November 26, 2004


THE FACTS ON THE UKRAINIAN MELODRAMA (Srdja Trifkovic, 11/24/04, Chronicles)

The media myth: An East European "pro-Western, reformist democrat" is cheated of a clear election victory by an old-timer commie apparatchik. A wave of popular protest may yet ensure another Triumph of Democracy a la Belgrade and Tbilisi, however. The fact: neither the winner of the presidential election in the Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, nor his Western-supported ultranationalist rival Viktor Yushchenko, are "democrats" or "reformers" in any accepted sense. They differ, however, on the issue of the Ukrainian identity and destiny in what is a deeply divided country. Ukraine is like a large Montenegro, split between its Russian-leaning half (the south, the east) and a strongly nationalist west and north-west that defines its identity in an unyielding animosity to Moscow. The prediction: "The West"—the United States, the European Union, and an array of Sorosite "NGOs"—will fail to rig this crisis in favor of Yushchenko: the critical mass that worked in Serbia in October 2000, and in Georgia in 2003—the complicity of the security services and mafia money—is simply not present.

The myth is virulently Russophobic. It implicitly recognizes the reality of Ukraine's divisions but asserts that those Ukrainians who want to maintain strong links with Russia are either stupid or manipulated. This view has nothing to do with the well-being or democratic will of 50 million Ukrainians. It is strictly geopolitical, in that it sees Moscow as a foe and its enemies (Chechen Jihadists included) as friends. [...]

"You see the whole apparat," says our source, "a conclave of governments, friendly (and government funded) NGOs, and contract opportunities. Something for everybody—and all for ‘democracy.' Y'gotta love it!"

The reality is that the apparat will fail on this occasion. A Serbian or Georgian scenario cannot work in a country in which the key elements of power—the police, the army, and the business community—have not decided to support the opposition. The key to Milosevic's downfall was a secret deal between his political enemies and Serbia's key security chiefs in advance of public protest. Even if the authorities in Kiev accede to Western demands and investigate fraud or conduct a recount, the results are unlikely to change because they reflect a political landscape too complex to be reduced to the NGO black and white paradigm. [...]

About a half of all Ukrainians who voted for Yanukovych did not do so solely on the grounds of his pro-Russian outlook, however. As the Financial Times noted on November 19, strong economic growth of 13 percent has helped his campaign of "peace and stability." This year's grain harvest will reach 45m tones, the highest since Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Increasing social spending, including payment of pensions and state salaries, are attributed to the Prime Minister's policies. By contrast Yushchenko's stronghold in western Ukraine is an economic wasteland. Nikolas Gvosdev was a rare Western commentator to point out that for many in central and eastern Ukraine increased links with Russia translate into greater prosperity: trade turnover in goods and services between the two countries is expected to reach $20 billion in 2004, one-half of Ukraine's current GNP. By contrast, its trade with the EU accounts for only a fifth of the total. "Many Western observers lament Ukraine's continuing economic and political ties to Russia," Gvosdev says, "but U.S. and European governments have done little to provide more concrete economic incentives for change." Yushchenko's campaign was not helped by a statement earlier this year by the president of the European Commission Romano Prodi that Ukraine will "never" be a member of the EU. Despite all the rhetoric supporting a "European" the scenario of Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration was not seriously entertained in any important Western capital. It was unrealistic to expect the Ukrainians to make a plunge without any concrete promises of what they'd get in return.

Washington would be well advised to accept the result with equanimity. As Doug Bandow of CATO Institute says, the United States and Europe aren't going to "lose" Ukraine: it will continue to expand its commercial and political ties with the West regardless of outcome. On the other hand, excessive insistence on the preordained outcome would unnecessarily alienate Russia at a time when her cooperation is sorely needed in the war against Jihad.

Except that when your security services and state controlled media go wobbly:
Ukraine state TV in revolt (Sebastian Usher, 11/26/04, BBC)
Journalists on Ukraine's state-owned channel - which had previously given unswerving support to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych - have joined the opposition, saying they have had enough of "telling the government's lies".

Journalists on another strongly pro-government TV station have also promised an end to the bias in their reporting. The turnaround in news coverage, after years of toeing the government line, is a big setback for Mr Yanukovych.

Ukrainian police join protests (ABC News, 11/27/04)
Ukrainian police have sided in droves with opposition protests against the conduct of last weekend's presidential election and a feared crackdown on the demonstrators has not been carried out.

But the authorities can rely on a hard core of allies in the security services, police and military, who a former senior official warned could act if the situation appeared to be getting out of control.

Responding to a call to "join the people" by opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, who claims to be have been cheated out of the presidency by Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, dozens of police have been showing their colours.

They have been appearing on the opposition television station Kanal 5 and speaking on the platform set up in central Kiev's Independence Square to proclaim their backing for the pro-western Yushchenko.

"We are expressing our distrust of the Government," one policeman told hundreds of thousands of cheering opposition supporters.

It's time to cut a deal, Ukraine leader faces ultimatum (Jeremy Page, 11/27/04, Times of London)
UKRAINE’S presidential rivals publicly renounced violence last night and agreed to set up a working group to heal the country’s political paralysis, but the opposition still insisted on fresh elections.

At crisis talks mediated by Russia and the EU, Viktor Yanukovych, the Prime Minister, and his liberal challenger, Viktor Yushchenko, called for a peaceful solution to the impasse. “We stand against any use of force that might lead to an escalation of conflict and bloodshed,” they declared in a joint statement.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 26, 2004 8:09 PM
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