Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Though discussed quite less as of late the Ukraine remains an important point of observation for political and military affairs in Europe and the United States. Importantly, the Ukraine holds a geographically strategic position in relation to Russia (and the Black Sea), is an important variable for further NATO expansion, and has exhibited notable efforts towards political and economic westernization. Therefore, developments in Ukraine are of global significance and dramatically impact balance of power assessments for Russia and the West. Consequently, the economic crisis that has fallen upon the world has hit the Ukraine particularly hard, and has put its political future in serious doubt.

To begin, the national economy is on the verge of collapse. The steel and chemical factories which form the backbone of Ukrainian industry are all suffering reductions or closures. Private national banks are increasingly facing capital pressures or have already succumbed to insolvency. Most recently, the IMF refused to disburse $16.4 Billion in rescue money and the government itself if facing the likelihood of debt default.

Furthermore, President Viktor Yushchenko has become quite unpopular as of late. Ascending to power in the “Orange Revolution” – a mandate against Russian influence – the government has been criticized as unresponsive and incompetent as of late. An ever-popular view is that westernization efforts and political bickering have contributed greatly to the current state of economic disarray and will continue to make Ukraine vulnerable to western developments. In turn, the probability for significant political change is very high.

As a result, it is likely that the Ukraine will become a hot topic once again in the near future. The traditional political and ethnic divisions within the Ukraine are clear, but the global economic crisis may push these pressures to a dangerous point for the interests of the West. This set of circumstances comes at a time when the U.S. remains bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and Russia has been flexing its influence anew on the former Soviet States.

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