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Ukraine Elections Setup Showdown Between West And Russia

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Sunday saw parliamentary elections swing to the pro-West faction of Ukraine politics with results that will likely keep Arseniy Yatsenyuk as Prime Minister of Ukraine. Yatsenyuk’s party, People’s Front, gained 21.6% of the vote with the bloc supporting President Petro Poroshenko getting 21.5% of the vote. With Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk in control there is little doubt that the government in Kiev will be shifting away from Russia towards the US and EU.

Before the now fully empowered pro-West faction can begin the process of integrating with the European Union it has a few notable challenges. First they will have to somehow stop the Ukrainian economy from collapsing which will be no small task. Then they will have to figure out what kind of arrangement they can live with in East Ukraine in areas now currently controlled by separatists.

All such moves are possible only if Russia decides, in essence, it is willing to let most of Ukraine go to the West – something that remains an open question. Russian President Vladamir Putin has explicitly told policymakers in DC, repeatedly, that he considers Ukraine to be in Russia’s sphere of influence and has even raised the possibility of direct Russian military intervention to prevent Ukraine’s merger into the EU. Ukraine is currently not a member of NATO but is seeking membership which, if obtained, would mean a Russian attack on Ukraine would trigger a war with NATO countries including the United States.

Poroshenko’s first task is to cement an alliance with Yatseniuk‘s People’s Front, which was running neck and neck with his bloc on about 21 percent support after more than half the votes on party lists were counted. Ukrainska Pravda, an online newspaper, calculated that an alliance between those two leading blocs would still not give Poroshenko and Yatseniuk a majority in the assembly. They are likely to turn to Selfhelp, a like-minded party with just over 11 percent of votes. Final results for party list voting and in single constituency seats are due on Oct. 30.

The tandem between the 49-year-old confectionery magnate Poroshenko and the professorial Yatseniuk, who has gone out ahead as an anti-Russian hawk in recent weeks, was emerging as a relationship likely to dominate the new political scene.

Russia has remained silent so far as Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk work to form a new government. The Self-Help Party (or Self-Reliance pending translation) is also a pro-West party and with its 11% of the vote would make a majority if they joined Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk’s coalition in parliament.

Once the government is formed Russia may press its advantage to stop an EU merger which in this case is control of the gas supply going to Ukraine that feeds into Europe. German manufacturing – the heart of the European economy – is largely dependent on Russian energy. Russia recently suspended supplies to Ukraine over claims that Ukraine was not paying its bills.

Previous to the violent overthrow of President Yanukovich and resulting presidential and parliamentary elections Ukraine had pursued a middle path between the EU and Russia. Now Kiev is making a break with Moscow and siding with the EU. If Russia makes good on its many declarations then Ukraine’s troubles could just be beginning.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Ukraine Elections Setup Showdown Between West And Russia

{!hitembed ID=”hitembed_1″ width=”500″ height=”281″ align=”none” !}

Sunday saw parliamentary elections swing to the pro-West faction of Ukraine politics with results that will likely keep Arseniy Yatsenyuk as Prime Minister of Ukraine. Yatsenyuk’s party, People’s Front, gained 21.6% of the vote with the bloc supporting President Petro Poroshenko getting 21.5% of the vote. With Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk in control there is little doubt that the government in Kiev will be shifting away from Russia towards the US and EU.

Before the now fully empowered pro-West faction can begin the process of integrating with the European Union it has a few notable challenges. First they will have to somehow stop the Ukrainian economy from collapsing which will be no small task. Then they will have to figure out what kind of arrangement they can live with in East Ukraine in areas now currently controlled by separatists.

All such moves are possible only if Russia decides, in essence, it is willing to let most of Ukraine go to the West – something that remains an open question. Russian President Vladamir Putin has explicitly told policymakers in DC, repeatedly, that he considers Ukraine to be in Russia’s sphere of influence and has even raised the possibility of direct Russian military intervention to prevent Ukraine’s merger into the EU. Ukraine is currently not a member of NATO but is seeking membership which, if obtained, would mean a Russian attack on Ukraine would trigger a war with NATO countries including the United States.

Poroshenko’s first task is to cement an alliance with Yatseniuk‘s People’s Front, which was running neck and neck with his bloc on about 21 percent support after more than half the votes on party lists were counted. Ukrainska Pravda, an online newspaper, calculated that an alliance between those two leading blocs would still not give Poroshenko and Yatseniuk a majority in the assembly. They are likely to turn to Selfhelp, a like-minded party with just over 11 percent of votes. Final results for party list voting and in single constituency seats are due on Oct. 30.

The tandem between the 49-year-old confectionery magnate Poroshenko and the professorial Yatseniuk, who has gone out ahead as an anti-Russian hawk in recent weeks, was emerging as a relationship likely to dominate the new political scene.

Russia has remained silent so far as Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk work to form a new government. The Self-Help Party (or Self-Reliance pending translation) is also a pro-West party and with its 11% of the vote would make a majority if they joined Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk’s coalition in parliament.

Once the government is formed Russia may press its advantage to stop an EU merger which in this case is control of the gas supply going to Ukraine that feeds into Europe. German manufacturing – the heart of the European economy – is largely dependent on Russian energy. Russia recently suspended supplies to Ukraine over claims that Ukraine was not paying its bills.

Previous to the violent overthrow of President Yanukovich and resulting presidential and parliamentary elections Ukraine had pursued a middle path between the EU and Russia. Now Kiev is making a break with Moscow and siding with the EU. If Russia makes good on its many declarations then Ukraine’s troubles could just be beginning.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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