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The West and Ukraine

The Economistwarns about Ukrainian default:

Default would sap domestic confidence in Ukraine’s leadership and roil the currency markets again. George Soros, a financier, is arguing for aid before reforms and promoting a $50 billion package. Such a sum has little chance of being found, but he raises a big question about Ukraine’s importance [bold mine-DL]. A Ukrainian collapse would prove Mr Putin’s contention that Western promises mean little and that change in the post-Soviet world leads only to pain. The West may soon have to decide: what is Ukraine worth?

There’s no question that Ukraine is in danger of default, but then this has been true for the last year. The “big question” about Ukraine’s importance to the West has been asked and answered many times over the last year. Contrary to the overblown rhetoric coming from some Western leaders and editorial pages, Ukraine has never been all that important to most Western countries. The U.S. and its European allies certainly aren’t going to fight for Ukraine, and for the most part they aren’t all that interested in providing financial support. That has been proven many times as Western governments keep acknowledging that they aren’t able or willing to do very much for Ukraine.

All of the obstacles to bailing out Ukraine remain. Western institutions won’t lend Ukraine the money it needs without imposing strict conditions, and the Ukrainian government cannot meet those conditions without wrecking itself politically. If the money were “found” to give to Ukraine in the absence of significant reforms, most of it would likely be lost to corruption or sent on to Russia to pay Ukraine’s debts. That would be a waste of funds, and even when there are strings attached there is not much interest in Western capitals to provide a lot of aid. Western governments decided over the last year that Ukraine wasn’t worth very much to them, and under the circumstances it’s hard to fault them for reaching that decision.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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