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Kiev's New Coalition
Ukraine Turns West

Huge news out of Ukraine today: One month after the formation of Ukraine’s new parliament in snap elections called by President Poroshenko, five of the six parties in the Rada announced that they’ve signed a coalition agreement that includes plans to move the country towards EU and NATO membership, build permanent military bases in the East, and carry out a detailed reform program. The coalition, which includes Poroshenko’s Bloc and Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front, will carry a strong mandate from the people to pursue its ambitious agenda.

In order to defend against Russia’s official and unofficial military incursions, the coalition plans to take a few major steps. Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty has the details:

The coalition also called for permanent military bases in the country’s east, where the Ukrainian army is fighting a pro-Russia insurgency, and for the allocation of at least 3 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product for defense.

RFE/RL adds some other encouraging notes about the reform agenda:

Additionally, the parties agreed to cancel immunity for lawmakers, reform the election system, ban Soviet and Nazi symbols, and decentralize the power structure.

The parties also agreed to thoroughly investigate the killings of protesters on Kyiv’s Maidan — Independence Square — in February 2014.

This news will not be well-received in Russia’s halls of power. If Ukraine remains politically destabilized, institutionally incapable, and economically depressed, Putin reasons, it won’t be able to move toward the West and out of Russia’s sphere of influence. Indeed, the latest revolution in Ukraine kicked off when former President and Kremlin stooge Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of plans to move closer to the EU at the last minute. And keeping Ukraine away from the West remains one of Moscow’s key motivations for its continued meddling in Donbass. Russia is also motivated by a desire to stop the expansion of Western institutions like NATO; the revisionist power does not exactly welcome a U.S.-led military coalition on its doorstep.

On top of the Westward political pivot and the plan for increased military defense, the energy reforms included in the coalition agreement are some of the most promising signs for Ukraine going forward. They include a restructuring of state-owned Naftogaz that will “separate natural gas extraction, transportation, storage and supply activities” by Q4 of next year, an important move towards a more liberalized energy sector. Crucially, the reforms outline a gradual equalization of gas and electricity prices, doing away with preferential pricing models for specific consumers or industries. The agreement also included energy market transparency reforms and plans to overhaul the Ukrainian energy industry’s taxation and regulatory environment that would, in theory, attract private firms and foreign investors. Through market liberalization, Kiev hopes to unshackle itself from dependence on Russian energy supplies.

This doesn’t mean that Ukraine’s future is certain to be rosy. It’s not by any means clear that Kiev will be able to carry out all of the items on the new agenda successfully—Ukraine is still plagued by endemic corruption, and Moscow seems always to have more tricks up its sleeve. But taken together, the new coalition’s plans amount to about as promising a sign as advocates of an open and free Ukraine could have hoped for.

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  • gabrielsyme

    In general, these are promising and constructive steps. The downside risk, however, is that this decisive turn to the West will trigger an outright invasion.

  • FriendlyGoat

    So, five parties out of six for the whole of Ukraine want to lean westward. Good. I wonder how many residents of the East part feel that way.

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