:: Ukrainian Clockwork Orange


Having regrouped after its 2001 failure to install a pro-Western president in Belarus, a major ex-Soviet Slavic republic, the United States has returned to its policy of containing Russia by aligning with the other countries on Russias periphery. A show of strength took place in Georgia where Eduard Shevardnadze, a life-long diplomat and perhaps the most respected of ex-Soviet leaders, was replaced with tenaciously anti-Russian Michael Saakashvili.


The United States replayed this scenario in Romania and Ukraine. The American involvement was meant to be highly visible to the extent that in both countries the candidates whom the United States supported campaigned under the color orange, the color of robes of the inmates in American prisons. Large quantities of everything orange, from coats to winter boots to oranges, carefully prepared and exported to Romania and Ukraine beforehand, show that the choice of color was not coincidental.


Foreign intervention is not necessarily detrimental to a country, although it is always insulting. The alternative to Yuschenko with his American backing was pro-Russian candidate Yanukovich, a twice-convicted felon who marked his short term as prime minister with knocking out teeth and beatings of ministers and governors whom he found less than helpful. Closer ties with Russianow ruled by a KGB foster child whose savagery has been demonstrated in Chechnyaare a dubious attraction for Ukraine.


The wholesale condemnation of the elections by Western observers was orchestrated. The same watchdogs affirmed the 2002 elections as fair amid the grins of local campaign managers who knew better. Foreign observers, few of whom even know Ukrainian or Russian, are completely useless. They just do not understand the intricate technicalities of falsifying the results which take place largely outside the polling stations: that involve forging the summaries that record the vote counts, issuing fake voting registration documents, and hacking the computer system.


The only universal violation which the observers reported was Yanukovichs massive advertising through government-controlled media. But Yuschenko had enjoyed similarly large-scale free promotion for much longer, during all his years as the head of the Central Bank in 19931999 and then as prime minister until 2001.


The Ukrainian Supreme Court decision annulling the vote should be taken with reservations. The court violated the principle of separation of judicial and legislative powers by requiring the legislature to pass amendments to existing laws making the judiciary-mandated revote possible. Intimidated by crowds assembled around the court building, the notoriously corrupt justices had little choice but to give in to demands. They proved as ready on this occasion to yield to threats as they usually did to bribes.


In an extraordinary demarche, the United States refused recognition to Yanukovich, the newly elected Ukrainian president. This was only to be expected after Madeleine Albright told the New York Times in March of 2004 that the Ukrainian vote was certain to be rigged, and that the perpetrators (presumably only those favoring Yanukovich) would risk having their foreign bank accounts frozen. The righteous itch of the US administration is a bit odd, because the elections were not exceptionally marred in light of recent Ukrainian history. The government of the United States greeted the no less rigged Ukrainian parliamentary elections of 2002, but then the Yuschenko faction fetched victory. With the American presidential vote stained by redistricting abuse and outright fraud, who would expect very honest balloting in thoroughly corrupt Ukraine? Both candidates seem to have adjusted the figures in the regions they controlled: the almost 100% vote for Yuschenko in Western Ukraine is as doubtful as Yanukovichs similar result in the East. When a month of active campaigning (following the rejection of the first run-off vote) brought new supporters to Yuschenko and shed some from Yanukovich, the revote difference between the contenders of only 8% shows that they were close in the annulled run-off.


Yuschenkos camp includes high-level bureaucrats accused, and even charged, with corruption, oligarchs profiting from insider privatization deals, and right-wing radicals often compared with Nazis. Yuschenko and his allies during their years in power conducted about the same economic policy as Yanukovich, and their parliamentary faction seconded most his moves.


Both camps overspent the allowed campaign limit dozens times over, estimates running from one to two billion dollars.


The facts outlined above show that American involvement has little to do with promoting democracy. The support was rather directed to an imperfect candidate whose major platform difference from the other also imperfect candidate was further movement away from Russia in favor of America. The United States governments naivete is puzzling. Just after the contested run-off, at the height of American support, Yuschenkos parliamentary faction voted for the pullout of the Ukrainian contingent from Iraq: a reasonable measure, to be sure, but hardly in sync with Bushs expectations. Further disappointment followed with Yuschenko scheduling an official trip to Russia almost immediately after his inauguration. The White House shows ignorance of local realities by expecting Ukraine to drift away from Russia, the only country willing to provide Ukraine with virtually free oil and gas, critical for its industry and for the relief of its pauperized population.


The delusions of the Bush Administration should be of concern not only to American taxpayers. The winners of such elections take American support as license to suppress their opponents. Not so independent prosecutors have already charged many members of the defeated Yanukovich camp with criminal offenses, including calls for splitting up Ukraine into autonomous districts. Here lies perhaps the biggest problem, since the United States is obsessed with preserving borders, erroneously believing that breaking up a country into more states means destabilization. The American refusal to cooperate in the disintegration of Yugoslavia led to ethnic conflicts of the kind that loom also in Ukraine, whose vehemently nationalist Ukrainian West confronts the strongly pro-Russian East. Multicultural democracy works in societies such as Switzerland or (more or less) Belgium, which painfully learned toleration or America, which passed through the melting-pot stage. Yugoslavia, Ukraine, and Russia, where totalitarian power historically quelled any ethnic resentment, had no chance to acquire ethnic and political tolerance. Some 44% pro-Russian voters for Yanukovich would hardly accept as partners the extreme nationalists prominent in Yuschenkos entourage. Regional autonomy, if not complete dissolution of this artificially huge country, is the most practical solution, but both the White House and the Ukrainian ultranationalists whom it shores up, oppose that sensible measure.


There is little doubt that increasingly imperialist Russia would exploit the tension between East and West Ukraine. High-ranking Russian politicians are already calling for the autonomy of pro-Russian Eastern Ukraine. The worst thing the Bush administration could do is to continue unreserved backing of a nationalist government bent on quashing even discussion of autonomous regions. Given the historical record which shows that the American government props up any client regime so long as it remains receptive to the United States corporate interests, there is little hope for the peaceful adjustment of territorial issues in Ukraine.

Vadim Cherny

Designed studio Alexandr Ozverinoff