Blowback in Ukraine

An interesting and disturbing aspect of the post-election uprising in Ukraine is that it is not entirely a spontaneous event.

Although the election outcome was clearly manipulated by the government of outgoing president Leonid Kuchma, a corrupt and dictatorial Soviet-era autocrat, whose supporters in and out of the government’s secret service apparatus have not shied away even from killing opponents, and although much of the movement that took to the streets in Kiev to protest and overturn the results, which had given victory to Kuchma’s handpicked successor, Viktor Yanukovich, has been indigenous and heartfelt, there is also clear evidence that the U.S.–the CIA and various American “pro-democracy” front groups–is playing a crucial hand in destabilizing the pro-Russian regime.

Several excellent pieces in the British paper the Guardian have highlighted the role of U.S. agencies and NGO’s, in helping, for example, to finance the very exit polls that have raised doubts about the outcome of the election, and in helping to pay for Yushchenko’s campaign itself.

As the Guardian observes, it is more common than not that elections in the former Soviet republics have been manipulated by government authorities, who control most of the media, and especially television, as in Ukraine, and have often been stolen. The interesting question is why this time, in Ukraine, the U.S. government has taken such a strong position on behalf of the opposition.

The opposition candidate, Victor Yushchenko, is not, after all, some iconic democrat. Himself for a time a prime minister under Kuchma, he played a central role in the privatization of Ukrainian state enterprises that corruptly benefited old Communist Party apparatchiks, as happened also in Russia. Yushchenko’s main calling card in terms of Western European and U.S. support has been his more pro-western stance, where Kuchma and Yanukovich have been more pro-Russian, to the point of Yanukovich favoring a merging of the two neighboring nation’s economies and an opening of their shared border.

American interference with Ukraine’s election would not be anything new. Such techniques were already employed in the Yugoslavian election that ousted Slobodan Milosovich and in the Georgian election that ended up ousting Eduard Shevardnadze, and were also attempted (unsuccessfully) in the last election in Byelorus. The U.S. ambassador to Byelorus, Michael Kozak, has a long sordid history of subverting elections in Central America–most notably Nicaragua.

It is worth speculating whether all this tampering with the democratic process in Eastern Europe, and Central America, may have resulted in a kind of blowback, with the anti-democratic techniques perfected for use in those fledgling democracies now being applied back home in the U.S.

No wonder the same government that is so quick to decry electoral abuses in Ukraine has been so silent about the exact same practices when its partisans employed them earlier this month at home.

No wonder too, that the same mass media news organizations that have largely dismissed the rampant fraud and abuse perpetrated in the U.S. presidential campaign and election by U.S. government and state and county Republican government officials, are ignoring the role of the U.S. government in undermining the election in Ukraine.


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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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