Dear David, as a Russian-American who spent part of his childhood in Ukraine I have a somewhat different perspective on the events in Ukraine. West, Ukraine and Russia Re: Jensen, Sobell, Hahn, Straus, Armstrong et al. on Russia and Ukraine (JRL #8470, 26-11-04). Gentlemen, with all due and sincere respect, this time you are wrong, dead wrong. "Jensen: "Moscow is unwilling to accept the political integrity of its neighbor. Russia's heavy-handed interference"
Sobell: "The vote for Yushchenko has been the vote for a fresh start" -- Is this is about the guy who spent 9 years in a corrupt oligarchic regime while during Yanukovych's two year tenure saw unprecedented economic growth?
Hahn: "Russia is the loser in every scenario;" Straus: "Russia has lost on a grand scale." - Don't we all are going to loose?
Here is how I see it.
Did rigging take place? Most likely, but on both sides, because the passions have been flying so high. If a democrat Yushchenko could disregard all democratic procedures (rush to declare himself president and swore on Bible even before elections Committee verdict, if his lieutenant Yulia Timoshenko could call on protesters to storm the parliament building), could they also falsify the numbers too?
For the answer, let us look at the hard facts.
17 of Ukraine's 27 administrative regions (whose population makes two thirds of the total) threaten with referendum leading to autonomy or full independence. In a survey conducted in Ukraine in August-September, 49 percent of respondents chose their "Slavic brothers," while 29.3 percent opted for the EU. (www.ukrweekly.com Oct. 4, 04) With such a disposition among Ukrainians, the US, EU and Russia turned Ukraine into the bone of contention. The US warned that it will cut back a $143 million aid package, while Russia openly supported Yanukovych.
The more West pulled the faster Yanukovich's rating was growing -- from 9 percent in February, to 17 percent in June to 31.5 percent in October. At the same time Yushchenko's rating has been hovering around 20 and 23 percent and rose to 30.6 percent in October. His miserable appearance in the presidential debates did the rest.
Leonid Kuchma's wobbling and double-crossing greatly contributed to the identity crisis. He was reelected on a pro-Russia platform in 1999, then he wrote an anti-Russian book, sent troops to Iraq and put membership in NATO on the strategic agenda. When despite all his efforts to win the United States' favor the latter put its stake on Yushchenko, Kuchma began the demonstrable rapprochement with Russia, meeting Putin every other week. Patrick Armstrong, you are wrong claiming that "Putin has made a fool of himself" - it has been Kuchma.
The current chaos and stalemate is a result of all these unsavory games and Kuchma's attempt to profit from them.
The real source of the crisis, however, is artificial pro-West VS pro-Russian ideological dichotomy. To portray Russia as a dark, sinister, anti-democratic force, while US-EU -- as white shining beacons of democracy and progress is colossal and stupid deception. Neither the US is a model of democracy, nor Russia is anti-democratic, anti-market, imperialistic: If Russia does not want to copy America or imitate Europe, it has good reasons for that and its own brains, and not of the worst quality for that. Didn't you recognize that yourself in your insightful writing over many years?
Finally, Gorgon Hahn said it all: "A successful "orange revolution" could be a harbinger of Moscow 2007-2008". If so, could anybody reproach Putin for fighting not only for the integrity of a sister-state but also for Russia's future? Russia is more than anybody else interested in Ukraine's stability, sovereignty and prosperity - there are about 25-30 million Ukrainians and Russians living in opposite countries or with mixed marriages, to say nothing about intertwined industries and culture.
Gentlemen, you know that, quoting J. Steele (Guardian, Nov. 26), "Ukraine has been turned into a geostrategic matter not by Moscow but by the US, which refuses to abandon its cold war policy of encircling Russia and seeking to pull every former Soviet republic to its side. The EU should have none of this."
The neo-cons think they are playing smart realpolitik by splitting Europeans on "Good" and "Evil." But you should know better. Didn't we have had enough of "Good" (democracy) promoted by the barrel of the gun in Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Iraq? Now they instigate a schism that can explode into civil war in the middle of Europe, in an oil-gas transit country. Is NATO ready to bomb Donetsk-Crimea-Lugansk to promote a better version of democracy in place of the "managed democracy"? Is EU ready for a Second Cold War?
Gentlemen, I was amazed to see intelligent and sophisticated experts digressing into black-n-white thinking of fundamentalists and born-again morons, who divide the entire world into good and bad guys, thus brewing the troubles of epic dimensions.