FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Ukrainian Democracy: A Barrier to Washington’s Goals

When Ukraine is the topic, the major U.S. media outlets agree: “Europe and the United States have made a priority of fostering democracy in the former Soviet republics,” David M. Herszenhorn wrote in the New York Times.  The Washington Post asserted that Ukraine is “a country that has been struggling to become a genuine democracy” with help from Western powers, who keep it “from becoming an autocratic Kremlin colony, like neighboring Belarus.”  “Ukraine is the crossroads between a free and an authoritarian Europe,” the Wall Street Journal concurred, while Yale professor Timothy Snyder urged, in a CNN piece, Europe and America to back the Ukrainian protesters—“a chance to support democracy,” he emphasized.  Marvelous.  But in the real world, Ukrainian democracy is not merely something Washington has failed to support, but is actually incompatible with U.S. governmental aims.

U.S. officials are quite open about their opposition to Ukrainian self-determination and well-aware how unpopular Washington’s preferred policies are.  Nearly a decade ago, for example, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Europe met for a hearing on “Ukraine’s Future and U.S. Interests.”  Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-NE) opened the session, noting that “a recent survey conducted by a center for economic and political research suggests that up to 40 percent of Ukrainians believe that relations with Russia should be a priority.”  Meanwhile, “28 percent gave preference to the EU,” and “2 percent said that relations with the U.S. should be a foreign policy priority.  Another survey suggested that almost two-thirds of the population would consider supporting a political union with Russia,” Bereuter concluded.  “So,” he went on, “I think that United States policy must remain focused” on incorporating Ukraine “into European and Euro-Atlantic structures.”  Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) spoke next, reiterating that U.S. policy should “further Ukraine’s integration in Euro-Atlantic institutions;” Steven Pifer, the former Ambassador to Ukraine, drove the point home, outlining “the United States Government’s vision for Ukraine”: “increasingly close ties to Europe and Euro-Atlantic institutions.”  This vision persisted over the following decade.  The Atlantic Council’s Damon Wilson, speaking before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on European Affairs—the topic was “Ukraine at a Crossroads”—in February 2012, explained that “Ukraine’s genuine European integration” remained a major objective.

And recent commentary and news coverage depicts European integration as something most Ukrainians desire.  In early February, Secretary of State Kerry, at the Munich Security Conference, remarked that Ukrainians should be permitted “to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations”—Europe and the U.S. obviously being the partners, integration to be deepened via what the Times’ Herszenhorn referred to as “sweeping political and trade agreements” that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych “refused to sign” last November, resulting in “a broken promise between a leader and his citizens,” and then the uprisings.  Now Al Jazeera reports that the acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, has “made clear that Kiev’s European integration would be a priority,” thereby giving Ukrainians what we’re told they want.

But British and U.S. governmental studies reveal the Ukrainian public is ambivalent about European integration.  Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for example, funded a “scoping study” through the British Embassy in Kyiv a year ago, titled “A blueprint for enhancing understanding of and support for the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement [AA] including DCFTA [Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area] in Ukraine.”  The AA was one of the key “sweeping political and trade agreements” Yanukovych refused to sign.  British officials, in their report, stressed that “support for the AA is not overwhelming amongst the population at large,” observing that “opinion polls show that about 30% of respondents are in favour of European integration, 30% for the Customs Union [Moscow-led integration], and about 30% are undecided.”  This bleak situation called for a propaganda offensive, or “a national public awareness ‘Campaign of Arguments,’” as the British dubbed it, which was to “be aimed at the general public as its primary target audience.”  British advisers urged PR teams “to formulate advertising slogans, global and targeted messages,” and to play up “the European civilizational model” and other benefits the AA allegedly would bring.  This “civilizational model” today entails “massive attacks on public services, wages, pensions, trade unions, and social rights” under imposed “draconian austerity policies,” Asbjørn Wahl wrote in January’s Monthly Review—a reality the British indoctrination scheme’s outline studiously avoided, it’s hardly worth mentioning.

The propaganda barrage may have been successful to some extent.  But as the year progressed, the U.S. government had a hard time finding evidence of overwhelming Ukrainian support for European integration.  The International Republican Institute (IRI), for example, polled Ukrainians last September: “If Ukraine was able to enter only one international economic union, with whom should it be?”  Forty-two percent of respondents chose the EU, while 37% preferred the Russian Customs Union.  IRI then asked, “How would you evaluate your attitude towards the following entities?”  Fifty percent of respondents felt “warm” towards Russia; 41% felt “warm” towards Europe—and just 26% were fond of the U.S.  IRI figures resembled those USAID published in a December 2013 report.  Its authors found it “interesting to note that Ukrainians are split on whether the country should join the European Union or the Customs Union.  Thirty-seven percent would like Ukraine to take steps to join the European Union, 33% prefer the Customs Union and 15% say Ukraine should join neither of these blocs.”  Furthermore, “34% say that Ukraine should have closer economic relations with Russia, 35% say it should have closer economic relations with Europe and 17% say it should have good relations with both.”  A Kyiv International Institute of Sociology poll reinforced these findings: “Ukraine is split practically 50/50 over the accession to the European Union or the Customs Union,” Interfax-Ukraine summarized the study’s conclusions.

Reviewing this data forces us to ask: Who is Washington’s chief enemy in Ukraine?  Is it Russia, bent on killing Ukraine’s budding democracy?  Is it the tyrant Yanukovych?  The U.S. policy record points to a different conclusion, one a Johns Hopkins Center for Transatlantic Relations study—included in the official transcription of the Senate’s 2012 “Ukraine at a Crossroads” hearing—discusses in the context of Ukraine’s potential NATO membership.  “The main obstacle” to Ukraine’s joining the organization “is not Russian opposition,” its authors emphasized, “but low public support for membership in Ukraine itself.”  Again: on this and other issues, the Ukrainian people are “the main obstacle” to U.S. foreign policy aims.  We should bear this fact in mind as the crisis deepens in Eastern Europe.

Nick Alexandrov lives in Washington, DC.

More articles by:

Nick Alexandrov lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  He can be reached at: nicholas.alexandrov@gmail.com

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail