Monday, April 28, 2014

When Yanukovich Was New

Here's a blast from the past relevant to the current Ukraine crisis.

I find it amazing that so many pundits in the media keep insisting, "who would have ever thought Putin would want to invade Ukraine?" From my original blog site (frozen in time by Reocities):

"Support Democracy in Ukraine" (Posted November 24, 2004)

Ukraine is in crisis over a government rigged election that has declared the pro-Russian candidate the victor in the presidential election over the pro-Western candidate. This is also a result of the division between ethnic Ukrainians from the west and ethnic Russians in the east of Ukraine. The Russians are quite simply trying to cobble together the empire they lost in 1991:

In Russia's view, the country remains a vital part of the "near abroad," the former Soviet republics with deep economic, historical and, in Ukraine's case, cultural, linguistic and ethnic bonds. Mr. Putin has invested considerable effort in drawing Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan into an economic and political union.

And there is nothing subtle about how the government rigged the election. This is blatant and the EU should be ashamed for its silence. Good God, the Ukrainian government couldn't even pull off a good vote stealing campaign like Hugo Chavez did in Venezuela! I bet even Jimmy Carter would have to admit something is wrong. Poland, to its credit and with its own experience in 1946 of having the Russians snatch democracy from them, has been vocal (via Instapundit) in defending democracy in Ukraine.

President Bush has rightly called for a peaceful inquiry into this rather than letting the 1,200 or so Ukrainian troops in Iraq silence us over this blatant power grab:

The United States is deeply disturbed by extensive and credible indications of fraud committed in the Ukrainian presidential election. We strongly support efforts to review the conduct of the election and urge Ukrainian authorities not to certify results until investigations of organized fraud are resolved. We call on the Government of Ukraine to respect the will of the Ukrainian people, and we urge all Ukrainians to resolve the situation through peaceful means. The Government bears a special responsibility not to use or incite violence, and to allow free media to report accurately on the situation without intimidation or coercion. The United States stands with the Ukrainian people in this difficult time.

The Ukrainian government doesn't look like it is in any mood to follow the rule of law:

Ukraine's election commission declared the Kremlin-backed prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, the winner of the country's bitterly disputed presidential election, sharpening a crisis sparked by the opposition candidate's allegations that the vote was fraudulent.

I have to wonder if the Ukrainian government will be willing to back this up with a Chinese-style throat stomping that kills thousands.

And what will Russia do? While Putin's Russia is far better than Soviet Russia, it is possible that this is in large measure only because the empire has been lopped off and the Russian military is far weaker than in the Soviet era. We must stop the Russians. I don't say this in some strange nostalgia for the Cold War. I want Russia to be our friend. I want them to be successful in fighting Islamic terrorists so that no more Beslans happen. I want them to prosper in a democracy under rule of law that even if imperfect is at least on the right path.

But that does not mean we should sacrifice our ideals to placate Putin and stand aside while he pursues goals that trample on our ideals. We must oppose Putin's blatant attempt to steal the Ukrainian election and put his own people in charge in Ukraine. If this is like Poland in 1946, will our silence allow freedom to be crushed in Ukraine for another forty years?

It is better for us to support democracy and rule of law over supporting a particular regime that may bring its troops in Iraq home in retaliation if the vote-stealers win in the end. Because one day the democrats will win and they may recall that we let them down because we could be bought with 1,200 troops in a quiet area of Iraq.

Besides, what exactly could Russia do? The broken shards of their conventional army are tied down in tiny Chechnya. The Russians can send in the FSB (old KGB) or launch nukes (and the nukes might work). That is the limit of their forceful response. Do they really want chaos on their southern border? I don't think they'll push this too far if the West stands up to them.

This incident is also why we expand NATO eastward. You never can tell what the future may bring. I hope it brings a Russia free and allied with us. But Putin doesn't seem to have that high on his list of things to do lately.

This year, Yanukovich was willing to kill a hundred to maintain power. But beyond that, there was no stomach for a slaughter. Russia did send in the FSB (with the Spetsnaz) to Crimea. And that worked. And Russia's military is somewhat revived now. So moving into into eastern Ukraine became an option.

I have no idea if any of the links still work.