Saakashvili’s advice: ‘How to Keep Ukraine's Revolution Alive’ – Politico
24 February, 2014
Saakashvili’s advice: ‘How to Keep Ukraine's Revolution Alive’ – Politico
Former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili and now a senior statesman at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, published an article on the situation on Ukraine in Politico magazine.
“We need to help buffer against Russia’s negative interference by remaining unified in our support of a clear Ukrainian-driven project. Targeted sanctions against specific individuals, family members, and their assets – like those being discussed and implemented by the White House, the U.S. Congress and the European Union, which
are inspired by the Magnitsky Act – can remain important tools to discourage local or outside actors from attempting to derail what comes next.
We need to help prevent retribution and the perversion of justice and facilitate the establishment of a commission that can help find those individuals responsible for the killing of more than 100 Euromaidan protesters, rather than attempting to hold entire political parties or other groups accountable wholesale – a move that would divide the country irreparably.
In recent months, Ukraine has often been referred to as a nation divided. In reality, it is a complex nation within its borders, not a divided one. Ukraine has people of different language and religious and cultural backgrounds to be sure, and its largely aritificial “east/west divide” has been well-exploited by those who stood to gain from this perception. President Putin, afterall, does not believe Ukraine is really a country. But east or west, Ukrainians still believe they are Ukrainians. The new government will need to remember this as it begins its work.
I believe the steps I’ve suggested will sustain Ukraine’s revolution and allow for transformational reform to begin. Reforms must be sweeping and genuine – innovative to address the specific concerns of the Ukrainian people, deep and broad to prevent cascading crises that will alienate the public. The newly elected leadership must use the trust placed in it by the people to quickly conduct reforms that will:
• Restore a balance of power between branches of government and create accountability to the people;
• Fix parliament as a first step toward creating non-corrupt institutions that will be essential for overseeing reform;
• Ensure economic and political transitions are occurring in unison;
• Work tirelessly to visibly end corruption – in addition to this being a clear demand from the people, it is also a highly practical measure: Money needs to go where it is needed or it will be an obstacle for all reforms; and,
• Build an inclusive state where Ukraine’s diverse groups feel protected, represented and invested in the future – and ensure that the process of governance and reform is equally inclusive.
These steps will be a critical guarantee of trust that will buy time for all that needs to come next. Consolidating a revolution is a very difficult and often unappreciated process, and, as I have learned, leaving hard issues for “better times” can undermine efforts and corrupt the whole idea and legacy of reform. The public’s perception of progress must match the reality that the government is building, and the government needs to stay in touch with their concerns. Ukraine’s new leadership needs to be committed to what they are building and understand that this legacy must live beyond their place in it.
Ukraine, Russia and the West
Russian leaders see Ukraine – and indeed all the countries along their periphery – as their exclusive zone of interest in a zero-sum game vis-à-vis the West. This is because they have the same problem of vantage point with their neighbors as they do at home – they forget to see the people inside the borders. The rest of us should see Ukraine not as a battle to gain or lose one country, but as a fight about whether to allow 46 million people to determine their own future or not.
The United States has invested much since World War II in the modern European project – a vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. Current economic challenges aside, the success of this endeavor over the past 70 years has been staggering.
But now Ukraine has become the first country where people died while waving the flag of the European Union they hoped to join. The people of Ukraine deserve better, and their blood has earned it.
This is not to say Russian help cannot be welcomed if it is positive. To say the Russians have no role in what comes next would be falling prey to their own zero-sum rhetoric. But the upcoming G-8 summit in Sochi must be used to send President Vladimir Putin a clear and unified message on the parameters of his engagement in Ukraine going forward. Any steps that directly or indirectly undermine Ukrainian statehood, territorial integrity or its right to freely choose its future cannot be allowed.
Russia has always overestimated its leverage over the West, as much as the West underestimated its real power toward Russia. It is high time to balance this equation.
The West should not be afraid to show unity to defend the free choice of 46 million people and allow them a better future. Following the G-8 summit, the EU should meet and offer Ukraine a clear road map to membership that will help guide reforms, and help contextualize them for the Ukrainian people.
If Ukraine doesn’t go right, or falls irreparably out of the European orbit, or does not gain material aid from the West after fighting for the right to aspire to membership in that club – no other formerly captive Soviet nation really has a shot. Certainly not Georgia or Moldova – both only a fraction of the size of Ukraine’s population. These states can remain in a gray zone between Europe and everywhere else, popping up now and then with humanitarian, security and economic crises that keep Europe from resting easy very long – or we can end this cycle once and for all by admitting we do have an interest in these places and that their identity matters to us. That we can see beyond problematic elites to the people themselves.
The peoples of the former Soviet states at the periphery of Europe are watching for how we act next to empower the aspirations of the people of Ukraine, as are those in the Caucasus and even those in Central Asia.
And so are the 143 million people of one other post-Soviet state – Russia. For years, Russians have been hounded with the daily propaganda that Slavic orthodox nations are fundamentally incompatible with pluralistic democracy. Russians consider themselves close kin to Ukrainians, and a successful revolution in Ukraine will change not only how Russians see Ukraine and Ukrainians, but how they see themselves, and their own free choice for their future,” artice by Mikheil Saakashvili reads.

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