Biden's tough love for Ukraine

Vice President Biden lets Washington's frustrations with political infighting in Ukraine be known.

Sergei Chuzavkov/AP
Vice President Joe Biden during his speech in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday.

Vice President Joe Biden had some surprisingly pointed comments for Ukrainians yesterday.

Speaking in front of 400 Ukrainians in a speech that was billed as an address to the nation's citizens, Biden chastised Ukrainian officials for, among other things, their immaturity in dealing with inter-party conflicts. Evoking poet Taras Shevchenko, a national icon, Biden said Shevchenko would likely "be wondering why the government is not exhibiting the same political maturity as the people."

Reforms have stalled and political bickering has become widespread after Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution. Coupled with neighboring Georgia's Rose Revolution a year earlier, the Orange Revolution was a source of hope for Western countries that democracy could take hold in states of the former Soviet Union.

Frustrated by the stalemate and lack of progress, Ukrainians have showed signs of throwing their support to opposition leader Viktor F. Yanukovich, a move that would more closely align the country with Russia and, according to some, could tip the country back toward authoritarian rule.

Biden's remarks seem to indicate that Ukrainians aren't the only ones who are frustrated. The vice president was expected to address Washington's concerns only behind closed doors, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the weight of his public remarks were unexpected.

"Centuries from now, what will Ukrainians say of this time?" he said. "What will they say of their leaders? Will they say they returned to the past, or will they say the beginning of the 21st century launched a period of prosperity, freedom and independence?"

But lest the news out of Ukraine been seen as all harsh, Biden was also overheard praising the country's women. "It's certain you have so many beautiful women," Biden is reported to have told President Viktor Yushchenko at an unscheduled visit to a Kiev pub.


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