Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tymoshenko's Realism vs. Yushchenko's Politics of Hope
Yushchenko continues to espouse "the politics of hope"--to try to appeal to values as a basis for Ukraine's move westward. When he receives vice president Cheney tomorrow, I am sure the rhetoric of freedom will saturate the air. But what beyond words is on offer?
Tymoshenko is much more of a realist, it seems. She has her finger on the expansion fatigue in the Euro-Atlantic community and drew what seems to be the correct conclusions about the West's willingness to forcefully respond to Russia's resurgence in the Eurasian space. She and her party decided that symbolic gestures meant to irritate Moscow weren't going to be of much value to Kyiv--hence her much lower key response to events in Georgia. At the same time, she does seem more interested in how the winds of a reviving Russian economy might blow in the sails of Ukraine--and how events in Georgia might be a silver lining for Ukrainian interests.
I'm sure that Tymoshenko has heard the same message I've heard German officials deliver in private--that Berlin (and by extension most of the other Western European countries) are more amenable to Ukrainian integration if 1) Ukraine settles its affairs with Russia and 2) Ukraine's economy grows rapidly. (The line I heard was this: "When Ukraine's economy is like Switzerland's, we'll have no objection to membership.") I also think that in her calculations the more that a "sober and sensible" Ukraine can be contrasted with an "impulsive" Georgia under the Saakashvili administration, the better off Kyiv will be.
I'm not downplaying the importance also of the ongoing power struggle between Yushchenko's presidential administration that is loath to surrender the powers and privileges it inherited from Leonid Kuchma and the desire of Tymoshenko's secretariat to boost its own status by enhancing the powers of the prime minister. At stake here is who exactly should control the valuable state companies in Ukraine--for gas and oil, mining, and other natural resources. But the Georgia crisis has brought matters to a boil in Ukraine.