A fateful drama is playing out in central Kiev. Tens of thousands of demonstrators occupy Independence Square and block entrances to government buildings. They demand “revolution.” They clamor for the resignation of President Victor Yanukovich’s government as punishment for his surprise decision to reject the European Union’s offer of association status and to look instead eastward for partners. Yanukovich’s use of the riot police has been met with ever larger numbers of demonstrators.
An experienced observer like Anders Aslund predicts that this is the beginning of the end of Yanukovich. If so, it will be the Ukrainian people, not President Obama or professional European diplomats, who will have dealt Vladimir Putin his first major foreign policy defeat. Putin has risked a lot of skin in the Ukrainian game, defiantly calling the Kiev demonstrations a “pogrom.”