Wednesday, May 9, 2012

European Boycott of Yalta 2012 Summit Sparks Germanophobia in Ukraine

By Taras Kuzio

In November 2002, President Leonid Kuchma was advised not to attend NATO’s Prague summit, but he ignored the advice and went. NATO changed the language used to allocate seats for countries, using French not English, and thereby ensured Kuchma would not sit next to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush. Kuchma had become an international pariah following the Kuchmagate and Kolchugagate scandals that revealed his alleged involvement in the disappearance and murder of journalist Georgi Gongadze and the sale of military equipment to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

In May 2012 the 18th summit of Central European leaders in Yalta was cancelled – to be rescheduled for a future date – after 13 of 20 invited leaders planned to boycott it. The 17th summit held in Warsaw in May 2011 had been attended by twenty heads of state and US President Barrack Obama.

Poland’s leaders opposed the boycott although the opposition supported it (http://www.kyivpost.com/news/politics/detail/127101/; http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/126986/). Warsaw was unable to encourage other Central European countries to attend except for Lithuania. Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Moldova and Serbia also planned to attend, making a total of only seven countries.
Thirteen other countries boycotted the summit planned for the Livadia Palace in Yalta where three allied leaders met in 1945 to carve up post-Nazi Europe. Of the thirteen, the country now leading the rhetoric in Europe against the Yanukovych regime is Germany (see below). The remaining twelve included Austria, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Czech Republic (which has granted two Ukrainian oppositionists asylum, including Tymoshenko’s husband Oleksandr).

The cancellation of the Central European leaders summit is the biggest diplomatic embarrassment for Ukraine since Kuchma’s snub at the 2002 NATO summit. A similar European boycott is crystallizing around the Euro 2012 soccer championship co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine, which is set to begin next month. A growing number of European and EU leaders have stated their intention to only attend soccer games played in Poland and to boycott games played in Kyiv, Donetsk and especially Kharkiv, the city where opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko is incarcerated.

The momentum for the double boycotts of the Yalta summit and Euro-2012 began to gain ground following an international outcry over the use of force by prison guards against Tymoshenko, the authorities’ refusal to permit her to travel abroad for medical treatment and additional criminal charges launched against her, including murder. Photographs of bruises on Tymoshenko’s body received widespread international coverage as did the launch of her 19 day hunger strike (http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2012/04/27/6963597/).

Germany’s leadership of the European boycott of Yalta and Euro 2012 has fomented xenophobia in the insecure and paranoid Yanukovych administration. In 2000-2005, Kuchma’s and Yanukovych’s xenophobia was directed against the US, which was accused of being behind the illicit taping of Kuchma’s office, orchestrating the Kuchmagate crisis, and conspiring in the organization of the Orange Revolution to install Viktor Yushchenko to power. In 2004, the Yanukovych election campaign fomented the biggest anti-American campaign in Ukraine since the pre-d√©tente Cold War (see EDM, October 7, 2004).

Kyiv policy makers have long complained of German opposition to Ukraine’s admission into NATO and the EU. Yushchenko blamed Berlin for opposing NATO membership while Yanukovych has blamed Germany for blocking the EU from giving Ukraine a future membership perspective. In 2009, former National Security and Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin, who was then Director of the Institute of
National Security Issues, told US Ambassador William Taylor, “there are two Russian embassies in Kyiv; only one speaks German” (http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/03/09KYIV465.html).

Political consultant Kost Bondarenko, who worked closely with Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tihipko’s Strong Ukraine party until it merged in March with the Party of Regions, has been a leading articulator of officially sanctioned Germanophobia. Writing in the Kyiv Post, Bondarenko believes there is a German conspiracy against Ukraine and that Germans see Ukraine as an “American creation” (http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/118004/). Bondarenko and the Party of Regions hold a neo-Soviet conspiratorial mind-set that is coupled with traditional eastern Slavic inferiority complexes vis-√†-vis the West (see my reply to Bondarenko at http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/118912/).

Segodnya, one of Ukraine’s best-selling newspapers owned by Donetsk oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, who has been close to Yanukovych since the mid 1990s, published a scathing editorial of Germany last Friday (http://www.segodnya.ua/blogs/korotkovblog/14371476.html). “Germany again wants to dictate its will over Europe,” Segodnya wrote and, “They have taken off their masks and it really is the case that the Berlin of 2012 is in no way different from the Berlin of the 1940s.” "Germany has not changed in the past 70 years, and we are not just talking about the geopolitical ambitions of [Chancellor Angela] Merkel and [Foreign Minister Guido] Westerwelle.”

"In 1941,” the Segodnya editorial continued, “the German administration forced naked Ukrainian girls into goods wagons bound for Germany. In the 21st century, German customs officials strip Ukrainian workers naked and take their things away.” “Then, they destroyed countries with armies, and now they ruin their economy. The calls for a boycott are a call to leave hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians without work,” adding, “1945 taught them nothing.”

“Germany wants to establish its rules and dictate its will on today’s Ukraine. Even the European Union counts for nothing if we are to be seen as sub-humans, as in the New Europe of [Adolf] Hitler.” “We did not vote for independence [from the Soviet Union] in 1991 to be under Merkel’s heel,” Segodnya proclaimed.

Germany was always lukewarm toward the Eastern Partnership (EaP). The program’s main supporters were Poland, Sweden, Great Britain and the three Baltic states, who saw the Association Agreements (and enlargement-lite) as eventually leading to EU membership for at least some of the EaP’s member countries (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan). EU members opposed to European enlargement for Turkey or Ukraine – such as Germany – now lead Europe’s rhetoric on human rights abuses in Ukraine. The icy rhetoric has frozen the signing and ratification of the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine. But, the primary responsibility lies with Yanukovych (not Germany) for rolling back democracy and giving enlargement-lite critics such as Germany ammunition to derail Ukraine’s Association Agreement. Chancellor Merkel personally distrusts Yanukovych who did not fulfill two promises he made to her that he would back de-criminalization of articles used to sentence Tymoshenko.

Ukraine’s international position is the weakest it has ever been since it achieved independence in 1991. It took Kuchma eight years into his second term in office for Ukraine to become internationally isolated while Yanukovych has accomplished this in only two years. The country’s international isolation will grow further if the October parliamentary elections are not recognized as “democratic” by the OSCE and the Council of Europe. But the elections will not be judged as “democratic” if Ukrainian opposition leaders remain in jail, which is highly likely (see EDM, November 4, 2011).

Europe’s “Ukraine problem” will grow in 2013 when there will be growing vocal US and European demands for punishment against Ukraine’s authorities in the form of further boycotts, sanctions and visa denials. These will ironically take place during the same year that Ukraine holds the rotating chairmanship of the OSCE.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Yulia Tymoshenko Defies the Authorities – From Jail

By Taras Kuzio

Ukraine’s relations with the West have been dropping below freezing in the last few weeks. Yulia Tymoshenko”s claim that she was “beaten” as she was forcibly taken to a Ukrainian clinic have led her to announce she is on a hunger strike. The authorities claimed this was all play acting and showed a video of her allegedly walking around her prison cell. Her lawyer claims the video is a fake (see video: http://www.pravda.com.ua/photo-video/2012/04/24/6963358/.

The EU and US have demanded action from the Ukrainian authorities to end her abuse; the German, Austrian and Czech presidents have refused an invitation to attend a summit of central European leaders in Ukraine (http://www.kyivpost.com/news/politics/detail/126642/); and the opposition has blockaded parliament with the large placard “Yanukovych do not kill Yulia” for five days, preventing it from functioning (http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/04/ukrainian-politics. See photos and video: http://www.pravda.com.ua/photo-video/2012/04/26/6963506/).

If this were not enough, from jail, Tymoshenko continues to be a thorn in President Viktor Yanukovych’s side, and if the authorities thought they could silence her by imprisoning her they obviously under-estimated “Yulia.” As Der Spiegel wrote: “Tymoshenko, who is only 1.60 meters (5 feet 3 inches) tall but who is admiringly dubbed, even by her adversaries, as ‘the only man in Ukrainian politics,’ remains a thorn in his side” (http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,826417,00.html). The Kyiv Post’s editor, Brian Bonner, adds: “Even in prison while flat on her back, Yulia Tymoshenko can inflict damage on a Ukrainian president. The woman who has helped demolish two presidents politically – Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko – is on her way to politically destroying a third one – Viktor Yanukovych.
The frail ex-Prime Minister is a human wrecking ball for all who get in her way, despite prison guards and bars” (http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/126680/).

Therefore, her long interview in Ukraine’s premier weekly merits a closer look (http://dt.ua/POLITICS/yuliya_timoshenko_z_hvoroyu_spinoyu,__ale_z_mitsnim_hrebtom-100889.html). Tymoshenko is obviously well informed about current Ukrainian affairs and knows what is going on outside her prison cell. She fully supports the unification of opposition forces for the October elections in light of the threats facing Ukraine that she believes are worse than at any time in Ukraine’s last two decades. The authorities, she states, are making Ukrainians into “losers without historical memory, without national pride, without positive economic perspectives and [without] a European future.”

Tymoshenko does not believe the unification of four opposition forces (the Batkivshchina party that she leads, Front for Change led by Arseniy Yatseniuk, Rukh and Reforms and the Order party) will lead to their absorption by her party and she supports each creating its own faction and joining a parliamentary coalition. This strategy is a fundamentally different approach to that of the Party of Regions, which was created from a merger of five parties in 2001 and has absorbed five political parties since, the most recent being Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Tigipko’s Silna Ukrayina party. In parliament, the Party of Regions acts as a disciplined and united party whereas “orange” forces have been fractured and discipline has been very weak. Although Tymoshenko’s approach is more democratic than Yanukovych’s monopolism, at the same time it has not proven successful in establishing stable “orange” coalitions. The nine parties elected in 2007 in Our Ukraine-People’s Self Defense, ballooned to fourteen parties by this year.

Tymoshenko laments that two parties are fighting the elections independently – the nationalist Svoboda and UDAR (Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform) led by international boxing champion Vitaliy Klychko. Both parties believe they can independently cross the five percent threshold to enter parliament, especially UDAR.

In calling for Svoboda to join the united democratic election list, Tymoshenko is ignoring calls for the nationalist party to be excluded from the opposition Committee Against Dictatorship. An open letter by Ukrainian and Western intellectuals called for the democratic opposition to distance itself from Svoboda (http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/125818/), which cooperates with extreme right forces in Europe (see Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok’s congratulations to the French National Front on its performance in the April French elections: http://blogs.pravda.com.ua/authors/tiahnybok/4f9528f14bbca/). Despite disagreements with UDAR, Tymoshenko said the united opposition will support Klychko’s candidacy in upcoming Kyiv mayoral elections.

The weakest aspect of Tymoshenko’s interview, as more generally with the opposition, is intellectual and programmatic. A US Embassy cable from Kyiv reported ahead of the 2007 pre-term elections that “Personalities, not programs, Differentiate Three Main Parties” (http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/09/07KYIV2204.html). Little has changed in the last five years. Tymoshenko, like President Viktor Yushchenko, did not listen to Western election and political consultants – including AKPD, used by Barrack Obama in the 2008 elections, who were hired by her for the 2010 Ukrainian presidential elections.

Tymoshenko waffles through her answer to a question about whether she supports a presidential or parliamentary constitution for Ukraine – a structural political issue of fundamental importance for any state. Tymoshenko has supported both in the past – like all Ukrainian politicians. Tymoshenko does not provide concrete policy ideas for the united opposition and, as is typical for Tymoshenko, focuses nearly entirely on what she is against - not what she supports.

Tymoshenko talks tough, which is of course her style, although as The Economist writes, “The damsel-in-distress tone, coming from someone who for years was a tough player in the corrupt world of Ukrainian politics and business, can sometimes grate” (http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2012/04/ukrainian-politics). Tymoshenko states categorically that, “I will never permit anybody to transform Ukraine into a dark fatherland for the Cosa Nostra” but only outlines two ways in which to prevent this. The first is victory by the opposition in the October elections; the second is the outcome of two reviews by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) of Yuriy Lutsenko, (see http://jamestownfoundation.blogspot.ca/2012/02/another-ukrainian-opposition-leader.html) who was imprisoned in February, and her own case.

It is incredulous that Tymoshenko remains so optimistic from her prison cell. From outside her cell it is obvious that the authorities will ignore the ECHR (ironically on the eve of Ukraine taking over the rotating Chairpersonship of the OSCE in 2013). Deputy head of the Party of Regions parliamentary faction Vadym Kolesnychenko said the ECHR did not have the ability to change court verdicts. “Its task is only to point out a violation of human rights, which it believes was committed. However, it is not a directive for Ukrainian courts” (http://gorshenin.eu/weekly/91_issue_15_84.html).

They will also never permit the opposition to win the elections, in the sense of controlling a parliamentary majority. National Security and Defense Council (NRBO) Secretary Andriy Kluyev is to head the Party of Regions 2012 election campaign, ensuring the NRBO provides state-administrative resources for the authorities. Free elections and Yanukovych are like borsch and horseradish in that they do not agree with each other. Since Yanukovych entered politics in 1997 he has presided over five election frauds as Donetsk Governor (1998, 1999, 2002), Prime Minister (2004), and president (2010).

Why should he change his life-long habits now?