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The West’s “False Promise” to Ukraine

Simon Shuster reports on the gap between Western rhetoric about the Kiev protests and what the governments are willing to offer:

So it remains to be seen whether Europe’s generosity can match Ukrainian needs. To save the country from defaulting on its debts, the government says it requires more than $20 billion just to pay off its immediate obligations, including at least $2 billion owed to Russia for natural gas supplies. Over the next seven years, Ukraine would need more than $200 billion to fund the reforms the E.U. is demanding [bold mine-DL], according to Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. And there is no way the E.U. would pony up anywhere near that kind of money, especially considering Ukraine’s reputation for corruption. “It’s a black hole,” says Stefan Meister, a Ukraine expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “If you put money into it, half of it ends up in secret accounts somewhere in Switzerland.” [bold mine-DL]

I’m trying to imagine a scenario in which leading European governments throw that much money at a corruption-riddled non-EU state, but I can’t see it. It would be a huge waste of resources on their part, and especially right now that is something that European governments couldn’t sell to their parliaments or their publics. That is especially true of EU member states that are suffering from their own severe economic and fiscal problems. Shuster concludes:

This week, the rotating presidency of the E.U. went from Lithuania, which has championed Ukraine’s integration with Europe, to the debt-wracked nation of Greece, which has little patience for charity cases other than its own. So in the next few months, just as Ukraine edges toward financial ruin, the concern of its western neighbors will likely fade away.

If that’s right, then the recent talk from Western diplomats and politicians of showing solidarity with the protesters will be revealed as so much empty bluster. Shuster writes:

But apart from these gestures, it is far from clear whether the West is willing or able to pull Ukraine out of its ongoing crisis. “It’s a false promise,” says Stephen Szabo, the head of the Transatlantic Academy, a policy research center based in Washington. “It’s going to lead to disillusionment in Ukraine.”

That should make us all wonder what the point of these shows of “support” really was, since there was never much chance that they would translate into real support. It would have been less misleading not to pretend that “the West” was coming to provide meaningful assistance when words appear to be the only thing that Western governments are prepared to offer.

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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