Masha Lipman warns that the new balance of power is unstable:
The authority of the decision-makers in the Ukrainian parliament is not entirely secure. At least some of their decisions may be questioned by regions in the east of the country that barely took part in the bloody struggle in Kiev. In the mostly pro-Russian Crimea, fifty thousand people showed up for a rally on Sunday where the governing force in Kiev was denounced as “Fascist riffraff.” They chanted, “Long live the great Russian city of Sevastopol!” Separatist sentiments are widespread in the Crimean peninsula; Sevastopol, its largest city, is the home of the Russian Black Sea fleet, which makes the Crimea even more of a problem for the new government in Kiev.
Alex Berezow argues that the opposition “must act quickly and carefully to fix Ukraine’s enormous problems, otherwise the country could split in two”:
The new government must reunify the country. Mr. Yanukovych’s supporters — including the Kremlin — feel as though his removal from power was unlawful. That is going to cause long-lasting ill feelings. The new government must make it clear that Mr. Yanukovych’s expulsion was due to corruption and corruption only. However, the parliament has already voted to drop Russian as one of the country’s official languages. This is a big mistake. It gives the impression that ethnic Ukrainians in the western part of the country despise the ethnic Russians in the eastern half. Does Ukraine really want to have an ethnic conflict added to the current political crisis?
Jamile Trindle and Keith Johnson wonder how Russia will respond:
The new leaders were part of the opposition that revolted against President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to accept Russia’s cash and reject closer trade ties with Europe. Now, they are free to put the country back on a European trajectory, and reconsider signing the trade and political agreement that Yanukovych rejected, but they may face the same fallout from Russia that he did. Ukraine relies on Russia, not just for trade, but also for natural gas imports.
If Ukraine’s short-term financial lifeline comes with the signing of the association agreement with the European Union, which will allow for a free trade zone and lift visa restrictions, it will carry one big additional risk: the threat that an angry Russia could use its energy leverage to try to cow Kiev back into its orbit.
(Photo: An anti-government protestor waits in front of a parliamentary building in Kiev on February 25, 2014. Today Ukraine’s interim leader delayed the appointment of a new unity government until February 27 as the country tries to find a way out of its most serious crisis since independence. By Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)