Ukraine’s Coalition Also a Casualty of Russia-Georgia War

Ukraine’s Parliament is expected to declare its coalition government dissolved tomorrow, after a split between the factions of President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Unless a new coalition is formed within the next 30 days, which at this point seems unlikely, the nation would face yet another snap election, its third in the past three years.

Though the factions have had a strained relationship since the narrow coalition was formed in November, the latest split was fueled by last month’s brief war between Russia and Georgia. President Yushchenko loudly condemned the Russian response, and threatened to bar its navy from the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Prime Minister Tymoshenko, by contrast, dispatched humanitarian aid but remained largely silent on the war itself. Yushchenko then attempted to have Tymoshenko prosecuted for “high treason” for her muted response, claiming she had made a secret deal with the Russians.

Ukraine is becoming increasingly important strategically as tensions between Russia and the West rise. They are presently renting the port at Sevastopol to the Russian Black Sea Fleet, though Yushchenko has expressed a desire to replace the Russian presence with a NATO one. The European Union is also seen courting Ukraine as a potential member.

On a visit to the nation earlier this month, Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States supports Ukraine’s membership in the NATO alliance. The move has been opposed by Russia, who doesn’t relish having to move its fleet from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk after 225 years.

If NATO does end up admitting Ukraine, Russian Ambassador Yuri Fedotov said his nation would consider this a hostile act, and would reexamine the status of its long and virtually open border. Russia is by far the most important trading partner for the nation, and the loss could be economically devastating. The decision is an enormous one, and it could soon be up to Ukraine’s voters to decide yet again where its future lies: with Russia as it historically has, or with the eager West.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.