Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mergers and Acquisitions Putin-Style

By Jiri Kominek

With the recent Russian-US spy swap that occurred earlier in July fading from headlines, some Russia experts are beginning to speculate on what the ultimate consequences of the scandal may mean for the Russian intelligence community.

During his visit to Crimea on the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that he recently met with the 10 Russian agents publicly exposed by US authorities.

Putin said that during the meeting he and members of the group sang patriotic songs including “With What the Motherland Begins“ from the 1968 Soviet film The Shield and the Sword, about the life of an undercover Russian spy in Nazi Germany.

Putin also said that the group was exposed to US authorities by a traitor whose identity is known.
“Traitors always end badly. As a rule, they end up in the gutter as drunks or drug addicts,” Putin said. He went on to foreshadow what fate awaits those responsible for the betrayal. “The special services live under their own laws, and everyone know what these laws are,” said Putin.

Some Russia experts such as Brian Whitemore, senior correspondent at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and co-author of a Russia-watcher blog, entitled The Power Vertical, began speculating that one outcome of the recent spy scandal could be that Putin could order the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) to be merged with, or made subordinate to the Federal Security Service (FSB), which he lead in the late 1990s.

Putin has never trusted or particularly liked the Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR), which became independent from the once omnipotent KGB as a separate foreign intelligence gathering service in December 1991. Despite being much smaller than the FSB, the SVR, which is a descendent of the the First Chief Directorate (PGU) of the KGB, enjoys much influence inside Russian foreign policy circles.

Pavel Felgenhauer, the Moscow-based Russian defense and security analyst, argues that Putin could use the recent scandal involving the exposure of SVR agents in the US as a pretext for introducing sweeping personnel changes within the SVR and even the possibility of merging the organization with the much larger FSB.

“Putin is not a person who makes hasty decisions based on knee-jerk reactions to public opinion. If he does introduce changes to the Russian intelligence security and intelligence services it would be later in the year –say November, as part of a broader reorganization in which the SVR could be assisted by its bigger brother - the FSB,” said Ondrej Soukup, a Pague-based Russia expert.

Should such an M&A materialize, then Putin as de facto head of the Russian Korporatsiya state would succeed in re-establishing one of the pillars of the former Soviet Union – a new successor to his beloved former employer – the KGB.

Monday, July 26, 2010

ICJ’s Kosovo Verdict Weakens Russian Position

By David Iberi

On July 22, 2010, the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, issued its advisory opinion on whether the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo on February 17, 2008 was in accordance with international law. The ICJ concluded that the adoption of the declaration of independence did not violate general international law, Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) or the constitutional framework, and “consequently, the adoption of that declaration did not violate any applicable rule of international law.”

The Russian authorities have long claimed that Kosovo sets a precedent for other cases, such as Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and any international decision on Kosovo should thus apply to those territories as well. The United States and the majority of the international community have, on the other hand, maintained that each situation is unique and should be judged as separate cases. The ICJ’s recent decision on Kosovo has confirmed the validity of the latter approach. However, by basing its conclusion on several key elements, the international court has set its own “precedent” of how, if need be, those other cases would be considered in the future. The manner in which the court approached the Kosovo case weakens the Russian claim of the independence of the two Georgian territories. This is in addition to the already declared political stance by the United States, Lithuania, and several other countries, that Russia is an occupying power in Georgia.

The ICJ based its opinion on three major arguments. First, there are no general rules of international law that prohibit unilateral declarations of independence. Second, Security Council Resolution 1244 on Kosovo did not create a barrier to the declaration of independence. And third, the constitutional framework that was established to stabilize the situation did not bar Kosovo from declaring its independence.

In addition, the court gave thorough consideration to the urgent humanitarian crisis – as described in Resolution 1244 – that constituted a threat to international peace and security and thus necessitated immediate international involvement under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The international civilian and security presences were deployed to Kosovo and in effect terminated Yugoslavia’s jurisdiction over that territory.

Regarding the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, the former conflict was covered by the UN arrangement under Chapter VI, not VII, which required Georgia’s consent to host an international presence, and the latter conflict was not even addressed by the United Nations and was instead regulated under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Russia played an upper hand both in terms of the military presence on the ground and the role it played in negotiations.

While Georgia repeatedly called for a real international mission to be deployed and efficient conflict resolution formats to be established, Russia obstructed Georgia’s legitimate requests by using its P-5 member status on the UN Security Council and by exploiting the consensus-based mechanisms within the OSCE. Then, following the August 2008 invasion, Russia used its powers to terminate both the UN and OSCE missions.

In stark contrast to Kosovo, there was neither a Chapter VII arrangement toward Georgia nor, consequently, any special international jurisdiction over parts of Georgian territory. Instead, it was the Russian invasion and the occupation of the Georgian provinces that changed the status quo and those developments immediately preceded Russia’s recognition of the two provinces. The Russian recognition was thus a unilateral decision by one sovereign state to change the borders of another.

A second argument is that Abkhazia and “South Ossetia” declared their independence after a mass ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Georgians, and other ethnicities had artificially changed the demographic composition of the two regions. Russia’s military presence in those territories both before and after the war as well as the absence of proper international peace mechanisms have prevented the majority Georgian population from returning home. While in Kosovo the very purpose of the international mission was to help the Kosovar Albanians to return safely, hundreds of thousands of Georgians have not been allowed to go back to Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. Thus, unlike Kosovo, the de-facto authorities in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali do not represent the majority of the lawful residents in those territories but are merely puppet regimes whose declarations have no legitimacy. Recognizing the independence of the occupied territories would just legitimize the use of ethnic cleansing as a device to change international borders.

The ethnic cleansing of Georgians has been officially recognized by the UN General Assembly, by the OSCE in 1994, 1996 and 1999 during its Budapest, Lisbon and Istanbul summits, and by several individual states. Paragraph 17 of the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit Document states: “We reiterate our strong condemnation as formulated in the Budapest and Lisbon Summit Documents of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ resulting in mass destruction and expulsion of predominantly Georgian population in Abkhazia, Georgia.”

In early 1990s, the Russian Federation itself officially used the term ethnic cleansing, and sometimes even genocide, in reference to the events that unfolded in Abkhazia. On October 2, 1993, during the mass expulsion of the Georgian population, Russia “denounce[d] the facts of genocide [sic] and gross violations of human rights” and called for “the creation of an international tribunal to investigate those crimes and duly punish the culpable” (Newspaper “Svobodnaya Gruziya”, #181, October 3, 1993). On October 13, 1993 Vitaly Churkin, then representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and current permanent representative of Russia to the UN, put on the “Abkhaz leadership the full responsibility for ethnic cleansing against the non-Abkhaz population in the region.” On October 14, 1993, the Russian government demanded the “Abkhaz authorities” “to stop the violations of human rights… and the massive ethnic cleansing of the non-Abkhaz population.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Back to a Soviet-Ukrainian National Identity

By Taras Kuzio

As predicted in an issue of Eurasia Daily Monitor earlier this week, a new director has been appointed at the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, established by President Viktor Yushchenko in 2005. As has become standard practice, the position was given to an individual from Donetsk: historian Valeriy Soldatenko. His formative career from 1976 to 1984 was as a senior research fellow at the Institute of the History of the Communist Party under the guidance of the central committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. This was a branch of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism attached to the central committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The appointment follows in the general ideological direction of the Viktor Yanukovych administration towards returning to a Soviet-Ukrainian national identity. In his annual appeal on the anniversary of the July 16, 1990 declaration of sovereignty, President Yanukovych argued that the Soviet period created the basis for Ukrainian statehood. “Twenty years ago, in adopting the Declaration on State Sovereignty of Ukraine, our state made a decisive step towards independence. It was not an easy decision… And yet they voted for a document that essentially opened a new page in the history of Ukraine,” Yanukovych’s appeal sought to convince Ukrainians.

Yanukovych reminded Ukrainians, “Do not forget that all previous attempts to obtain sovereignty ended in failure. It should be remembered that the Soviet Union, albeit with only limited sovereignty, laid the foundations for Ukraine’s economic and cultural power without which future independence would have been impossible.”

What he forgot to add is that states within the US have always possessed greater rights than the allegedly large amount of autonomy that Soviet republics possessed. In addition, although article 72 of the 1977 Soviet constitution stated that “Each Union Republic shall retain the right freely to secede from the USSR,” anybody seeking to exercise this right was punished by a long-term sentence in the Gulag camps.

Yanukovych’s appointment and appeal reveals much about the greater degree of Soviet and Russian influence in his administration. As a Ukrainian analyst pointed out, there are ten concrete differences between the Leonid Kuchma and Yanukovych political models, with the latter more closely resembling Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Kuchma’s system of playing different clans against each other while the president stands above the clan as an arbiter more closely resembled Boris Yeltsin’s Russia.

Political expert Vadym Karasiov explained that the appointment of Soldatenko will lead to the Institute “becoming less concerned with national memory and one that is more international or Soviet.” The authorities cannot close the Institute, as this would lead to a ‘scandal’, while they also could not appoint a historian with national democratic views, as this would have indicated that the Institute will continue to uphold the Ukrainophile historiography that is associated closely with Yushchenko.

Therefore, Soldatenko was chosen in order for there to be a ‘correction’ in the ideological line of the Institute. The only problem is that the Yanukovych administration does not have a coherent national identity to replace the Ukrainophile identity that has dominated Ukraine’s education policy under three presidents during the last two decades.

“They cannot be pro-Russian and they cannot be national. They cannot be democratic but cannot be anti-democratic. The current authorities are characterized by lack of clarity,” Karasiov said.

The authorities face the same dilemma as did Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in rejecting both Russian and ‘nationalist’ (i.e. Belarusophile or Ukrainophile) historiographies. The only alternative for Lukashenka was to stress – like Yanukovych is now doing – the importance of Soviet rule in building the Belarusian and Ukrainian nations. Both presidents seek to inculcate Soviet Belarusian and Soviet Ukrainian ‘patriotism’.

In the case of Yanukovych this is made more pertinent by the origins of his administration in Donetsk, where he was governor from 1997-2002. Donetsk is a relatively new city that was originally called Yuzovka and then Stalino between 1924 and 1961. Donetsk did not have a university until the 1930s, in contrast to Kharkiv which has the oldest university in Ukraine, established in 1804, and was Soviet Ukraine’s capitol city until 1934. Donetsk is therefore far more a product of the Soviet era.

A survey by the Ukrainian Centre for Economic and Political Studies (Razumkov Centre) found that large majorities of the inhabitants of Donetsk and the Crimea hold their primary allegiance to Soviet identity (as compared to Russian or Ukrainian). Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (together constituting the Donbas) have 430 streets named after Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin – the highest number in Ukraine. Thirty-three streets are even named after the Donetsk Bolshevik separatist leader Fedor Artem.

Education and Science Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk will have little difficulty working with the new national identity orientation of the Institute. In January 2003, then-Deputy Prime Minister for humanities Tabachnyk in the first Yanukovych government signed a government resolution to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the birth of Ukrainian Communist leader Volodymyr Shcherbytskyy. The celebrations consisted of nine separate events.

Parliament voted in 2004 and 2009 to celebrate the 85th and 90th anniversaries of the Ukrainian Komsomol, with 251 deputies voting for the latter. In addition to deputies from the Party of Regions, Communist Party and Volodymyr Lytvyn bloc, 53 Yulia Tymoshenko bloc deputies voted for the resolution. The legacy of Soviet rule still hangs over Ukraine in other ways.

In the 2004 presidential elections the heads of both the Yanukovych and Yushchenko campaigns were former senior Komsomol (Communist Youth League) functionaries: Sergei Tigipko and Oleksandr Zinchenko, respectively. Tigipko is now seen as a future leader of the Party of Regions to replace Yanukovych and Nikolai Azarov, who have jointly led the party since it was founded in 2001.

With the election of Yanukovych, history has come full circle in Ukraine.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Does De-Sovietization of Georgia Mean?

By David Iberi

On July 21, Georgian Parliament unanimously adopted a resolution on the Soviet occupation of Georgia and declared February 25 the Day of Soviet Occupation. From now on, the Georgian government is charged with the organization of special events to honor the victims of the 70-year-long Soviet rule. A second resolution, which was also approved unanimously, calls for August 23 to be marked as the Memory Day of the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes. These new initiatives of the Georgian legislation based on multi-partisan consensus are the latest in a series of political decisions that have been made since the peaceful Rose Revolution some seven years ago. The declared goal of the policy is de-Sovietization of Georgia through liberal modernization or, to use President Saakashvili’s metaphor, to turn Georgia into a European Singapore, which he sometimes calls “Singaporization” of Georgia.

In 2006, Georgia joined the three Baltic nations by establishing its own Soviet occupation museum in downtown Tbilisi. The year was purposely chosen to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the Soviet invasion and subsequent annexation of Georgia on February 25, 1921, which aborted Georgia’s first national experiment to become a Western-style liberal democracy.

As for marking the Memory Day of the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes on August 23, the date when the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (aka Stalin-Hitler Pact) was signed in 1939, the intention is to both express the solidarity between Georgia’s Eastern and Central European partners and to equate Communism with Nazism. Symbolism aside, many Georgian human rights activists and former dissidents have long advocated for an adoption of a special legislation that would consider the Communist and Nazi crimes equally atrocious, as several former Soviet bloc countries have already done.

The May 30 municipality elections, praised by Georgian and international organizations as meeting international standards for democratic and free elections, have given new impetus to Georgia’s closer diplomatic engagement with the West and more robust transformation at home. The government hopes that a set of socioeconomic reforms aimed at further liberalizing the Georgian economy, curbing the bureaucracy and eliminating the organized crime will help finish the de-Sovietization process and at the same time create new opportunities for a more rapid Westernization.

Based largely on the production of wine, citrus and tea, Georgia’s economy was a “typical colonial economy,” the Georgian president argued on July 21, “serving the needs of the Russian power.” “We have started to reorganize and reorient our economy” to meet the requirements of the highly competitive global markets of the 21st century, he told a gathering at the ministry of agriculture. “We had produced olive oil for centuries, but then the Communists came and uprooted almost the entire plantations of olive trees and planted something else in their place.”

Almost the entire power echelon in Georgia is now filled by Western, especially American, educated officials, and to give more substance to its vigorous de-Sovietization policy, the Georgian government has recently started an ambitious project of recruiting 1,000 native English teachers, mostly from the United States but also from Canada, the United Kingdom and other English speaking countries, to teach the English language in Georgian schools. Some analysts have already dubbed the project Saakashvili’s “linguistic revolution” that would have significant political, economic and social consequences for Georgian society and speed up Georgia’s Westernization process.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Is Moscow so Nervous About the Warming Trend in Georgia-Belarus Relations?

By David Iberi

On July 13, Georgian media reported that the presidents of Georgia and Belarus, Mikheil Saakashvili and Alexander Lukashenka, had met in Crimea during the Georgian leader’s short trip to Ukraine a few days earlier. According to the office of the Georgian president, Saakashvili and Lukashenka discussed “the issues of bilateral relations and economic cooperation” and expressed their satisfaction at “deepening dialogue between the two countries.” Then, on July 15, Belarus’s state-owned TV channel aired an interview with the Georgian president – a risky undertaking for the Belarus leader whose gradually deteriorating relationship with the Kremlin has hit the nadir in past few months.

For Lukashenka, developing ties with Georgia is a retaliatory measure against the smear campaign Moscow has waged recently against his rule in Minsk. They have all of a sudden remembered in the Kremlin about “some horrible things” that were allegedly happening in Belarus sometime in the 1990s, and put them together in two propaganda documentaries entitled “The Godfather” and “Europe’s Last Dictator”. For Tbilisi, on the other hand, it is important that Minsk remains supportive of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity even under intense Russian pressure. Another factor is Georgia’s interest in developing economic cooperation and trade with Belarus and attracting Belarusian tourists to Georgia’s Black Sea resorts and mountain sites. The two countries might soon as well sign a comprehensive agreement on economic cooperation and establish a permanent intergovernmental commission. Belarus’s decision to advise its citizens “on security grounds” against visiting the Russian-occupied Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia has been another reason for Tbilisi to praise Minsk’s “bold position”.

Political analysts and commentators close to the Kremlin as well as Russian politicians have reacted angrily to both the Saakashvili-Lukashenka meeting and the Saakashvili interview on Belarusian TV. But their ire has been directed not as much against the Georgian president as against Lukashenka and his increasingly disobedient behavior. One of the analysts was quoted by Regnum, a Russian news agency, as saying “It is obvious that Saakshvili is completely unacceptable for Moscow…and the fact that Lukashenka (who is officially Russia’s ally) has met with him is demonstrative of Belarus’s strong discontent with Moscow.” Another political commentator told the same Regnum that Lukashenka’s meeting with the Georgian leader was “absolutely senseless, especially given the deep physiological animosity that [the Russian prime minister] Vladimir Putin and [the Russian president] Dmitry Medvedev have shown toward Saakashvili.”

Boris Gryzlov, Chairman of the State Duma, the Russian legislative organ, for his part, has told Russian media that Saakashvili’s interview on Belarusian television will not benefit the Belarus-Russia ties. “Those who grant the opportunity to Saakashvili to feel himself as president…make decisions that could not help improve the relationship with Russia.” Since the Russian invasion of Georgia in August 2008 and occupation of 20 percent of Georgian territory, the high-ranking Russian officials almost never openly call the Georgian leader president and, apparently, demand the same approach from their allies, such as Belarus and a number of other states across the post-Soviet space.

In parallel with developing closer ties with the United States and the European Union, Tbilisi has intensified its diplomatic efforts to diversify its trade and economic relations. Georgia intends to open embassies in Brazil and Mexico in the coming fall to more directly engage with Latin America and the Caribbean. After Venezuela and Nicaragua had recognized the independence of the occupied Georgian regions, Tbilisi concluded that more diplomacy was needed in that part of the world.

But the importance of the post-Soviet space can never be underestimated given the traditional influence Moscow has in that vast region. Although Georgia is no longer a member of the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independence States (CIS), it seeks to have good relations with the individual members of the CIS in order to both secure support for its sovereignty and develop economic cooperation with and attract investments from the region’s resource-rich nations. Horizontal relationship between Georgia and the CIS countries is an irritant for Moscow, on the other hand, since it is seen as potentially endangering Russia’s traditional clout over its former Soviet satellites.

Instead of recognizing Russia’s right to a sphere of influence, the Belarus leader has chosen to openly challenge Moscow by first shaking hands with the Kremlin’s arch nemesis President Saakashvili and then airing his interview on national TV.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ukraine Should Follow in Georgia’s Footsteps

By Taras Kuzio

I very much enjoyed reading Vitaly Sych’s article by this title published in the leading Ukrainian weekly magazine Korrespondent and the Kyiv Post. It is rare to read an article in Ukraine praising Georgia under President Mikheil Saakashvili – even though Ukrainians tend to have friendly and positive views of Georgians.

Although Freedom House gave Ukraine a better ranking than Georgia (“free” as opposed to “partly free”) after Ukraine’s revolutions, the irony is that Georgia may turn out to be a better success story than Ukraine. Georgia has done better than Ukraine on battling corruption and making the country a good place for business, and there is no likelihood of pro-Russian forces coming to power. As President Mikheil Saakashvili wrote, Georgia is no longer a “failed state.” With Ukraine’s democracy under threat from authoritarianism after the election of Viktor Yanukovych, the country could be downgraded to “partly free” in the 2011 Freedom House rankings (see Pavel Korduban in EDM, Juky 15).

Sych’s eight points are important in explaining why Georgia post-Rose Revolution is a success, whereas Ukraine following the Orange Revolution was not. Sych is absolutely right when he writes, “people in charge should possess a vision and political will.” This is something Viktor Yushchenko and the majority of Ukrainians politicians have never had. Even today the opposition and shadow cabinet find it difficult to explain to Ukrainian voters what their alternative vision is to Viktor Yanukovych and their strategy as to how they will go about implementing their vision when they return to power.

Sych suggests that radical reforms should be undertaken at the beginning of the presidency, when the president still has a honeymoon of public support. Yushchenko in 2005, although incapacitated from being treated for poisoning, had the powers of the 1996 presidential constitution, but never used them. Ukraine’s 0ligarchs, the defeated candidate and Party of Regions and the pro-Kuchma ruling elites were scared enough in early 2005 that they would have signed up to anything in exchange for immunity. Yushchenko never understood the power he had or how he could have used it to push through decisive changes.

Saakashvili has used the presidential constitution to introduce wide-sweeping reforms. Presidents Yushchenko and Yanukovych have wanted to change the constitution back to a presidential system, but neither of them has explained what reforms he will undertake with these greater powers.

Like Sych I am exasperated by Ukrainian politicians talking about ‘Ukraine’s special path,’ which is a path to gross corruption by the elites and impoverishment of the country. Yulia Tymoshenko’s support for ‘third wayism’ and ‘solidarism’ makes her closer in spirit to Britain’s New Labour than to center-right parties in the European Peoples Party political group in the European Parliament, of which her Fatherland Party is a member.

Nevertheless, Sych ignores two important differences between Georgia and Ukraine.
First, although he hints at the issue when he discusses the 31-year old Georgian Deputy Interior Minister, he does not take to its logical conclusion. The Saakashvili generation includes people who are in their late 20s to late 30s. This is a generation younger than the Orange Revolution generation, who were in their late 40s to early 50s.

Which generation is ruling the country makes a difference as the Saakashvili ruling group is the least Sovietized generation. Ukraine’s tragedy is that the Viktor Yanukovych-Nikolai Azarov generation is a step backwards, as they are between 60-62 years of age. That is, they are the same age group as when Kuchma came to power in 1994, meaning that their careers began in the Leonid Brezhnev ‘era of stagnation’ in the 1970s.

It is therefore little wonder that the current Ukrainian authorities are neo-Soviet and russophile in the manner in which they think, operate and act.

Even if, as Sych suggests, they were to drive across the US, the Yanukovych-Azarov generation would simply be incapable of understanding how America functions, the source of its deep patriotism and democratic political culture. Saakashvili, on the other hand, would be able to drive across the US, where he studied, with an entire mini bus of his team and understand what they were seeing and witnessing.

This takes me to the second point that Sych is missing, and that is education and language. I witnessed this in practice when twenty Georgians networked at the November 2006 Riga NATO summit because they all knew English (Ukraine only sent 3 people).

The Saakashvili team has been educated in Western universities and they all know English. How many Ukrainian politicians and government ministers have been educated in the West or know English? Very few is the answer. Yushchenko is married to a Ukrainian-American, but he never bothered to learn English.

A Western education and the English language bring a range of benefits that include wider intellectual horizons, the ability to read Western publications, a greater understanding of how North American-European systems operate, an easier ability to mingle with Western political and business leaders and greater ability to influence the Western media.

Ukraine’s opposition should therefore set five tasks for itself over the next six months:

1. Take a crash course to learn English.

2. Sign up to study political science or economics at Kyiv Mohyla Academy.

3. Visit Georgia and get to know how and why their reforms and campaign against corruption have been successful.

4. Draw on their new experiences and language skills to prepare draft programs outlining their alternative visions for Ukraine. These could be subject to discussion in the media, academic establishments and in focus groups.

5. Hire political consultants, lobbyists and public relations experts in Washington, DC and Brussels. Currently the only Ukrainian political force using US consultants is, ironically, President Yanukovych and the Party of Regions that he led until April. Ask these consultants to prepare at least one opinion editorial for a Western newspaper each month that would be signed by opposition leaders.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The West Beefs Up Its Support for Georgia

By David Iberi

The Georgian capital has seen several high-profile visits over the past weeks, and as reported by Georgian media more dignitaries are expected to arrive in the following days despite the unusual triple-digit temperatures and the summer vacation season. Shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrapped up her one-day visit to Tbilisi on July 5, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski arrived on July 13 and held talks with his Georgian counterpart Gregory Vashadze in Tbilisi as well as President Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia’s burgeoning Black Sea resort city of Batumi.

Then, on July 14, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner of France came to town late at night to celebrate with his “Georgian friends” La Fête Nationale, Bastille Day, in the brilliantly illuminated Georgian capital. And yesterday, July 15, Catherine Ashton, vice president of the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union (E.U.) visited Tbilisi to inaugurate a process toward agreement between the E.U. and Georgia on association relationship.

Apart from meeting with the Georgian president and some of the senior members of his cabinet, as is tradition, the American and European guests have also found time to talk with representatives of Georgian civil society and the opposition. However, unlike in the past, they have now met almost exclusively with a “constructive” or “systemic” part of the Georgian opposition who are either represented in Parliament or have scored good results in the crucial May 30 local elections. Clinton was first to start this trend, and Sikorski and Kouchner have followed suit with a slight modification. With the indiscriminate, dissident-like approach to Georgia’s political spectrum left in the past, it is now believed by Georgian analysts that the opposition will more constructively engage with the government, which will help consolidate and further democratize Georgia’s political landscape.

As far as the West’s international support of Tbilisi is concerned, Lithuania and the United States were first to designate Russia’s illegal military presence in Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia as occupation and call on Russia to withdraw its troops from the occupied territories. France’s role in the fulfillment of the August 2008 ceasefire agreement between Russia and Georgia is special, since French President Nicolas Sarkozy, then holding the E.U.’s rotating presidency also, mediated the agreement between the two countries. Georgia thus expects that the French should exert sufficient pressure on Moscow so that the latter withdraws its troops to the antebellum positions required by the international arrangement.

When asked about the issue – which is incidentally the single most important security question for Georgia – Kouchner told his audience at Tbilisi's newly established Europe house: “We could of course use the word ‘occupation’ but one word can hardly solve the problem…Dialogue with Russia is needed. We should convince the Russians to pull their troops back to their pre-war positions as it is stipulated in the [ceasefire] agreement.” He then added that the European observers “should be allowed [by Russia] to enter the [Russian-controlled] Georgian territories. That is our stubborn request…But we must be patient. The current situation in the world could hardly provide for a rapid de-occupation.” Touching upon the question of Georgia’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration, the French foreign minister admitted the innate inertness of the E.U. and advised the Georgians to be more straightforward when trying to “shake” Europe.

The United States’ and Europe’s help in the de-occupation of the Georgian territories and in the return of hundreds of thousands of Georgian citizens to their homes in the cities and villages now controlled by Russia is important. But no less significant are the West’s closer diplomatic, military, economic, trade, cultural and people-to-people ties with Georgia, since this would only help deepen the Caucasus nation’s reforms and democratic metamorphosis domestically and bring about the day of its full Euro-Atlantic integration.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kyrgyzstan: Need for international investigation grows

By Erica Marat

A month after the shocking violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, questions about what sparked a clash between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks remain. Kyrgyz NGOs and western experts are calling for a thorough international investigation. However, Kyrgyz president Roza Onubayeva has been sending mixed signals about whether she agrees that such an investigation is necessary.

Shortly after the violence ended she said that her government would persecute anyone guilty in instigating mass violence. However, since being elected president at the June 27 referendum, she has toned down her calls for an international investigation. Instead, members of the interim government suggest that an internal investigation commission should be formed.

Time is pressing for answers. Both the Kyrgyz and Uzbek populations are anxious to find answers to questions, including: why the violence began and then ended so abruptly? Who instigated the violence? Was it provoked by external forces? Did agent provocateurs aim at preventing the referendum? How did such a large number of local residents happen to have conventional arms? And, most importantly, will the violence occur again?

In the meantime, Kyrgyzstan’s military and law-enforcement officials might be the main force behind opposing an international investigation. Investigative journalistic reports suggest that in the midst of the conflict during June 11-14, the military and police forces acted unprofessionally - cases of shooting at civilian populations, specifically ethnic Uzbeks, have been reported. In the aftermath of the conflict, cases of the military’s harassment of the ethnic Uzbek minority continue to surface.

While questions about the root-causes of violence remain, pundits and Kyrgyz government officials put forward their own versions of what instigated the violence in southern Kyrgyzstan. The blame has been placed by them on Islamic radicals and former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s supporters. Yet other Kyrgyz experts believe that this was instigated by the Russian government with the purpose to undermine Kyrgyzstan’s interim government. Finally, a small minority of experts believe that the violence is a result of boiling inter-ethnic confrontation between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbek populations.

Amid these conspiracy theories, reconciliation efforts might prove to be futile, forcing both ethnic groups to live in uncertainty and suspicion. An investigation by a reputable international body – be it the UN or OSCE – is desperately needed. Only a common agreement about what caused violence will allow Kyrgyzstan to move forward past its inter-ethnic confrontation.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Does Lavrov Call Georgia An “Anomaly” in the Post-Soviet Space?

By David Iberi

On July 7, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave an interview to Mir, a Russian television and radio company. The themes chosen for discussion reflected on Russia’s relations with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, and the present and future of the Moscow-led loose organization that includes most of the post-Soviet republics. Lavrov also spoke about the conflicts in the CIS space, more specifically over Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdnistria, and the closer ties the Kremlin is now developing with Ukraine’s new pro-Russian government under President Viktor Yanukovich.

When touching upon the issue of what forges together the CIS countries, Lavrov singled out “the centuries of shared history, the common economic and other infrastructure created over those long decades and centuries, and the common cultural [and] civilizational space.” But he also said that “modernizing the economy [has] become a priority for all” in the CIS space and that “modernization is the slogan of the day for all.” By “modernization” Lavrov, to be sure, meant only economic, but not political and social transformation of Russia and its CIS allies. He then lashed out against Western institutions and NGOs helping to create an “alternative” system in some of the countries, which, in Lavrov’s view, undermines the cohesiveness and integrity of the post-Soviet space.

The journalist’s question on Georgia – which is not a CIS country – immediately followed and Lavrov was quick to call Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government “an anomaly which in general does not grow from within Georgian society but was brought there from the outside.” The Russian foreign minister’s words indicated Moscow’s irritation with the 2003 peaceful Rose Revolution – supported by the West – that replaced the old Soviet/Russian style leadership marred in corruption and nepotism with young reformers seeking to modernize and Westernize Georgia’s institutions, elites, political culture, and economic and social milieu.

Consolidating Georgia’s sovereignty and transforming the country from a Kremlin satellite into a nation on a path toward Euro-Atlantic integration and NATO membership has been another reason why Moscow is deeply concerned. In his article “Failed No Longer” that appeared in Foreign Policy on April 15, 2010, the Georgian president wrote about the significant progress his country has made in building a European-style liberal democracy. “Very early in my presidency,” Saakashvili wrote “then Russian President Vladimir Putin called me to say that he would be ready to accept our new Georgian regime, as long as he could name our ministers of interior and foreign affairs.”

Apparently, this conversation took place sometime in early 2004, shortly after the Rose Revolution, and what the Russian premier arguably sought to accomplish was to abort any attempts by the young Georgian leaders to undertake radical reforms that would detach their country from the Russian system, both politically and ideologically. Saakashvili chose to not obey, and Georgia has thus turned into an “anomaly,” to use Lavrov’s definition, across the entire post-Soviet space which the Kremlin claims as its sphere of influence.

Moscow fears that despite the Obama Administration’s declared “reset” policy with Russia, Washington’s stance on the “Georgia question” has not changed. Similar to President Bush, who in May 2005 described Georgia as “a beacon of liberty for this region and the world,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton five years later in July 2010 referred the potential of Georgia “to serve as a beacon and model for democracy and progress” as “extraordinary.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

What Signal Does Washington’s Arms Embargo against Georgia Tell us About US Policy towards Ukraine?

By Taras Kuzio

An illuminating analysis in the reputable British magazine Jane’s Defence Weekly (June 29) alleges that while the US denies it has instituted an arms embargo on Georgia, the reality is that one is in place. A Janes Defence Weekly (JDW) correspondent at the Eurosatory defence exhibition in Paris in mid-June wrote of the high level of frustration among Georgians seeking to buy defensive weaponry.

But, as JDW wrote, “representatives of US and Israeli companies stated that sales of defence equipment to Georgia remain obstructed by both US government policy and pressure from the Russian government.’ It remains unclear if the unofficial — and duplicitous – arms embargo was instituted by the previous George W. Bush administration or by its successor, the Obama administration.

The most unpleasant aspect of the unofficial embargo is that it is Georgia that is being punished, despite the fact that it was invaded by Russia and that two Georgian provinces came under Russian occupation. In other words, this is a similar US policy to that which punished Azerbaijan in the 1990s even though it had suffered an invasion and occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh by neighboring Armenia.

As the JDW correspondent pointed out, “Other Georgian officials expressed their frustration with the situation by pointing out that ‘the US even prohibits the sale to us of blank ammunition to be used for training. Obviously pushing the 'reset' button with Russia is more important than our military.’” So, the infamous ‘re-set’ is again the center of the problem, with Russia being given veto power by Washington over arms sales to Georgia.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visits to Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, similar to Vice President Joe Biden’s tour of the region in 2009, were meant to re-assure countries in Russia’s proximity that Washington has not forgotten them.

As the Economist (July 8) wrote, “The most sensitive part of her voyage” was to Georgia. “Mrs Clinton did not mince her words when she arrived in Tbilisi, describing Russia’s military action in August 2008 as an ‘invasion’ and an ‘occupation.’’ She declared, “I want to say publicly what I have said privately. I came to Georgia with a clear message from President Obama and myself. The United States is steadfast in its commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United States does not recognise spheres of influence.”

Very good words, but what do they really mean?

If the US has a de facto arms embargo instituted against Georgia, gives Russia a veto over arms sales and at the same time is not demanding that Moscow pull back its troops to pre-conflict lines in order to adhere to the EU peace settlement, then Secretary Clinton’s words and the Obama administration’s policies are merely empty words devoid of any real meaning. It would be better to be up front and honest.

In a piece written by the Economist about Secretary Clinton’s visit to Georgia, she is quoted as saying, “Russia’s unilateral recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia does not exempt the Kremlin from the 2008 agreement brokered by France, under which Moscow agreed to withdraw its troops to pre-war positions. Russia, which has now built permanent military bases in the territories, will be in no hurry to do so.”

Moscow has understood that this rhetoric is not backed up by concrete actions and threats, as both the US and EU rushed to ‘re-set’ relations with Moscow less than six months after it had invaded and occupied Georgia. In reality, Washington and the EU have failed to punish Russia for not adhering to the ceasefire brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy which called for Russia to pull its troops back to pre-engagement lines. Instead, Russia has built large forward-action military bases that are offensive, not defensive, in nature.

With the southern border of South Ossetia less than 100 kilometers from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, it is little wonder that the Georgians are anxious. Such anxiety is even more understood as Russian officials refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the democratically elected and internationally recognized Georgian president, institute espionage and subversion against Georgia and continually raise the prospect of regime change (see the article by Vladimir Socor in EDM, July 9).

What does all of this tell us about Ukraine and the broader international community?
In the case of Ukraine, it sends an additional signal that Kyiv is on its own if it were to be embroiled in a conflict with Russia, the outcome of which being the occupation of Sevastopol and/or the Crimea. The 1994 security assurances provided by the five nuclear powers are in effect worthless.

The test case for these security assurances came in September 2003 when Russia began building a dam from the Russian side of the North Caucasus (Kuban region) to the island of Tuzla to the east of Crimea. President Leonid Kuchma cut short a state visit to Latin America, returned to Ukraine and mobilized security forces to repel the attempted covert Russian annexation of Tuzla. Kyiv turned to NATO under the 1997 Charter it signed with the international organization and requested security consultations, but these were turned down by the NATO secretary general (for more details on this see:

The message is clear – in the event of a conflict with Russia, you are on your own. Ukraine’s security assurances were given up in return for the country joining the NPT in December 2004 and giving up its nuclear weapons by 2006. Ukraine inherited the third largest nuclear weapon stockpile in the world when the USSR disintegrated and also inherited a large number of military-industrial plants that produced nuclear weapons. This included reportedly the largest plant to manufacture nuclear weapons in the world - including Pivdenmash (in Russian Yuzhmash) - which Kuchma was director of.

The duplicity of the nuclear powers towards Ukraine’s security (let alone towards Georgia, which never had nuclear weapons in the USSR) sends precisely the wrong message from the US and EU North Korea and Iran. Why should Tehran and Pyongyang be so foolish as to give up their nuclear weapons or nuclear programs if any security assurances they are to be provided with by the West are not worth the paper they are signed on?

It is time for a re-think’ and a ‘re-set’ of Washington’s relations with Georgia and Ukraine.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Clinton’s Visit to Tbilisi and Georgia’s Security Concerns

By David Iberi

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Georgia, as part of her Eastern European tour, on July 5 is seen in Tbilisi as an important diplomatic step that could help both Georgia’s external security and domestic stability. At a joint press conference with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Clinton said that the United States “is steadfast in its commitment to Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity,” underlined the importance of the “deep friendship” between the U.S. and Georgia and praised Georgia’s reforms as “strengthening democratic institutions and processes.” Meeting with Georgian women leaders at a Tbilisi town hall, the secretary of state revived talked about Georgia’s rapid modernization and called the potential of the country “to serve as a beacon and model for democracy and progress” “extraordinary.”

The United States’ diplomatic support is important for Tbilisi in the short term, but given the gravity of the small Caucasus nation’s security threats, no medium or long-term stability is possible without elaborating a clear strategy and establishing firm international security mechanisms.

Russia continues to occupy some 20 percent of Georgia’s sovereign territory and no fewer than 8,000 Russian troops are deployed in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali regions. Hundreds of thousands of Georgian citizens have been evicted from their homes and Russia obstinately opposes their return. The Russian troops and military installations in the occupied territories – some of them in central Georgia just miles from the capital Tbilisi and the crucial east-west highway and railroad – pose a permanent threat to Georgia’s security and could turn into a war machine anytime Moscow deems it appropriate. On Georgia’s black Sea coast, in Abkhazia, Moscow is engaged in building military and naval bases, rail and air communications and takes other steps as well – most importantly those aimed at permanently changing the demographics of Abkhazia – in the run-up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics that could only be seen as a creeping annexation of that region.

While up until June the United States' stance on Georgia was “non-recognition” of the independence of its Abkhazia and South Ossetia territories that Russia had unilaterally declared as independent following the August 2008 invasion of Georgia, briefly before Clinton’s Eastern European tour, Washington started to call Russia’s illegal presence on Georgian soil an “occupation” and asked Moscow to withdraw its troops from the occupied Georgian regions. Clinton used her five-nation trip to reiterate again and again in Kyiv, Warsaw, Yerevan and Tbilisi that the United States does not recognize the Kremlin’s claim to a sphere of influence and that the Russians should quit Georgia.

President Saakashvili and other Georgian officials have hailed the United States’ bolder approach as crucial for Georgia to regain sovereignty over its now-occupied regions sometime in the future.

Moscow’s reaction to the Clinton statements was delayed, laconic and in line with its previous position that the “objective reality” on the ground should “be taken into account.” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for his part added, “some think that [those territories] are occupied and some think that [they are] liberated.” Russia’s initial timid response to America’s new line on Georgia could mean that Moscow is still in the process of developing a long-term strategy in order to both avoid further international embarrassment and reconcile its quest for a sphere of influence and the spirit of the U.S.-Russia “reset” era.

Washington itself needs to translate its nascent anti-occupation clause into a clear strategy if its aim is to fully integrate Georgia into the Western democratic and security architecture and prevent Russia from rebuilding its sphere of influence at the expense of its neighbors.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Two Votes Reveal Yanukovych’s Blasé Attitude Towards National Security

By Taras Kuzio

On April 27, the Ukrainian parliament voted by a margin of 236 to extend the Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol. On July 1, the parliament voted again by a margin of 259 for a new law on the “Fundamentals of Domestic and Foreign Policy”.

On both occasions the votes appeared fraudulent. In the former only 211 deputies were registered to vote, while in the latter only 50 were eligible (a minimum of 226 are needed to pass a vote, while a quorum of 300 deputies is required). Rinat Akhmetov, an oligarch from Donetsk, voted on both occasions, but has never attended a parliamentary session since his election and swearing-in ceremony in October of 2007.

Would these parliamentary voting irregularities be a reason to cancel the votes? Deputies in the Stability and Reforms coalition think not. Volodymyr Lytvyn Bloc Deputy Serhiy Hrynevetsky told Channel 5 that proxy voting was not an issue because “this had become a tradition in the Ukrainian parliament. And, unfortunately, at every (parliamentary) session we hear that it is necessary to fulfil constitutional norms on individual voting." Lytvyn is the parliamentary chairman and therefore responsible for ensuring that the constitution, laws and parliamentary regulations are upheld.

On July 1, the vote was deliberately undertaken in subterfuge, being scheduled at eight o’clock in the evening, when only 50 deputies from the Stability and Reforms coalition were present. To conceal the voter fraud taking place, live transmission of the parliamentary session on State Channel 1 and Rada channel was cancelled.

Both votes that touched on sensitive national security issues were railroaded through a rubber stamp parliament without proper discussion or process. The opinions of three parliamentary committees that deal with national security and foreign policy were ignored. Moreover, 420 proposed changes by the opposition were ignored during the July 1 vote.

The flouting of the constitution and legislative body made a mockery of President Viktor Yanukovych’s claims that the rule of law is one of the top priorities for his administration. The Stability and Reforms coalition is itself unconstitutional, based on the 2008 Constitutional Court ruling that only permits factions to establish coalitions. The coalition includes three factions (Party of Regions, Lytvyn bloc, Communist Party) that together have only 220 deputies.

Votes by the coalition are adopted with the addition of individual defectors from opposition factions. According to a wide variety of sources, these defectors have been bribed with sums of over one million dollars to switch parties. An April ruling deepened disillusionment with the Constitutional Court when it was pressured to reverse its 2008 ruling in order to allow coalitions to be established by factions and individuals.

While the constitution bans foreign bases, the 1997 twenty year treaty with Russia was permitted on the basis that a ‘temporary’ article resolved to gradually withdraw the Black Sea Fleet by 2017. The July law on “Fundamentals” declared that Ukraine would have a “non-bloc status.” However, for a country to be considered “non-bloc” or “neutral,” it would never host foreign bases. Clearly, “non-bloc” is understood as “anti-NATO” - not as an impediment to host the Russian Fleet.

Vyacheslav Kyrylenko, deputy of the Our Ukraine-Peoples Self Defence bloc and the leader of the For Ukraine political party, described the July vote on such an important national security issue as a ‘farce,’ stating, “(Parliament’s) hall is a pure profanation of the democratic process." The law on “Fundamentals” transforms Ukraine from a “subject of foreign policy to a subject,” former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasiuk wrote in Pravda.

Two important votes on national security on April 27 and July 1 have revealed the depth of legal cynicism, and how the parliament has transformed into a rubber stamp body, as well as the country’s commander-in-chief’s blasé attitude towards national security. Are Washington and Brussels taking note? It would seem from Secretary Hillary Clinton’s July visit to Kiev that this is not the case.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ukrainian Opposition Registers Disappointment with Clinton Visit to Kyiv

By Taras Kuzio

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a two day visit to Ukraine last week as part of a wider tour to the region. This was her fourth visit to Ukraine which she twice visited as First Lady in the Clinton administration, her third working visit to Ukraine was in 2005 as a US Senator and this month.

The visit failed to impress local Ukrainians who feel that the US is ignoring them in the interests of re-setting US relations with Russia or to appease President Viktor Yanukovych because he came to Washington in April bearing gifts (enriched uranium). The visit was therefore a big disappointment to Ukraine’s opposition confirming their worst fears that the Obama administration had ‘betrayed’ Ukraine and its traditional Central-Eastern European allies.

This week’s edition of the weekly magazine Ukrayinsky Tyzhden is a special issue on international affairs and Ukraine’s foreign policy. Prominently featured was an article entitled ‘The Grand Betrayal’ by Economist writer and author of the book ‘The New Cold War’ by Edward Lucas.

The feeling in Kyiv of the lack of a clear-cut US vision for Ukraine was evident in this week’s Kyiv Post cartoon. The cartoon has Secretary Clinton confused as to which of the five buttons offered to her by a State Department official she should take with her to Kyiv. The buttons included ‘Blah-blah’, ‘strategic partnership’, ‘What Ukraine?’, ‘drop dead’, and ‘re-set’.

Traditionally, US Ambassadors to Ukraine have been pro-active both inside Ukraine and after their posting in Washington where they have been awarded senior positions at the Brookings Institution, Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, and US Institute of Peace.

Of the two blogs written on the eve of Secretary Clinton’s visit to Ukraine by former US Ambassador Steven Pifer and German Marshall Fund of the United States Senior Fellow David Kramer, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs in the administration of President George W. Bush, the latter was more critical of the Yanukovych administration. Kramer called upon Secretary Clinton to seek the resignations of the Interior Minister and SBU Chairman (see reply to Kramer by Hanna Herman, deputy head of the presidential administration.

The passivity of the US Ambassador confirms to Ukraine’s opposition the passivity of the Obama administration. This weeks Kyiv Post complained that: ‘We would also hope that Clinton encourages US Ambassador John Tefft to be more visible and vigorous in defense of liberty and democracy in Ukraine. His low profile comes at a bad time. With Ukraine’s democratic fate hanging in the balance, all -- from ambassadors, tourists and businesspeople -- need to strongly, publicly and repeatedly show Ukrainians that that they care’.

Judging by Ukrainian media reports and the negative feedback given to the author by the opposition, she chose ‘blah-blah’ of the five buttons she was offered. Roman Olearchyk wrote in his ‘Clinton treads lightly during Ukraine visit’ (Financial Times, July 3) that, ‘The tone delivered by Ms Clinton’s speech in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, was one of mixed praise and light criticism, seemingly gentle enough so as not to push the nation further toward Moscow.

Senior advisers to the opposition told the author that they were quite disappointed by the visit but declined to be directly quoted as they did not wish to have poor relations with the Obama administration. The disappointment was, ‘because Clinton complimented Yanukovych from every angle. Not coincidentally, following her visit the IMF announced its intention to provide Ukraine with a new financial program of assistance even though the Party of Regions had undermined the Stand-by Agreement by voting for populist wage increases in November 2009 and regardless of the fact that the Nikolai Azarov government has no intention of undertaking any radical reforms’. He continued, ‘During Secretary Clinton’s visit to Kyiv her criticism of the Yanukovych administration’s attack on Ukraine’s democracy was barely audible and her support for, and her stress on working with, the ‘pragmatic’ and ‘foreign policy balanced’ Yanukovych was re-played over and over again on every television channel. We feel that we have been let down’.

Given the brief nature of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Ukraine, it was only natural that she allocated time to meet the leader of the opposition Yulia Tymoshenko as she won 45 percent in this year’s presidential elections, three times the combined vote of the other “orange” candidates in round one. The Tymoshenko bloc (BYuT) also came second in the last two parliamentary elections, and in the last won twice the number of votes as Our Ukraine. Tymoshenko, alone among the former “orange” camp, was also twice prime minister. BYuT continues to remain the most popular opposition political force.

Secretary Clinton did tell a student audience at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute that, “I've discussed the importance of defending these rights with your president”, on Friday evening. “He has made a commitment to uphold Ukraine's democracy, to uphold the rule of law, to maintain respect for human rights.” This commitment is of course laughable to Ukraine’s opposition.
The mild criticism of Secretary Clinton was evident from feedback given by Ukrainian political experts to the media and by Western reporters based in Kyiv. Diplomatic Academy Professor Oleksandr Paliy feels like many Ukrainians that the US has sold out Ukraine’s democracy for the uranium given up by Yanukovych in April. Two other political experts, Volodymyr Fesenko and Vadym Karasiov, told the Segodnya newspaper (ironically on July 4) that Secretary Clinton’s mild criticism was intended to not push Yanukovych further into Russia’s orbit.

The US has always been far stronger in its support than the EU of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Of the four US presidents during Ukraine’s two decades of independence the two who gave Ukraine the strongest support were Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

The Obama administration’s excessive focus on Russia at the expense of Ukraine is perilously similar to the Russia-first policy pursued by President George Bush (senior) in the early 1990s who became famous in July 1991 when he told the Ukrainian parliament to not seek independence. The speech was dubbed ‘Chicken Kyiv’ and took place a month before Ukraine declared independence from the USSR.

Following Secretary Clinton’s visit the Ukrainian opposition believes that President Obama is increasingly following in the footsteps of Republican Party realists who dominated the Bush senior administration in the early 1990s.