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    First 100 Days of Poroshenko Presidency: Ukraine’s Westward Shift Draws Only Moral Support

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    On Sunday, September 14, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will mark his first 100 days in office. He took the post with firm intentions to integrate Ukraine with Europe and bring back Crimea, and become a strong rival to Russia’s Vladimir Putin in the eyes of the West.

    MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) – On Sunday, September 14, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will mark his first 100 days in office. He took the post with firm intentions to integrate Ukraine with Europe and bring back Crimea, and become a strong rival to Russia’s Vladimir Putin in the eyes of the West. However, the cordial welcome Poroshenko received from the West has so far failed to net him any financial aid.

    MAKE YOUR BETS

    Western players have placed their stake with Poroshenko, for whom cozying up with Russia is not in the cards. Barack Obama has called him a “wise selection” to lead Ukraine after their meeting earlier this year. In the West, the media portrays him as a leader, fighting “against advancing Eastern (Russian) imperialism”. In an opinion piece published by the Huffington Post, French philosopher and author Bernard-Henri Lévy recalled his first meeting with the chocolate king, comparing him to a young Josip Broz Tito, the future president of Yugoslavia, who had been recruiting for the International Brigades in Spain. “A reluctant war leader – a sentinel for Europe, which he has come to believe in almost as much as he believes in Ukraine itself – standing his ground against Putin when so many of his contemporaries prefer to lie low and seek accommodations, Petro Poroshenko is taking his place in that gallery of great figures who have always fascinated me, figures whose common characteristic is, at a given point in their life, to be seized by destiny, to hear within themselves the previously unheard voice, and to find the path to greatness,” Lévy said.

    For some politicians in Europe and the US that path to greatness lies not so much in adhering to the European values, but in distancing Ukraine from Russia. “Poroshenko on his own is not a threat [to Russia] but in reality he is because he is backed by Americans” and Europeans, Marcus Papadopulos, the chief editor of the Politics First magazine (UK), told RIA Novosti. “[T]he fact that he is being backed by the Americans and backed by the Europeans means that he does constitute a very serious challenge to Russia. And why is that? Because he wants to bring Ukraine into the West’s orbit. He wants to see Ukraine join the EU and more importantly and more deadly for Russia he wants to see Ukraine join NATO,” the expert added.

    European media gladly contrasts “Ukrainian democracy” with the “Russian bear”. … “Western media is part of the mechanism of Western governments. Therefore, Western media has demonized Russia [and] elevated Poroshenko to a position where he is a freedom fighter [who] is just … protecting his country,” Papadopulos stated.

    “If … we are talking about the mainstream politicians in Europe, than Poroshenko is seen as a leader who is standing up to an aggressive country and really wants to protect the independence and sovereignty of his country,” the expert said.

    MORAL SUPPORT

    Such Western attitude toward the Ukrainian leader has been reinforced with ostentatious action. Even before inauguration Poroshenko started to establish personal contacts with Western leaders. On June 4, Poroshenko visited Warsaw to take part in the 25th anniversary of the first partially free elections in Poland and had a meeting with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski. Poroshenko also met Barack Obama at the event. Then Poroshenko joined world leaders in marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. He attended a lunch given by the President of the French Republic at the Château de Bénouville along Queen Elizabeth II, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    On 27 June, the Ukrainian president’s political career marked a milestone event – Ukraine signed the association agreement with the European Union. The document was signed in Brussels bringing Maidan’s and Poroshenko’s dream closer to reality.

    NEVER TOO MUCH MONEY

    Now Ukraine has to walk a long road from association to full membership in the EU and probably to joining NATO. At the latest NATO summit Western leaders reassured Poroshenko that they support the Ukrainian people. The bloc has pledged to give Ukraine 15 million euros to boost security in four areas including cyber defense. However, Ukraine should not expect any military deliveries and assistance from NATO. For its part, the US has said it would give Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, the State Border Guard Service and the National Guard $60 million.

    Ukraine can count on $17 billion that IMF approved for the country to support its budget. That money is provided in loans as long as Kiev carries out reforms. Currently, IMF has already given Ukraine $4.51 billion. In its turn, the European Union has pledged to give Ukraine 510 million euros' loan and another 250 million euros as a grant before the year is out. The European Commission has pledged to give 2.5 million euros to those affected by the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

    Experts name two reasons why Ukraine should not count on the real financial aid to support the country’s collapsing economy in the near future. Firstly, the European Union, which should become the main donor at the instigation of the US, has not coped with the aftermath of the economic crisis. Hundreds of billions of euros have already been spent to support such EU members as Greece, Hungary, Ireland, etc. Sanctions’ war with Russia has only reinforced that unfortunate trend.

    Partly for that reason, the majority of ordinary Europeans, not least in the UK, are indifferent to the crisis in Ukraine and don’t understand what is really happening in that country. They care that people are dying but “because of the serious economic crisis plaguing Europe … most ordinary people are just concerned about themselves, their jobs, their families, their security,” Papadopulos said.

    Thus, the US and the EU are not ready to back up their political support with substantial financial aid. Their only moral satisfaction comes from the sanctions imposed on Russia.

    NOT SAFE AT HOME

    Analysts say that restraint displayed by the EU and the US regarding Ukraine does not improve Petro Poroshenko's standing. Since day one the Ukrainian president has said that his main objective is to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. He has proposed a peace plan and even said that he was ready for dialogue with Russia, since you can’t choose your neighbors. Despite the fact, that a ceasefire has been announced twice now and with the latest being more or less observed for almost a week, Poroshenko has failed to fulfil the task, according to analysts. “The people in the Donbas will never tolerate the Ukrainian soldiers… They will never tolerate Ukrainian police and armed forces being on their territory again. So even if the Donbas wants to remain a part of Ukraine, it would only be part of Ukraine technically speaking. In reality, it would be separate,” Papadopulos believes.

    Maidan’s calls for reforms have retreated into the background only temporarily, French daily Le Monde writes. “Demands of the people’s movement have taken a back seat due to the war and economic collapse in Ukraine. Poroshenko has to make every effort to stabilize the situation. Otherwise, a “third Maidan” (with the first and the second being the revolutions in 2004 and at the end of 2013) is extremely likely to occur,” journalist Benoît Vitkine wrote from Donetsk.

    Poroshenko’s position depends highly on the interests of Ukraine’s financial elites, maintains Aymeric Chauprade, counselor of the Front National’s leader, Marine Le Pen. “The problem of Petro Poroshenko and other Ukrainian leaders is to understand whether he can be truly independent of the financial interests of the oligarchic cast tightly connected to the US. Separating himself from those financial interests would be a sign of prudence and he would understand the obvious – without links to Russia Ukraine has no future. Kiev has to understand that,” the member of the European Parliament said.

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    presidency, EU, Petro Poroshenko, Normandy
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