I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Soviet Union, and while Russia makes the nightly news every-so-often (and more frequently lately), I personally don’t know much about the state of its former satellite countries. But on March 8 I attended a CIS event titled “Ukraine- Still Looking Westward? Relations with the EU, the United States and NATO” where speaker Volodymyr Dubovyk from Mechnikov National University, Ukraine offered some insight into Eastern European nation.
Professor Dubovyk, a native Ukrainian, started out by highlighting February 20th, 2014 as a key date in Ukrainian government; on that day members of Parliament voted to remove the current president in response to violent protests that broke out months earlier after the government passed Anti-Protest laws. While admitting the event’s shocking significance, Dubovyk took the tone of a seasoned veteran and shrugged it off as yet another marker in the “continual fight for Ukrainian independence.” While it’s true that Ukraine has been officially sovereign for 25 years now, its kinks are far from being worked out and political pressure, internal and external, makes it difficult for the government to settle on one, clear path. The country lacks government experience. It is in dire need of external aid. And fighting internal corruption is not an easy task for a government still in adolescence.
Clearly, Ukraine needs the counsel and cooperation of external allies to settle its internal problems. These external allies consist of both supranational bodies like the EU, UN, and NATO and individual nations. Dubovyk first dived into Ukraine’s relationship with the EU:
the European Union
While Ukraine is not a member of the EU, their communication began in 1993. However, a major milestone occurred just 12 hours before writing this: the EU approved visa-free travel for Ukrainians within Europe. Two months ago Dubovyk mentioned the possibility of this decision, but expressed skepticism because of the mounting anti-immigrant sentiment within Europe. sidenote: maybe procrastinating this blogpost was the smart thing to do??? The EU’s decision is by no means a sign of impending membership, but it is a step in the right direction for those leaders in Ukraine pushing for European integration. While the EU currently assists Ukraine some in creating and implementing reforms and even works with their public and NGOs, EU membership would offer economic advantages and a stronghold against the ever-present Russian threat. But unfortunately, the EU’s dissatisfaction with former Ukranian president, Yanokovich, and widespread Euroskepticism that’s keeping it from acting boldly mean that Ukrainian membership is indefinate. Dubovyk’s retelling of a common joke pretty much sums it up:
‘When will Turkey be part of the EU?’
Ukraine’s communication with NATO began with the 1994 Partnership for Peace. The question of membership, though, is similar to that with the EU– there are no concrete signs or steps regarding when. However, the public is pretty split about the issue while elites remain optimistic. Playing into the question of membership is the larger conflict with Russia. Trump’s presidency has further muddled things– so far there have only been mixed signals from the White House.