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Ukraine's Next 25 Years

Moving Forward Under a Permanent Russian Threat

Emergency workers inspect a damaged bridge in eastern Ukraine, January 21, 2015. Reuters

As Ukrainians celebrate the 25th anniversary of their independence this year, they would do well to remember that the next 25 years will be far more important—and difficult—than the last.

Ukraine declared independence on August 24, 1991, in exceptionally favorable geopolitical circumstances: the Soviet empire was disintegrating; its Russian successor state was democratically inclined and militarily weak; the United States, the world’s sole superpower, was determined to promote democracy around the world; NATO had proved its mettle and was soon to expand; and Europe was brimming with the self-confidence that would culminate in the formation of the European Union.

Under such benign conditions, Ukraine could neglect fundamental systemic reform and simply get by, as it did for many of its 25 years.

This period of fair weather has ended, and the approaching storm clouds will require Ukraine to cope with far more challenging, as well as existentially threatening, conditions. In order

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