Columns


Ukrainians must make their election relevant

The word "maidan" means "square" in Ukrainian and in Arabic. And the "Independence Maidan" of Kiev, like the "Tahrir Maidan" of Cairo, has been the scene of an awe-inspiring burst of democratic aspirations. The barricades of piled cobblestones, tires, wood beams and burned cars erected by Ukrainian revolutionaries are still there — indeed, it looks as if it could be the set of "Les Misérables" — and people still lay fresh flowers at the makeshift shrines for the more than 100 people killed in the Maidan by the old and now deposed regime here.

Walking through it, though, I tried to explain to my host that, while I was incredibly impressed, a lot of Americans today have "Maidan fatigue" — too many dashed hopes for democracy in too many squares — from Afghanistan to Iran, Iraq to Egypt, Syria to Libya. Get over it, Ukrainians tell me. Our revolution is different. There are real democratic roots here, real civil society institutions and the magnet of the European Union next door. With a little help, we can do this.

The more I learn here, the more I think they're right. Something very consequential has happened here. In fact, I think the future of Ukraine is one of the most consequential foreign policy challenges of the Obama presidency because it will not only determine the future of Ukraine but of Russia.

It would have been nice if we could have forged a compromise with President Vladimir Putin of Russia that would have allowed Ukraine...

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