<= 2004.11.30

2004.12.03 =>

putin's nightmare

Diarism is monotonous and boring right now, and there's no space left over for analysis, so for my own benefit I translated an article on the Ukraine from Die Zeit. It's pretty clunky and I haven't cleaned it up—you know, that special German syntax. Cheers.

The wonderful news from Kiev is: the freedom movement of 1989 lives again. Self-aware citizens and devotees of the pro-West ex-Premier Viktor Yushchenko are taking to the streets: for fair elections, for a legitimate government, for a democracy that deserves the name. The demonstrations serve as a brightener against the Western depression since September 11. Since the attacks on New York, the West has dabbled in freeing and democratizing dictatorships like Afghanistan and Iraq from above. But between the tense standstill in Kabul and open war in Baghdad no democracy can flourish. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in the Ukraine are acting out the joyous counterexample: democratizing from within and from beneath.

The Ukraine must have meant to jolt Europeans awake. This country first appeared in the view of many Western Europeans as a local branch of Moscow's political power office, and was widely written off as such, even by Berlin and Brussels. Because Russia is so large, difficult to fathom, and easily offended, Europeans were careful about making offers to the Ukraine that might have annoyed the bosses in Moscow. The late-Soviet dramas of president Leonid Kuchma in the Ukraine also recalled Russia - the war of oligarchies and the murder of journalists. The result: Rumania is permitted to fully enter the EU as of 2007, the Ukraine is not even regarded as worthy of an association treaty. Now the demonstrators call for Europe - and bring the EU into the predicament.

Behind the protests in the Ukraine, the opposition between East and West, long believed overcome, crops out again: the misunderstanding between political technologists who bake themselves parties like pierogi, and realists who know that democracy - once unleashed - is difficult to stop. The chasm between Russia and the EU is once again breaking open over this. In the Ukraine it appears that Russia, upended in 1991, has other goals than the EU. For Moscow, to gain freedom of action does not mean to grant other freedoms. Here collide two woldviews [Weltanschauungen]: the authoritarian against the democratic model, dictation against cooperation, Greater Eurasia against finely partitioned, plural Europe.

Eurasia: The breakup of the Soviet Union today appears to most Russians as a catastrophe. That the Ukrainians founded their own state three times in the twentieth century, as soon as Moscow was weak enough, many regard as provincial silliness [lit: a province-cricket]. Even in 1990, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn himself denied that Ukraine had the right to independence. Since his accession to power five years ago, Vladimir Putin has pursued the continuation of the Soviet Union by other means. While the Kremlin was fetching Stalin's imperial hymn out of the shellac plate-cupboard, Russian concerns bought into the Ukraine's mining and energy industry. A year ago in Yalta, Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan signed into an economic and trade community.

Yet the assimilation of these systems is critical for the European Union. This year presidental elections took place in all four states: in Russia, in Kazakhstan, finally a referendum on the presidency in Belarus and now the election in the Ukraine. Ahead of the doctored ballots came the consolidation of the media and the preventive shutting out of the opposition. The first appearances of civil society were nipped in the bud.

So the elites of these states want to reserve power to themselves for the next decade. This is known. In spite of the Soviet collapse of 1991, there was no change of power in most of the individual states. What the reigning clans exchanged was socialism for state capitalism, central committees for presidential cabinets, cement-gray double-breasters from the Ivanovo textile combine for night-blue Cool Wool Suits by Ermenegildo Zegna. In new garb, Eurasia shall arise as the Eastern Bloc of the EU.

Precisely in this moment the Ukraine is veering off course. One must picture the horror in Moscow: the Ukrainian demonstrators against those of the government and the designated authorities of the President. They doubt the officially brushed conclusion of the presidentially certified electoral commission. In the Ukraine a debacle impends like the Georgian Rose Revolution of a year ago. Thus Ukraine experts like Moscow's mayor Lushkov ("Sebastopol is Russian!") are now traveling to the east of the country to spread the caricature, useful to the Kremlin, of a divided Ukraine and washed-up country. Nonetheless, even in the east Yushchenko's supporters are holding out in the streets. They and the EU ought to deter the arranged scenes of division.

Europe: Nothing would be more inappropriate than to shove a European sphere of influence against the great Russian game of Eurasia. The EU states simply do not require that. They have the power of attraction and the soft power [English in original] inherited from the Cold War that the Americans are today gambling away in the war on terror [Antiterrorkampf]. In many Eastern European, Asian, and African countries, freedom and democracy have value as desirable European trademarks - thanks also to the expansion of the EU.

Now the EU cannot issue a membership card to every neighboring country in revolt. But the diplomats in Brussels, after years of looking the other way and problems of inception, have in the last week acted rightly for the first time. They are interceding between the adversaries, they are not accepting the falsified vote and false victor. They are clearly demanding European norms of freedom in the Ukraine, even against Putin. They are not giving their blessing to what was prearranged, unlike the Federal Chancellor with the Czech election at the end of August ("Not to recognize any delicate troubles").

If it comes to a democratic (!) new election in the Ukraine, the EU should show the country a way toward Europe: participation in the European Economic Area, possible involvement with individual areas of the European Integration (legal norms, freedom of visas). The EU helps itself when it institutionalizes this status between membership and rejection. What will it soon offer to Serbia or Moldavia? This EU-Lite needs an office in Brussels and a prestigious name with which the states can bid for investors.

Must Russia really fear free elections in the Ukraine? No. Russian natural gas is delivered to Europe through new Ukrainian pipelines, if the opposition governs. Russian properties in the Ukraine remain untouched, if - Putin loudly thumps for this - the right governs. But does he really want that? The Ukrainian clans, who with Moscow's help deceitfully and falsely cling to power, stand for the continued breach of law. And in this they follow Russian custom. The Ukrainian opposition fears nothing more than to be defrauded a second time by the right through armed force or a loaded new election. What those in the streets of Kiev have been celebrating for ten days is the nightmare of their opponents: democracy.


<= 2004.11.30

2004.12.03 =>

up (2004.12)