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My take on the Ukraine

November 29th, 2004

As I’ve said in the introduction to the excellent guest posts fromTom Oates and Tarik AmarI know very little about the Ukraine. But I’ve seen enough cases of rigged elections to make the judgement that the Viktor Yanukovych has lost, in the sense that he can’t resist the demand for a fresh election that he will almost certainly lose. In cases of this kind, it’s necessary for the incumbent to maintain a united front, keeping the courts, military and so on in line. Yanukovych has lost on almost every front, with the courts, parliament, official media and sections of the police turning against him. Crucially, he has hardly any support in or near the capital, and attempts to bus in large numbers of supporters have gone nowhere. Yanukovych’s only international backer of any note is Vladimir Putin, who is not a man given to sentiment. I expect that he will very shortly see the wisdom of salvaging some credit from the EU by persuading Yanukovych to do the decent thing.

As this NYT report indicates, Yanukovych’s main support base has effectively conceded defeat, by making pre-emptive demands for more autonomy in the event that their man loses. Bearing in mind my general ignorance of the situation, I’ll argue from first principles support for federalism that a deal which conceded a fair bit of regional autonomy in return for a democratic national outcome would be a good one all round.

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  1. November 29th, 2004 at 23:09 | #1

    I think that’s the outcome most likely to placate an embittered East. Like you, I’m not up on the minutiae of how much and what kind of autonomy the provinces have. Yanukyovich’s people have indeed as much as conceded that they can’t prevail in the Presidential contest, based on the evidence you suggest. However, it appears that the autonomy movement is being taken seriously, especially by Poland, who has reasonably good relations with actors on both sides. It’s also a bit of a caricature that Yushchenko is anti-Russian. He grew up in an Eastern province, and speaks Russian. Putin loses if he overplays his hand here. After all, there was a reason the whole country separated from the Soviet Union intact. Truth be told, the eastern industrialists probably have a better thing going in Ukraine than they’d have in Russia anyway, as long as they can maintain some of their monopolist goodies.

  2. Tony Healy
    November 30th, 2004 at 07:59 | #2

    I don’t know anything about the Ukraine either. An interesting op-ed in The Age says we’ve been getting a distorted view of the situation.

    “Whether it is Albania in 1997, Serbia in 2000, Georgia last November or Ukraine now, the Western media regularly peddle the same fairytale about how youthful demonstrators manage to bring down an authoritarian regime, simply by attending a rock concert in a central square. Two million anti-war demonstrators can stream though the streets of London and be politically ignored, but a few tens of thousands in central Kiev are proclaimed to be “the people”, while the Ukrainian police, courts and government institutions are discounted as instruments of oppression.” more

  3. Dan Hardie
    November 30th, 2004 at 08:10 | #3

    ‘I don’t know anything about the Ukraine either. An interesting op-ed in The Age…’
    Tony, the author of that interesting op-ed (John Laughland) also doesn’t know anything about the Ukraine. He doesn’t speak any of the local languages, and is simply repeating the talking points of the Putin/Yanukovych camp. Laughland is best known over here for a number of spirited defences of Slobodan Milosevic and a charming, friendly interview in the Spectator with Jean Marie Le Pen.

  4. Tony Healy
    November 30th, 2004 at 08:57 | #4

    Thanks Dan.

  5. gordon
    November 30th, 2004 at 17:01 | #5

    You don’t need to speak the local languages to work out that the Ukraine is strategically placed on the oil pipeline map. Refer to the EU backgrounder at http://www.inogate.org/html/countries/ukraine.htm

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