Eastern Europe

  • Why Do So Few Presidential Candidates Support NATO and EU Membership?

    Out of forty-two candidates who are running for president in the Ukrainian elections on March 31, only eleven support NATO and EU membership. This represents a lower proportion of supporters than the over 300 deputies who voted on three occasions to change the constitution to include those two goals. Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party and the Radical party voted for those constitutional changes, but neither Yulia Tymoshenko nor Oleh Lyashko—who lead these parties, respectively—include NATO and the EU in their election programs.

    A high proportion of the candidates are using the presidential election to obtain name recognition ahead of the October parliamentary elections and some act as technical candidates to take votes away from others. The lack of support for EU and NATO membership among the 44 candidates is a product of two factors. The first is Batkivshchina and the Radical Party have always held contradictory positions; on the one hand, they support constitutional changes while over the last five years they have provided half-hearted support for reforms and espoused the same anti-IMF rhetoric as the pro-Russian Opposition Bloc. The second is by not including NATO and EU membership goals, these “opposition” candidates seek to distance themselves from incumbent Petro Poroshenko. Both of these factors are perplexing when one considers that polls show that a majority of Ukrainians support EU and even NATO membership.

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  • Who Is Ready to Lead Ukraine?

    It’s election season in Ukraine. While there are forty-two candidates officially registered, the competition, according to recent polls, comes down to three: incumbent President Petro Poroshenko, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and newcomer and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy. In January, UkraineAlert examined the foreign policy views of the five leading candidates. Now we narrow the focus to the top three.

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  • Building a Capable State: Ukraine Reforms Architecture

    On March 1st, the Atlantic Council’s Global Business & Economics Program’s EuroGrowth Initiative, together with the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center co-hosted a discussion on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (EBRD) efforts to promote ambitious reforms of the Ukrainian economy.

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  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished in Ukraine

    Ukraine is in danger of backsliding, big time, and few people realize just how serious it is. This week, the Constitutional Court eliminated a law which made corrupt officials liable for illicit enrichment. This will immediately result in the closure of sixty-five high-profile criminal cases. The court decision may jeopardize Ukraine’s relations with international institutions.

    But that’s not all. There’s a serious effort to undermine Ukraine’s new anti-corruption institutions underway that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.

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  • Why Poroshenko Doesn’t Deserve a Second Term

    Ukraine needs a change.

    The latest scandal, involving allegations of massive profiteering from the war against Russia by well-connected Ukrainians, proves the need for a new leader in the upcoming presidential election.

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  • Q&A: Will Scandal Sink Poroshenko’s Second Term Chances?

    On February 25, investigative journalistsaccused President Petro Poroshenko’s close associates of getting rich by smuggling spare parts for military equipment from Russia. The Bihus.Info report claims that the son of Oleh Hladkovskiy, deputy secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, was the mastermind behind a scheme to buy spare parts from Russia in 2015. The year before, Russia annexed Crimea and occupies part of the Donbas. Bihus.Info alleges that Ukraine bought the goods from private companies linked to Hladkovskiy at inflated prices and that Ukroboronprom, the state company that oversees everything, knew the origin of the parts.             

    Bihus.Info says that it received the information from anonymous sources. It was published weeks before Ukraine’s presidential election on March 31. 

    Before the scandal broke, most polls put Poroshenko in second place. Support for the army has been one of Poroshenko’s main campaign themes, and he recently said that he wouldn’t allow anyone to steal from the army.

    We asked the Atlantic Council’s Ukraine experts and friends the following questions: How serious are the allegations? How will they impact the presidential race? Is it game over for Poroshenko? Should we be concerned about where the information came from?

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  • Which Ukrainians Will Lose Most if Zelenskiy Becomes President?

    It goes without saying that all Ukrainians will be losers if and when a dreadfully inexperienced and politically ignorant comedian takes charge of Ukraine’s ship of state. As the economy goes into a tailspin, corruption flourishes, and Russian President Vladimir Putin bares his teeth, all Ukrainians will be far worse off than they are today.

    But who will be even worse off than the average?

    Ironically, it will be Zelenskiy’s supporters among young people and the southeast. And all thanks to Putin.

    Prediction is always a risky business, but we can safely predict that Putin will view Zelenskiy’s election as a golden opportunity to clean up the mess he got Russia into in the occupied Donbas.

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  • Ukraine’s Athletes Shine Through National Gloom

    Five years after the Euromaidan, most analysis of Ukraine is grim. It tends to focus on the patchy reforms that have been put in place, the country’s endemic corruption, the ongoing war in its east, and the current unpredictable presidential election campaign. Hardly any of the coverage is positive.

    But that’s not the full picture. Writers and analysts have missed something important: the country has emerged as a leader in sports, uplifting the spirits of Ukrainians in the process. Ukrainian athletes have given their compatriots a renewed sense of pride and optimism during this difficult period.

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  • The Eurovision Guide to Modern Ukrainian History

    Anyone who feels that Eurovision has become too politicized need look no further than Ukraine for confirmation. Nobody takes the song contest quite as seriously as the Ukrainians, who treat it as an extension of foreign policy complete with furious nationwide debates and heavy-handed government interventions. The latest scandal, which has seen the winner of the national competition deselected following outcry over her decision to continue performing in Russia despite the state of undeclared war between the two countries, is entirely in keeping with the exaggerated political importance attached to Ukraine’s annual participation. Indeed, for students of modern Ukrainian history, the country’s yearly Eurovision soap opera serves an entertaining guide to Ukraine’s broader post-Soviet progress.

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  • The Audacity of Ulana Suprun

    There was a distinct sense of the theatrical inside and outside Kyiv’s Administrative Court #2 earlier this month as it decided the fate of Dr. Ulana Suprun, Ukraine’s acting minister of health.

    Leaving the proceedings, one was left with at least two seemingly absurd questions: what was this showdown all about and why was an “administrative court” deciding the fate of a politically appointed cabinet minister?

    All societies where corrupt ethical practices hold sway tend to produce narratives which suggest both an overt and hidden meaning, and which, almost always, cause confusion as to the meaning of the narrative that people have witnessed.

    However, from the beginning there was never any doubt that this was a political showdown instigated by MP Ihor Mosiychuk, seen throughout the country as he was filmed accepting bribes, and three political parties, Opposition Bloc, Fatherland, and the Radical Party, to personally discredit the minister and her efforts at “transformative reform” of the country’s medical system.

    What became immediately evident was that this clash was never really about the questions of her citizenship, or her status as “acting minister,” or even about who was running the ministry or had signing authority while she traveled on business.

    How did we get here?

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