WORLD AFFAIRS.  The Dutch referendum is not the end of the world for Ukraine. As one smart and sober Ukrainian analyst points out, it actually changes very little in Ukraine’s relationship with the European Union. In a word, Ukraine need not panic.

That said, Ukraine needs to draw several conclusions from the decision by some 20 percent of Holland’s electorate to reject the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine.

First, that percentage of nay-sayers roughly corresponds to the percentage of citizenry in all EU states who actively reject “European values.” These are the supporters of extreme right-wing parties, many of which of late have attained 20-30 percent of the vote in various elections. These are the people who disagree with the following passage in the Preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union:

Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.

These people will never support Ukraine or many other bilateral and multilateral relationships.

Second, probably as many if not more Europeans view European values in the same manner that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and a lot of his comrades in the German social-democratic party do: they’re fine, as long as they’re not inconvenient. If rights imply inconvenience or if indifference to rights entails profit, then who needs rights? Schröder, if case you’re forgotten, finagled a cushy job with the Russian mafia-like state firm, Gazprom, while still in office. And he’s been lobbying for Vladimir Putin, apologizing for his imperialism, and lining his pockets with rubles ever since.

The European Schröders will support Ukraine only if it’s profitable and convenient.

The rest of the Europeans—a third, maybe more—sincerely believe in European values. These are the people who believe in the EU, believe in NATO, support sanctions against the mafia in the Kremlin, and largely welcome Middle Eastern refugees regardless of the cost or inconvenience that their arrival in Germany entailed.

These Europeans will support Ukraine, but only if no other, more pressing human rights issues require their immediate attention.

EU officials break down into these three categories as well, though the set of true believers in Eurovalues is probably greater than in the population at large.

The lessons for Ukraine are several:

First, it cannot count on Europe to do the right thing. Appeals to human rights, common European values, the sacrifices Ukrainians have made to join Europe—all this will fall on mostly deaf ears in about two-thirds of the population. So is the fact that thousands of Ukrainians have died defending Eurovalues against Russian imperialism.

Second, regardless of what the Europeans do or say, Ukraine should continue to do everything it can to join Europe and adopt Eurovalues. Western political and economic institutions actually do work—even if those of the EU may not—and Western values (such as human rights, democracy, and rule of law) are far better than those promulgated by the Putins of the world.

Third, Ukraine must realize that its progress toward Western institutions and values depends almost exclusively on itself. Europe won’t go out of its way to help it; neither will anybody else, including the United States—if Ukraine’s doesn’t start measuring up to western governance and rule of law standards. Ukraine must become a strong, rich, democratic country by adopting policies that promote strength, wealth, and democracy.

Fourth, once Ukraine is strong, rich, and democratic, Europe—including the Eurovalue nay-sayers and the Schröder-like opportunists—will come knocking on its door.

Fifth, for Ukraine to become strong, rich, and democratic, its elites finally have to get their act together and govern like mature elites and not children.


What the Dutch did is shameful: they betrayed decency and Ukraine. But what Ukraine’s squabbling, incompetent, self-serving, shortsighted elites are doing is even worse: they’re destroying Ukraine and its people.

Alexander J. Motyl's blog

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