Ukrainian conviction for killing journalist not the last word, says Gongadze’s widow

A Ukrainian court has sentenced former police chief Olexiy Pukach to life imprisonment for murdering journalist Georgy Gongadze (left) in 2000, “a crime which rocked the country,” the BBC reports:

Pukach confessed but said he had acted on the orders of the late Interior Minister, Yuri Kravchenko. Kravchenko was found dead with gunshot wounds in 2005, in what was officially described as a suicide, just as he was about to be questioned. Questions have been asked about how he managed to shoot himself twice in the head.

Gongadze’s killing is widely considered a catalyst for the political unrest that culminated in the Orange Revolution of 2004 that ended the authoritarian rule of President Leonid Kuchma.

The co-founder of an investigative news website who exposed high-level corruption, Gongadze was kidnapped in September, 2000 and his decapitated body was discovered in a forest on the outskirts of Kiev several months later.

Credit: BBG

Gongadze’s widow considers Pukach’s sentence “adequate,” but planned to appeal the verdict because she suspects more senior officials gave the order to kill her husband.    “To be honest, to me it is a certain signal that the current [Ukrainian] government wants to finish the case of Gongadze punishing the executors of the crime only,” Myroslava Gongadze* (right) told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service.  “Nevertheless, today the Prosecutor’s Office continues investigating who ordered the crime. Unfortunately, we, as victims, do not have information on what is going on in that investigation,” she said.  “Now we consider appealing the verdict [Pukach], only over the motives of the crime, because we believe that the crime was ordered and we want to bring the people who were named by Pukach to justice.” Myroslava Gongadze was a 2001-2002 Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum for Democratic Studies in Washington, D.C.

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New NGO curbs show Russia’s ‘Paradox of Paranoia’

Russia today announced further curbs on civil society groups, as a leading analyst recommends “information warfare” as the most effective response to the Kremlin’s growing authoritarianism at home and abroad.  

“Russia’s Justice Ministry is proposing legislation to extend rules on surprise governmental inspections of nongovernmental organizations having ‘foreign agent’ status to the rest of Russian NGOs,” Interfax reports:

The reasons for a “foreign agent” to undergo an unannounced inspection include a report from a private individual, government agency or media group that there are indications of extremism in its activities, an allegation by a government agency that the NGO has committed any other offense, or a decision of the president or government to have the organization checked.

The law that makes it binding on foreign-financed Russian NGOs engaging in politics to register as “foreign agents” came into force on November 21, 2012. Some of Russia’s NGOs, including the Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial, Golos, Civil Support and For Human Rights, declared they would boycott the law.

The Kremlin’s crackdown on its critics and independent voices demonstrates Russia’s “profoundly paranoid strategic culture,” says The Economist’s Edward Lucas (far left).

“As a result Russia behaves in ways that threaten or subvert other countries and obstruct Western diplomacy,” he says. “The right response to this is not to appease Russia, but to contain it and to mitigate the effects of its actions.”

The ruling elite exhibits “suspicion verging on paranoia about Western capabilities and intentions,” Lucas writes in Rethinking Russia: The Paradox of Paranoia, a new report for the Center for European Policy Analysis.

“The most important thing to be done in constraining the Kremlin is what might be termed information-warfare,” he suggests.

“Highlighting the shortcomings of the system inside Russia (especially corruption and ineffectiveness), as well as its meddling and bullying in neighboring countries, and its attempts to influence the political and economic systems elsewhere in Europe and in the United States are a national security priority — or should be,” he writes.

“Such efforts were a serious part of Western defense efforts during the Cold War, but have fallen into some disuse. Universities, think-tanks, media outlets, public broadcasters, human-rights organizations and others all have a part to play here.”

In perhaps the latest manifestation of elite paranoia, Russian legislators today cautioned against “revolution” and threatened to punish those who threaten political stability.

“Stability is most important. It largely depends on us, what the political process [in Russia] will be like,”said Vladimir Vasiliyev, the head of United Russia’s faction in the Duma.  Revolution mercilessly devours anyone who is keen on it,” he added.

Russia’s strategic culture is based on three elements, the most important of which is a paranoid suspicion about Western democracies’ capabilities and intentions, writes Lucas:

Strategic paranoia is particularly focused on foreign interference in the former Soviet Union. The “color revolutions” in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan exemplified this threat in the eyes of Kremlin decision-makers. They discounted any idea that the protesters were motivated by a genuine disgust at election-rigging, economic backwardness and corruption. They saw only the hands of foreign puppet-masters. The clear involvement of Western NGOs and governments in support of clean elections, anti-corruption campaigns and media freedom was not the result of altruism or idealism, but irrefutable evidence of “interference.”

But the Russian concept of interference is “blurred and reflects a paradox,” he notes:

Is Western behavior objectionable because it is interference in the sovereign affairs of other countries? Or is it interference in countries that properly belong in Russia’s sphere of influence and therefore had constrained sovereignty? Russia believes in non-intervention for the rest of the world, but has its own doctrine of “responsibility to protect” where its “compatriots” and former satraps are concerned.

President Vladimir Putin’s April 2007 address to the Federal Assembly on threats to Russia’s sovereignty is another example of the paranoia at work:

To be frank, our policy of stable and gradual development is not to everyone’s taste. Some, making skillful use of pseudo-democratic rhetoric, would like to return us to the recent past…while others deploy such rhetoric in order to deprive our country of its economic and political independence.”

He blamed foreign grants for this, claiming:

“There has been an increasing influx of money from abroad being used to intervene directly in our internal affairs.”

In November 2007 he spoke in similar vein, saying that Russia’s opposition:

[...] need a weak, sick state. They need a disorganized and disoriented society, a divided society—in order to fix their deals beyond its back … [They] scavenge like jackals at foreign embassies … counting on support from foreign foundations and governments, instead of their own people’s support.

“It is worth noting that this angry and defensive stance came at a time when Mr. Putin, and Russia, were in a position far more solid than they now enjoy,” notes Lucas.

The paradoxes are also evident in the five principles of Russian foreign policy outlined in 2008 by the then-President Dmitri Medvedev, which included the “indisputable priority” of “protecting the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, wherever they may be” [emphasis added] and Russia’s right to give “special attention” to particular regions in which it has “privileged interests.”

“The goal of stability abroad is closely tied with maintaining stability at home,” says Lucas, who cites James Sherr’s observation:

If the overarching aim of the United States is to maintain an international order hospitable to the values of liberal democracy, then Russia’s aim is the obverse: to create an international environment conducive to the maintenance of its system of governance at home.

Yet this “negative goal” (of preserving Russia’s voice in international affairs) conflicts with a second one: preventing constraints on Russia’s own freedom of action. As Sir Roderic Lyne, a former British Ambassador to Moscow, notes, Russia both demands respect for the status quo and resents its obligations:

This applies above all to the area of highest priority in Russia’s external policy, the “post-Soviet space.” Here, Russia’s goal is to maintain a droit de regardand to prevent the further erosion of its influence by intervening actively and, where necessary, aggressively.

“So what is a sane opposition to do in the face of an insane minority imposing its increasingly paranoid order? Perhaps ask for help and even protection from the outside world,” writes Masha Gessen, the director of Radio Liberty’s Russian Service:

In the next year or so Russia is scheduled to host several major international events, including a G-20 summit meeting in September 2013 and the Winter Olympics in February 2014. The visits of world leaders in politics and sports will continue to lend legitimacy to a regime that deserves to be treated as a pariah. By shaking the hands of Russian leaders, Western politicians will be engaging with them as partners — and communicating to the Russian opposition that it is alone.

The West may also be able to derive leverage from a second element of Russia’s strategic culture: a desire for economic strength.

“Russia no longer thinks it can be the center of an independent economic system….. To modernize the economy and satisfy the population, it needs consumer goods, industrial equipment, know-how, investment and markets,” Lucas notes. “Given that it needs to be part of the world economy it seeks to do so on the best possible terms.”

Yet Russia rejects the normative frameworks which Western states, companies and other actors publicly uphold, he adds:

Russians believe that talk of human rights, anti-corruption, corporate governance, anti-money-laundering policies, corporate integrity policies, corporate social responsibility and so forth are just camouflage for Westerners who are motivated solely by money……The result is what might be called a “broad spectrum approach:” an ability to approach economic and political issues abroad with public and private diplomatic pressure, espionage, commercial bargaining, information-warfare and the use of money in politics.

Yet the Kremlin’s efforts to secure economic prosperity are handicapped by a third specific feature of Russia’s strategic culture: messianic superiority.

“Russian leaders and policymakers no longer have any truck with Soviet-style communism. They realize that it was a political and economic dead end,” writes Lucas:

But they do believe in many cases in their country’s spiritual destiny, not least as the heir to the Byzantine Empire. Ideas of Russian uniqueness fit well with the rejection of foreign ideas such as political competition. They also chime with the notion — deeply held if bizarre to outsiders — that following the fall of ancient Rome and Constantinople, Moscow is the “Third Rome,” besieged by enemies.

The Kremlin also seeks to utilize the “similarly weird” notion of “Neo-Eurasianism” associated with Alexander Dugin and similar Slavophile nationalists.

“Although there is no longer an ideological component to Russia’s relations with Europe, a ‘civilizational’ component has replaced it,” said James Sherr.

“A successful mixture of anti-terrorist and anti-corruption rhetoric, moderate anti-Americanism and old-style administrative politics has enabled Vladimir Putin to consolidate an ‘acceptable’ authoritarian regime in Russia. This model has the potential to be replicated,” Bulgarian analyst Ivan Krastev wrote in 2004.

“That is no longer the case,” says Lucas:

Russia’s economic miracle has proven only to be the result of high oil prices. Russia’s anti-terrorist credentials are frayed by the violence in the North Caucasus. …. The casual cynicism of the job-swap between Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev has undermined the attraction of the Putinist political model. Anti-Americanism is a less popular cause than it was ten years ago: it is hard to see the United States now as a swaggering hegemon. Russia has not extracted any significant geopolitical dividend either from America’s “pivot” to Asia or from the worst crisis in the EU’s history.

The durability of what Moscow-based political scientist Samuel Greene calls “networked authoritarianism” is a matter of dispute.

But the regime “still works,” says Lucas, at least in the terms defined by Russian economist Vladimir Inozemtsev: “the elite’s most important goal is the preservation of a system that enables incompetents to control the country’s wealth.”


The Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial, Golos, and For Human Rights are supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.

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As protesters defy curfew, Egypt facing ‘state collapse,’ says army chief

Egypt’s defense minister has warned that continuing political conflict could lead to “the collapse of the state.”

“In an apparent rebuke to Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist president, and his liberal and leftist opponents,…General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who is also the armed forces commander, said the political, economic and social challenges facing the country represented a ‘danger to Egyptian security and the cohesion of the Egyptians’ state if they remained unresolved by ‘all sides,’” the FT reports:

Diplomats and analysts say the military is not seeking a return to power, and that senior officers such as Mr Sissi consider that the institution’s reputation had taken a battering as a result of its involvement in politics. The army, they argue, does not want to rule as long as civilian authorities can maintain stability, leaving the military to focus on its defence duties and vast economic interests.

Sissi’s statements were “well within the boundaries of how the army understands its role.” said Michael Wahid Hanna, an analyst with the Century Foundation.

“This is a warning that the army is losing patience, not that they want to intervene,” he said. “The question now is whether Morsi and the Brotherhood understand the limitations of their own power. The army still has weight.”

The leading opposition groups comprising the National Salvation Front have rejected Morsi’s calls for dialogue and have demanded a national unity government and a politically diverse, representative committee to amend the Islamist-drafted constitution.

“The opposition is trying to push to get as much as it can,” said Egyptian political analyst Mazen Hassan. “But I think they might just miss the point where it is most suitable to stop and collect the prize of the pressure they are exerting because if the violence continues and they still insist on not participating in dialogue this might backfire against them as people see they are the ones not really willing to cooperate.”

But some observers believe the opposition is not leading but following political developments on the ground.

The front “takes its cues from the street activists, not the other way around,” said Hani Sabra, a Middle East analyst at the New York-based Eurasia Group.

Opposition leaders like Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei “fear that meeting with Mursi would compromise their support at the street level,” he said. “The rift in Egyptian politics is likely to continue to widen and the likelihood of more explosive violence has increased.”

Morsi is responsible for the bloodshed over recent days because he is pursuing the same repressive policies as deposed former President Hosni Mubarak, said Amr Hamzawy, the head of the Freedom Egypt Party and a leader of the National Salvation Front.

“The events since last Friday demonstrate that the current regime uses the same tactics as the Mubarak regime,” Hamzawy told A-Sharq Al-Awsat, “with suppression of the people and the opposition, instead of opening up to the demands of the people and engaging them in serious dialogue.”

The Obama administration said that recent events demonstrate that Egypt is on “a difficult path’ towards democracy.

“We have engaged directly with the Egyptian government as they move forward on the difficult path towards greater democracy and rule of law, and we will continue to do so,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. “There needs to be a lasting solution to the conflict that we see in Egypt and it has to be a solution that adheres to the rights of all Egyptians.

While many secular Egyptian activists believe the US is bolstering Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, other observers suggest that Washington has no other option but to engage the authorities in Cairo, whichever party is in power.

“This is the kind of group that will be a pain to deal with for the United States, but it’s not al-Qaida; it’s not a security threat,” said Nathan Brown, a professor at George Washington University. “The biggest fear on the part of the (Obama) administration is a political breakdown in Egypt. They are worried that a collapse in the Egyptian state would be destabilizing on the region, and might allow the flow of arms and fighters among more radical movements in the region.”

The recent revelation of virulently anti-Semitic comments made by Morsi reportedly shocked U.S. officials, and legislators on Capitol Hill have expressed their reluctance to approve a $1 billion aid package for Cairo.

“How would the American people feel about cutting money to education programs here and giving money to a government that is anti-Semitic?” said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding to foreign governments.

“I don’t think the administration has any right to say they are going to grant this foreign aid because I think this Congress may very well condition it,” Wolf said. “I think there are a lot of questions, and I don’t think it’s a given.”

A day after Morsi declared a state of emergency in three violence-stricken provinces, the country’s largest opposition bloc declared that it would not participate in a national dialogue to discuss a unified response to the unrest, the Project on Middle East Democracy reports:

Mohamed El Baradei, a leading member of the National Salvation Front, stated Monday, ”The dialogue to which the president invited us is to do with form and not content,” echoing the sentiment among opposition members that dialogue with Morsi’s government would not produce serious compromise. National Salvation Front leaders insist that President Morsi must first name a commission to amend the country’s controversial constitution and appoint a national unity government before talks can be held.

”We support any dialogue if it has a clear agenda that can shepherd the nation to the shores of safety,” El Baradei said.

Egypt is becoming increasingly polarized under the Brotherhood’s leadership, in large part due to the newly adopted constitution, says political scientist Amar Ali Hassan.

“Before the revolution, to openly speak in a derogatory fashion about the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis was simply not accepted by the population, as this was the equivalent of insulting Islam,” he tells

“Things have since changed radically. People in the cafés and out on the squares are explicitly demanding that intellectuals now criticize them,” he says. “They want us to uncover scandals and expose propaganda. This used to be unthinkable. Such demands have only been voiced since the Muslim Brotherhood has been in power.”

The Project for Middle East Democracy is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

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Boost civil society to engage China in global governance

Compared with the other emerging powers in the so-called BRIC group (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), China has under-participated in global governance. The low supply of China’s contributions results from the limited interest of the Chinese authorities and limited capacity of both the government and society, according to the University of Waterloo’s Hongying Wang and Syracuse University’s Erik French.

The U.S. and other external actors can encourage and enable China to play a bigger role in providing global public goods by promoting the growth of Chinese civil society and more fully embracing China as a member of the international community, they write in the latest issue of Asia Policy.

China has maintained a low profile in global governance, despite its growing economic power and the rhetoric of being a responsible great power, and there is little evidence that it will seek international leadership. Contrary to concerns over China’s imminent takeover of the U.S. role in the world, Beijing appears to have limited interest in and capacity for greater involvement in global governance.

Because the domestic and international sources of this relative passivity in global governance are rooted in the Chinese political system, political reform in China would likely increase its capacity and status as an international leader.

Another reason China has not developed many proposals or taken clear positions on controversial issues in global governance may be found in its multiple identities and ambiguous status in the international system. The Chinese government used to portray China as a victim of Western imperialism, a bastion of revolution, a third-world nation, and a socialist country. In recent decades, however, the leadership has emphasized China’s position as a stakeholder in the international system, a reformer, and a responsible great power.

A survey of China’s foreign-policy community reveals a wide spectrum of international identities that overlap and conflict with one another. These identities prescribe different courses of action. Some oblige China to speak on behalf of developing countries, whereas others place China in the same camp as the dominant powers. Thus, it is impossible for China to take a simple stand on global governance.

In addition to a lack of clear ideas, China’s domestic governance structure also undermines the country’s capability for participating in some aspects of global governance. In particular, the weakness of Chinese NGOs is an obstacle for the PRC’s effective involvement in global civil society.

With the onset of economic reforms in the late 1970s, the CCP has loosened its control of the Chinese economy and society to some degree, creating space for social organizations to develop. By the end of 2008, over 415,000 NGOs had registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs, including about 230,000 social organizations, 183,000 noncommercial organizations, and 1,597 foundations.

 However, many of these NGOs are closely tied to the government and lack autonomy. In 1996 a high official in the Ministry of Civil Affairs admitted that less than 50% of social organizations are self-organized, self-supported, and self-governed. More recently, a prominent Chinese expert on social organizations observed that, according to Western standards, very few Chinese social organizations can be considered NGOs.

In general, all NGOs in China are subject to the control of the government. This is especially true for organizations working on sensitive issues, such as foreign policy. As a result, China’s foreign relations largely remain the exclusive domain of state policy and are managed through official interactions with other governments. To the extent that Chinese foreign policymakers have played up the importance of nongovernmental relationships, or what they call people-to-people diplomacy, the organizations that carry out such unofficial diplomacy function like branches of the Chinese government.

Some of them have long served as organs of the government, such as the All-China Women’s Federation, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the Chinese Communist Youth League, and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendships with Foreign Countries, including all of its subordinate associations. Some groups have been newly established in the reform era, but most of them also maintain close ties with the government and follow its guidance. The China Environmental Protection Foundation and the Boao Forum for Asia are such examples. As discussed in the last section, Chinese NGOs have had minimal presence at global summits organized by the UN in recent years, and only a handful of Chinese NGOs, including the All-China Women’s Federation, the China Society for Human Rights Studies, and the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, have consultative status with the UN.

Not surprisingly, then, Chinese NGOs have not been a source of influential ideas and proposals for global governance, in sharp contrast with the NGOs in many other countries. For instance, a former politician in Canada was the source of the notion of the group of twenty (G-20), a province in Brazil inspired the idea for the World Social Forum, an intellectual in Bangladesh pioneered the institution of Grameen Bank, and an American teacher began and led the movement to ban landmines. One is hard pressed to think of such innovative and effective contributions to global governance originating from China. Both Chinese analysts and observers of China have made the point that the weakness of its civil society is a major handicap for the country’s foreign policy and ability to participate effectively in global governance.

This is a brief extract from a longer article - China’s Participation in Global Governance from a Comparative Perspective – from the latest issue of Asia Policy, a journal published by National Bureau of Asia Research. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.  


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2013 a turning point for Zimbabwe?

“There’s an addictive thing about freedom,” says Jenni Williams (far left) of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA):

When we organize our protests and we defy all the unjust laws that are in place and we are in the street holding our placards and marching, we feel like complete, whole citizens and that freedom that we make and demand is so contagious and that makes us feel whole. It makes us feel relevant. Our children see us marching and they realize that freedom is what you demand, what you make of it.

She appeared with her WOZA colleague Magodonga Mahlangu (above, right) on today’s National Public Radio’s Tell Me More program.

“What keeps me going and what keeps us all as women going is that, for once in our lives in the history of Zimbabwe, we managed to create a platform where we  speak with one voice, looking at the needs of a woman, an ordinary person, without looking at which political party we come from,” said Mahlangu. “It’s in our hands. We feel that we’ve empowered ourselves to speak with one voice as women of the nation.”

NGOs face a hostile climate in Zimbabwe today, they told the UN’s Kimberley Curtis:

Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party conference ended with a resolution to “enforce deregistration of errant NGOs deviating from their mandate.” The result has been a growing crackdown on civil society organizations, particularly those involved in human rights. Last week police arrested the director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), Okay Machisa on charges of fraud and forgery.

“Four years after violent elections in 2008 led to a power sharing government, Zimbabwe is finally preparing for a referendum on a draft constitution and national elections should be held by the end of the year,” writes Curtis:

This could mark a turning point for Zimbabwe. Unfortunately there are indications – growing political violence, ongoing corruption, lack of substantive reforms – that it could instead serve as a repeat of 2008. In such a polarized political climate, the role of civil society becomes critical.

WOZA and Zimrights are grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

Hat tip: Jeffrey T. Smith, Africa Advocacy Officer for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.  

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