Austin Bay
Ukraine has won another important political battle in its war with the Kremlin. Ballots are not bullets but in Ukraine's case, last Sunday's presidential election confirmed the Ukrainian people's will to resist Russian imperialism and defend their independence.

International election monitors estimated 60 percent of the Ukrainian electorate voted on May 25. That is an impressive figure. It becomes even more inspiring given the number of polling stations in eastern Ukraine closed by armed pro-Russian agitators. Radio Free Europe reported that only 426 of 2,430 eastern Ukrainian polls managed to open.

Though not a decisive political victory, the election may prove to be "just enough of a win" to thwart the Kremlin. Conducting successful nation-wide elections, despite turmoil exacerbated by Russian agents and propagandists, demonstrated Ukrainian institutional strength.

Ukraine needs a leader who can direct the people's will to resist -- and it just may have elected one. Petro Poroshenko won the presidency with a first-round landslide. Poroshenko has pro-Western credentials and credibility. He knows how to organize to achieve goals, and he is an experienced decision-maker.

The great Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz wrote that at its most fundamental human-level war is a clash of wills. Will to resist expressed with ballots can quickly translate into sustained resistance -- with bullets, if necessary.

Unfortunately, bullets are necessary. And bullets are flying.

Shortly after his election was confirmed, president-elect Poroshenko announced that his government will hold parliamentary elections, perhaps within the next 60 days. He then declared that "There will be a sharp increase in the efficiency of anti-terrorist operations. They (the operations) won't last two or three months. They'll last a few hours."

Conducting quick parliamentary elections is politically astute. Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin's propagandists portray Ukraine's interim government as illegitimate. Poroshenko knows a new parliament blunts that charge.

It is also an act of political judo. Free and honest legislative elections on the heels of a free presidential election also present Putin with a serious challenge. One of the last things Putin and his cronies want to see is a functioning Ukrainian democracy on Russia's border. Why, it might give the Russian people the idea that they should have a free and honest election.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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