Ukraine's Promising Path to Reform

A Narrow Focus on Corruption Overlooks Remarkable Progress

The Ukrainian Parliament building in central Kiev, March 2016. Valentyn Ogirenko / REUTERS

At the recent G-7 summit, U.S. President Donald Trump was reported to have told fellow world leaders that “Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.” Small wonder: for years, U.S. government officials and their European counterparts have publicly castigated Ukraine for dragging its feet on corruption. So too have Western media outlets, whose narrative often echoes the fictitious Russian talking point that Ukraine is a failing, if not failed, state.

Although corruption is a serious problem, the West’s obsession obscures the progress that Ukraine has made in dramatically reducing its scope. Many Western observers have also ignored the other enormous positive changes that Ukraine has experienced since the Euromaidan revolution of 2013–14, which ousted the corrupt, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, triggering Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its invasion of the Donbas in the country’s east. Since then, any hopes that the Kremlin had of keeping Kiev under its thumb have been lost, as Ukraine has set itself on a firm pro-Western, pro-reform course that is probably irreversible. It is no exaggeration to say that, contrary to its image, Ukraine has experienced more positive change and done more things right than any other European state in recent years.


In almost every sphere, there is evidence of remarkably successful reforms and development in Ukraine. For the first time since independence in 1991, Ukraine possesses a genuine army capable of defending the country. At the time of the Russian invasion in 2014, the country had some 6,000 battle-ready troops. Now it has one of the best armies in Europe, numbering over 200,000 volunteers and professionals. It has refurbished formerly out-of-service tanks and armored personnel carriers, developed new missiles, and produced new heavy artillery. Ukraine also possesses a combat-ready national guard of 60,000, a reformed police force, and a revamped security service that has successfully interdicted a number of Russian-financed efforts at promoting terrorism on Ukraine-controlled territory.

The country is also finally developing a functional state apparatus, both nationally and locally. The

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