December 8, 2004
PUTIN AND UKRAINE: 'NEO-IMPERIALIST DREAMS' OF RENEWED EMPIRE?
** Global dailies accuse "autocrat" Putin of plan to reassemble "Russia's former colonies."
** Some see "glimpses" of new cold war, cite Russian fears of EU, NATO expansion.
** Russian papers detect EU-U.S. scheme to "bind" Ukraine to West, "isolate" Moscow.
'Neo-imperialists' rebuilding an empire-- Global dailies viewed the "massive campaign of Russian interference" in Ukraine's election to be "obvious" evidence of the Kremlin's "ill will." "Putin sees Ukraine as a part of the Russian empire," asserted Germany's right-of-center Die Welt, and so "believes his interference" in the elections "was natural." In PM Yanukovych, a Brazilian writer remarked, Putin sees "what is of interest to a Russian ruler"--someone who would help maintain Ukraine "in the sphere of influence" of the former USSR. Poland's centrist Rzeczpopolita argued that Moscow "does not accept" the independence of "its former province," while a liberal Canadian paper noted, "Many Russians believe that they must regain control of Ukraine if Russia is to recover her former superpower status."
'Cold war, or almost'-- Some editorialists allowed that Putin "seems to be obsessed by the fear of" Russia's isolation. A "crucial factor" is his belief that "the 'near abroad' must remain under his control" to protect Russia's security. Eastward expansion of NATO and the EU, Belgian writers stated, will make Russia feel "encircled" and so Putin "has drawn a line in Ukraine"--it "cannot belong to the camp of the old enemy." A number of outlets saw "glimpses of a new cold war." French and Hungarian commentators labeled "the battle of Kiev" a cold war "by proxy" between Putin’s "neo-imperial Russia" and the EU. Like Georgia before it, Hungary's right-of-center Magyar Nemzet held, "Ukraine is entering a conflict of orientation" between Russia and the West. A Swedish daily argued against "complacency" in the face of Russia's claim to a "sphere of influence" in Ukraine, but a Toronto broadsheet counseled that "Moscow's interest in a stable, friendly government" in Kiev "will have to be acknowledged."
The West has 'laid a siege'-- Some Russian observers declared that "artificially inflating Yanukovych's popularity" had "cost Russia its reputation." More worried that Russia is "losing much of its influence" in Ukraine and that "the time will come when we will find ourselves fenced off on all sides, totally isolated." Official, government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta averred that the situation in Ukraine was a "political war" between Russia on one side, and the EU and U.S. on the other. Russia cannot "afford to lose the battle" or there will be more "velvet revolutions" in the post-Soviet states, leaving the country "isolated all around." Nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya accused the West of trying "to take over power in Ukraine" and wanting "direct access to the Russian border." Youth-oriented Komsomol'skaya Pravda argued that "two civilizations, the West and the East...have clashed in Ukraine," alleging the West "is in earnest about shouldering Russia out of former Soviet republics." Predicting eventual "rebellion" in eastern Ukraine in "reaction to Yushchenko's policies," a commentary in reformist Izvestiya declared Russia should lend "every support to the pro-Russian regions."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Steven Wangsness
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 58 reports from 21 countries November 30-December 7, 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
UKRAINE: "Dragging Things Out"
Opposition daily Ukrayina Moloda opined (11/30): "Everybody understands that this cannot go on for much longer. The authorities are retreating eastwards and dragging things out. Kuchma is depressed, he does not know how to pull Ukraine out of the crisis he and his entourage provoked. Nobody doubts today that Mr. Kuchma co-authored and co-produced the separatist idea. There is no doubt either that 'assistant producers' of this show sit in Russia's highest offices. The question is different now: is the situation developing according to Kuchma's scenario?"
"A Blow To Putin"
Pro-opposition tabloid Vecherniye Vesti editorialized (11/30): "The events in Ukraine have delivered a powerful blow to Russian President Putin's reputation. He must have been convinced that his support would be quite enough for Ukrainian citizens to elect anyone. But there is a limit to what spin doctors and the Russian president's authority can do."
Valeriy Panyushkin held in business-oriented Kommersant (12/7): "As seen by Sergey Bagapsh's supporters in Abkhazia and Viktor Yushchenko's supporters in Ukraine, any talks their leaders may have will be with thieves and, for that reason, their outcome can't be anything other than a fraud. That makes the leaders of Abkhazian and Ukrainian revolutions, with crowds of supporters on the street, look like the chief counterrevolutionaries. They claim power, but they don't take it. Instead, they hold negotiations. They have it hard. Abkhazia's Raul Khadzhimba has it even harder. And so does Ukraine's Viktor Yanukovych With Moscow behind them, they can't give up. Khadzhimba (and Kuchma), I gather, went to Moscow to ask for permission to give up. Obviously, no permission was granted. That explains why the political crises in Abkhazia and Ukraine have been prohibitively long. Messrs. Bagapsh and Yushchenko can't give up because of the crowds behind them. Messrs. Khadzhimba and Yanukovych can't do so because of Moscow's support."
"Empire Is Hard Work"
Leonid Radzikhovskiy said in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (12/7): "If it is to become the ideological, economic and political center of the CIS [NIS], Russia should do two things. It should offer CIS members a 'project' that, while being alternative to the West's, must be more attractive. Or it may try to become the 'western center of Eurasia,' the most Euro-American country in the CIS, so that the road to Europe leads straight to Moscow. In both cases, Moscow should work on itself first. Otherwise, it should forget a real empire."
"Tail Wags Dog"
Sergey Mitrokhin of the Yabloko Party wrote in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (12/6): "Almost all accusations we leveled at the Russian authorities during the Duma ballot apply to them in the Ukraine election. The Kremlin, heavily involved in the election on one of the sides, is directly responsible for what is going on in that country. Artificially inflating Yanukovych's popularity ratings has split Ukraine. The same methods and the same principle--the tail wags the dog--were used when the Kremlin's spin doctors dragged the president into the Yedinaya Rossiya (united Russia) campaign.... Russia has had to sacrifice the free press, independent parliament and business, and federalism to Putin's popularity ratings, with the Moloch claiming more. In Ukraine, Yanukovych's ratings have cost Russia its reputation as a state, with its head having so little respect for his country and himself that he comes so low as to act as a canvasser in a foreign land. Worst of all, Ukraine's territorial integrity has been sacrificed to the ratings."
"You Can't Expect Them To Be Objective"
Vladimir Kuzar judged in centrist army-run Krasnaya Zvezda (12/4): "The West bluntly called the Ukraine election undemocratic. Funny, it could say the same about the recent election in the U.S. and its outdated electoral system, hardly a paragon of democracy from the standpoint of modern requirements. As for law violations during the vote in the U.S., there, reportedly, were enough for several election campaigns in Ukraine. But OSCE observers...chose not to see them, rating the ballot as the most democratic. Given all that, you can't expect them to be objective with regard to Russia and its close allies, though the Cold War ended more than a decade ago, and Russia, following the democratic road of development, lists itself among members of the so-called civilized community of nations."
"Coup, Chaos, Split"
Vasiliy Mikhaylovskiy held in neo-communist weekly Slovo (12/3): "A carefully planned, generously funded, and meticulously directed scenario of tearing Ukraine away from Russia's sphere of influence and binding it to the West is unfolding before our eyes.... International mediators from Poland, Lithuania, the OSCE and the EU are there for the sole purpose of getting Yushchenko elected president. The methods used by those involved in the takeover are absolutely unconstitutional, which qualifies the whole thing as a coup. The coup is what causes Ukraine to split."
"Moscow Out To Tighten Screws"
Editor-in-chief Yevgeniy Kisilev wrote in reformist weekly Moskovskiye Novosti (12/3): "The Kremlin is in trouble. Unless it plays a positive role in settling the crisis, all kudos will go to Kwasniewski, Solana, Adamkus, and (OSCE Secretary General) Kubis, with Russia losing much of its influence in Ukraine. No doubt, that was the chief reason why Kuchma unexpectedly decided to visit Moscow, and Putin, unlike many in Russia, voiced his concern over Ukraine splitting up. Regrettably, the only conclusion Russia's ruling elite has drawn from the situation in Ukraine is that it should tighten all screws to prevent anything of the kind at home."
"Russia's Last Chance"
Editor-in-chief Aleksandr Prokhanov wrote in nationalist opposition Zavtra (12/2): "In 1991, when they ruined the USSR, the rascals thought it was dead and they could go on ruling the roost quietly in their breakaway domains.... Today's Ukraine is a remake of the 1991 scenario.... Kuchma is Gorbachev, spent and sickening. Yushchenko is Yeltsin, pro-Western and falsely innovative. Yanukovych is the GKChePe, burnt-out, flabby and incapable of resistance.... Ukraine is Russia's last chance to cast off the disgusting mask of pro-Western liberalism; to discover the faces of hateful Churchill and merciless Dulles, our eternal enemies, in the West; to do away with the WTO, the EU, 'Bush [chicken] legs,' investment, and friendship with George and Jacques; to flex what little it has left of the imperial muscle and strike at the rickety CIS (NIS) structure, regaining the Crimea, Donetsk, Kharkov, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the Dniester area, all lands languishing under foreign yoke and striving to rejoin Russia. This would become our 'asymmetrical response' to the West. Thank God, we still have out Satan missiles, and our people still sense the heartbeat of the great empire. Or we can wait to see oranges grow on the Kremlin wall."
"Russia Can't Afford To Lose"
Vitaliy Tretyakov commented in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (12/2): "Russia was too eager to support Yanukovych for its image not to suffer palpably from his giving up the idea of winning the presidency. The West, however, prefers speaking of Russia's geopolitical defeat, rather than of its soiled image. And that is right, primarily because what we are having in Ukraine is the United States and EU, on the one side, and Russia, on the other, fighting a political war, their biggest since 1991. Russia has done a lot of imprudent things, trying to counter massive U.S. and European intervention in the Ukraine election process. But Russia did not say a priori that it would not accept the vote outcome unless its favorite won. The West did exactly that.... Whatever, Russia can't afford to lose the battle of Ukraine. Otherwise, in the next couple of years we will see 'velvet revolutions' in Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and possibly Armenia that will leave Russia isolated all around, except perhaps in the southeast."
"How High Is The Price?"
Mikhail Zygar remarked in business-oriented Kommersant (12/2): "Russia may be surprised to see how much it will have to pay for trying to punish its neighbors. Recently, we have shut off Georgia; now we are going to close the border with Abkhazia; and we are also threatening Ukraine. The time will come when we will find ourselves fenced off on all sides, totally isolated."
Vyacheslav Tetekin wrote in nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (12/2): "The United States will agree to nothing less than Yushchenko's victory. Having failed to take over power in Ukraine at the first go, the West and clients have decided to lay a siege. The butcher of Yugoslavia, former NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, an unctuous smile on his lips, is trying to twist Kuchma's arms, with President Kwasniewski of Poland and President Adamkus of Lithuania, a former U.S. citizen, close at hand and confident in their control of the situation. America keeps in the background, obviously content with having the Ukraine crisis handled by the Europeans.... Even the Moscow media, servilely pro-American at other times, have been showing signs of anti-American sentiment. But don't get your hopes too high--more than their own country's interests, Russian 'democrats' value solidarity with western Ukraine. You can't trust Western politicians to be sincerely concerned for Ukraine's territorial integrity. They do not need its western provinces proud but economically weak. They want all of Ukraine. They want direct access to the Russian border."
"The Two Of Them Had Better Go"
Sergey Dubinin, former chairman of the central bank, opined in reformist Vremya Novostey (12/1): "A normal person can't rejoice over what is going on in Ukraine--the breakup of a neighboring country we have been tied to by thousands of bonds. It is not that the authorities are unable to hold a democratic election without someone questioning its result. It is that they are inept, corrupt, and not trusted by their own people. Even if they agree on a re-vote, few will accept its result as fair.... The feeling is that a purge in Ukraine, a European country with a 50-million-strong population, would be good for Russia and the rest of Europe, too. We should not look for pseudo-allies in Kuchma, Lukashenko and the like of them--their pledges of 'eternal friendship' have nothing but personal gain and selfish interest behind them. Come the Russian election in 2008, to spare this country turmoil of the kind Ukraine is having now, we need to carry out operation Clean Hands of our own instead of seeking mythical CIA conspirators. Our government can stand cleansing, too."
"Change Of Fate"
Igor Serkov wrote in literary weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta (12/1): "As it tried much to befriend Kuchma, Russia missed a chance to pick someone other than Yanukovych to stop Yushchenko. Finally, it ended up with Yanukovych, whose ties to Kuchma and previous convictions turn off many Ukrainians. Under the circumstances, we can't but back Yanukovych. But first of all, we must support those 15 million people in southeastern Ukraine who voted for being together with Russia. In that, our position must be clear and absolute. It is up to those people what fate they want for themselves. Our job is to stand by them and their interests. What is happening in Ukraine is not excesses of a nascent democracy, as we are being told. It is the sufferings of a nation not capable of going the way it is now."
"What Is At Issue In Ukraine"
Aleksandr Tsipko held in literary weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta (12/1): "The Russian language and Russian literature are part and parcel of modern European civilization. Ukrainian, as the surviving folklore of southern Russia, remains on the periphery of European civilization. Between Russian and Ukrainian, the former offers easier access to European civilization. Surely, Ukrainian-language Ukraine has a right to be distinct. If Ukrainian-language Ukraine feels like getting back to the Polish-Lithuanian world, it can do so. But those in Ukraine who are linked to Russia and its interests and want to retain their allegiance to the Russian world, Russian dignity and cultural sovereignty, ought to be protected."
"Russia Will Win"
Aleksandr Dugin stated in youth-oriented Komsomol'skaya Pravda (12/1): "It is not two politicians, Yanukovych and Yushchenko, but two civilizations, the West and the East, that have clashed in Ukraine. The West is in earnest about shouldering Russia out of former Soviet republics. Yushchenko's pro-Atlantic stand and his patrons' determination to fight to the end have turned routine presidential elections into a drama. Unable to stand tension, Ukraine has split. It may cease to exist any day now.... The West has no positive scenario for Ukraine. Ukraine, poor and short of energy resources, is destined to a meager existence on the periphery of the Western world. The West must find it useful as a battleground, though.... The time has come. We have long shunned the simple truth that the 'Great War' between Russia and the United States, between the East and the West, is still on. It did not end with the fall of the USSR. It has entered a new phase, with the enemy moving close to our borders.... Not being able to avoid the war leaves us with no option other than winning it."
"Yushchenko Not A Solution Either"
Reformist Izvestiya had this to say (11/30): "Despite some hasty conclusions, a Yushchenko presidency is not a solution either. Even if eastern Ukraine does not rise up in rebellion immediately, it will do so before long as a reaction to Yushchenko's policies. And Russia will again be forced to intervene, but in far worse circumstances. It is important, as a worst-case scenario, to give every possible support to the pro-Russian regions--eastern Ukraine and Crimea. War must be avoided while this is still possible. But after a certain critical point is reached, the only option is a war which has to be won."
BRITAIN: "A Win For Democracy: Now Putin And Kuchma Must Let Ukraine Free"
An editorial in the independent Financial Times read (2/6): "Ukraine's fate should not be determined by any power struggle between the West and Russia. People everywhere, irrespective of their history of their geography, must have the right to choose their leaders. As a neighbor, Russia has the right to lobby for its interests, but not to treat Ukraine as a client state. President Vladimir Putin must be made to accept this fundamental principle--in Ukraine and the rest of the former Soviet Union."
"Russian Roulette: Genuinely Democratic Ukraine Would Be Splendid Example"
The independent weekly Economist noted (12/4): "What happens now in Ukraine will crucially affect not just its own future, but that of all countries of the former Soviet Union--most notably Russia itself. The crisis in Ukraine may have been triggered by the blatant election fraud, most glaringly carried out in the country's eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk by supporters of Mr. Yanukovych and Mr. Kuchma. But its origins are in good measure of Russia's making."
FRANCE: "France’s Diplomats Uneasy"
Luc de Barochez wrote in right-of-center Le Figaro (12/1): “Embarrassed by the crisis in Ukraine, France has adopted a stance of discretion and support to Brussels. More realistic than moralistic, France’s diplomacy is trying to promote a lasting resolution to the crisis that will respect democracy in Kiev while not provoking Moscow or leading to Ukraine’s partition. This is why France is trying to avoid choosing sides until the decisive election results are in. Meanwhile it is criticizing all forms of foreign intervention.... The natural leaning sympathies of the French authorities go to the 'orange revolution'.... But France is also careful not to upset Putin.... There is a fine line between respecting democracy and not upsetting Russia...because the French take very seriously the possibility of Ukraine’s partition.... France has decided to step back and to let the EU lead the mediation.”
Center-right Westfaelischer Anzeiger of Hamm editorialized (12/3): "Despite the justified demands of demonstrators, despite the advice of other countries, Russia's President Putin imposed his recommendation even before the decision of Ukraine's highest court: new elections. The plan is as simple as it is obvious. In the months before the preparations for the elections, a new candidate that can be accepted in Moscow could be built up, following the disposal of official election winner Yanukovych. And the heated protests of demonstrators should then share the fate of the gentle plant called hope for democracy: frozen."
"Kuchma Is Gambling For Time"
Karl Grobe noted in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (12/2): "The Yanukovych gang is...threatening to divide the whole country.... Russia is playing a double game. President Putin's confirmation to respect the Ukrainian constitution is worth less than it originally appeared to be. His party members are seriously intervening in eastern Ukraine and fuel the conflict.... Given their methods, we must fear the worst."
"Schroeder And Putin"
Reinhard Veser commented in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (12/1): "The Ukrainian case shows that the Kremlin is pursues its foreign policy interests also by interfering in domestic affairs of other countries. In rather informal and sometimes shady ways Moscow also tries to increase its influence on some new EU members; the scandal over the ousted Lithuanian President Pakas has unearthed a great deal of it.... Berlin and Brussels' options to influence Moscow are limited. It is more important to express an unambiguous opinion, because silence or partnership rhetoric will be understood as encouragement or submission. West Europeans can best secure their political and economic interests in Russia by being resolute and firm.... Open criticism will not necessarily result in open confrontation, because not just Germany is interested in thriving relations. If Putin wants to modernize Russia, he needs help from the West and Germany in particular."
Thomas Urban observed in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (12/1): "New elections instead of a repetition of the runoff are not in Yushchenko's interest, because they would be held some time next year, and time might work against him.... Kuchma is gambling for time. His strong ally is the winter.... Kuchma could establish a more attractive candidate than Yanukovych with the help of the state media he controls. Again, he will rely on the help from Moscow. But the Kremlin will be more clever this time. Anything still goes and it is possible that the orange revolution will just fade away."
Jacques Schuster noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (12/1): "Putin sees Ukraine as a part of the Russian empire, which is why he believes his interference in the Ukrainian elections was natural. It could be seen as a breakthrough if he now agrees on holding new elections, because Ukrainians listen to the voice of the Russian president. There are new elections ahead. But it is unclear whether they will bring the desired results."
Patrick Sabatier wrote in left-of-center Liberation (12/2): “While neither the possibility of a civil war nor partition can be totally excluded, compromise remains a possibility. The battle of Kiev is also a Cold War by proxy between Putin’s neo-imperial Russia and the European Union, whose ‘democratic’ example has served to inspire the opposition.... Let this serve as a reminder that there are people for whom Europe is an acquired advantage and those for whom it is still a reason to fight. We must neither abandon the fight for democracy in Kiev nor weaken the EU.”
ITALY: "Ukraine: Agreement On Reforms"
Leading business daily Il Sole 24 Ore noted (12/7): “Russian President Putin was forced to acknowledge [new elections], and during his visit in Ankara, he said he is ready to work with whichever elected leader in Ukraine.... But he also made clear that he will defend Ukraine's eastern regions, as he will not allow the people there to become ‘second-class citizens.’”
"The Stake Between Moscow And Kiev"
Ferdinando Salleo wrote in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (12/6): "At stake in the game being played in Ukraine is Russia’s political and strategic role.... And on our side of the world we have to face a very difficult dilemma... For Europe, and even more for the U.S., the real problem is to influence the road Russia is about to take towards a shared, if not a common, fate with the transatlantic region and its history, culture and economy.... For sure, the latest moves by the Kremlin are not encouraging.... Indeed, we do hope that everyone, including the actors in Kiev, are well aware of the importance of what is at stake.”
"Putin Attacks The U.S. ‘Dictatorship’"
Vladimir Sapozhnikov remarked in leading business-oriented Il Sole 24 Ore (12/4): “The political crisis in Ukraine ignited dangerous tensions between Russia and the U.S. While yesterday the WH welcomed the Supreme Court’s verdict as an ‘important step toward a peaceful and democratic solution,’ Russian President Putin, from India, accused Washington of conducting a dictatorial foreign policy.”
"Cold War, Or Almost"
Gianni Riotta observed in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (12/4): “Sixty years after...there are glimpses of a cold war. And the U.S. and Europe that are divided on Iraq must decide how to face the new world and its dangers. Secretary of State (sic) Rice has in her soul the paradox of the present situation: she is an expert on Russia and geopolitics. She had to deal with the asymmetrical war on terrorism and now she goes back to take care of the issues she studied: how to deal with Putin who keeps on ignoring claims of civil rights violations more and more openly.... Europe is divided...and China holds the balance. The U.S. won the cold war because it was more mobile than its opponents.... It would be a good reminder that a combination of force and reason made us win over Soviet dictatorship. It would be wrong to think that today we might prevail without believing, in fact and not only in words, in democracy and justice.”
"Kiev’s Blow To The Kremlin"
Sandro Viola opined on the front page of left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (12/3): “Ukraine's drawn-out unrest and the risks that it entails have for the time being brought on a series of curt counterblows on the international scene. Relations between Europe and Russia, and between Russia and the United States, are no longer what they were two weeks ago. Harsh words, the harshest in many years, were spoken on every front and even if Kiev were to advance a solution that everyone could accept, the controversy that exploded between Moscow and Western capitals will leave a trail of suspicion, distrust and resentment. The common commitment against global terrorism and their need for Russian oil will likely prevent relations between Euro-Americans and Moscow from deteriorating too much. It is in everyone’s interest that the crisis remain circumscribed."
"The Ukraine Enigma -- Divided Nation"
Alberto Ronchey opined in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (12/1): “Following the loss of all remaining influence over the Baltics and the Georgians, Putin seems to be obsessed by the fear of the isolation of the Russian Federation, which claims the right to oversee Ukraine given their economic interdependence.... [Russia] is clearly attempting to recover its military prestige; it has announced [the construction] of new missiles. It is unlikely that Putin is aspiring ...to revive a superpower based on ideology, much less a cold war psychopathology.”
AUSTRIA: "Putin, The Loser"
Editor Jana Patsch wrote in mass-circulation Kurier (12/6): "An emancipation of Kiev from Moscow is something that Putin can hardly accept without losing face. After all, just one year ago a widely lauded economic and tariff union was founded--between Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.... However, it is also for security reasons that the Russians regard the activities in Ukraine with suspicion: the Russians' deep-seated fear of being surrounded by enemy forces would get new nourishment if Ukraine belonged to Western institutions. NATO is still an enemy image for most Russians. Probably not even Putin himself knows at present how he is going to get through this crisis. The Kremlin boss could get under heavy-duty pressure from two sides: the security forces and the military could demand a still more authoritarian course; the democratic opposition, on the other hand, could use the momentum from Kiev to its advantage. The damage to Putin's image is already evident. He could be the great loser of the orange revolution."
Josef Kirchengast editorialized in independent Der Standard (12/2): "While the EU Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy is trying to mediate in Kiev, France and Germany, the alleged motors of the European project, engage in realpolitik that caters to their interests. And those call for being considerate towards Russia.... Paris claims Moscow should not be provoked. While nothing is to be said against a well-considered realpolitik and clever conduct in difficult geopolitical situations, this kind of hasty consideration towards a Russia that has been increasingly playing the hegemony card recently is in itself a provocation--for all those for whom Europe is more than just an empty shell."
BELGIUM: "Putin's View"
Foreign editor Paul De Bruyn commented in conservative Christian-Democrat Gazet van Antwerpen (12/6): "In Putin's view a crucial factor for Russia's security is that the 'near abroad' must remain under his control. That country must be shielded from Western influence. That is why he has drawn a line in Ukraine: that country cannot belong to the camp of the old enemy. That is why Viktor Yushcencko must be stopped before he puts Ukraine on a path to EU and NATO membership. The same reasoning makes Putin maintain troops in the Georgian republic of Abkhazia--which pro-Western President Saakashvili threatens to destabilize. Subsequently, a collision with the West is a possibility there, too. It is unlikely that Putin can win that test of strength. But, he is willing to take his chance. There is too much at stake for him."
Foreign editor Frank Schloemer commented in independent De Morgen (12/6): "Clearly, the EU has intervened in a region which--also after the independence of Ukraine--belongs to Russia’s sphere of influence. And, of course, Moscow is not happy with that. The Kremlin’s attacks against the EU as an institution and against individual EU diplomats have been legion after the elections on Sunday, November 21. President Putin, in particular, led the verbal attacks against the EU, while he himself was not ashamed of telling the (Ukrainian) citizens for whom they should vote.... Ukraine--after Russia the principal country of the former Soviet Union--is openly and eagerly looking at the West and it even won’t be satisfied with EU membership only: t wants to join the West’s military alliance NATO as well.... After a series of enlargements the EU borders on Russia and, if those enlargements continue, Russia will feel ‘encircled’ by the EU. The Kremlin gentlemen’s fear is not unjustified, especially now that the EU has plans to improve its relationships also with counties like Belarus, Moldavia and the Caucasian republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia--all former Soviet republics.... The EU’s ‘forward movement’ is becoming a nightmare to Moscow--against which it can do nothing. Every country in that European region that requests membership and that meets the requirements can become a member--and Moscow cannot prevent that. As a matter of fact, Vladimir Putin can do nothing at all because the EU is Russia’s largest trade partner--on which it is very dependent.”
HUNGARY: "The Empire Next Moves Where?"
Gabor Miklos warned in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (12/4): “In recent years, there have been more and more warnings that the (Soviet) Union that fell apart in 1991 has been sneakily re-organizing itself, and authoritarian governments in the successor states are dissolving the short-lived elements of liberal democracy, of freedom of the press, of Western-type rule of law and of civil society. This process, however, has not been perfect in all places. For a long time, not even in Russia. And not in the most important link of the chain of re-unification/annexation: Ukraine.... In the recent Ukrainian events, Russia has primarily got into a confrontation with the EU.... Moscow cannot afford Ukrainian consolidation carried out against Russia with EU assistance.... Regardless of how things turn out in Kiev, one thing is certain: disturbing elements have turned up in the empire-building, or rather, rebuilding plans.... One can take almost for granted that the societies of the post-Soviet region will not be unaffected by the Ukrainian 'chestnut revolution'.”
"The Real Revolution"
Gusztav Molnar pointed out in liberal Magyar Hirlap (12/4): “What Moscow has always held self-evident, namely that the Russian economic power and cultural influence in themselves will be sufficient to make at least the 'hard core' of the former Soviet Union, the three Slavic countries and Kazakhstan a coherent economic and political community has turned out to be a vain hope because it is the society and not the power elite, rotten to the core, of the key country Ukraine that has become part of the European Union’s sphere of cultural, economic and ideological interests.”
"The Pains Of The Ukrainian Transition"
Foreign affairs editor Gabor Stier opined in right-of-center Magyar Nemzet (12/1): “The stakes in this game are especially high for Moscow because if Kiev drops out of its sphere of influence, [Russia] can not only say goodbye to its dreams of a global empire. Russia will no longer be surrounded by countries that share its aspirations. Washington is acutely aware of this situation, and is unlikely to let this opportunity pass. On the other hand, in spite of its spectacular activity, the European Union does not even come close to the American effectiveness.... Just like Georgia--after more than a decade of maneuvering--Ukraine is entering a conflict of orientation. Contrary to Tbilisi, political options in Kiev are not that clear. Not in a small measure because, in the case of Ukraine, the commitment of the West, and primarily that of the European Union, is soft at best."
NORWAY: "Something Beautiful Has Happened"
The independent newspaper Dagbladet commented (12/5): “Many are left with long Pinnochio noses after the Ukrainian revolution. This goes for outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and PM Yanukovych. But the longest nose of them all is that of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who immediately placed himself in a corner when he was the first to congratulate Yanukovych on his victory, long before there was a final result.... Putin now emerges as a defender of cheating and oppression, and not of justice and democracy. This is tragic for Russia, Europe and the world.”
"Large Political Fight Over Ukraine"
Foreign affairs editor Nils Morten Udgaard commented in newspaper of record Aftenposten (12/1): “Both the U.S. and EU refused last week to accept the election results after having listened to election observers.... The Russians were no longer alone with Kiev. The EU and the U.S. have all along worked against a new Russian-Ukrainian union.... In Ukraine it is the EU and not the U.S. setting the agenda; this is something new in an important crisis.”
POLAND: "They Will Give In"
Marcin Wojciechowski commented in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (12/3): “[His] Russian friends did not let Kuchma down. Putin spoke in favor of the repetition of the entire election.... The [Ukrainian] opposition chose a legal way, not revolutionary shortcuts. Sooner or later the government will give in, because it lacks the power to lead a war against its own nation. Moscow’s support of Kuchma is sheer ritual.”
"Back To The Past"
Jan Skorzynski opined in centrist Rzeczpospolita (12/3): “One can hardly disagree with Vladimir Putin’s statement that neither the European Union nor Russia can decide how to resolve the crisis in Ukraine…. It’s only a shame that the Russian President does not follow this advice himself. Moscow’s behavior before and after the elections in Ukraine indicates that Moscow did not accept the independence of its former province and wants to install its man in Kiev at any cost.... Putin treats the Ukrainian democratic movement as a threat to Russia. Perhaps he fears that this example of civic disobedience will find followers in Moscow.”
"The World And Kiev"
Marcin Bosacki commented in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (12/1): “During the first days after the fraudulent Ukrainian elections, Europe was silent. Some of the Western media claimed that the efforts to influence the developments in Kiev were ‘Polish obsessions’ that ‘needlessly irritate Russia.’... Today most of Europe understands that Ukraine must be helped.”
SWEDEN: "New Elections Get Closer"
Independent, liberal Dagens Nyheter editorialized (12/2): “An open and faultless new election would be a major victory for democracy in Ukraine. To Russia’s Vladimir Putin it would mean a defeat visible to the world.... To those in the West who regard international politics and good relations with the Kremlin as more important than openness and democratic values, Ukraine in the fall of 2004 must be an eye-opener. People who for a long time have put up with corruption and misgovernment and have never had political freedom, may one day have had enough.”
"Europe’s Future Will Be Decided In Kiev"
Professor Stefan Hedlund, Department of East European Studies, Uppsala University, commented in West Sweden’s major daily, liberal Goteborgs-Posten (12/2): “Today those who believed that the Cold War had ended have every reason to reconsider. Relations between Russia and the West, both the U.S. and the EU, are worse than at any time after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and there is nothing indicating that a thaw is at hand.... To the governments of the Western democracies and mass media, this brings matters to a head. Are we to accept that Russia has a sphere of interest of its own where Moscow freely can decide on the appointment or the dethroning of governments, or are we prepared to pursue a policy of confrontation with all that it may involve? The future of Europe is now created in Kiev. Complacency today may be very costly tomorrow.”
TURKEY: "A Global Game Played In Ukraine"
Namik Kemal Zeybek argued in the conservative HO Tercuman (12/2): “Following the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. engaged in an intensive effort to separate Ukraine from Russia.... Ukraine received financial grants from the U.S. that provided privileges for the American business in the country. The EU followed the U.S. model by giving financial aid to Ukraine. Both the U.S. and the EU had something in common: the goal to detach Ukraine from Russia.... Today the U.S. goal is to gain full control over Ukraine in order to establish a military base. The ongoing chaos regarding the elections should be interpreted from this perspective, because all of this is a part of a long-term American strategy in the region.”
LEBANON: "A New Cold War?"
Nassif Hitti concluded in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (12/2): “Do the results of the Ukrainian presidential elections...and the crisis that followed...carry the seeds of a new cold war between the super American power and Russia? Beliefs may change...however, political geography does not change, particularly that of big countries.... Russia is afraid of repeating the Georgia experience. Georgia was stolen (sic) from Russia last year. The only areas that remained for Russia are Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Russia is bothered by the continuous extension of the West and NATO towards its borders.... The strategic Western (American-European agreement) over bringing Ukraine towards the West through its economy and through encouraging a democratization process...reflect the size of Western interest in Ukraine.... Ukraine needs to reach a settlement between trying to protect the gradual democratization of Ukraine on one hand, and giving assurances to Moscow on the strategic and security levels on the other hand.... Without such a settlement, this crisis--...or this new cold war--will continue.”
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: "Crack In Ukraine's Hardline Wall"
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald commented (Internet version, 12/7): "There is a temptation to view Ukraine as despotic, corrupt, thuggish; a craven satellite of hegemonic Russia, riddled with nepotism and cronyism and suffocating on failed economic policy and totalitarian power concentrated in the role of the president. The temptation was potent because this picture of Ukraine is largely realistic. This is where, after all, murder of rivals is a political strategy, where the grotesquely disfigured face of the leadership contender, Viktor Yushchenko, probably is the result of poisoning by secret police, where the November 21 presidential election was stolen because the losers loathed the people's choice. What a remarkable decision, therefore, for Ukraine's Supreme Court to strip away the pretense of an honest result and to order a new vote for the presidency on December 26."
JAPAN: "Russia, EU Eager To Agree On Energy Supplies"
Conservative Sankei observed (12/3): "Russia and the EU are stepping up efforts to mediate an end to the presidential election dispute in Ukraine out of concern that the political chaos might trigger a domestic economic crisis. Because oil pipelines from Russia to Europe pass through Ukraine, a swift settlement of the political turmoil is imperative for both the Europeans and Russians.... The Kremlin appears deeply concerned that a prolonged situation in Kiev would derail Russia's oil exports to Europe. President Putin is therefore unlikely to up the ante in his bargaining with the Europeans over events in Ukraine."
"Differences Between U.S. And Russia Set To Widen"
Liberal Asahi remarked (12/2): "Following the political chaos over Ukraine's disputed presidential election, the Bush administration has begun to take a harder line with the Putin government in a move that risks reversing cooperative ties with Moscow on such issues as the war on terrorism and Iran's nuclear development programs. The U.S. suspects that some Russian government elements were involved in election misconduct.... Washington appears to be trying to maintain neutrality out of concern that a show of outright support for the pro-Europe Yushchenko might exacerbate internal division in Ukraine. But differences between Washington and Russia will likely grow, depending on the Kremlin's approach to the situation in Kiev."
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
KAZAHKSTAN: "Is Russia Still Alive?”
Progressive weekly Epokha argued (12/3): “Presidential elections in Ukraine have significantly tarnished the democratic image of Russia.... It’s so obvious how much Russian press and TV hate the orange color of the Ukrainian opposition. It seems that suddenly our Northern colleagues have been hit by an infectious disease of partiality and bias. Or maybe they were ordered to join the ranks of great-power patriots? They may have had no choice--the Kremlin and oligarchs close to it control all leading mass media outlets of Russia.”
CANADA: "West Must Back Ukraine"
Stephen Handelman wrote in the liberal Toronto Star (Internet version, 12/7): "Russia dominates [Ukraine's] economy and will always remain central to its political future. Russian President Vladimir Putin blundered by openly throwing his support behind the candidate of the current regime--Viktor Yanukovych--and made things worse by appearing to support separatist threats in Ukraine's industrial heartland, where backing for Yanukovych and Russia is greatest. But it would be wishful thinking to write Russia out of this new game. Putin has built widespread popular support at home for his ambition of strengthening Russian influence beyond its post-1991 borders, and he isn't likely to relinquish his self-appointed role as power broker--even if the Dec. 26 election brings pro-Western reformers to power in Kiev. And that means the West must do more this time than simply pay lip service to another 'pro-democracy' movement. The Western diplomatic strategy should be to do everything possible to give Ukraine the breathing room it needs to continue the process of reform without fostering tensions that could push the region into instability.... One way is to provide the economic and political assistance that has been missing the past decade.... It also means playing a direct role in post-election bargaining between Kiev and Moscow, by persuading Russia that its hopes of taking its rightful place in global politics will depend on the treatment of its neighbor. Moscow's interest in a stable, friendly government on its western border will have to be acknowledged. But, ultimately, a successful Ukrainian renaissance will provide new impetus for thwarted democratic dreams across the region--from Belarus to Russia itself. he West backed away from the challenge in 1991. Now, even if it means colliding with the restless neo-imperialists in the Kremlin, it can't do so again."
Editorialist Serge Truffaut commented in liberal Le Devoir (12/4): "Until [the December 26 election] all eyes will be on the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin who more than once has not been shy about getting involved in the political debate.... Paradoxically, if Putin personally committed himself to the campaign by going twice to Kiev, he has not been able to tolerate and still can't tolerate the critiques being voiced by more than one European Union leader and by President Bush. Not being able to digest the offer of good offices made by Poland, Lithuania and the European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, the Moscow autocrat has difficulty hiding his intention to retort."
"West Needs To Act To Curb Putin's Imperialist Push"
George Foty insisted in the left-of-center Saskatoon StarPhoenix (12/2): "The electoral fraud in Ukraine by the pro-Russian Kuchma-Yanukovych regime is part of a massive campaign of Russian interference in Ukraine. Russia has poured millions of dollars into the Viktor Yanukovych campaign and Vladimir Putin himself came to Ukraine twice to support his candidate. It's not surprising that Ukrainians were alarmed at this threat to their independence and rose in opposition. It appears that Putin had been prepared to launch an outright assault on the pro-democracy forces in Ukraine. Sources in Kiev report that Russian special forces dressed in Ukrainian uniforms were stationed near that city since the beginning of the demonstrations. Clearly, the troops were there not just to intimidate but to suppress the demonstrators if Ukrainian police refused to do so. Putin had used the cover of elections previously in Russia to undermine the democratic movement there and establish his authoritarian regime. He also installed a 'duly elected' totalitarian regime in Belarus, and only a peaceful revolution in Georgia prevented another 'democratically elected' pro-Russian government from taking office there. Many Russians believe that they must regain control of Ukraine if Russia is to recover her former superpower status. To achieve this, they appear to be ready to eradicate the Ukrainian pro-democracy movement. It is commendable that Western democracies are speaking out against the attempted subversion of the elections in Ukraine. However, their apparent reluctance to oppose Putin's neo-imperialist policies in reassembling Russia's former colonies is both shameful and dangerous. Will it take a bloody suppression of the Ukrainian pro-democracy movement for the West to back its criticism with economic sanctions against Russia? The West must not repeat the mistakes of the timid European nations who failed to confront Hitler in the 1930s."
ARGENTINA: "Strong Spat Between Bush And Putin Over The Conflict In Ukraine"
Hinde Pomeraniec wrote in leading Clarin (12/3): "Putin's interests in Ukraine go beyond the almost 10 million Russians living in Ukraine who could eventually ask Russia to 'rescue' them.... Ukraine is the 'hinge' country between Europe and Russia. An example: the Russian gas goes to Europe through Ukrainian pipelines.... If Putin has interests (in Ukraine), the U.S. also has them--first, to deprive Russia of such an enclave. Also, regarding the East-West tension in which Ukraine sways, the Kuchma administration contributed 1,600 troops to the war in Iraq. And this is invaluable."
BRAZIL: "Putin And Ukraine"
Center-right O Globo editorialized (12/1): "In Ukraine’s electoral process Putin sees what is of interest to a Russian ruler: the victory of a candidate favorable to the strengthening of relations between Kiev and Moscow, which would help to maintain Ukraine in the sphere of influence of the former Soviet empire. According to the Kremlin's logic, Yushchenko should never be the president. He is in favor of heresies such as Ukraine’s adhesion to the European Union, maybe even NATO. The Russian government’s ill will is obvious. But that is not all: other historical and psychological elements in the region have complicated and worsened the Ukrainian crisis. For example, it's difficult for Putin and for Russians in general to abandon the context of the former Soviet empire, just as at the same time it must be irresistible and frightening for the Ukrainians to adhere to European culture and traditions. Ukrainians’ and Russians’ relations with the rest of Europe have been historically complicated.... For someone with Putin’s profile, planning to control Ukraine’s destiny is something normal, accustomed as he is to authoritarianism.... Among other things, the Ukrainian crisis is showing how much the Russians still resist the idea of a world where the USSR is only a nostalgic recollection."
CHILE: "Ukraine: The Orange Revolution"
Government-owned, editorially independent La Nacion noted (12/6): “Ukraine seems to be moving towards a peaceful resolution.... Democrats are encouraged by the way in which the orange revolution in Ukraine is being resolved. The willingness to peacefully resolve political discrepancies is very important in former Eastern Europe and the people of Ukraine are showing a great capacity...to move forward in peace towards freedom. (But) Russia has a role to play.... Moscow’s support of a candidate who committed fraud with the help of the government apparatus is more than a signal for the Kremlin. The West would not understand should Putin use these kinds of methods to take power and to retain it.”
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