Sunday, January 9

How many broken eggs does it take?

... if the US had played it straight Pundita would not be writing all these posts on Ukraine. We are within our rights to attempt to induce and even pressure governments who receive our aid into adopting measures we favor. We are not within our rights to pull a sleight of hand in the name of democracy in order to set our favored candidate in power.

"Pundita, I still think America's intervention in Ukraine was, on the whole, a good thing. There was tremendous fraud by Yanukovich's Putin-backed supporters during the first round of election. Max Boot pointed out that the American Bar Association spent $400,000 to train Ukrainian judges in election law, and that five supreme court judges who benefited from the training voted to overturn the fraudulent results of the Nov. 21 balloting and to hold the revote, which led to Yushchenko's victory."
[Signed] June in Cincinnati

Dear June:
At that juncture, the judges in question would have voted for eight days in a week; Yushchenko's forces mobilized mobs to gather outside the court building; clearly they threatened to storm the building if the vote didn't go as they wanted. That would have been the match to the tinder, which is why the judges voted on a situation that was still very murky.

Boot's argument mixes two distinct issues; by doing so, he glosses US intervention in Ukraine's affairs.

Boot lists the aid money/programs that the US government gave, and which various US organizations donated to aid in strengthening Ukraine's democratic processes. He presents these in support of his argument that, "There was nothing nefarious about the U.S. intervention in Ukraine, which was designed to promote democracy, not any particular candidate."

However, the US-sponsored democracy programs and aid/donations were not interventions -- at least, not on their face. They were made at the invitation of the sitting Ukraine government, and carried out with the government's full approval. Oddly, Boot's writing implicitly recognizes that fact by citing that the aid in question had been over the period of two years--which was prior to the election.

But there was US government intervention in the democratic process in Ukraine and their affairs of state. How and why Washington intervened in Ukraine's affairs rests on complex issues, which means the story is easily glossed over and lost in the shuffle of the drama surrounding the contested election. One part of the story is summarized under the heading "How the change of power in Ukraine was prepared" in the World Socialist Web Site article I cited in an earlier post. The best I can do is encourage you to read the story or read it again.

The story does not begin with the Ukraine election. It begins with Kuchma's fall from favor in Washington. After reading the article, please don't write Pundita to accuse Dick Cheney of being behind it all. Remember, this is the World Socialist Web Site we're dealing with. Oil and gas were part of it. But Kuchma shut down the offending pipeline.

One aspect of the story not mentioned by that particular WSWS article is Kuchma's act to sell a government-owned company (to a relative, if I recall correctly) in order to prevent the company from being taken over by foreign investors. From this distance, that was a questionable way to keep a key company out of the hands of foreign investors, but it may have been a temporary measure made under extreme time pressure.

In any case, the action should not have called forth a decision among foreign powers to bring down Kuchma's government. Yet that seems to have been the case--that, and his government's interest in creating an alliance with Russia and other FSU to form their own version of the EU. Whether or not such an alliance was made with pressure from Russia, that is not justification for foreign powers to bring down a government and set their own man in place.

Kuchma attempted to steer Ukraine on a course that was as independent as possible from Russia's influence and he was doing it with Putin's blessing. But from the EU and US side, his spark of independence was, as the dramatists say, his undoing.

Yet Kuchma and his hand-picked candidate, Yanukovich, did everything in their power, within reason, to stay on the right side of Washington. Why? Because they saw the advantage and because Vladimir Putin wanted them to. Yes, this is the same Vladimir Putin who stuck his neck out to tell the world of his support for Bush's reelection. Putin was under the impression at the time that the Bush administration was honestly trying to forge better relations with Russia. This would work to Ukraine's advantage, and Kuchma and Yanukovich knew this. They also knew that Russia has a big stake in Ukraine, and always will. The reverse is also true.

The Yuschenko forces and their American and European backers claim that Moscow intervened in Ukraine's election; that they threw much more money into Yanukovich's campaign than the Americans and Europeans threw to Yuschenko, and that Yanukovich's forces rigged the voting. These accusations are two separate issues.

After Kuchma and Yanukovich fell from grace in Washington, they knew there would be no chance of Yanukovich winning the election, given the US/Europe backing of Yuschenko. So they asked Moscow for financial help.

Is that democratic? Well, it's unwise, if you want to hold onto your democracy, to ask foreigners to contribute to your election campaign. Pundita doesn't know the election law in this case. If Ukraine law allowed, then the Orange candidate had as much right to solicit funds from Americans/ Europeans as the Blue candidate had to ask Russia for funds.

The other issue is ballot stuffing. There were abuses on both sides, although it seems that the Blue candidate (Russia's pick) outstripped his opponent in ballot stuffing during the first election round.

However, the US/ European forces who backed Yuschenko were taking no chances. They mobilized even before the first election was called in Yanukovich's favor, which set in play the scenario that led to the mobs outside the Ukraine Supreme Court.

Ironically, if the US had not intervened, we would have supported democracy and kept our reputation intact. This is because at the point of election observation we were above reproach. US observers had been invited -- I repeat, invited -- to observe the election and to speak up in the event of observed balloting fraud.

In short, if the US had played it straight Pundita would not be writing all these posts on Ukraine. We are within our rights to attempt to induce and even pressure governments who receive our aid into adopting measures we favor. We are not within our rights to pull a sleight of hand in the name of democracy in order to set our favored candidate in power.

I don't want to hear that Putin was doing the same. What is this, kindergarten? Here in the adult world, it's not okay to do what the other guy is doing just because he's doing it. Either the US government screwed up or didn't care that they shoved Kuchma toward Moscow after they decided to back Yuschenko. Either way, they made an unnecessary enemy of Kuchma, who then turned to Moscow. That might have gotten his guy Yanukovich a loss under fair conditions, i.e., conditions that did not see outside money in play, but we'll never know.

The question of Russia's intervention is their matter and the Ukraine government's matter to investigate. The question of European intervention is the matter for the EU parties involved and Ukraine to consider. It will be a cold day in hell before Yushchenko's government orders an investigation of US actions. But what Americans need to investigate is whether:

> funds were siphoned from US democracy programs to finance Yushchenko's campaign and the post-election mobilization against the contested vote.

> George Soros acted "without portfolio" at the State Department's behest with regard to his part in financing Yushchenko's campaign and the mobilization.

We need the investigation for two reasons. With regard to Soros, he is not an employee of the US Department of State. He has no position with any US government agency. He did act without portfolio for State during the Clinton administration, with Clinton's blessing.

If Mr. Soros's status has continued under the Bush administration, this needs to made clear to the American public. (From all accounts, Soros was never able to get his foot in the door of the Bush White House.)

If on the other hand, Soros and his connection(s) at State acted according to their own lights -- without guidance from the White House or Congress -- the connections at State need the riot act read to them.

The issue is one of accountability. Mr. Soros has a tendency to play Pied Piper. But when things go wrong, and they've gone wrong in Georgia and Serbia, he's not held accountable. This is because he has no official position with the US government. Particularly during a hot war this country can't afford to allow Pied Pipers to operate with the unofficial blessing of our foreign office.

The most important reason for conducting an investigation is the discrepancy between the dollar amounts that have been quoted with regard to US-sponsored democratic programs in Ukraine. Max Boot quotes the US version. The WSWS article highlighted above quotes Ukraine government sources:
In the past two years alone, the American government has spent more than 65 million dollars to help the Ukrainian opposition to power. This has been confirmed within the past few days by government representatives. Additional millions came from private donators such as the Soros Foundation, and European governments.

Naturally, these funds flowed indirectly to political parties. As the US government stresses, they were made available to serve in general the “promotion of democracy.” It is an open secret that such funds benefited the opposition almost exclusively. The money went to institutes and non-governmental organisations that advise the opposition, assist it with the most modern technical aids and advertising techniques, and train election helpers. Visits paid by opposition leader Yushchenko to American politicians were also financed with these funds. Also funded in the same manner were the voter opinion polls, which were then held up as proof of election fraud by the government camp.

As well as exercising a general influence in the elections, these funds also serve to deepen corruption. Even if one excludes direct bribery, such sums in a country where average monthly wages are between $30 and $100 must have a corrupting effect.
Yushchenko's government might dispute the account but without a US inquiry the version provided the WSWS reporter will stand in Russia, in the portion of Ukraine that voted for Yanukovich, and in every country that is leery of US "democracy aid."

That intervention by a foreign power in a country's affairs is "nefarious" almost pales beside the point that the intervention in this case mocks Bush's call for this to be liberty's century. It mocks every American who puts trust in the Bush administration to stand by the American people's commitment to promote democracy in the world. It mocks democracy.

The mess we got ourselves into in Ukraine was unnecessary, if the US had simply dealt from the top of the deck; i.e., stayed aloof from the fray until called upon to report on any observed election fraud. Then would have been the time to lodge complaints with Russia and the Europeans who involved themselves in the election.

Those who say that you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs are correct, but just how big an omelette are we talking about? If it's 65 million dollars worth -- do we need to break that many eggs to serve the cause of democracy, in a land where the average monthly salary is between $30 and $100?

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