Storm breaks over Ukraine

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US Secretary of State Powell, British Foreign Secretary Straw and European Commission President Barroso swiftly took the side of the demonstrators in Kiev, protesting at the declaration of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych as winner of Ukraine’s 21 November presidential elections. Powell said the US did not accept the results of the election and warned of the consequences if the Ukrainian government did not act quickly. Russian president Putin congratulated Yanukovych before the results were announced. Powell visited the Ukraine during the election campaign and Putin visited twice to support Yanukovych. Writing in The Guardian (25 November 2004) Timothy Garton Ash declared for the demonstrators and said that Ukraine was on ‘the front line of the forward march of freedom’. As we go to press the Supreme Court has suspended the result of the election.

Powell, Straw and Barroso support opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko. Yuschenko is a former head of the National Bank of Ukraine and his associates include those who benefited from the privatisation of Ukraine’s industry. Yuschenko wants closer ties with the European Union (EU) and an open market economy. He said he wants Ukraine’s troops withdrawn from Iraq. Yanukovych seeks closer relations with Russia and received strong support from Ukraine’s Russian population, located mainly in the east of the country. The industrial workers and miners of the east see in the former German Democratic Republic what Yuschenko’s programme offers them: unemployment and poverty.

In 1999, as NATO attacked Yugoslavia, Ukraine’s parliament voted for the return of nuclear weapons to Ukraine. Ukraine abandoned nuclear weapons after US President Clinton’s government gave assurances that the future of Europe would be based on European institutions and law. The attack on Yugoslavia demonstrated this to be a lie. The US used its military power to exploit the weakness of Russia and assert US power in Europe. The Balkans war was viewed as a prelude to the struggle for control of Ukraine.

As the biggest European country, other than Russia, and with 50 million people, the Ukraine occupies a strategic position in Eurasia. For the US ruling class control over Ukraine would both increase US influence over Europe and further weaken Russian influence in Eurasia. It would threaten the further disintegration of Russia. In 1998 US strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski said that any democratic movement in the Ukraine to form a security pact with Russia would lead the US to attempt a coup d’état: ‘In such a case, when the West would have to choose between a democratic or an independent Ukraine, strategic interests – not democratic considerations – must determine the Western stance.’ On 24 November Brzezinski said ‘If Ukrainian democracy fails then Russian imperial visions are rewarded.’ The US government must tell Russia ‘baldly’, but in private, that it could not have a ‘free ride’ in Ukraine.

For the Russian government Ukraine must be bound politically and economically to Russia if Russia is to recover the influence it lost to the US in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia in the 1990s.

The US spent $14 million on the Ukraine election. It drafted in teams trained in US electoral mass marketing techniques: consultants, image handlers, pollsters, focus groups etc. Such teams successfully contributed to the removal of Slobodan Milosevic from government in Yugoslavia in 2000 and Eduard Shevernadze in Georgia in 2003. (Ian Traynor, The Guardian, 26 November 2004). Georgian president Saakashvili used his first anniversary address to encourage his Ukrainian ‘sisters and brothers’. Georgia now hosts US troops. The Ukrainian opposition asked Lech Walesa, from Poland’s Solidarnosc, to mediate in the electoral dispute.

The Ukrainian people are lured by the prospect of EU membership and life-styles that imperialist global plunder affords if they ally with the EU and US. But it is not democracy and freedom that are on offer. Their anger at the corrupt Ukrainian state is justified, but the imperialists have calculated that it will lead them into a trap.
Trevor Rayne

FRFI 182 December 2004 / January 2005