West’s democracies have ‘moral duty’ to aid Ukraine

ukrainesolidarnoscRussia praised a Ukrainian law granting self-governance powers to separatist-held areas of Ukraine, a measure that faces a challenge from some politicians in Kiev who call it a giveaway to Moscow, the Wall Street Journal reports:

The Foreign Ministry in Moscow on Wednesday described the new Ukrainian law—which Kiev agreed to pass during recent cease-fire negotiations—as a “step in the right direction.”

Ukraine also needs far more assistance than it has received from the west, says Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

The $17bn package given by the IMF in May is tied to painful economic reforms, he writes for the FT:

US aid since the start of the crisis last year has fallen way short of the rhetoric – less than $250m, including technical assistance with reforms, an international conference on how to trace stolen state assets and election monitoring.

On paper, the EU has been more generous with its $14bn aid package but the sum looks better than its parts. It includes $2bn in loans and “up to” $10bn in reconstruction loans. There is also, of course, technical assistance to nudge Ukraine to implement the dreaded reforms.

The chances are that the EU will fail in any endeavor to support a democratic Ukraine, says Jan Techau, the director of Carnegie Europe, the European center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

There is already a sense creeping into the foreign policy crowd that Europeans may have bitten off more than they can chew. Unity among 28 member states is extremely fragile. The remodeling of the European Neighborhood Policy-the instrument that guides EU relations with Ukraine and other Eastern neighbors-will be tedious and fraught with institutional infighting in Brussels. And money is scarce.

More significantly, there are severe doubts that the EU has the political will and the diplomatic toughness to insist on conditionality, the core piece of the neighborhood policy. But without a swift, watertight, and potentially brutal sanctions mechanism for neighbors that do not adhere to an agreed reform process, the transformative power of any new policy will be exactly what it was under the old one: close to zero.

The US and the UK have an overwhelming moral duty to provide military assistance to Ukraine. Two decades ago both countries and Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum with Ukraine in return for which they pledged to provide security guarantees and support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, argues Taras Kuzio, the former head of Nato’s Information and Documentation Centre in Kiev and a research associate at the University of Alberta’s Institute for Ukrainian Studies:

Corruption certainly bedevils Ukraine but it is hardly unique in this respect. Canada and the US cooperate on security questions with many countries with similarly poor records. Afghanistan, where 158 Canadian troops have died since 2002, has an abysmal record on corruption and democratic rights.

Millions of Ukrainians rose up in the Euromaidan to fight corruption and bring about democratic changes and integrate their country into Europe. On September 16 the Ukrainian parliament voted by an overwhelming constitutional majority to ratify the Association Agreement with the EU and a resolution supporting future membership of this body. Ukraine held an internationally recognized free and fair presidential election in May and will hold pre-term elections next month that will bring into parliament young western-educated deputies committed to fighting corruption and introducing European values.

By supporting Ukraine now, Kuzio argues, Putin’s ambitions will be “nipped in the bud before he turns on Nato members in the three Baltic states that would threaten European security on a scale unseen since World War II.” RTWT

CHRIS WALJERDeeply entrenched corruption has been a profound challenge since Ukraine achieved its independence more than two decades ago,  notes Christopher Walker (right), Executive Director of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum:

As the analyst Anders Aslund has observed, nearly $40 billion was stolen from the state while Yanukovych was in power. And this figure may well be an underestimation. This massive corrupt enterprise directed wealth primarily to the president, his relatives, and a limited circle of businessmen around the president.

The vast web of corruption used a variety of elaborate methods to divert state resources. These included lucrative schemes connected to the natural gas market. They also included the manipulation of large infrastructure projects, such as those connected with the Euro 2012 soccer championship. More generally, the government engaged in a range of other schemes to put public wealth into private hands.

The picture is further complicated by the fact that getting serious about being Ukraine’s guarantor will lead to permanent conflict with Russia, Techau writes for Carnegie Europe:

The EU wants Poroshenko to succeed with his reforms. Russia will do everything it can to make him fail. These two opposing approaches cannot be reconciled. Moscow can escalate its intervention in eastern Ukraine at will, including to the level of military action, knowing that the EU will not respond in the same way.

In the absence of a massive and sustained investment by EU member states to address these internal doubts and external threats, the EU’s attempt to be a guarantee power in Ukraine will fail. Until such investment materializes, the process will be an agonizing spectacle for all involved.

“The inherent problem is that the EU does not currently have the means to win the contest in which it is engaged with Russia, and yet it needs to compete in that contest,” he contends. “The EU is too weak for idealism-that is, to stand up for its values and principles. And it is already too deeply involved for cold-blooded realism-to accept Russian interests in Moscow’s sphere of influence.” RTWT – HT: Real Clear World

Russia is the greatest geo-political threat facing the US, a leading analyst suggests.

A Russian occupation of large parts of Ukraine would clearly threaten the stability and security of our NATO allies on Ukraine’s western border, the Atlantic Council’s Adrian Karatnycky writes for the New Republic:

Further, Ukraine is home to three gigantic nuclear power plant complexes, which could become dangerous battlegrounds with unpredictable consequences for nuclear safety. War could disrupt or destroy Ukraine’s energy pipeline network, which is the central mechanism through which more than half of Russia’s exports of gas and oil to Europe travels. Successful Russian expansion into Ukraine would increase the chances of further adventurism in energy-rich Kazakhstan, where an elderly President will soon physically fade from power. And Russia would be emboldened to exert even stronger influence over the policies of energy-rich Turkmenistan. Would these developments not be as significant in impact as the fate of Saudi, Iraqi, and Qatari oil and gas reserves?


‘Ukraine is not alone’ – how to help counter Russia’s aggression


Experts of the Institute of World Policy have produced a policy brief based on interviews with a wide range of experts from domestic institutes, think-tanks and other relevant bodies in order to summarize the public opinion and perceptions towards the Western support in Ukraine.  

Most Ukrainian experts interviewed admitted that the amount of support in countering Russian aggression received by Ukraine from the international community is insufficient. For instance, almost half of respondents (44%) evaluated global support as “satisfactory”; they believe that Ukraine receives lukewarm support. According to 18% of experts, Kyiv does not receive adequate support at all, and therefore, they “graded” the foreign governments’ assistance with “F” (low grade).

However, 36% of those polled chose an option stating that “Ukraine receives sufficient support, but it might have been increased”, which is why they graded the world’s efforts with “B” (good grade). Only one of fifty Ukrainian experts evaluated the efforts of international community with “A” (excellent grade). The Institute of World Policy has estimated the real amount of aid provided to Ukraine by the international community. Results of the research displayed that the world supports Ukraine not only with declarations and statements, but also with real actions, providing consultants, humanitarian aid, armor vests etc.

Obviously, the international community should not limit its assistance to the aforesaid articles. Most of the Ukrainian analysts (38 out of 50 respondents) presumed that the global community should assist Ukraine by supplying armaments and military equipment. A significant part (27 out of 50) of the experts stand for the world aiding Kyiv by providing substantial security guarantees or granting financial support for reforming the country’s defense system (as well as for the other reforms). Certain analysts (8 out of 50) tend to believe that the Western democracies should send their troops to Ukraine in order to neutralize the terrorist activity in the Eastern part of the country. Indeed, stronger support would confirm that Ukraine is not alone in this conflict.

The criticism towards the international community that does not supposedly aid Ukraine or provides insufficient assistance in the latter’s struggle against Russia’s aggression is widespread in Ukrainian public opinion. On the one hand, such an attitude by the opinion leaders is aimed mainly at inciting the Western partners to provide stronger support. On the other hand, excessive criticism may also result in undesirable solutions. First, such protest activity lays foundation for the Russian propaganda on the territory of Ukraine. Such propagandist messages could be simplified to the following: “We have warned you that nobody is waiting for you on the West. The Russians are your real partners.” 

Several partners of the National Endowment of Democracy were among the poll respondents.



Uncivil societies

russia_civilsociety_HRWThe ongoing crackdown on civil society groups “is about weakening NGOs, not making them more transparent or effective,” The Economist notes:

It is being undertaken by leaders who, if they accept democracy at all, want it to amount to nothing more than a tame vote every few years. Foreign donations are an easy target for autocrats whose worst nightmare is a flourishing civil society. NGOs’ activities in the “colour” revolutions a decade ago in the former Soviet Union and, more recently, the Arab spring, have sharpened autocrats’ hostility to them.

It is hardly surprising that leaders like Mr Putin want to curb those who seek to promote democracy, but these laws reach far beyond free speech and human rights. NGOs also suffer if they criticise poor public services, stand up for reviled minorities or disclose facts that the powerful want to hide. Mr Orban has targeted a group that publicises discrimination against Roma and another that runs a hotline for battered women. Among those Mr Putin has dubbed foreign agents are a group of women seeking information about Russian servicemen injured and killed while covertly deployed in Ukraine.

“Persuading autocrats who have decided that NGOs pose an existential threat to ease up will be a struggle. But donor countries can help stem the illiberal tide,” The Economist notes. “Initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership, launched in 2011, which supports governments keen to increase transparency and cut corruption, should help to stop the trend spreading.”


Beyond sanctions: to defeat Putin, aid Ukraine

ukrainesolidarnoscThe West needs to counter provide military assistance to Ukraine and to counter Russia’s propaganda with its own information offensive, says a leading commentator.

And the West must continue to support economic and political reforms in Ukraine, says Stanford University’s Michael A. McFaul, the Obama administration’s former ambassador to Russia

President Petro O. Poroshenko has emphasized that Russian aggression cannot be used as an excuse to delay things like budget restructuring and efforts to improve government transparency. But he and his government need more financial and technical assistance from Western governments, international institutions and nongovernmental organizations. Ensuring maximum participation and a free vote in the next parliamentary election must be a top priority.

Advancing democracy in an age of retrenchment

carlportrait1Public opinion reports on Americans’ attitudes toward foreign policy sketch a picture of retrenchment, war-weariness, and skepticism toward global engagement, even as there is also a growing concern that the world is increasingly unstable and dangerous, says a leading democracy advocate.

The fact that the country is turning inward in the aftermath of the Bush administration’s expansive foreign policy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is hardly surprising, writes Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The main message of Maximalist, Stephen Sestanovich’s new history of American foreign policy since the Truman era, is that the shift from a “maximalist” policy to one of retrenchment and back again is par for the course. Eisenhower followed a policy of “scaling back from overextension” after the Korean War, just as Nixon adopted a “retrenchment strategy that would enable the United States to regain its balance” after Vietnam. Kennedy displayed a “confident readiness to act” and to bear the burdens of leadership after what he called “eight years of drugged and fitful sleep,” just as Reagan “brought a new maximalist edge to the East-West competition” following the malaise of the Carter years.

cuba foranothercubalogoindexOne important question we face today, however, more than five years into the Obama presidency, is whether the current policy of retrenchment is a standard correction after a period of maximalism, or something else. While Sestanovich is careful and nuanced in his analysis, he notes that for a number of reasons, “the retrenchment [currently] under way in American foreign policy may turn out to be different” from those of the past. He writes, for example, that “the emblematic foreign policy choice” of President Obama’s first term was his imposition of a time limit on the surge in Afghanistan in 2009, a move that “took a consensus in favor of incremental adjustments to America’s global role and pushed it toward a more thorough-going transformation.” A similar message was sent when the president rejected a plan prepared by his top advisers (Hillary Clinton at State, Leon Panetta at Defense, and David Petraeus at the CIA) to aid the Syrian opposition…..

What’s needed to achieve such a balance is political will and strategic vision in meeting the three interrelated challenges of supporting freedom, defending the national security, and restoring our nation’s economic health.

The first challenge—reaffirming the historic American commitment to freedom in the world—involves making it clear that we will do whatever we can to support people fighting for fundamental rights, even as we recognize that they must take responsibility for their own success or failure. For many reasons, democracy is seen to be on the defensive today. Authoritarian states are pushing back aggressively against groups working for greater democracy, the turmoil in the Middle East has destroyed the early promise of the Arab Spring, and China’s growing economic and military power has altered the balance of forces in the world at a time when the US and many European countries have entered a period of economic and political malaise.

In fact, though, the prospect for democracy in the world is actually much more promising than it appears, and there are opportunities for progress in the years ahead that could be encouraged by a more forward-leaning policy. Despite the recent problems, for instance, the much-anticipated reversal of the “third wave” of democratic expansion of the 1980s and early 1990s has not occurred. The number of electoral democracies now stands at one hundred and twenty-two countries, just one below the high-water mark of one hundred and twenty-three reached in 2005 and four more than in 2012. It also appears that Tunisia could become the first Arab democracy, a beachhead in the region of the world most resistant to democratic change. In addition, movements for civic renewal have emerged in some of the grimmest ukraine euromaidanpolitical environments—the Russian protests of 2011–12, the Campaign for Another Cuba (above), the Euromaidan movement in Ukraine (left), and the New Citizens’ Movement in China. In contrast to the hope for change that these movements embody, the violence and repression used against them expose the insecurity of authoritarian regimes that feel threatened by their own citizens’ demands for an end to corruption and misrule.

The road ahead for such reform movements and civic groups working for democratic change will be long and very difficult, but they are a natural by-product of a world in which people have more access to information and higher aspirations and will not disappear. The challenge for the United States is to help create the conditions that will allow such movements to survive and to grow. Institutions already exist to provide them with material and technical assistance. (The National Endowment for Democracy, which I oversee, is one of them.) What is needed today is for our country’s leaders to make clearer than they have that supporting people fighting for democratic values is not an afterthought but a core element of national policy; and that we will use diplomacy and other instruments of policy—including targeted sanctions such as those contained in the Magnitsky Act—to protect democratic movements and to enlarge whatever space exists for free expression and democratic participation……

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