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Ukraine's Road Ahead: Three Things to Know

Speaker: Charles A. Kupchan, Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
February 28, 2014

Ukraine's new government faces several challenges in the coming weeks. However, a successful and careful transition could usher in a new era for the country, bringing in political and economic reforms that afford it more autonomy away from Russia's sphere of influence. Charles Kupchan, CFR's Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow, highlights three things to know about Ukraine's way forward:

  • A Divided Nation: The country is beset by an ethnic and political divide dating back several centuries. Western parts of Ukraine are oriented toward Europe, and the population is largely made up of ethnic Ukrainians. But the eastern part of the country identifies with Russia, and most of the population speaks Russian. As such, "trying to find policies to bring the country into some kind of national unity is going to be very difficult," Kupchan says.
  • Fiscal Fragility: Despite President Viktor Yanukovich's swift fall from power, "there is much hard work ahead," Kupchan warns. Weak institutional infrastructure and the threat of default loom over the country, and it is unknown when foreign powers could come forward with financial aid. "It's not clear whether Ukraine will be able to make the political and economic reforms necessary to get the loans to keep the country fiscally afloat," Kupchan says.
  • A Balancing Act: Delicate geopolitics in the region will continue to factor into the new government's decisions, Kupchan says. Yanukovich's fall from power indicates a political loss for Russia, which has viewed Ukraine as a junior partner in the world. Balancing ties between Europe and Russia will be crucial if Ukraine wants to gain more autonomy, move away from the Russian sphere of influence, and "chart a course toward rule of law and liberal democracy," Kupchan says.

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