DECISION TIME FOR UKRAINE

The past few months have
 been chaotic in Ukraine.
 From mass protests in
 the capital to allegations
 of torture, the country
 is expressing its great
 displeasure at President
 Viktor Yanukovich’s decision
 to back out of an EU trade
 pact. Ukraine is positioned in
 the center of two very large
 economic forces, with Russia
 on the east side and the
 European Union to the west.
 About half of the country is
 in support of each side.
 Ukraine officially became 
 independent from the
 Soviet Union in 1990, which
 was followed by years of
 economic instability. It
 wasn’t until after the
 economy collapsed in 1998
 that Ukraine finally met some
 economic prosperity in the
 early 2000’s. The economy in
 Ukraine has been suffering
 in the past few years due
 to a hard hit by the 2008
 financial crisis, but Ukraine
 has natural resources and a
 highly educated workforce
 so they should be able to
 pull out of these economic
 hard times.
Moving forward, the country
 finds itself at a crossroads.
 On one hand, Ukraine can
 choose to keep tight ties
 with Russia in exchange for
 subsidized commodities —
 especially cheaper gas — or,
 alternatively, they can try to
 integrate with the European
 Union, with the first step

 

 of passing a trade pact.
 It is widely believed that
 integration with the European
 Union would be beneficial,
 although any short-term
 gains are uncertain, while
 siding with Russia is seen as
 only benefiting the rich and
powerful. Protesters and activists
 have been extremely active
 since November, when the
 President decided to not go
 through with the European
 Union trade pact.
 Since then the conflict has
 escalated, thanks in part to
 the government passing antiprotest
 laws that threaten
 ten years of imprisonment.
 Protestors have responded
 by taking over government
 buildings and building
 barricades in the capital
 city of Kiev. Recently, the
 president has tried to ease
 tensions by agreeing to
 appoint an opposition leader
 as the new prime minister
 and to repeal the anti-protest
 laws, but the protestors are
 not backing down.
 Vladimir Putin has
 indicated that Russia will
 continue to help the country
 and is not connected to
 a particular governmental
 regime. However, Russia has
 not restarted its financial
 aid to the nation and
 has unofficially renewed
 sanctions, so it will be
 interesting to see how
 Ukraine maneuvers its
 economic future between the
 European Union and Russia.