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Monday, March 21

But Kuchma was our tyrant

Pundita! Would you stop fiddling with your sidebar! It’s driving me nuts! I went to click on the website for World Bank president and it was gone. And by the way, can we please take a vacation from talking about the World Bank? And Europe and China? We get the picture. We can’t trust the World Bank, Germany, France, Russia, Ukraine and China any further than we can throw them. Now can we please move the foreign policy discussion to someplace closer to home? What about Canada and Mexico? They’re our neighbors, you know. Also, we’ve never once discussed any country in Latin America, but now I suppose we’ll have to spend the next week discussing Kuchma’s sales of missiles to Tehran. [Signed] Not Born Yesterday in New York”

Dear NBY:

Canada and Latin American countries have not been selling weapons and weapons/dual use technology to terror sponsoring regimes. Nor to Pundita’s knowledge has any regional development bank connected with Latin America been writing loans/grants to such regimes. We’ve been prioritizing foreign policy discussion according to threats to US national security. However, Pundita takes your point. We will soon turn to discussion of our neighbors.

With regard to your comment about Kuchma, Pundita has not been doing her job properly if you automatically assume that it was Kuchma’s government that sold the missiles in question to Tehran. Yushchenko’s administration is busily working to blame everything from solar flares to male pattern baldness on Kuchma’s government.

You need to remember that at one time, Cold War warriors such as Breziznski viewed the mullacracy in Tehran as a ‘green belt’ against encroachment of the Soviets on Middle East oil. You might also want to bone up on the Iran-Contra affair. And recall the divide-and-conquer strategy favored by Washington and London, which saw the standoff between Baghdad and Tehran as very useful to keeping the rest of the Middle East in line.

Of course all that was before 9/11; US policy toward the Middle East has changed greatly since then. Yet you need to keep all the above history in mind, and keep a large salt shaker handy, when considering bombshell data that governments plop into the daily news these days.

This said, it wouldn’t surprise Pundita to learn that someone in Kuchma’s government sold some missiles. The surprise is hearing Americans sputter that Kuchma’s government was a democracy-hating tyranny of the most evil order. Then why did NATO admit Ukraine under Kuchma’s tyranny?

Kuchma was our boy; he did everything Washington wanted up to the point where he risked having Russia shut off energy supply to Ukraine. One look at US aid and World Bank loans to Ukraine during Kuchma’s years shows that he had instituted democracy reforms. He sought and gained entry for Ukraine into NATO. But one day Washington soured on Kuchma. We still don’t know why. We’ve discussed this issue before. Washington’s turn could have been due to a number of converging factors—which could include learning about the missile sales to Tehran. And there is still the accusation floating around that someone in Kuchma’s government sold weapons technology or whatever to Saddam Hussein. However, the French sold weapons to Saddam during the embargo and allegedly even after they knew the US was to invade Iraq. Doubtful that France was the only NATO ally engaged in such practice.

In any case, it's not a really a matter of trust. We can’t blame countries for acting in what they perceive is their best interest—although we can try to convince them to adopt a better set of priorities, if they’re doing weapons trade with US enemies. We need to save blame for the US Department of State, which gained far too much power during the Clinton era and combined this with dangerously uninformed views of post-Soviet Russia, oligarch clan politics in former Soviet regions, the European Community, and the Middle East entire.

With regard to your complaint, Pundita has not made changes to her sidebar for five days—a record, I believe.

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