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Europe’s Ukrainian Linchpin

BERLIN – Revolutions, it is said, almost always devour their children. Obviously, this is also true for the “color revolutions” – first in Georgia, and now in Ukraine, where President Viktor Yushchenko, the hero of the “Orange Revolution” in 2004, was voted out in the first round of presidential elections a few weeks ago, having received less than 6% of the vote.

By that point, Ukraine’s springtime of freedom had already deteriorated into a very visible development standstill, owing to a mixture of incompetence and corruption that cried out for change. Regardless of which of the remaining candidates will be elected in the upcoming runoff – the incumbent Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko or Viktor Yanukovych – the Orange Revolution will have come to an end.

So it is worth looking back to the hopes that were linked to those wonderfully expectant days and nights on Maidan Square in the center of Kiev, and to Yushchenko’s electoral victory. It was a victory of democracy and independence over electoral fraud and naked power.

But what happened in the winter of 2004/2005 was not only about the Ukrainian people’s democratic right to self-determination and their national independence, but also about the future of the European order as it had emerged from the Cold War’s end. At the time, Europe immediately understood the challenge and reacted effectively. The elections had to be repeated, and democracy won.