Saturday, November 27, 2004

Ukraine Saturday 

I expect to speak some about Ukraine today on the Northern Alliance Radio Network today in the opening hour (12 noon CT or 1800 GMT for overseas readers, listen online here), but in case I forget to comment on a few things asked tonight after the Instalanche, let me get to them now. (UPDATE: A few minutes ago the parliament declared the results of the election invalid. That vote is nonbinding, but increases pressure for the do-over. UPDATE 2: Looks like Ed beat me to it by five minutes -- I think he's right that Yanukovych has lost control of his situation, but Kuchma? I'm not so sure yet. And the parliament has turned against Kuchma over the last few weeks at any rate.)
  1. John posted, and Jeff asked in comments, a question about this "alternative view" by Srdja Trifkovic, a sort of "pox on both your houses" take on the Ukrainian election. (A more acidic version of the story, with less analysis, is in the Guardian.) As I mentioned earlier, I've worked with Yushchenko's administration in the National Bank of Ukraine, and at least one of his campaign staff is a holdover from his NBU days. Yushchenko was a solid central banker, holding fast to an anti-inflation policy and supporting the closing of insolvent banks even when they were held by politically powerful clans. He was pragmatic in my view, compromising on some things more than I would have liked (he treated the old state savings bank too kindly, for example.) I'm not intimately familiar with his time as prime minister, but his period saw the closing of a nasty arrears problem and the start of real growth in the economy for the first time. And he was certainly well-liked in the western NGO and diplomatic community when I was there, so I think some of what Trifkovic says is true: most of us Western advisors would be pulling for him. As to Trifkovic's prognosis that there will be no turning around the result, well, events have overwhelmed his analysis. (Since I am an economic forecaster by trade, he has my sympathies.)
  2. Jeff also asked about the smaller victory for Yushchenko in the western oblast of Zakarpattia. There's been a hotly-contested mayoral election in Mukacheve out there, which both presidential candidates were involved with. Students are marching on city hall there today. That might have tightened things up there; I really haven't seen anything else. And it may be they actually think they would be better off under Yanukovych, as did these protestors coming by train to Kyiv to support him. Let's be clear: it's short-sighted, perhaps, for state enterprise workers to vote for more subsidies and no privatization under Yanukovych, but shortsightedness does get to vote.
  3. There's more and more comments (including KC Johnson) on whether or not these events and Russia's reaction has somehow proven the foolishness of working so closely in the GWOT with Putin.
    To a certain extent, of course, there was little choice in the matter: the alternatives to Putin have always looked worse. But George Bush's reassurance that he had looked into Putin's heart and seen a Democrat seems a lot less reassuring today, and I wonder whether this election--regardless of the final outcome in Ukraine--signals the emergence of a more tense period in US-Russian relations.
    Since the other country I work with substantially is Armenia, another place where Russia has meddled, you can mark me among those not a fan of Putin. However, I think US policy towards Russia has usually been marked by pragmatism -- you take what you can from people trying to help you, even when sometimes they're misbehaving. In the old days we called this realpolitik. And as Prof. Johnson observes, the alternative are really much worse. Since this morning Russia says it will not oppose repeat elections proposed by Yushchenko and the EU, perhaps that diplomacy bore fruit.
  4. There are interesting stories here and here from Maidan on people being brought to support Yanukovych. Remember that Maidan is a pro-Yushchenko site, so bring your skepticism. Still, it sounds pretty realistic.
  5. Brama has clips from an AEI conference Wednesday on Ukraine. AEI has the whole conference here. (The AEI site has greater bandwidth, but you don't get clips.)
  6. I'll see if I can get permission to show you the translation I received of this article in Russian explaining the vote fraud in eastern Ukraine (or the Donbas). The one I read is marked "for private use only." It has eyewitness accounts as well as a more macro-view statistical look.