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Obama needs a pro-Ukrainian President

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FarCenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-25-10 11:09 PM
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Obama needs a pro-Ukrainian President

Two game-changers within a week is a rare happening in world politics. Last week was a defining moment for the Barack Obama presidency. The two elections in far-apart places Ukraine and Massachusetts in northeastern U.S. between January 17-20 have a lot in common.

They are both strong public rebukes handed down by furious voters who were promised change and reform and saw zero improvement in their lives. Neither is a political tectonic shift, yet they are grassroots-rebellions and watershed events. They debunked the colour revolutions in Ukraine in 2004 and in the U.S. in 2008. For Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, this is the end of the road. For Mr. Obama, the New England defeat bruises his presidency, which reaches a crossroads. Both the elections were about populist anger when passionate hopes and impossible expectations were belied. However, they are also game-changers for world politics. Post-Yushchenko Ukraine is poised to redraw the geopolitics of Eurasia. And the defeat in Massachusetts significantly changes the political environment in Washington, which is bound to impact Mr. Obamas policies at home and abroad.

No matter who wins the February 7 runoff in Ukraine frontrunner Viktor Yanukovich who won 35 per cent of ballots or Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko who garnered 25 per cent the result of the first round on January 17 signifies a repudiation of the Orange Revolution of 2004, which was masterminded by the U.S. as a smart move in the containment strategy toward Russia. Mr. Yushchenkos stunning rejection he polled just 5 per cent of the votes also underscores a rejection of his principal foreign policy plank of Ukraines membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. He consistently opposed any Russian participation in Ukraines gas transportation system. He sub-served U.S. regional policies in Eurasia NATOs expansion as the global security organisation, control of the Caspian and Central Asian energy sources and counter to the Moscow-led integration processes on the post-Soviet space.

Arguably, Ukraine has restated its close ties with Russia. Both Mr. Yanukovich and Mrs. Tymoshenko favour repair of ties with Moscow; neither is obsessed with Ukraines NATO membership; both draw political sustenance from the Ukrainian big business that is tied to Russia, especially in the all-important energy sector. But both are essentially pro-Ukrainian. Mr. Yanukovich said recently, Ukraine, quite simply, has been and will be a state outside any blocs We will not aspire to enter either NATO or the ODKB We will follow a pragmatic and balanced foreign policy. We will continue to develop the process of Euro-integration. But its basis will be the modernisation and transformation of Ukraine internally.

The Ukrainian election result provides an underpinning for the preservation of Russias interests in the Caucasus. The Orange coalitions split in September 2008 was largely due to disagreements over Russias conflict with Georgia. Mr. Yushchenko sought a forceful condemnation of Russia while Mrs. Tymoshenko refused. Equally, a friendly government in Kiev will abandon Mr. Yushchenkos aggressive drive (tacitly encouraged by Washington) to evict Russia from its Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol. A flashpoint is approaching as the Russia-Ukraine agreement regarding Sevastopol is due to expire in 2017 and Mr. Yushchenko was bracing for a showdown with Moscow. Sevastopol is critical for Russias effective presence as a Black Sea power. Mr.Yushckenkos departure, therefore, amounts to a setback for the U.S. strategy to convert the Black Sea into a NATO lake. The first-ever U.S. military bases in Romania and Bulgaria already pose some challenge to Russias traditional supremacy in the Black Sea region.


There is a Third Way for Washington to deal with Ukraine. In the highly strategic environment in which Ukraine is situated, what serves the U.S. best will be a pro-Ukrainian president in Kiev rather than a pro-American president. But it is an audacious thought and is politically risky, and the Massachusetts defeat leaves Mr. Obama vulnerable to criticism.
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