In addition to supporting the exit poll, U.S. funds helped develop the network of grass-roots groups that later emerged at the forefront of the protest movement. It also financed training and exchange programs that exposed thousands of students, journalists and officials to Western political culture, including many of the judges and lawmakers who took a stand against the bid to fix the election.
But the momentum for change quickly dissipated after the Orange Revolution despite a one-year boost in U.S. funding. Ukraine today is a fragile and dysfunctional democracy, with free but sometimes corrupt media, courts vulnerable to bribes and political pressure, and weak political parties and policymaking institutions.
Yevgeny Bystritsky, director of the pro-democracy International Renaissance Foundation in Kiev, said U.S. and European leaders made the mistake of romanticizing the Orange Revolution leaders as democrats resisting Russian authoritarianism and did not pressure them to pursue political reforms.
"The problem is our politicians," he said, noting that Washington paid for experts to help craft a sweeping judicial reform bill only to see it stall in parliament because political leaders were unwilling to give up control of the courts. He argued that the West should attach more conditions and demand results in exchange for aid.>>>
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