Playing Chicken in Kiev

Where is Ukraine?

Why you should pay attention to Ukraine–and the surprising resolve of protesters–who have been resolute in the largest protest there since the Orange Revolution:

The true surprise — and one that should inspire democrats around the world — is the spontaneous and spirited resistance of Ukrainian civil society to this about-face. For more than a week, Ukrainians have been protesting in the Euromaidan, and in front of government buildings throughout the capital and across the country. They have done so in miserable winter weather and in the face of police brutality.

What is important about the demonstrators is their certainty that democracy matters, and that it can be made to work. That’s remarkable, because this is 2013, not 1991, or even 2004, when the Ukrainian Orange Revolution prevailed, and then sputtered.

Democracy and independence are no longer shiny imports. Ukrainians have enjoyed some version of both for more than two decades; nine years ago, starting with protests in the same square, they succeeded in getting the democracy and the independence-minded president they wanted.

via In Kiev, High Stakes for Democracy – NYTimes.com.

At the same time, by forcing Ukraine to chose between Russia and Europe, Nicolai Petro argues that this essential country weakens its ability to play the “bridging” role that it inherently possesses and has performed in the past.

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10 Responses to Playing Chicken in Kiev

  1. ryannewell says:

    The recurrence of protests in Ukraine is rather uplifting. At times it seems that Ukraine is trying to slip back into Soviet era policies or give in to Moscow’s every whim. These latest protests may suffer the same fate as the Orange Revolution, but they show that Ukrainians are not rolling over and taking what is given them. As Freeland argues in her article in the NYT, Ukrainians are showing that they do not want state capitalism, but rather democratic capitalism. The protests in Ukraine are just another proof that state capitalism does not work and that those living in such societies have the ability to make their voices heard.

  2. kttoolson says:

    I have been very impressed with Ukraine through these protests. I think that this isn’t just an immature play for short-term economic gains. Ukrainians understand that the democracy is at stake it the government is to side with Russia. They know that it is going to be a rocky start and that they may have to deal with corruption in the government, but they can clearly see that the benefits of joining an agreement with Europe and making a step towards those ideals out weighs those costs. Russia and China have made significant headway in introducing their capitalistic ideals in developing countries. I hope that Ukraine will set a standard for the rest of the International community in regards for fighting for a voice.

  3. jacobbills says:

    I have a gut feeling that in 5-10 years everything will be more or less the same in Ukraine and they will be protesting again. Russia is simply too important to Ukraine and vice versa. Maybe the Russians will decide that Crimea needs to be freed from the heel of Ukraine. Nothing like a breakaway movement to eliminate some democracy and make a country face its hegemon better. Just ask the Georgians about it.

    However, I do hope that Ukraine because more democratic and Euro-centered because of these protests. I’m just not an optimist about it.

    • ryannewell says:

      I have to agree with you about some of what you said. I am not sure that anything will change long-term. However, I do not think that the groups that are protesting will just lie down and take Russian rule and influence in the country. There are, like you said, some really close ties in Ukraine to Russia, especially down in Crimea. This map on the Washington Post does a good job explaining that. I do not know if the conflict will be resolved democratically or if it will take the Russian leaning parts of the country breaking away to solve things, but I do think that these protests are productive and will lead to a more European-aligned Ukraine.

  4. natmyrrha says:

    I love protests that reflect genuine interest for their countries. I believe a key point for change in a nation is when the people start thinking in what is best for everybody instead of carrying for their own persona interests. In the end personal interests are only important in the short-run, while concern with the whole have a greater impact in the long run. It warms my heart to listen to stories like the Ukrainian executive, who’s protesting in favor of something that will make his exports go down for a while. It is this collective though, and awareness of how momentary painful changes will benefit the future of the country, that make changes possible. I am excited for the Ukrainians and how much they can accomplish.

  5. I think that the protesters are very committed to initiating change in Ukraine. They have faced several harsh conditions and continue to protest, which shows extreme commitment–their passion is seen in their actions, especially when they destroyed the statue of Lenin. Also, the protesters are creating a governmental response, seeing that the president of Ukraine is having a round table with past presidents in order to create a solution for the country. Ultimately, I hope that the protesters can continue to invoke a response and that the country will be able to take part of the E.U. in the future.

  6. I am not hardly surprised about the passion of these protesters. It is actually quite simple, once you have tasted the sweetness of democracy you would never want to go back to a monotonous social society. For the first time in history, they have learned what it is like to have free will and not be constrained by a socialist government. If they had not had these latter experiences then they would hardly had anything to protest about, for they would not know any better. They do now and they are going to fight for their freedom.

  7. Megs says:

    I am really impressed by the Ukrainian protesters and the fact that they are so driven for democracy. This comes at a time when our own American people are doubting the effectiveness of our governmental system. But then again, Ukraine has faith in democracy, not the American government, and maybe it’s better that way. Regardless, I agree that their efforts should not be overlooked. If it continues to gain momentum, it could truly become a rallying point for democracy, and I would hope that if they succeed their efforts are duly recognized.

  8. Joshua Dennis says:

    I, like many of the commenters before me, admire the passion and the vigor with which the Ukrainians are taking a stand against their government. They’re finally saying that enough is enough, and this is demonstrated by their continued protests despite cold weather and increasing police brutality. I hope that their efforts continue, and that their voices do not go unheard.

  9. ryannewell says:

    This is a handy timeline from the NYT.

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