Saturday, March 31, 2007


Adam Larson
Caustic Logic / Guerillas Without Guns

President Leonid Kuchma, isolated in November 2003
About a year after the rose Revolution in Georgia, the Otpor-Kmara template was again applied to great effect in the much larger and more vital former Soviet Republic of Ukraine. Here the nonviolent sniper sights were set on the corrupt, repressive, allegedly murderous government of Leonid Kuchma that – coincidentally, of course – was increasingly allied with Moscow. Kuchma was first elected to the Ukrainian Parliament in 1990, staking out a role in the Committee on Defense and State Security. After independence Kuchma was appointed Prime Minister in 1992, but resigned in late 1993 to run for the presidency on a platform of boosting the economy by restoring economic relations with Russia. Kuchma won the race in 1994 and soon signed a ‘Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership’ with Russia, and endorsed a new round of talks with the CIS. But he also arranged a $730 million loan from the Washington-based IMF, signed a special partnership agreement with NATO, and even raised the possibility of membership in the alliance, a pretty radical idea by Ukrainian standards. [1]

As for democratic procedure, as Canadian-Ukrainian journalist Taras Kuzio pointed out “under Kuchma, Ukraine never experienced free elections.” [2] After a scam re-election in 1999, serious problems for Kuchma’s regime began in November 2000. Opposition leader Oleksandr Moroz and others had accused President Kuchma of involvement in the abduction and killing of journalist Georgiy Gongadze, a prominent critic of the regime whose headless corpse was found in the woods after he went missing in September. The November release of incriminating recorded conversations, including an order from Kuchma’s own mouth to have Gongadze kidnapped, launched what came to be known as the “cassette scandal,” or “tapegate.”

Kuchma's former bodyguard was named as the source of the secret recordings, which Kuchma claimed were computer-generated forgeries. But his popularity at home and abroad sank as many others were convinced and as further revelations came from the tapes, if noticed a bit late. In 2002 Washington was alarmed to learn that the tapes also revealed an apparent transfer of a sophisticated Ukrainian defense system to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. [3] As a result, Kuchma was boycotted by the US and other Western governments for a time, and Ukraine turned increasingly to Russia for support, saying the country needed a “multivector” foreign policy that “balanced” Russian and Western interests with, hopefully, Ukraine’s own.

He also started referring to Russian as “an official language,” which was lucky news for Viktor Yanukovych, whom Kuchma appointed as Prime Minister in November 2002. Yanukovych hailed from Donetsk, the Russo-centered eastern capital of industry and was extremely unpopular in Kiev. Yanukovych was a criminal thug in his youth, accused of massive corruption in power, and while fluent in Russian, Yanukovych was considered clumsy with the Ukrainian language. The West’s planners frowned and turned back to their plan books.

Fashionista billionaire and sweetheart of the West Yulia Tymoshenko
In early 2004 Ukraine was set to join Russia’s United Economic Space along with neighboring Belarus. This prospect was blasted by rising Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko as “one free-trade deal that won’t free trade.” She warned “the treaty will only entrench post-communism's corrupt and criminal business practices, not increase trade or prosperity […] The proposed 'united economic space' will also have its own norms - the ways of the oligarch, the corrupt bureaucrat, the crony capitalist, and the politically motivated prosecutor.” [9]Ironically, she is generally classed as a crony capitalist (whose cronies were simply not in power at the moment) and among the wealthiest of Ukraine’s oligarchs. While unpopular with many of their citizens, the West, and the West’s political allies in Kiev, Kuchma and Yanukovych remained in power and fully capable of stealing elections. If only there were a way of preventing that…

In the context of a great game with Russia, the emphasis on Ukraine is understandable - it’s the biggest thing one can take from Russia besides Russia itself. It seems a stretch to even attempt such a move, but apparently the successes of Belgrade and Tbilisi had left some people feeling very cocky. One should not be surprised if the western planners would play this touchy game a bit more carefully than they did in Georgia. Indeed, promoter of “democratic transformations” Michael McFaul noted that “in the years leading up to the 2004 votes, American ambassadors in Ukraine insisted that no U.S. government money could be provided to any candidate.” Instead, McFaul explains, the US simply urged the Orange Revolution on from the sidelines as they chose their own leaders and their own direction. Directly U.S. sponsored education seminars for activists have not yet been reported to my knowledge. Richard Miles was not made ambassador there. But while the U.S. government and its linked NGOs emphatically deny that they were involved in any real way, the same thumbprints are all over this case.

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