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Jonathan Eyal

A way out for Ukraine

Upcoming presidential polls will not solve Ukraine's woes. Its history and geopolitical realities call for unique solutions.

Published on May 19, 2014 1:54 PM

UKRAINE is going to the presidential polls at the end of this week a torn, bankrupt state, a country which is no longer secure about its national identity, let alone its territory. Yet, all the protagonists in this crisis believe that, somehow, the ballots themselves will provide a way out of the existing logjam.

Ukraine's revolutionary government assumes that it would somehow strengthen its legitimacy with a newly elected president. Its Western backers hope that, once a new head of state is in charge, Ukraine's current rulers will suddenly become efficient and incorruptible, qualities which eluded all their predecessors.

And, brooding darkly from the sidelines, Russia believes that the entire electoral process will fail, forcing the West to accept that Ukraine must eventually be carved up between its various minorities, with ethnic Russians getting the lion's share of the land.

Yet, everyone is likely to be disappointed. A new Ukrainian president will not signify the end of the power struggle, but merely the start of a new one. And although Ukraine will remain disfigured by ethnic violence, it will not break up into pieces as Russia wants.

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Background story

Any attempt to kick-start the Ukrainian economy would succeed only if it comes in cooperation, rather than competition, to Russian interests. And it also means that, like it or not, Western governments will have to be engaged in a dialogue with Russia about the form of a future Ukrainian Constitution, and especially over the measures of autonomy granted to ethnic Russians in the eastern part of the country.