VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia’s president, deserves the highest medal of Ukraine. He has done more for its European integration in the past few months than any Ukrainian politician has over the past 20 years. He has stopped the country’s directionless drift, consolidated its elite, given it an impetus westward and mobilised European politicians. Never before has Ukraine been so close to signing an association and free-trade agreement with the European Union, a step towards EU membership.
Nestled amid the green Crimean hills, lapped by the Black Sea’s languid waves, Yalta’s battle-scarred appearance in February 1945 prompted Winston Churchill to call it “the Riviera of Hades.” It still has the faint aura of a seaside resort for secret policemen.
The Yalta conference in Crimea, Ukraine, left a clear feeling of a geopolitical shift in Europe. Not the one 68 years ago at this Black Sea resort but the annual Yalta European Strategy conference organised last weekend by Ukrainian philanthropist Victor Pinchuk with the participation of Tony Blair, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Karl Bildt, Stefan Fule and many other European and global leaders and opinion makers.