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Ukraine Comes in From the Cold

Questions about Ukraine's place in the world have largely been lost in the joyous din of our 'Orange Revolution.' But Ukraine's born-again democracy obliges us to assume a more exposed role in a complex world: to wonder where and in what sort of Europe Ukraine fits; what balance it should strike between Russia and Europe; and how it should find the self-assurance needed to play its full part in world affairs.

It would be folly to suggest that Ukrainians start with a blank slate. Centuries of being part of the Russian and Soviet empires have, in different ways, shaped how Ukrainians view their country and its interests.

One consequence of this is that Ukrainians are usually shy about asserting Ukraine's independent interests plainly, or expressing national pride. Politicians here often obscure arguments about foreign policy with cyphers and taboos, and encourage a provincial view of international affairs. Some prefer to believe that foreign policy is best conducted with our heads in the sand.

But independence, and the coming of true democracy, made Ukraine into a country like any other. Most Ukrainians recognize that fact and talk purposefully about their place and role in the world, as nerve wracking as the people who are nostalgic for the Soviet Union find that phenomenon.