Putin’s system is one of hierarchical control (which can be viewed positively if one believes in a “strong hand” and negatively if one does not). The EuroMaidan represents a more transparent and horizontally organized social organization. Of course, reality on the square is more complex than that, but at the most general level this is the case. From my perspective, various technological and structural changes in the global economy require more open and horizontally organized social and political systems so personally I believe the Putin approach cannot succeed over the medium to long term. Clearly there are millions of people around the world who disagree with me.
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The Putin-Yanukovych agreement might buy both some additional time and space to maneuver but fundamentally it addresses none of Ukraine’s structural economic challenges and does not provide Yanukovych with any additional legitimacy. If Ukraine was to run out of money in two months, now it might be six or nine. But the Ukrainian economy is still consuming more wealth than it produces and another day of economic reckoning is ahead. Unlike the EU, Putin is not demanding any structural reforms so the underlying economic dysfunctionality remains. More importantly, Yanukovych has lost his capacity to govern the country as somewhere over half the Ukrainian population no longer accepts the legitimacy of his Presidency. I am not clear how this will play out in detail but I very much doubt the Ukrainian landscape is going to look the same a year from now.
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I reject the notion that Ukraine is a pawn in some battle between the West and Russia. Every society is trying to come to terms with new global realities, including the so-called “west,” which isn’t united either. The challenge for Ukraine is the position itself in a manner to benefit from the new rules of global economic, political, cultural, and strategic engagement. The reforms being promoted by the EU are reforms that are successful well beyond some mythical “west.” The notion of a primal war between a mythical west and a mythical Eurasia led by Russia strikes me as a delusional hold over from the Cold War. Ukraine needs to change not for the west but for itself.