President Yanukovych’s corrupt regime has fallen. Ukraine now has a chance to make a truly fresh start as a political nation and leave the dysfunctional system of the past behind it. But this will not be an easy task. The country faces imminent, self-inflicted economic collapse, there is a deep disconnect between the parliamentary parties and the various groups on the Maidan, and the events in Kyiv have not yet changed the reality of the old regime’s power base in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Russia still has plenty of leverage in Ukraine which it may choose to use in productive and less productive ways. The cumulative damage of a full-on trade war with Russia – with higher gas prices, reduced lending, call-back of loans and export restrictions – would hit the country very hard. Russia will also have a great deal of influence in the upcoming elections and it may use new levers of influence such as threatening to provoke a split of the country.
In a new ECFR policy memo – Supporting the Ukrainian Revolution – Andrew Wilson explains the situation in Ukraine and argues that the EU needs to support the new Ukrainian government:
- Economic assistance: The most urgent challenges the government faces are the financial situation and regional stabilisation. The country is effectively broke and it can no longer count on Russia’s assistance. Ukraine needs both emergency economic assistance and radical reform: the EU should therefore help fast-track Ukraine towards a new IMF programme and consider immediate bridging assistance.
- Constitutional reform: The EU needs to offer all the help it can to allow Ukraine to build a sound democratic system that has legal basis and is seen as legitimate by its citizens. The EU should also offer help in the investigation of crimes, collection of illegal weapons, and conduct of elections.
- Ukraine's European future: It is symbolically important that the EU reopens negotiations about the Association Agreement but it should not repeat last year's mistakes. In the long term, the EU should be much more open about debating Ukraine’s membership prospects, and stress the importance of Ukraine completing difficult but necessary reforms.
The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.