Despite the unforgiving winter that has plunged Central Asia into a deep freeze, Ukraine appears to be on fire. Over a month ago, protests erupted in the capital city of Kiev, as ordinary Ukrainians lashed out against President Victor Yanukovytch’s decision to back out of a long-planned economic deal with the European Union and instead pursue a compact with Russia. But however this crisis plays out – whether Ukraine ends up leaning east or west – the country’s ultimate success depends on more than just the economic support of one power or another. It depends on the ability of its own people to develop and sustain a thriving free market economy.
I know firsthand just how challenging this can be. Two decades ago, when the Soviet Union broke up, I was a student from another former Soviet Republic – Latvia – who was deeply interested in business. I managed to secure the opportunity to study at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, where I learned the basics of business – concepts that I had never been exposed to growing up in a centrally planned economy.
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Valeri Belokon is a Latvian banker, philanthropist, and president of Blackpool football club. All views expressed are his own. The Truman National Security Project strives to advance strong progressive national security policy through advocacy initiatives, media appearances, and public service in elected and appointed office.