Even without these civilizational consequences looming over its head, Ukraine has found choosing its civilizational path to be an agonizing ordeal. The Ukrainian elite—not the society as a whole—has presented the biggest problems in this regard. By coming out in great numbers to the Maidan (Independence Square) in 2004, Ukrainians proved that they were ready to defend one of the backbone principles of an open society: the peaceful transfer of power. But the Ukrainian elite (primarily its alleged reform segment) has shown itself to be feckless when it comes to guaranteeing the new rules of the game for the whole of society. ...Some events rise to the level of civilizational challenges, given just the right historical circumstances. Ukraine’s trajectory in the coming months and years will prove to be one such event, for the path it chooses will determine more than just its own fate. Its choice will serve as a test of Russia’s role, showing us whether Russia will continue to perceive itself as an empire ready and willing to bully any neighbor it can. Ukraine’s choice will also demonstrate to what extent Europe is committed to the values it espouses, and how far the West is prepared to expand its influence.
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