Ukraine Shows the Strength of a Free People

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a confrontation of a dictatorship against a free people. The free people are winning in no small part because they are free.

Ukraine and Russia both emerged from the ruin of the Soviet Union with the burden of generations of oppression. Both countries struggled to rebuild themselves as free countries with market economies and democratic systems. Russia’s initial prospects for success might have been somewhat better: President Boris Yeltsin defeated efforts by leftist nationalists and then communists to seize power and return Russia to autocracy. Ukraine’s leadership in the 1990s lacked Yeltsin’s vision and determination.
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The two countries’ trajectories crossed in the 2000s, however. Yeltsin gave Russia to Vladimir Putin, who moved rapidly to consolidate power that soon reached dictatorial levels. Ukraine’s politics, on the other hand got messier. The 2004 Orange Revolution showed the Ukrainian desire for honest elections on the one hand. Oligarchs developed economic and political power-bases and struggled for control of the state on the other. Corruption flourished in Ukraine as it did in Russia, but whereas Putin centralized corruption in his hands, Ukrainian corruption decentralized among the competing oligarchs and others. Putin’s centralization made governing Russia easy; Ukraine’s decentralization made governing Ukraine hard.

Then the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution in Ukraine overthrew a Russia-friendly autocratically-minded leader and brought to power a pro-Western and pro-democracy president. Decentralization still made Ukraine hard to govern, as did corruption that continued at lower levels despite steady efforts to combat it, but the new leadership committed Ukraine to a freer path, hoping to join NATO and the European Union.

The Russian seizure of Crimea and invasion of Donbas in 2014 galvanized Ukrainians. It drove a burst of Ukrainian patriotism that had been slowly awakening since the country’s independence. It did not bring order to the Ukrainian government …read more

Source:: Time – World


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