November 27, 2004

A Worm in the Ukrainian Apple?

This story suggests pure optimism about the situation in the Ukraine may not be justified:
"But Ukraine, a country bigger than France with a population of 47 million, is not the Czech Republic. Its history of independence is sporadic and, crucially, it borders Russia and hosts that nation's warm-water fleet.

"Neither is it Romania. Leonid Kuchma, the man who has ruled the country with a rod of steel for most of its post-Soviet period of independence, is no Nicolae Ceausescu. He may stand accused of bribery, corruption, stifling authoritianism and complicity in the murder of a critical journalist. But he is by no means a universal figure of hatred; he commands serious respect among large swathes of the populace.

"Nor is the country united. It is in fact implacably divided, with the Dnipro river serving as a fault line that splits the country almost exactly in half. The more Russified east backs Mr Yanukovych, and the west and centre, which sees the country's future in the EU, supports Mr Yushchenko. Watching dramatic images of fired-up Yushchenko supporters marching through the streets of Kiev is arresting, but similar scenes are being played out in pro-Yanukovych strongholds. Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of his voters took to the streets of Donetsk.

"The 'Czechoslovakia scenario' is therefore never far from people's minds, with many Ukrainians fearing the political crisis could cause the country to split into two new states or prompt entire regions such as the Crimea to secede."

We'll see. Whether the European Union wants an impoverished nation of 46 million people is also a question.

If they're going to have mass immigration, which seem likely given the population decline, better Ukrainians than North Africans, who harbor an Islamist minority.

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