by Alexander Vershbow
"Building a democracy isn’t easy, even in the best of circumstances. As a diplomat for over 40 years, I have seen firsthand how difficult it has been for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to overcome the legacy of Soviet authoritarianism, root out corruption, and establish free societies and market economies based on the rule of law.
No country in this region has faced more formidable challenges than Ukraine.
In the 25 years after achieving independence in 1991, Ukraine squandered many opportunities for reform, disappointing the aspirations of its people for a European future based on justice, prosperity and accountable leaders and institutions. When former President Viktor Yanukovych, yielding to Russian pressure, suspended Ukraine's negotiations on partnership with the European Union in late 2013, the Ukrainian people made it clear that they had had enough.
Their frustration led to the Revolution of Dignity on Kyiv's Maidan square, Yanukovych's flight to Russia and, a few months later, the election of new, reformist leaders led by current President Petro Poroshenko.
Since that time, however, Ukraine has had to continue the reform process with a gun to its head, both literally and figuratively.
It has not been easy for Ukraine to start a reform process from the ground up, especially while it has been fighting to protect its freedom and independence from Russian aggression.
Russia has worked to undermine Ukraine through its illegal annexation of Crimea and sponsorship of an armed insurgency in Eastern Ukraine, coupled with economic intimidation and misinformation campaigns. Russia's actions are designed to portray Ukraine as a failed state that doesn't deserve support from the larger international community."