John Baird, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, was right to join other Western foreign ministers – from Germany, Poland and Sweden – in going to Kiev to the meeting of the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe. It serves as an expression of concern over the Ukrainian government’s turn away from European rule of law and toward autocratic Russia.
The vigorous and persistent demonstrations in Kiev are unlikely to bring about a re-enactment of the democratizing Orange Revolution of 2004-2005. President Viktor Yanukovych has a real support base, especially in the eastern regions of Ukraine, which are close to Russia linguistically and ethnically. Over the years, Mr. Yanukovych has wavered between the West and Russia. At the end of last month, however, he succumbed to pressure from President Vladimir Putin, and walked away from a trade agreement with the European Union that was on the verge of being signed.
Serhiy Arbuzov, the First Deputy Minister, has shown some openness to the idea of snap elections, for both the parliament and the presidency. That might or might not effect a desirable change of government, but it would at least air the matters in debate, and might help shift the balance of political opinion away from a heavy leaning toward Moscow.
Amid the turbulence, Mr. Yanukovych flew to Beijing. He returned with claims of potential Chinese investments worth $8-billion. Would economic and trade diversification be a good thing for Ukraine? Of course. But it’s also a feeble attempt by the embattled president to change the subject, in the face of massive protests against his abrupt pro-Russian tilt. The long-term task for Mr. Baird and his fellow foreign ministers: nudging Mr. Yanukovych back toward the West.