It is easy to see that the European Union can increase economic opportunities for Ukraine. Russia would decrease economic opportunities by forcing the former Soviet satellite into a tighter relationship that would preclude the rest of the world from exploiting Ukraine’s resource rich landscape. The Deep and Comprehensive FTA (DCFTA), an agreement between the E.U. and several non-members that would eliminate barriers to trade and foreign investment, awaits ratification and signing to be finalized. Notably, Russia has repeatedly declined invitations to join the Customs Union with the E.U.
Ukraine’s new electoral system, too, will help rebuff attempts at hegemony by Putin’s Russia. Drafted with the Venice Commission’s help, the electoral reforms received broad approval last year; 81% of Parliament approved, including members from every faction. The negotiations over the new rules saw the chief requirements of both the current government and the opposition codified in the new rules. Further, to prevent Election Day corruption, Ukraine has installed webcams at over 30,000 polling stations.
Due to intrinsic political drama in the Ukraine, the U.S. could easily overlook all that is at stake. In the Washington, DC bubble, it is easy to focus on a few political issues and miss the big picture. And democracy in Ukraine is still too delicate for that kind of mistake on the West’s part. The Ukrainian government now, more than ever, needs allies in the West. They deserve praise for the steps they have taken toward economic and political liberalization, steps that the Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman himself would likely have endorsed.