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The West & 2004 Presidential Election

While a resurgent Russia is eager to re-assert its old sphere of influence, the United States and Europe are equally determined to spread democracy and the rule of law. The political and economic crisis prompted by the vote pitted the West against Russia in the most publicly charged standoff since the end of the Cold War. It also pitted Russian intelligence services against their Western counterparts, as each continued to attempt to influence the course of events behind the scenes. The various constituencies of globalization are seeking to break the strength of the protectionist local elite factions, largely in the eastern part of the country, which have enriched themselves through he privatization process.

Ukraine did not openly declare its intention to join NATO until May 2001, and it still has not submitted a formal application. US Secretary of State Colin Powell hinted that an application to join NATO would be received positively at NATO's pre-Prague summit in Reykjavik in May 2002. The message was that Ukraine could be rewarded for its support of the US in the Iraq by being invited to join NATO at the alliance's 2007 summit along with Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania.

Ukraine's "multi-vector" foreign-policy games led to "Ukraine fatigue" in Western Europe. The end of the "multi-vector policy" emerged from a meeting of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council on 23 May 2002. Ukraine decided to initiate a process with the ultimate objective of accession to NATO, and a draft strategy was adopted by an NSDC meeting that day.

US-Ukrainian relations deteriorated sharply in September 2002, after Washington accused Ukraine of supplying Kolchuga radars to Iraq two years earlier. The Kolchuga scandal was behind the warning issued to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, when he was told he would not be welcome at the NATO Prague summit in November 2002 -- a warning he duly ignored.

The war in Iraq has provided Kyiv, which had consistently cooperated with NATO far more actively than has any other CIS state, with an opportunity to redeem itself in the eyes of the United States. Ukraine joined the coalition to disarm Iraq and sent an anti-nuclear, -biological, and -chemical (NBC) battalion to Kuwait. Ukraine also sent 2,000 troops that were based in the Polish stabilization sector of south-central Iraq.

But NATO's failure to recognise Ukraine's aspirations and efforts by holding out the promise of eventual access to the Membership Action Plan (MAP) -- reinforced by the EU's cool attitude towards Ukraine -- fatally weakened NATO's standing in Kuchma's eyes and reinforced the trends towards Russia and authoritarianism. President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine dismissed the country's sixth Minister of Defence, Yevhen Marchuk, on 22 September 2004. Marchuk was closely identified with Ukraine's bid for NATO membership, and with Ukraine's commitment of forces to Iraq.

Yushchenko was expected to apply for NATO membership, then ensure that all of the steps required of Ukraine were undertaken.

The American Campaign

Experience gained in Serbia, Georgia and Belarus was used in the effort to beat the regime of Leonid Kuchma. The "revolutions" in Belgrade (2000), Tbilisi (2003) and the failed effort in Belarus (2001), featured CIA-trained student activists from Serbia, and propaganda and financial support from the US. They emerged from the anti-Milosevic student movement, Otpor, meaning resistance. In the so-called "Velvet Revolutions" in these countries, US ambassadors played a leading role. Officially, the US government spent $41 million on the year-long operation to get rid of Milosevic in 1999. In Ukraine, the US budget is said to be around $14 million.

The campaign was used for the first time in Belgrade in 2000 to ensure the defeat of Slobodan Milosevic at election. A key role was given to Richard Miles, the USA Ambassador in Belgrade. In 2003, being the Ambassador in Tbilisi, he repeated the same trick by teaching Mikhail Saakashvili how to overthrow Eduard Shevardnadze.

The «Center of Nonviolent Resistance» in Belgrade was founded based on «Otpor» («Repulse») student movement struggling against Milosevic regime. A short name like this is important for branding such a movement. There was a similar student movement called «Kmara!» («Enough!») in Georgia during the last year revolution, «Zubr» («Aurochs «) was in Belarus and «Pora» («It's time!») is in Kiev.

The US government, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), granted millions of dollars to the Poland-America-Ukraine Cooperation Initiative (PAUCI), which is administered by the US-based Freedom House. PAUCI then sent US Government funds to numerous Ukrainian non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This would be bad enough and would in itself constitute meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. Many of these grantee organizations in Ukraine are blatantly in favor of presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

Ian Traynor notes in a 26 November 2004 article in The Guardian titled "US Campaign Behind the Turmoil in Kiev," "the campaign is an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing that, in four countries in four years, has been used to try to salvage rigged elections and topple unsavory regimes." Another article in the paper described the episode as a "postmodern coup d'etat" and a "CIA-sponsored third world uprising of cold war days, adapted to post-Soviet conditions." They created PORA, the student organization on the model of Otpor in Serbia and Kmara in Georgia. They mobilized thousands of poll watchers, agitators and propagandists to prepare for the election.

Anne Applebaum, writing "The Freedom Haters" in the 01 December 2004 edition of The Washington Post, denounces such analysis as amounting to claims that "... pro-democracy movements are in fact insidious neocon plots designed to spread American military influence... it rather dramatically overrates the influence that American money, or American "democracy-promoters," can have in a place such as Ukraine." But in light of the $300 million spent by Russia in the election, it would seem probable that the $14 million overtly spent by the United States is only a small fraction of covert spending, intended to level the playing field in the face of Russian efforts.

Initial Reactions

The election dispute demonstrated deep divisions between East and West internationally. Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch prime minister whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, telephoned Kuchma to express what he called "serious concerns" about the election.

Shortly after Viktor Yanukovych was formally declared the winner of the disputed 21 November elections, Secretary of State Powell said in Washington that the United States cannot accept Yanukovych as Ukraine's president-elect. Powell rejected the official results of Ukraine's runoff presidential election, in which Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych -- backed by the Kremlin as well as incumbent President Leonid Kuchma -- was formally declared the winner over opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko. "We cannot accept this result [of the presidential election in Ukraine] as legitimate because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse," he said. Powell said it is time for Ukraine's leaders to decide whether or not they are on the side of democracy.

United States Helsinki Commission leaders issued statements in support of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens of all ages amassing in a nationwide protest in the face of outright fraud and falsification in Ukraine's presidential election held Sunday.

"I offer my heartfelt support for Ukrainians seeking truth during this critical period for democracy," said Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). "I admire the bravery and determination of those demonstrating their desire for an honest count of election votes and encourage Ukrainians to continue their resolve in their pursuit of democratic freedoms. As we prepare to give thanks for our cherished freedoms this Thanksgiving Day, let us not forget those struggling peacefully for their rights and freedoms in cities throughout Ukraine. I urge a constructive resolution of the current impasse that would fully respect the will of the Ukrainian people and the rule of law."

Commission Co-Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) stated: "The numerous findings of domestic and international observers, including Helsinki Commission staff, make clear that the Ukrainian authorities are determined to thwart the will of the Ukrainian people through intimidation, manipulation and outright falsification. These elections have profound implications not only for Ukraine, but for pro-democracy forces in Russia, Belarus and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union."

"What we've seen in Kiev's Independence Square over the last three days is reminiscent of Georgia's Revolution of Roses one year ago," said Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD). "The level of fraud witnessed by Ukrainian and international observers is shocking. I share in the hope that Ukrainians will be allowed to continue their peaceful protests in their quest for honest election results."

Later Reactions

On 25 November 2004 Paul Jones, US deputy permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said the situation in Ukraine "must be resolved without the use of force" (emphasis in original). Speaking to the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, Austria, Jones said there could also be consequences "for individuals perpetrating fraud" if they fall under the provisions of a US law that calls for denying visas to individuals who engage in corrupt and anti-democratic practices. The United States does not accept as legitimate the Ukrainian Central Election Commission's official result of the November 21 presidential run-off election (between Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych) because there has not been an investigation into the "numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse," he said.

On 29 November 2004 Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States is pleased that the political crisis in Ukraine, following the disputed presidential election there, has not turned violent and that he is hopeful of a peaceful resolution. Powell discussed the issue by telephone with outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Secretary Powell said he had spoken by telephone earlier Monday with outgoing Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and, among other things, stressed US support for the country's territorial integrity. "We were concerned at some of these reports, and I reaffirmed to President Kuchma that it is the United States' position, and I think the position of everyone, that the territorial integrity of Ukraine is important, and that we, once again, reaffirmed that we hope that the Ukrainians would find a legal way forward, as well as a political process based on the constitutional law to resolve the problems they are now having with respect to the last election."

On 29 November 2004 Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who had visited Kiev earlier in 2004, telephoned the two Ukrainian presidential contenders, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko late Monday. The deputy secretary conveyed to Prime Minister Yanukovich our strong objections to any separatist initiatives, and to urge the government and his supporters to refrain from any use of force. With Mr. Yuschenko, Mr. Armitage spoke of the importance of the continuing peaceful and orderly nature of the protests, and to support the deliberations underway to resolve the crisis.

On 01 December 2004 German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the European Union's efforts in Ukraine reflected security concerns. Schroeder told parliament the EU seeks a "real functioning economic and political partnership with a democratic Ukraine. ... What happens in this large European country has enormous importance for security and stability in Europe ... The outcome of the current crisis will help to determine the quality of relations between the union on the one side and Ukraine on the other."

One and a half million Ukrainian-Americans were closely watching events unfolding in Ukraine. Figures released by the Ukrainian consulate in San Francisco, where some West Coast Ukrainians voted in the presidential election, show overwhelming support for the opposition. In San Francisco, 2,000 Ukrainians voted for Mr. Yushchenko. Twenty-three voted for Mr. Yanukovich. Los Angeles is just one of the US cities where Mr. Yushchenko's US supporters staged demonstrations. They were nothing like the massive protests in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, where hundreds of thousands took to the streets to support the opposition, and tens of thousands turned out on behalf of the sitting prime minister. But several hundred people took to the streets of Seattle, as did hundreds in Los Angeles, to support the Ukrainian opposition. Similar protests took place in Chicago and other US cities.

On 02 December 2004 President Bush said there should be no foreign influence in any future Ukrainian presidential elections, stressing that elections "must reflect the will of the people and not that of any foreign governments." He again thanked Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, and the European Union for their efforts to resolve the Ukrainian election crisis by bringing the opposing parties together to work toward a political and legal solution. "I think any election, if there is one, ought to be free from any foreign influence. These elections ought to be open and fair. ... The position of our government is that the will of the people must be known and heard. And, therefore, we will continue to monitor and be involved in a process that encourages there to be a peaceful resolution of this issue. And, you know, there are different options on the table and we're watching very carefully what is taking place. But any election in any country must be -- must reflect the will of the people and not that of any foreign government."

On 07 December 2004 US Secretary of State Colin Powell rejected Russian criticism of the West's role in Ukraine's election crisis, saying the United States and its allies are interested only in freedom for the Ukrainian people. Powell denied allegations by Russian President Vladimir Putin who accused the West of playing "sphere of interest" politics in Ukraine by pushing its own interests in the name of democracy.

The Way Forward

On 10 December 2004 Oleh Rybachuk, Yushchenko's chief of staff, said a victory on December 26 would further align Ukraine with the Europe and the West. "Our priority is exclusively Euro-integration. We don't have a multi-vectoral policy. We are clearly moving for joining the EU and becoming a member of the NATO, and we are telling Russians the same message," he said.

But some experts say Ukraine's future is more complicated than simply turning to Europe or to Russia. Ukraine's deputy minister of foreign affairs, Oleh Shamshur, said that looking toward Europe does not mean Ukraine is turning its back on Russia. "Our relations with Russia are extremely important for both countries; the economies, the people, but they are also important for Europe, especially for its stability and security," he said.



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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:34:03 ZULU