What’s been happening in Ukraine? I can’t claim to be an expert, but I’ve tried my best to make sense of it.
Central to the news coming out of Ukraine is Euromaidan (transliterated as “Eurosquare”), a series of protests launched in the capital city of Kiev on November 21, after the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) rejected six motions necessary to spur a trade agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. President Viktor Yanukovych opted not to continue in the negotiations, after receiving a better trade deal from the government of Vladimir Putin in neighboring Russia.
Signing the agreement with the EU would have required Yanukovych to enact serious policy changes tackling government corruption, most notably the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison. The subsequent Euromaidan protests had the goal of pushing Ukraine to comply with the EU’s conditions for signing the agreement (and ultimately ratify said agreement), while railing against Russia’s influence on the country.
Euromaidan – which is still ongoing – utilizes the classic hallmarks of political activism (marches, fights with police), but, more strikingly, also implements newer, generally internet-based methods. But probably the part that was most visible to me was seeing the age discrepancies. Central to the protests was the hope that Ukraine would further relations with (and possibly join) the EU; German broadcaster Deutsche Welle found that 65 percent of 18-to-29-year-old Ukrainians supported membership.
I had to stop and think about this, because I’m told that sometimes we Millennials are idealistic to think we can affect any significant change. Okay, to an extent, this is true: I think my fellow college students who protest in favor of raising taxes will change their tune once they go out into the world and make serious money.
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t affect changes in policy – and the movement doesn’t need to be as major or as newsworthy as the Euromaidan. As a libertarian, I’m encouraged by the work that grassroots libertarians have undertaken through organizations like Campaign for Liberty, which has successfully protested against Federal Internet restrictions. As a gun rights supporter, I applauded grassroots activists in Colorado who fought against deep pockets to successfully recall two anti-gun state Senators in 2013.
Okay, so it’s easy for me to support “wannabe revolutions” in these cases because I supported them. Fair point. That doesn’t mean that those who disagree with me can’t affect similar change. The Occupy movement was born in 2011, and former Obama Administration advisor Jared Bernstein has credited the movement with shaping President Obama’s economic policy since then.
The Ukraine protests have already had similar results in that country. The largest of these has been the overthrow of President Yanukovych (who is currently exiled in Russia), as well as the release of Yulia Tymoshenko. The government that replaced Yanukovych, led by acting president Oleksandr Turchynov and newly-minted prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has already taken the lead on the Euromaidan’s biggest issue: resuming trade talks with the EU. Numerous officials in the Yanukovych government have been dismissed from their posts or issued warrants for arrest.
Time will only tell what the long run will be for Ukraine. But if nothing else, I hope that people of “tomorrow’s generation” – looking at you, UWT students – will realize that they have the power to affect serious change. That’s going to have to begin, though, with more of us taking stock of what’s going on, and becoming informed about what’s happening around us.
Comedian and political commentator Dennis Miller once said that America’s Founding Fathers “were blowing people’s heads off because [the British] put a tax on their breakfast beverage – and, you know, it wasn’t even coffee!” Sometimes, considering the events of the state, nation, and the world, I can’t help but think that Mr. Miller has a point – maybe we ought to make some serious changes for our future.