Ukraine’s Democracy Under Siege

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine’s Foreign Minister recently promulgated a new “modernized” foreign policy which has been evolving since President Victor Yanukovych took office. This unambiguous position statement should be serious cause for concern for the people of Ukraine and the world’s democracies interested in cultivating a Western style democracy in Ukraine.

Can Ukraine maintain its "fragile" democracy?

Two components, in particular, comprise this declaration.

The first is an unequivocal pronouncement of Ukraine’s non-aligned status, but not “a synonym entirely of the Switzerland brand,” points out the Foreign Minister. This distancing from NATO is softened somewhat by assurances of continued cooperation with NATO.

Still the current regime’s predilection in favor of Russia makes NATO cooperation lip service. Lest there be any ambiguity, the Foreign Minister vows to honor “longstanding and closest historical ties with Russia.”

“Paradoxically” in the Minister’s own words, he alludes to the “mandate of the Maidan,” referring to Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004.

He characterizes that mandate as people compelling their elected officials to heed the people’s will and takes the liberty of forging that will, offering no scientific evidence, but merely his guess that the people of Ukraine do not wish to join NATO. Rather, he opines that they seek better relations with Russia.

The Foreign Minister concludes by referring to his recent visit to China and offers China’s “success” as a paradigm for Ukrainian economic and social development. To emphasize the significance of this announcement, he labels his offering as the policy of President Yanukovych.

There appear to be at least three glaring omissions in this thesis: an objective description of the “longstanding and closest historic ties with Russia;” an elementary understanding of the Orange Revolution; and silence on China’s rule, its disregard for democracy, rule of law and basic human rights.

Ukraine’s ties with Russia have never been those of equal partners or friendly neighbors. Since 1654 Russia has run roughshod over Ukraine, treating it as a colony, its people as serfs or inferiors. The USSR, which succeeded the Russian Empire, was different in name and ideology only. Certainly, not direction.

It pursued Russian imperial policy. At all times Ukraine was a resource, possessing no governmental defense or policy. Orders invariably came from Moscow, St. Petersburg and then Moscow again, sometimes directly, and other times channeled through Kyiv, then Kharkiv and then Kyiv again.

Honoring “longstanding and closest historical close ties with Russia” means returning Ukraine’s tragic past.

The brazen reference to the Orange Revolution is reminiscent of Soviet propaganda, where the truth was said to be a lie and vice versa. Repeated often enough, this contortion prevailed and stuck.

The fact is that on November 21, 2004, a presidential election was held in Ukraine. The prevailing view based on almost all exit polls was that Viktor Yushchenko had been elected.

The polls closed at 8pm. At 8:05pm the Yanukovych campaign declared victory and even revealed the margin.Yanukovych was emboldened by his ally, Sergiy Kivalov, the chair of the Central Elections Commission.

The very next morning Ukraine’s youth began to congregate at the “Maidan” (central square) in Kyiv. They stayed there for more than a month until the courts ruled the election a fraud, incumbent president Leonid Kuchma, a Yanukovych ally, concurred and Ukraine’s parliament scheduled a new election on December 26.

Yushchenko was ultimately elected president, but the clear purpose of the “Maidan” was to stop Viktor Yanukovych from stealing the election.

Perhaps, most telling and troubling is the China “success” model.

This economic “success” must be tempered with analysis of China’s record on democracy and human rights. The image of the Chinese students facing down government tanks during the Chinese “Maidan” in Tiananmen Square of 1989, even more than twenty years later, casts a pall on the quality of life in China.

The fact of the matter is that China’s economic miracle is based upon 1.3 billion hardworking people ruled by an authoritarian and corrupt oligarchy which has no regard for the people’s rights and freedoms. The very fact that China remains communist even if in name only, says much since Chinese communism under Mao and his successors was responsible for more atrocities than Hitler and Stalin combined.

In all frankness, the Yanukovych regime in Ukraine is precisely, that – a regime, not entirely unlike the Chinese except that the Chinese oligarchs take their orders from no one.

Ukrainian oligarchs defer to Moscow.

The people of Ukraine need to ready themselves to protect their hard won freedom. The West should take note of Ukraine’s “modernized” but undemocratic and subservient foreign policy. In all fairness, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister has done us a favor.

Unwittingly, perhaps, he has put out a warning.

Source: Kyiv Post