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White House Ukraine policy upside down

Oleksandr Turchinove
Oleksandr Turchinove
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When pro-Western insurgents toppled the duly elected government of Russia-backed Viktor Yanukovich Feb. 22 they thought they were doing the country a favor. As the dust settled, they realized that Ukraine’s near bankruptcy punished all of its citizens, including the desperate ones living in Russian strongholds of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s abysmal economy affected all Ukrainians, reeling for unredeemed promises of capitalism sweeping the landscape since the the 1991 collapse the Soviet Union. Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told NBC’s David Gregory on “Meet the Press” that Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to reinstate the old Soviet Union. Most of the economically miserable citizens in the former Soviet republics also wish the Soviet Union was back to pay the hefty health and retirement benefits to former workers.

Yatsenyuk played with old twisted ideas of the former Soviet Union that it was hell-bent on nuclear domination to control the planet. Whether the Russian Federation has problems or not, it’s doing far better than most the former Soviet satellites that are destitute economically and reeling from the collapse of the Soviet Union. What’s beyond inexplicable are the reasons given by pro-Western activists that toppled the pro-Russian Yanukovich government. Led by 42-year-old Ukrainian-born former heavyweight champion Vitale Klitschko, the anti-Russian protesters claimed they sought economic reforms through the European Union. Since revolutionary euphoria has faded after the Feb. 22 revolution, Ukraine’s citizens understand, whether in Crimea, East or in Kiev, that the country is an economic disaster where there’s no quick-fix or free ride to salvation.

Recent discussions with the International Monetary Fund and EU have slapped Ukraine’s youthful leaders, 49-year-old Oleksandr Turchinov and 39-year-old Yatsenyuk on the side of their heads that there’s no free lunch. When U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev April 20, Turchinov and Yatsenyuk hoped he was traveling on Air Force One with pallets of hundred-dollars-bills. Unlike Iraq, Turchinov and Yatenyuk won’t be stuffing their pockets with easy cash at the expense of U.S. taxpayers. Biden fell far short of their expectations that Uncle Sam would rescue the Ukrainian economy and rebuild the military. No one has explained what was so offensive to Ukraine’s pro-Western demonstrators about Yanukovich’s $16 billion bailout from Moscow. There’s no question that Putin offered Ukraine a far better economic deal that the EU, IMF or anyone else.

Once Turchinov and Yatesenyuk looked at all the strings attached to an EU bailout, they begged the U.S. to offer financial aid, using the most clever Cold War scare tactics. Yatsenyuk dared to warn the U.S. against Russia’s nuclear arsenal and intent to dominate Europe and the world. Finding one of Turchinov’s buddies, Volodymyr Rybak’s tortured body floating in the Seversky-Donets river speaks volumes about the fragile April 18 truce signed in Geneva. Calling the murders of two of Turchinov’s Batkivshchyna Party’s members acts of “terrorists,” Turchinov renewed calls for anti-terror operations in Eastern Ukraine. Turchinov was already humiliated when his last anti-terrorist operation ended when his soldiers refused to fight their Eastern Ukrainian brothers. White House officials must accept the fact that Turchinov and Yatsenyuk don’t represent a majority of Ukrainians.

Trying their best to drag the U.S. into a direct confrontation with Russia, Turchinov and Yatsenyuk exposed their self-serving interests. “These crimes are being carried out with the full support and indulgence of the Russian Federation,” said Turchinove, referring to the murders as “terrorism” to score points on Capitol Hill. So far, Obama has resisted calls led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) for the U.S. to directly confront Russian aggression. What the White House and Capitol Hill don’t see is that Turchinov seeks nothing short of a free U.S. bailout. “I call on the security agencies to re-launch and carry out effective anti-terrorist measures, with the aim of protecting Ukrainian citizens living in Eastern Ukraine from terrorists,” said Turchinov, appealing the post-Sept. 11 crowd that can’t distinguish between terrorism and a civil war.

Ukraine’s problems stem from the rocky road taken after the collapse of the Soviet Union. When Yatsenyuk tells U.S. media that Putin wants to restore the old Soviet Union, he’s not the only one. Citizens of the former Soviet republics also wish that Big Brother would pay their living, health care and retirement benefits like the old Soviet Union. Whether there are lingering Cold War fears or not in the U.S., White House officials shouldn’t get seduced into fighting Ukraine’s battles. It’s clear that Ukraine’s current youthful leaders don’t represent the vast majority of Ukraines, certainly not the ones living in Crimea and Easter provinces. When new elections are held May 25, one can only hope Ukrainians pick a consensus candidate, not former Ukrainian Prime Minster Yulia Tymoshenko. Whoever Ukraine picks, the U.S. or EU should not have a dog in the fight.

About the Author

John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’d editor of and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.

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