A New Ukraine vs. a Revival of the Old USSR? (And a Peek into the the American Fever Swamp)

The events in Ukraine show that the opposition is keeping up the pressure. The refusal of television journalists to continue “telling the government’s lies“, the continued turnouts in Kiev, and the movement of some police and soldiers to wear orange armbands in support of the opposition show that we may be witnessing a decisive turn against the Soviet past in Ukraine.

I had been told by Ukrainian and Russian friends that it is widely believed that opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko had been poisoned by the government, in a repeat of an old KGB tactic. I had heard that he was sick, but these photos indicate how ill he is.

Meanwhile, outspoken crackpot Justin Raimondo has emerged from the fever swamp to mock Yushchenko and the Ukrainian opposition in his online column, by way of mocking the idea of elections in Iraq and in Afghanistan:

In the Ukraine, tens of thousands of protesters march through the streets demanding that pro-Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich give up the reins of power: he stole the election, they claim. The whole thing was “rigged.” How do they know this? Well, you see, the exit polls — conducted by Western organizations — showed their candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, the winner. When the final results didn’t jibe with the polls, and Yanukovich came out ahead, Yushchenko called his supporters out into the streets, anointed himself the winner, and threatened civil war.

Gee, why didn’t the Kerryites think of that? After all, early exit polls in the U.S. showed the Democratic candidate as the putative winner: on election day in the U.S., rumors of Kerry’s imminent victory were spurred by (possibly biased?) reporting based on the preliminary numbers that were coming in. According to the “logic” employed by Yushchenko and his Western supporters — including the EU, the OSCE, and U.S. government officials (and the White House) — this means Kerry is the actual winner of the November election, and a usurper sits in the Oval Office.

In his column, Raimondo calls the members of the Iraqi National Guard “quislings” and “traitors.” Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian collaborator with the Nazi occupation of his country, so, since “traitor” wasn’t vicious enough for Raimondo, he had to compare the U.S. government to the Nazis. Now that the war is a fait accompli, Raimondo would prefer that Iraqis not join the police or army and instead allow the Ba’athists and jihadists to continue their “slaughter” (their own word) of infidels and other enemies. Or maybe, since he calls the soldiers of the Iraqi National Guard quislings, he thinks that the jihadists are the equivalent of the anti-Nazi resistance. He’s welcome to go over and join them, but I think he’d find himself on a home video, instead.

Update: Another denizen of the fever swamps, Lew Rockwell, has taken it upon himself to tell us “What To Think About Ukraine” (what would we do without him?). He denounces the opposition movement in Ukraine as a U.S. “imperial adventure” and links to Raimondo’s screed. In passing, Rockwell endorses the “sphere of interest” approach (comparing Ukraine to Mexico) and by implication Russian imperialism.

Showing remarkable modesty, Rockwell has posted on his site the following letter (in response to a truly cloying self-congratulatory essay on how principled he is — although readers may be wondering, “just what principles would those be?”):

“Dear Lew:

I accuse you of being too brilliant for the myopic American public within the United States of Amnesia . . . . I accuse you of being pracmatic, truthful, brave, intelligent, knowing, witty and fearless . . . . I accuse you of being a ‘system buster,’ a daring revolutionary who ‘knows the truth when he sees it’ and knows the BS too . . . . I accuse you of being an educator, a scholar, a leader and a really nice guy . . . . I accuse you of unmasking those who have clouded this reality . . . . I accuse you of maintaining your integrity and your focus in these most interesting of times . . . . I acuse you of helping to ‘set the table’ for the truly glorious events that are about to happen . . .”

3 Responses to “A New Ukraine vs. a Revival of the Old USSR? (And a Peek into the the American Fever Swamp)”

  1. N. Gorovsky

    Distinguishing Friends from Adversaries
    by Doug Bandow

    Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

    The Bush administration continues to press for assistance from other nations in Iraq, but without notable success. Both Germany and Russia now indicate a willingness to help, but not with troops. “It’s not even being considered now,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin in advance of his summit with George W. Bush.

    Although a number of U.S. analysts agree with former world chess champion Garry Kasparov that Moscow is no friend of America, Mr. Putin still receives kindly treatment in Washington, in contrast to that of another member of the former Soviet Union which has been more helpful: Ukraine.

    Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma supported the Bush administration’s war in Iraq and recently deployed 1,800 troops there. But because his rule, like that of Mr. Putin, has been tainted by charges of corruption and abuse of power, the Bush administration has kept Kiev out in the cold.

    Balancing security and human rights concerns has never been easy. Washington supported a cohort of repressive dictatorships while confronting the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

    The Bush administration understandably, if uncomfortably, ignored human rights violations in such allied states as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia while prosecuting the war on terrorism. And Washington seems unconcerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin combines hostility towards America with only semi-democratic rule.

    In contrast, Kiev has done much to please the U.S. Ukraine abandoned its nuclear arsenal, left over after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

    When the Bush administration decided to kill the ABM treaty two years ago, Ukraine offered its support. Kiev sent a 450-member chemical decontamination brigade to Kuwait before the war, opened its airspace for allied flights and helped airlift supplies during the conflict.

    Moreover, Kiev has been addressing complaints involving trade and intellectual property. Former U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual referred to a policy of “small steps.” Most recently President Kuchma appointed Ukraine’s ambassador to America, Konstantin Grischenko, as foreign minister.

    Yet President Kuchma has been burdened by a barrage of unflattering charges and unremitting political opposition at home. Kuchma even was accused of allowing the sale of Kolchuga radar systems to Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions. No such equipment turned up after America’s victory, though Washington remains suspicious that Kuchma approved the deal.

    Washington will be tempted to meddle in Ukraine’s election next year. Kuchma says that he isn’t running and the list of possible successors is long. Opposition figures generally have been best received in the United States, both in the human rights community and government circles.

    Former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko, a Kuchma appointee ousted by the previous parliament, is perceived as a pro-Western democrat. Yet of late he has spoken of the need for a good Ukrainian-Russian relationship. Yushchenko and a sizable minority of his party opposed deployment of the chemical weapons specialists; he supported sending occupation troops to Iraq but most of his supporters voted against.

    Former cabinet minister Yulia Timoshenko has been portrayed as a reformer but faces corruption charges at home. Moreover, she has joined the socialist and communist parties in forthrightly opposing any Ukrainian role in Iraq.

    Rather than playing politics in Ukraine, Washington should focus on encouraging Kiev to integrate itself more effectively into the world economy. After a decade of dismal performance Ukraine’s economy is finally growing and Kiev is attempting to spur more foreign investment.

    Ukraine is pressing to join NATO. Better would be freer trade with America, membership in the World Trade Organization and accession to the European Union. Bizarrely, U.S. commerce with Kiev is still restricted by the Cold War Jackson-Vanik Act.

    Washington should remove this restrictive Soviet-era law and encourage Ukraine’s entry into the World Trade Organization. Prosperity would help speed economic reform in Ukraine and build civil society, so necessary for democratic reforms to take root.

    Moreover, this approach would help cement Ukraine’s ties to the West. In mid-September Ukraine, Russia and two other former republics in the old Soviet Union signed an agreement to create a customs union of sorts called the United Economic Space. Former Ambassador Pascual warned in his farewell speech of an “internal tug-of-war” over “Ukraine’s place in Europe.”

    Attempts by Washington to micromanage the economic and political processes in foreign countries are never easy. Doing so in Ukraine is particularly complicated, since the politicians perceived as more democratic have been less supportive of U.S. policy.

    With elections in the offing Washington would best keep its hands off the political process while pushing for greater economic liberalization by turning Kiev into America’s economic partner. A prosperous Ukraine integrated into the world community is more likely to be a free Ukraine friendly to the West.

    This article was published in the Korea Herald, Sept. 25, 2003.

  2. I have to say that you make great points in your Ukraine posts, but also think that you are overlooking some things.

    I would not want to suggest that it is illigitimate for people in Eastern Europe to want into NATO or to say that Karzai has bad political goals. This is not the point. The point is their legitimacy as rulers. You attack Raimondo for suggesting that Iraquis working with the US are traitors. Is this not a legitimate way of looking at things? Are these people really forces for Iraqui home rule? In a later post, you argue that Ukranians who wish to be part of NATO are not to be condemned. This may be true, however, if they intend enterance into NATO by illigitimate electoral processes or having the US interviene in elections to force that result, there is a strong argument for looking at these people with some disfavor.

    Furthermore, you imply that opposition to the government imposed by the US on Iraq is equivolent to support for the forces of jihad. There is a difference. To suggest that Raimondo go to Iraq and support the resistance because he is opposed to the government imposed on Iraq by the US is equivolent to suggesting that people who opposed US involvement in World War II were NAZI sympathizers and should have moved to Germany. Clearly it was logically possible to be opposed to US entry into the war and not be NAZIs. Similarly, it is possible to not be in favor of a US imposed Iraqui government and not be in favor of the jihadis. Is it not possible to get beyond this demented logic?

    I suppose that the main difficulty with your point is that you seem to be in favor of “forcing people to be free”, something that doesn’t always work as intended–and can have disasterous consequences.

  3. Tom G. Palmer

    I most certainly do not consider Iraqis who join the police forces or the army to be “traitors.” Iraqis face a very serious choice. They can side with the Iraqi government or they can side with the jihadist beheaders and Ba’athist (i.e., fascist) murderers. One or the other side is going to win. Which system would you (or any decent person) prefer to live under? To fight against the al Zarkawi’s is to fight against savagery. The Iraqi police and national guard most certainly are forces for “home rule,” and in particular for a more civilized form of home rule. Would a German or an Italian who joined the police or army after WWII have been a traitor? What if there had been National Socialist and Fascist insurgents who were beheading people and terrorizing the population of the country while fighting the British, French, American, and other troops in their countries? Would any sane or decent person call a policeman who arrested a Nazi or Fascist killer a “traitor”? That’s not essentially different from the situation today in Iraq. And the sooner that the Iraqi forces succeed in disrupting, capturing, or killing the jihadists and Ba’athist insurgents, the sooner the U.S., British, Polish, Australian, Japanese, Italian, Bulgarian, and other troops will be withdrawn.

    Now on to the tangled issue of legitimacy. What does Mike mean to say when he invokes the concept? Was Karzai illegitimate before the election, despite the fact that his government was obviously morally superior to the rule of the Taliban? The Taliban had been installed by the Pakistani intelligence service; the Indians supported the Northern Alliance, with which the U.S. later allied to overthrow the Taliban, after the Pakistani government had withdrawn its support. Were the Taliban “legitimate”? Now that Afghanistan has had an election that was the freest and most open in recent history (if not in the entire history of the country), is Karzai a legitimate ruler? It would help to distinguish between legitimacy as a sociological phenomena and legitimacy as a moral attribute. They’re not the same thing, although when they overlap you’re more likely to have a stable and just society. One test of moral legitimacy is that more rights are respected, and by that light the current Iraqi government is superior to the jihadist beheaders and the current Afghan government is superior to the Taliban beheaders.

    Let’s turn to the distasteful topic of Justin Raimondo. Mike is entirely right that it does not follow that if you oppose warring with state or faction X, you must therefore favor state or faction X. I concur wholeheartedly. But I have not inferred from his opposition to the war that Raimondo supports the insurgents. I inferred it from his characterization of the current government. Raimondo is reasonably intelligent and knows what the term quisling means and what its connotations are. Vidkun Quisling sold out his country to the Nazis. To call a recruit to the police forces a quisling is precisely to say that the people against whom he is fighting are good (or at least on the morally correct side) and that the people for whom he is fighting are bad (or at least on the morally wrong side). That means that the jihadists are justified in fighting against the police and the Iraqi National Guard. There’s no getting around that logic, unless Raimondo in fact didn’t know what quisling means, which I find unlikely. (It seems that Raimondo has basically embraced the very fallacy that Mike identifies. If you’re opposed to the war, you should oppose our allies; by identifying them as unequivocally evil [“quislings”], he is saying that the other side should win. That is not my inference, but his. I opposed the war but did not and do not romanticize the enemy or suggest that they were or are somehow superior.)

    Finally, I have no idea why Mike suggests that I “seem to be in favor of ‘forcing people to be free.'” I pointed out that mocking Viktor Yushchenko and the Ukrainian opposition was utterly vile (no surprise coming from Mr. Raimondo) and that his screechy and hysterical denunciations of the election in Afghanistan (which was, in fact, quite successful and a step toward a more decent society) and in Iraq (where elections are necessary as a step to getting our troops out) was disgusting, partly because in the process he praised the jihadists and Ba’athists, as I explain in the paragraph immediately above. (If the police and army are quislings, then the insurgents are morally superior to them.) There is nothing romantic about the insurgents there. They are among the most evil people on the planet and simply have to be destroyed. To romanticize them and compare them to the resistance to the Nazis is evil. Just evil.