global academic standards. Kvit had quickly ended the corrupt state procurements of school textbooks and revoked the accreditation of 70 universities with low academic standards. Under ex-Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk—now a fugitive from Ukrainian justice—textbook printers allegedly paid millions of hryvnia in kickbacks, while numerous private universities easily renewed their academic licenses after paying tokens of respect to the right people.