How Ukraine's New Government Could Destroy the Country
The crisis in Ukraine took an unexpected turn this weekend. After a deal was struck between President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition, Mr. Yanukovych ran away. Quite literally. Nobody (except, presumably, a few close allies) knows where he is, though he is suspected to be hiding out in eastern Ukraine or the Crimean peninsula, both of which have large ethnic Russian populations and are sympathetic to the ousted president. A warrant has been issued for his arrest for the mass murder of civilian protesters.
The opposition is now in charge of the country. They must act quickly and carefully to fix Ukraine's enormous problems, otherwise the country could split in two. Here is the opposition's urgent to-do list:
(1) Unify without seeking vengeance. The new government must reunify the country. Mr. Yanukovych's supporters -- including the Kremlin -- feel as though his removal from power was unlawful. That is going to cause long-lasting ill feelings. The new government must make it clear that Mr. Yanukovych's expulsion was due to corruption and corruption only. However, the parliament has already voted to drop Russian as one of the country's official languages. This is a big mistake. It gives the impression that ethnic Ukrainians in the western part of the country despise the ethnic Russians in the eastern half. Does Ukraine really want to have an ethnic conflict added to the current political crisis?
(2) Fix the economy. Ukraine's economy is a shambles. It faces the threat of defaulting on its debt. Banks are limiting cash withdrawals, ostensibly to counter cybercrime, but more likely to prevent a bank run. Ukraine needs to seek immediate assistance from the EU and IMF.
(3) Resist the temptation to engage in corruption. Of course, many Ukrainian politicians probably hold the Demotivator attitude toward corruption, which is, "I want either less corruption or more opportunity to participate in it." But rampant corruption was the underlying reason behind the revolution which deposed Mr. Yanukovych. Therefore, the new government must openly renounce corruption. That very well might mean telling Yulia Tymoshenko, who was jailed under the Yanukovych regime and is widely perceived to be rather corrupt herself, to not run for the presidency.
This list is a tall order for Ukraine. With Mr. Yanukovych's whereabouts (and machinations) unknown, the crisis in Ukraine may be just beginning.