It's fitting that Yulia Tymoshenko should finally become prime minister of Ukraine one day after Vladimir Putin declared he would be Russia's prime minister under a President Dmitry Medvedev.
Both have been prime minister before, Tymoshenko for a short and tumultuous period in 2005 before she was fired by President Viktor Yushchenko, Putin for a controversial six months in 1999 before Boris Yeltsin stepped aside to hand him the presidency. They have open distaste for each other stemming from the long and ongoing Russia-versus-the West struggle for Ukraine's soul, in which Tymoshenko has played (at least in the Western media) Princess Leia to Putin's Darth Vader.
The way the two old foes were named to the PM's chair this time around says much about the comparative state of democracy in their respective countries today.
For all Ukraine's instability, Tymoshenko's dramatic return to power - establishing herself as a third power centre beyond both President Yushchenko and his rival Viktor Yanukovich - shows how vibrant and pluralistic Ukraine's political scene now is. Yes, all of the main parties are tinged with corruption and are too close to big business, but Tymoshenko's election victory two months ago stands as proof that no politician can rule Ukraine without the consent of the people.
More good news: even though her party emerged as the de facto winner of the Sept. 30 elections, Tymoshenko only became prime minister after a long process of bartering and coalition-making. No one force can dominate Ukraine on its own anymore, as Leonid Kuchma and his allies did until the 2004 Orange Revolution.
None of the above can be said about Russia. Vladimir Putin stands alone in Russia as the sole centre of power. If he says the unheralded Dmirty Medvedev shall be president, then Mr. Medvedev it will be. If Putin says he wants to be PM, only a fool would bet against him achieving that aim.
As I have frequently pointed out in the past, Putin does all this largely with the consent of the Russian people. But that doesn't make it any more democratic. The institutions needed to make and keep Russia great - a free media, serious opposition and a real parliament - have been systematically eliminated during his eight years in power. For all its oil-fuelled economic growth and new swagger on the international stage, the country is inherently weaker as a result.
Today may look like a triumph for Putin and Putinism. But one day, when he's gone, Russians will come to rue the system they watched him build.
In the meantime, at least future summits between the Russian and Ukrainian prime ministers will have a touch of drama to them.