Director of the Institute of Global Strategies, Kyiv
The change of Ukrainians' social and political attitudes is a natural course of things. During the crisis it's a sign of the sound political system, which is developing on the right track.
Because of the economic recession the protest attitudes are all over the world. The question is how the protests are expressed. Governments change, old coalitions break up and new ones are formed in some countries, as was the case in Latvia and Iceland. The early elections are held in some other countries, for instance in Israel, though the election in this country is connected not only with the economic recession, but also with complicated situation in the field of national security.
The processes in Ukraine are the same. Public reaction to the crisis is manifested in a natural way. People do not go into their shell, there is no domestic migration, which is typical of the authoritarian political regimes. We can see the common political reaction leading to political changes.
It's true that one can observe the decrease of confidence in Cabinet of Yuliya Tymoshenko. Prime Minister's rating is falling. The traditional opposition, the Party of Regions, loses its popularity, although in a less dynamic way. But the ratings of new politicians, representing the second and the third echelon of elites, are growing. The Ukrainians seek new alternatives and finds them pinning their hopes on new politicians. In the case of early parliamentary elections and calendar presidential election they can strengthen their role and offer the society an anti-crisis program.
It is another matter that the early parliamentary and even presidential elections may be held during the serious aggravation of socioeconomic situation in the country. Government can change, but the political system would remain unchanged. The election would emphasize that the Ukrainian political system will continue to be democratic and respond to the external changes readily.
That's why some new trends appear in Ukraine's politics. The first one is people's disappointment over old politicians and setting their hopes on the new ones. The second trend is that the elites start to search the mechanisms of settling the difficult political situation. The first scenario is to change the Constitution. Another one is to hold early parliamentary elections and then to pave the way for the presidential race.
The presidential campaign is to be launched in about 6 months when the President announces it. Someone has already jumped the gun, for instance Yuliya Tymoshenko, who started her campaign in 2008. Now one can speak that the attempts to restart the campaign are made. There is a question: What positions the major presidential candidates will take? Will Mrs. Tymoshenko continue to be the Prime Minister or will she go across to the opposition? What position will be taken by Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the Party of Regions?
One more question is about the Ukrainian foreign policy and its relationship with Russia. The whole world is sustaining a strategic pause, which is connected with both the economic crisis and Barack Obama's coming to power in the U.S.A. The new U.S. Administration is working out new ideas and new doctrines. Previous international alliances and coalitions, which were formed concerning the Iraq issue, are being diluted. The new ones are being established in connection with new U.S. priorities, such as Afghanistan and eastern trade routes. But for all that the old alliances still exist.
A great deal depends on the depth and duration of the economic crisis and on the situation in the leading world economies, such as the United States, EU members, China, Brazil and SAR following the crisis. This will determine the new priorities and the new international relations system.
Currently the world politics doesn't follow the strategic doctrines. It's developing like navigation - everything is situational, the tactics is prevailing. The empirical experience is being formed on the basis of which the world constants and hence the priorities will be understandable including those for the post-Soviet states and, above all, for Ukraine.
I believe that in Ukraine's national security strategy NATO will remain the priority. The economic crisis will change the relations between Russia and Ukraine. Russia also suffers the recession and in some spheres the economic slump is much graver than in Ukraine. So, one cannot say that the Ukrainians sympathize with Russia more and more.
There are top Ukrainian politicians who realize the significance of Moscow factor. They try to enlist the Kremlin's support in the coming presidential election and get some preferences in gas deals, and nothing more.
In my opinion, Ukraine will have clearer foreign-policy priorities after the presidential election, which will coincide with the process of overcoming the crisis. The country will make a clear choice between the West and Russia and is likely to focus on the domestic issues.
The key issue is to strike a balance between the democracy and the state. The democracy in Ukraine does exist, but the state is still weak.