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Walking the Precipice: Reforming Ukraine through International Pressure

“Ukraine stands at the forefront of the battle between authoritarianism and liberal democracy. The country’s commitment and capacity to progress towards self-reliance are hampered by an ongoing two-front war—against Russia’s full scale aggression on the one hand, and against its internal legacy of corruption on the other.” —USAID 1/13/2020

Image of Volodymyr Zelensky

By Lidia Powirska

The new president of Ukraine has had an eventful nine months, notwithstanding the downing of a Ukrainian airliner by Iranian missiles early this year. After his landslide victory last May, President Volodymyr Zelensky and his majority party moved quickly to implement their promises, such as arranging a prisoner swap with Vladimir Putin and another ceasefire in the Donbass region. But then the impeachment scandal erupted in Washington, and Ukraine was back in the spotlight, its name once again becoming synonymous with corruption. That reputation is exactly what Zelensky had campaigned to change. 

While everyone is talking about the Ukraine-linked impeachment scandal in Washington, profound developments have been taking place in Kyiv under the new president. Last fall, Ukraine’s parliament, Verkhovna Rada, approved the government's Action Program until 2024. It sets out ambitious goals for the newly appointed government. Apart from a strong focus on economic development, targets of the plan included improvement of public services, human capital development, support of institutions designed to combat corruption and promote the rule of law, as well as reforms in the energy, security, and defense sectors. The apparent political willingness of the new government to implement change pleases not only Ukrainians, but also international donors. Undoubtedly, their pressure, and offers of financial and technical support, are of high significance for progress.... Read more about Walking the Precipice: Reforming Ukraine through International Pressure

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Photo of Hicham Alaoui, or Prince Moulay Hicham el Alaoui

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Epicenter is an online publication that provides commentary and analysis on issues that transcend borders. Our team of writers and editors works with academic specialists to help bring clarity to complex global issues. The Weatherhead Center for International Affairs is committed to Harvard's tradition of fostering innovative, timely, policy-relevant scholarly activities that help us all make sense of the world.