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Will the United States support Ukraine's opposition forces?

Question submitted by Isaiah Smith, from Birdville High School, February 10, 2014

Answered by: Charles A. Kupchan, Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow

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It is in the interests of the United States to see Ukraine emerge as a stable democracy with strong economic and political ties to the European Union. The United States sides with and supports the Ukrainian opposition—inas much as many of the demonstrators in Ukraine are protesting President Viktor Yanukovych's infringements on democratic practices, his government's use of violence against the demonstrations, and his decision to conclude an economic pact with Russia rather than with the EU. Washington has manifested this support through the regular visits of U.S. officials to Ukraine and its ongoing efforts to work with the EU to put together an offer of economic assistance that persuades the Ukrainian government to reconsider its earlier decision to pursue deeper economic integration with Russia rather than Europe.

The situation in Ukraine remains volatile and fluid. The opposition has made progress in putting pressure on the government. Yanukovych has dismissed his prime minister and other key officials, and has repealed legislation that curtailed dissent. Yanukovych's personal power also seems to be waning; even in eastern Ukraine, which is more pro-Russian and his electoral base, protests have been taking place. In addition, Yanukovych has stated that he wants to resolve the crisis through "dialogue and compromise." Nonetheless, the government and the opposition remain at a political impasse. Sporadic violence continues to occur, some protestors have been killed, and members of the opposition have been exposed to beatings.

The U.S. government has repeatedly stressed that all parties need to arrive at a peaceful resolution to the standoff. Whatever political changes might be forthcoming should occur through constitutional means.