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30 September, 2013 16:57   ▪  

The Washington Post: Former Soviet states stand up to Russia. Will the U.S.?

In a replay of the classic East-West rivalry of the Cold War, but with the United States conspicuously on the sidelines, Russia has used economic and security threats to draw post-communist countries into its Eurasian Customs Union and to block the European Union’s Eastern Partnership initiative, Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, writes for WP

So far only Armenia has buckled under Russian pressure. Elsewhere, Moscow’s bullying has backfired. In Ukraine, the biggest prize, Russia’s bullying has been particularly counter-productive.

However, “the process playing out in Europe has attracted little attention in the U.S. media or from the Obama administration, which has been mostly preoccupied with the Middle East and its pivot to Asia. But the opportunities are considerable, and there are important ways Washington could help,” the opinion says.

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“The United States needs to engage with the governments and with civil society in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to ensure that the reform process underway not only promotes greater trade and development but also produces governments that are less corrupt and more accountable to their societies. An Association Agreement with the European Union should be seen not as an end in itself but as a starting point that makes possible deeper reforms and more genuine democracy,” Gershman claims.

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Russian democracy also can benefit from this process, the author admits. “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents. There are signs of the emergence of a new Russian nationalism: the strong performance by opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow’s recent mayoral election and polls that show greater opposition to Putin in the Russian provinces, his traditional support base. This nationalism is concerned not with the restoration of Russia’s imperial greatness, which would be inconceivable if Ukraine joined Europe, but with fighting corruption and addressing the severe economic and social problems of the Russian people. Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself,” the publication concludes.

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