Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Ukrainian Election Mess

Hi Everyone,

A few weeks ago we (the Citizens and some of our friends) got into a little argument on this blog about Russia's President Putin. Well, get ready for another argument. Putin appears to be fiddling around with Ukrainian democracy now.

Ukraine had an election yesterday and the results are being questioned both by Ukrainian opposition supporters and by U.S., E.U. and OSCE observers! The top U.S. observer was Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana). Lugar has long been involved in post-Communist transitions in the former USSR. He's been involved in securing nuclear materials and finding financial aid for Russia nuclear scientists. This is a guy who knows the politics of the region and someone we should trust (absent clear evidence he's biased) if he says the election was rigged. That the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe agree with Lugar is very telling.

So what does this have to do with Putin? The election was between two candidates. The candidate who has the backing of t
he current President of Ukraine and of Putin is an ethnic Russian, Yanukovych, who wants to slow/reverse reform and make Russian the co-official language of the Ukraine (a signal he wants closer ties to Russia). Yanukovych did time in prison in his 20s for assault and robbery (so he's a common thug - probably ex-mafia/black market).

The other candidate is a Ukrainian named,
Yushchenko, who wants to move forward with economic reforms and establish closer ties with the West, especially the E.U. (which now borders the Ukraine). Yushchenko is an economist and advocate of free market reforms.

While the U.S., the E.U. and the OSCE have all declared that Yanukovych committed massive election fraud, Putin has declared his recognition of Yanukovych's victory. In the last debate we had about Putin's commitment to democracy, Law Talking Guy defended Putin saying that Putin was only doing what was necessary to break the strangle hold of communists, mafia and corrupt "oligarchs." But in this case, Putin had a choice between supporting a pro-reform candidate opposed to Russian nationalism or a candidate supporting Russian nationalism and opposed to reform. Putin chose Russian nationalism.
There is no evidence yet that Putin directly involved himself or Russia in the election fraud but it is early days yet. This should ring alarm bells around the world if only because of what it says about Putin's true preferences!

I hope that Ukraine can be rescued from this catastrophe. I hope Yushchenko is allowed to assume the Presidency.

20 comments:

Dr. Strangelove said...

Yanukovych and Yuschenko. So hard to keep the names straight...

Pravda today had an amusing editorial on the election. Naturally, they support Yankuovych. Here's an excerpt:

"Mention of 'electoral fraud and abuse' from an American observer was risible, after the two fiascos in the USA which saw the most flagrant examples of vote-rigging and electoral fixing in modern history... When the Republican Party deploys electronic voting machines bought from Republican Party fundraisers who promised before the election to help the President to win, the OSCE observers describe it as localised and insignificant incidents. However, when the incompent stooge Yushchenko fails to win in the Ukraine, it is fraud."

...kinda makes you wish we had that kind of reaction here 4 years ago. Imagine hundreds of thousands of citizens in the major cities (NY, LA, Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C.) turning out to protest the fraud in Florida and demand that Gore be chosen by the electoral college. LTG has mentioned on other occasions that Gore's unwillingness to call for such a "velvet revolution" or "rose revolution" in the US was an error--a lack of vision perhaps--or maybe even a sign of cowardice (I hope I am not putting words in his mouth). It would at least have been a fascinating moment in American democracy!

The Law Talking Guy said...

Comment re: Al Gore.
I asked my class the day after the election, "All right - everyone who wants to go to the barricades for Al Gore, step up!" There were snickers. I explained that that was his problem -- no real movement behind him.

Comment re: Ukraine.
Ukrainian-Russian politics are much more complicated than sometimes given credit. Ukrainian independence is not really respected in Russia; they think of the Ukraine as "the frontier" or "the borderland" - which is what "Ukraine" means. Russian attempts to control Ukraine and Belarus have been continuous since 1991. Russians are about 40% of the population, and they dominate in the East (80%+). It's a troublesome issue. Ukrainian nationalism has been associated with the southwestern regions. I listened to Yuschenko addressing the crowds in Kiev. He was speaking in RUSSIAN. I, too, hope he succeeds. But I am merely disappointed -- not surprised -- that Russia is taking the tack it has.

Raised By Republicans said...

Both you guys are changing the subject. I'm just about sick and tired of hearing about Al Gore. ; - )

Anyway, I'm thinking there are amazing similarities between what apologists for Russian nationalism say about Russian-Ukrainian relations and what apologists for the Chinese government say about Sino-Tibetan relations. Both the Russo-philes and the Sino-philes try to argue that the respective victim countries aren't really countries (despite the insistance by local populations that they are really countries) but more like provinces of Russia or China.

What gets me is that most of the Russo-piles I know object to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and most of the Sino-philes I know would object to Russian interference with Ukrainian internal politics.

The Law Talking Guy said...

As the likely target of RBR's comments, let me respond. The histories of China and Russia are not that comparable, and neither is the Taiwan/Ukraine comparison. Taiwan followed a half-century of Japanese rule with a half-century of separation from Mainland china. It has now a true democracy, and faces an authoritarian state. By contrast, the Ukraine had only a brief moment of independence (during the Russian civil war 1919-1921), before being created in 1991. The Ukrainian/Russian border during Soviet times was moved for political reasons to include quite a bit of Russian speaking areas. The very idea that Ukraine was anything other than just the Russian frontier relatively new, a result of Russification in the mid-19th century.

In addition, there has been no talk of forceful invasion by Russia (as China with Taiwan) and no denial of Ukrainian sovereignty (as China with Taiwan). This is a poor comparison to make.

Here's the bottom line: Russian interference in the Ukraine is both unsurprising and relatively benign. Throughout the former USSR, Russian disengagement has been rather slow -- its troops remain stationed in many former Soviet republics, and large #s of Russian peopls live throughout other former Soviet republics. Yet there is no indication that Russia intends to conquer territory or embark on the kind of national aggrandizement that China is after.

Raised By Republicans said...

Tibet, not Taiwan.

Dr. Strangelove said...

There was a NY Times article today that I found quite moving. Last Thursday, the interpreter for the deaf on Ukranian state television--was supposed to translate what the anchor said into sign language in her little box in the corner of the screen--but instead she signed something very different.

She signed, "The results announced by the Central Electoral Commission are rigged. Do not believe them." She went on to declare that Viktor A. Yushchenko, the opposition leader, was the country's new president. "I am very disappointed by the fact that I had to interpret lies. I will not do it any more. I do not know if you will see me again."

After that, 200 journalists went on strike (she joined them) and forced the state-run TV station to start covering the incredible demonstrations and events unfolding in Kiev. Previously they had been allowed only to speak of the violent, illegal work of a few agitators--now the whole nation can see what is really happening. They also started allowing Yuschenko to appear on state TV.

Now Pres. Leonid Kuchma is calling for a new election. Perhaps he is remembering similar mass protests that happened in Czechoslovakia, Georgia, and Serbia, and now sees a new election as his only chance to forestall a revolution.

Raised By Republicans said...

Yeah, I heard about that story. On a purely made up non-scientific type guessing scale of rigged, undemocratic politics Ukraine is an 8 compared to a 4 for what went down in Florida (of course we usually have elections that are about 2 or 3).

Gaoshan said...

Putin is only following America's unfortunate lead. Support the guy who is on your side no matter what he is.

Whoever compared the China/Taiwan or China/Tibet issues to Russia/Ukraine is ridiculous. How in the world are they similar?

With Taiwan, the losing side in a civil war retreated to an area previously controlled by the country as a whole. With Tibet, a province long under Chinese control made politically unwise moves at a time when political tension in the area was extreme. Where is the similarity between these and Russia/Ukraine?

You are making connections where there are none, my friend.

Raised By Republicans said...

The Ukraine is going to redo the election!

Next subtopic: "With Tibet, a province long under Chinese control made politically unwise moves at a time when political tension in the area was extreme. Where is the similarity between these and Russia/Ukraine? You are making connections where there are none, my friend."

I never intended a comparison between Ukraine and Taiwan. But I still believe that the similarity between China-Tibet and Russia-Ukraine is substantial. Russian nationalists (and their sympathizers) claim that Ukraine has "always" been ruled by Russia and has "always" been an integral part of Russia. This despite claims by Ukrainians to be a distinct people with rights of self-determination. Your own comments about Tibet just now are almost identitcal to those by Russian nationalists about Ukraine but with China and Tibet substituted for Russia and Ukraine.

The biggest difference between the two is that Ukraine is a bigger, more populous country than Tibet and so can defend itself somewhat from an outright invasion.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Yuschenko really was poisoined. Wow... but now I suppose the question is: by whom? And why? And why dioxin of all things?

Any way you slice it... creepy.

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