Building Democracies One At A Time

KIEV, Ukraine -- Nowhere has the lack of sufficient commitment to nurturing new democracies backfired more than in the former Soviet Union.

Winning the Cold War was, perhaps, America’s greatest political triumph of the 20th century. Democracy was introduced to the largest geographic area in the world and 14 new republics joined the community of nations.

Fifteen years later, there are serious fault lines throughout this region with dire consequences to the new democracies and to the United States.

Not only is the victory over the despotic Communist dictatorship reversing, but the hard-earned gains of democracy-building is being lost to the former oppressor Russia and its emperor-like president, Vladimir Putin.

Perhaps none is more discouraging to its people and detrimental to America than the backsliding in Ukraine.

The second largest country in Europe, with some of the most advanced Soviet industries – space, cybernetics, shipbuilding – with outstanding agriculture, energy-refining and transporting systems to Europe, and a superbly educated workforce, Ukraine is losing its sovereign independence daily.

Its pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych is not much more than a mouthpiece for Russia’s imperialist interests.

This political about-turn follows on the heels of Ukraine’s finest democratic hour, the Orange Revolution. Late in 2004 Ukrainians went to the streets to demand fair and free elections which were being defrauded by Russia’s candidate. They won!

Yet two years later, Russia’s clutch on Ukraine’s domestic policies, international relations, and aggressive Russification of Ukraine’s population through government policies and media, schools has not been greater since the Soviet days.

The demise of this fledgling democracy is led by the very man the Orange Revolution rejected and wanted in jail, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Even more startling, President Viktor Yushchenko, whose candidacy precipitated the uproar, is turning out to be politically inept.

What happened?

Preoccupied with a new initiative – building democracy in Iraq – America lost sight of the success this same tenet of its foreign policy was achieving in Ukraine.

This lack of attention allowed Russia to manipulate Ukraine’s March 2006 parliamentary elections and install an anti-West government while its supposedly pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko watched passively.

With a weak president and with US interests focused elsewhere, Ukraine’s democrats were not strong enough to withstand the Russia-backed shenanigans.

The victory of a democratic election was snatched z pid nosa, from under their very noses, as the Ukrainians say.

Now that Russia’s control in Ukraine is ascending, it has a strong base for grander ambitions. Despite the short-lived stand-off involving the energy issue, Belarus is a puppet state.

So are the stans. Georgia is severely threatened. Furthermore, by regaining control in Ukraine, Russia got its biggest psychological boost since loosing the Cold War.

Disillusioned Ukrainians say it was handed to the Russians because America’s policy has been and continues to be Russo-centric.

They maintain that after the loss of the Cold War and the initial fleeing of the Kremlin’s apparatchiks mainly to Israel, Britain and Canada, the Kremlin’s terrified Communists realized there would be no consequence to their murderous past.

There was no Nuremberg Trial for crimes committed against some 60 million murdered by the Soviet dictatorship; no Retribution Commission, as in South Africa. There were no posthumous trials of the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Kaganovych – the architect of the Terror Famine in Ukraine, which alone starved 10 million citizens in one year.

America’s foreign policy was tolerant, nay, benevolent to its former enemy. Former Communists told Americans what they wanted to hear: We are now democrats.

And few listened to knowledgeable Ukrainians, and others, who warned that these are not democrats but wolves in sheepskin coats. American Russophiles and left-wingers called for gentle treatment of Russia’s humiliation, recalling its great history but choosing to forget that the history had been despotic and murderous.

No two acts were more Russo-centric than President George Bush I Chicken Kyiv speech scolding Ukraine for seeking freedom from Russia. The other was the incredible invitation for Russia to join the G-7.

Despite the “democratic” rhetoric, America’s foreign policy chose to see Ukraine primarily through a Russian policy prism. If Russia said “da” to initiatives, there was support; if “nyet,” America conceded.

Ukraine was forced to give up its nuclear arsenal to Russia and, back in the 1990s when there was support for joining NATO, its membership was denied to placate Russia’s opposition.

To Russia, this indicated that it could still have things its way. To the rest, it made America look like a loser. Yet the mindset prevailed and continues today: Ukraine’s membership in the WTO is predicated on Russia’s readiness to join.

Emboldened, Russia is advancing its agenda globally with dire consequences to America and world peace. There is the danger of nuclear power in the hands of rogue states like Iran and North Korea.

Syria is a concern and the Philippines, Indonesia and Nepal are destabilizing. Closer to home there are danger signs from far left presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua.

It is a safe bet that Russia’s presence is more active and welcomed throughout these regions now than a few years ago and much more so since the Soviet collapse when all seemed lost for Russia.

This “back to the USSR” scenario could have been prevented. Following the defeat in Moscow, there should have been an equivalent of the Nuremberg Trial for the leaders.

The Communist Party should have been outlawed like the Nazis. Its left-wing apologists should have been treated as social pariahs just like Holocaust deniers are.

And the same for communist revisionists, be they Marxist, Leninist or whatever the moniker.

Source: Kyiv Post