Monday, April 09, 2007

Further Thoughts on Ukraine

Thanks to those who have offered their own comments either via the blog or directly.

Some further comments:

1) I am a bit leery of using crowd comparisons in Kyiv as a basis for making assessments about democratic legitimacy. How many people gather in a tent city or show up at a rally--while significant for indicating popular sentiment--is still not a proper substitute for the ballot box and formal procedures. Similary, polling data is useful but only to a point.

I bring this up because one can cite the relatively small pro-Rada/pro-Yanukovych crowds and the enthusiasm of the Orange backers and/or the latest polls released showing some 59 percent of Ukrainians don't support Yushchenko's decision to dissolve the Rada. Crowds and polls are not necessarily representative (if they were, the United States would never have invaded Iraq and John Kerry should be president).

2) There is no workable 51 percent solution for Ukraine. Both sides are operating from the principle that getting a bare majority means you have a mandate for sweeping change. As I argued in the International Herald Tribune last week, Ukraine remains a deeply divided society and the best way forward is for politicians to make a government of national unity truly function.

3) Yuliya Tymoshenko cannot be given a pass for her role in creating strife--and a distinction has to be drawn between her political ambitions and Ukraine's westward course. Had she been willing to temper her desire for the premiership then a workable coalition could have been created last summer that would have first prevented Viktor Yanukovych from coming to power and then the current crisis from ever have occuring. Her bloc was more than willing to support the proposals for weakening the position of the presidency--she has not objected to what Yanukovych was trying to do out of principle but because she and her supporters have been unable to wield this power. (Similar to members of Congress who argue that the president of the opposing side can't do something but a president from their own party has free rein).

4) Finally, for those of us observing the events. There is a difference between analysis and advocacy. There is nothing wrong with advocacy (support for a particular party or politician) but the analyst has to be able to dispassionately report the facts and give his or her impressions that are supported by the evidence. We all have preferences--but if one claims to be an analyst those preferences must not override or ignore inconvenient facts.

Nick, Nick, Nick.

You just don't get it.

This is about the apocalyptic battle between good and evil, light and dark, freedom and tyranny. No one wants an analyst to tell them that "both God and the Devil" have good and bad points.
Again Nick, repeat after me: Russia is the focus of evil in the modern world, because Russia has the capacity to resist the imposition of our will, as did the Soviet Union before her. Putin is especially evil because he understands that the Soviet/Russian concessions of the late 1980s/early 1990s utterly failed to appease our fundamental hostility to Russia, ands so he refuses to do our will like that great democrat Boris Yeltsin. You see, the acid test of Democracy in Russia is whether or not the Russian President uses his vast power in accordance with our will and to the detriment of his country, or in pursuit of Russia's interest.
Anonymous 4:32,

In his May 10, 2006, speech to the Duma, President Putin said the following:

“ 'In the working out of a great national program which seeks the primary good of the greater number, it is true that the toes of some people are being stepped on and are going to be stepped on. But these toes belong to the comparative few who seek to retain or to gain position or riches or both by some short cut which is harmful to the greater good.'

These are fine words and it is a pity that it was not I who thought them up. It was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the President of the United States of America, in 1934.

These words were spoken as the country was emerging from the great depression. Many countries have faced similar problems, just as we are today, and many have found worthy ways to overcome them."

The United States doesn't seem to see the irony here in criticising Russia for trying to shift from a 1920s American policy of laisser-faire to a 1930s American policy of reining in big business and asserting the power of the state. Of course, there are some aspects of current Russian policy that are not American, but it does appear that Russia is still looking to the United States for the basic direction in which it wants to go.
David, there is no irony. You have inadvertently specified why the US foreign policy elite is so outraged at Putin. Recall that under FDR, the US went from the depths of the Depression to being a globe-spanning military Superpower, with by far the most powerful Navy and Air Force in the world, and a contender for the most powerful Army.

It is exactly Putin's policy that Russia will recover as a Power to be reckoned with, whoever he takes as a model, that makes him the focus of evil in the modern world for the US foreign policy elite.
Anonymous 3:49,

What is ironic is that US policy (not me) has found fault with Putin for trying to embrace the example of our own history. I would, however, make one additional point.

After 1945 the United States recognized that isolationism was a mistake. President Putin has not embraced isolation as we did in the 1930s, but Russia cannot benefit from recovery as a great power unless it eventually finds allies.
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