Bruce Bartlett

 Kathy -- she is now known as Kateryna -- is one of the brightest, most dedicated conservatives I have ever known. She has an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and is well versed in that school's free market economics tradition. The first time we ever met was at a Heritage Foundation event.

 Anyone who encountered Kathy quickly discovered that the liberation of Ukraine from communist tyranny was her primary mission in life, to the exclusion of almost everything else. So it was no surprise to me when she moved to Kiev soon after it broke free of Moscow's control in 1991. I helped get her a position there with KPMG, an American consulting company, where she trained Ukrainians in Western methods of banking, accounting and other fundamentals of a market economy.

 Kathy married Viktor five years ago, while he was still running the central bank. In that position, he was one of the few Ukrainians who was trusted by foreign investors. He has a reputation for honesty as well as competence -- the former perhaps being more important than the latter, given the widespread corruption in Ukraine. A new report from Transparency International ranks Ukraine as one of the most corrupt nations on Earth.

 In December 1999, Yushchenko was named prime minister. By all accounts, he did an excellent job, helping to implement economic and political reforms. This did not endear him to President Kuchma or the oligarchs who have robbed the country blind, so he was sacked in April 2001. Since then, he has been a member of Ukraine's parliament, where he has continued to press for reform.

 Ukraine should naturally be aligned with Poland and other Eastern European countries that have implemented reforms and prospered in the post-communist era, becoming strong allies of the United States in the war against terror. Only its own rotten leadership has held it back. If Yushchenko wins, its promise will be much closer to becoming a reality. Regretfully, if he loses, it could fall even further behind.

 The vote on Sunday is unlikely to produce a winner. More than likely, Yushchenko and Yanukovych will meet again in a runoff three weeks later. That vote will determine Ukraine's future for many years to come.

Bruce Bartlett

Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.

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