Article of the NISS expert Valentyna Romanova and political scientist Andreas Umland "Decentralising Ukraine: Geopolitical Implications"

Ukraine’s ongoing reform of local government has become an important post-Euromaidan development. The Euromaidan uprising in February 2014, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and the subsequent two rounds of national elections in 2014 changed the composition of the ruling elites of Ukraine. The unexpected and severe threat to Ukraine’s territorial integrity demonstrated the vulnerability of the theretofore centralised yet regionally diverse state. Ukrainian politicians were eager to devolve power to the local level to prevent federalisation, which remained popular in Russia and the West for different reasons.

Many Ukrainian politicians have come to see decentralisation as a means of countering Russia’s hybrid warfare. Also, the ongoing decentralisation reform both expresses and furthers Ukraine’s Europeanisation. The most speculative geopolitical aspect of the transformation of Ukrainian self-governance concerns its potential to drive and influence reform in other countries. Decentralisation in Ukraine could provide policy cues and institutional templates to other, so far highly centralised, post-Soviet states. Indeed, local-governance reform is hardly a panacea for Ukraine or other post-Soviet states, and Ukraine itself has some distance to go before its newly decentralised system is fully operating. But the Europeanising, antiseparatist and diffusion potential of Ukraine’s model makes it an especially salient dimension of the country’s ongoing socio-political transformation.

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Valentyna Romanova & Andreas Umland (2019) Decentralising Ukraine: Geopolitical Implications, Survival, 61:5, 99-112, DOI: 10.1080/00396338.2019.1662108