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Friday, September 30, 2011

Canada: How about meaningful action in support of Yulia Tymoshenko & democracy in Ukraine?

Is it too much to ask of Canada's highest officials to give more than lip service in support of democratic reform in Ukraine? And in particular, the shameful treatment of a Ukrainian politician?

Canada's Minister of
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism (the Hon. Jason Kenney) recently sent round this statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs (the Hon. John Baird) in Question Period condemning the political persecution of Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko:

Mr. Robert Sopuck (Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, CPC and Chair of the Canada Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group):

Mr. Speaker, Ukraine has undergone a considerable transformation since the beginning of the Orange Revolution. However, what originally seemed an unstoppable wave of democratic freedom has since gone sour with the news that former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is being politically persecuted.

Would the Minister of Foreign Affairs please make crystal clear for the House Canada's concerns with Ukraine's political situation?

Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):

Mr. Speaker, our Government has expressed to the Ukrainian government our serious concern about the apparent bias in the ongoing judicial proceedings against former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Political persecution is completely unacceptable. The appearance of political bias in judicial proceedings undermines the rule of law.

We urge, here today, the Ukrainian government to strengthen judiciary independence. We will continue to support efforts to build a peaceful democratic and prosperous society in Ukraine.
Oooh, scary.

Can't you just see that stern statement making the thugs running Ukraine absolutely shiver in their boots, and setting them scrambling to set Ms. Tymoshenko free any moment ... and ditch their political bias forthwith?

Gosh, Canada is just such powerhouse on the international stage. No need to actually do anything besides express concern, eh?

No need for economic sanctions like those against, say, Côte d'Ivoire or Burma ... or even the lame sanctions against Belarus. Nor a travel ban against Yanukhovych and corrupt officials (in particular the judge who holds Tymoshenko's fate in his hands, and who appears to be far from unbiased).

No, all that's needed is for Canada to remind the Yanukhovych regime and the corrupt officials in Ukraine of the obvious and say:

"Tsk. Tsk."

Yes, we in Canada are concerned doncha know, so you just better smarten up, you guys over there in Ukraine. Strengthen judiciary independence for chrissakes and get those annoying Ukrainian Canadian voters off our backs.

Or in the immortal words of Foghorn Leghorn: Go away boy, ya bother me!

Meanwhile, the Kyiv Post reports that the show trial has been put on hold for a couple of weeks. Seems the Yanukhovych regime needs time to ponder the optics of their politicial vendetta.

This is not a time to sit back and hope for the best. If Canada and the west really truly support Ukraine's fledgling democracy, then they need to firmly, unequivocally impress upon Ukraine's ruling elite that the major underpinnings of a functioning democracy are accountability, transparency and honesty.

Because really, that is all that voters in Ukraine, Canada, or anywhere else, want.

Meaningful action at a time when Ukraine's corrupt rulers are vulnerable could tip the scale and significantly strengthen democracy in Ukraine.

So how about it?


Vasyl Pawlowsky said...

The problem with most Canadian politicians, as well as the leadership in the Ukrainian Diaspora, is that they are out of touch with the realities of what are going on in Ukraine.

They are speaking diplomatically, but those who are on the receiving end are bandits who have their own lexicon. They simply don't understand, because their neural pathways are connected differently. They come from a criminal-subculture which was established in the region of Donbas by everyone's favorite dictator Joey Stalin. When he killed off all the ethnic Ukrainians in the region he imported criminals... This is no secret.

Want to get a better understanding of this topic... read my latest commentary at Ukraine Business Online.

Pawlina said...

Well said, Vasyl. This is exactly the problem.

That's why I called for the west to really put the pressure on now, when the bandits are desperate to gain legitimacy on the world stage.

It's sad how they have been able to fool the west. No wonder western leaders have earned such contempt from the eastern world. All that's needed to hoodwink them is to don nice suits and learn how to nod and smile on cue. What will it take for the west to wake up?

OTOH, they fooled rank-and-file Ukrainians as well, for a while at least.

As for diaspora leaders, so many still live in a warm & fuzzy bubble from the early 20th century ... which, as you point out, has barely any resemblance to reality today. No wonder they have so little influence.

My heart goes out to rank-and-file Ukrainians. Hopefully they won't give up the fight for decent leadership. Lord knows they're the only ones who can win it.

Stanislav said...

What kind of action from Canada you expect, Pawlina? What kind of pressure could be implied to the Ukrainian state from West which would not harm integration of the state to EU and the Western world? We know about corrupt politician, millionaires financing racist organizations in Odessa, officials suppressing the free media so why we don't just ask Western governments to imply sanctions against those thugs instead of harming the blue-and-yellow state slowly falling towards the West?

That's the tactics of Russian liberal opposition - they ask the West for sanctions against notorious personalities. I guess that's what could be in Ukrainian case too as the problems have the same roots.

Pawlina said...

Stan, the hope is that the threat of sanctions and/or the embarassment of the threat would be enough and that sanctions wouldn't actually need to be carried out.

If they are however then yes of course it can adversely affect ordinary people. Which would be unfortunate to say the least.

But OTOH if it's temporary and leads to a better permanent situation, wouldn't it be worth the short term pain?

As well, ultimately it would benefit the rest of the world for Ukraine to become a stable, prosperous democracy.

It's a shame so few can see that, here or there.

Stanislav said...

I don't see how some short therm sanctions could improve something in a country has so little influx of reliable information from abroad as Ukraine. That's one of main reasons why Ukraine is changing so slow - people don't see the way from media and local widely corrupted elites do only minimum under pressure from West. I believe direct sanctions against such pro-Western state as Ukraine formally is (with its deeply post-soviet elites) could work in short or long therm. But it could be a good example for the elites if the West could be selective and personal in applying sanctions against the state officials (not the state) and some notorious elitists.

Pawlina said...

Stan, travel bans would directly affect Ukraine's corrupt elites. Sanctions would indirectly affect them by hindering their ability to do business with the west.

Both would hugely harm the reputations they are carefully cultivating with the west.

However, sanctions would also underscore the fact that a functioning democracy is participatory... and thus remind and encourage Ukrainian citizens to become more proactive and not only elect good leaders but learn how to ensure they remain so. (Even established democracies still struggle with the latter!)

Ukraine's economy and infrastructure still have a long way to go to meet western standards. In this stage of Ukraine's development, with citizens still distracted in their struggle to adjust to a new system of governance, corrupt elites stand the most to lose from sanctions.

This is why I feel that, short term, sanctions would be a punishment to corrupt elites, but a gift to the people of Ukraine.

Stanislav said...

> by hindering their ability to do business with the west.

Right, but it will rather lead to strengthening that wing of the elites who don't do business with the West, but rather Russia and China. Do we need that part of Ukrainian establishment to be stronger?

I do not believe Ukrainian citizens need to open eyes, they are rather overwhelmed with generalizing criticism of their state and corrupted elites. What they really really need -- it is access to the best practices, to
alternative thinking, to know how, new smart modern approaches, especially for those on the South East of Ukraine in the deeply industrialized society of Donbassm Kryvbass, lower Dnipro region where big millions of disoriented Ukrainians live.

Your way you proposing, with those short therm mass-punishment wont work, it is too waste, too old I'd say. Customization of approach to Ukrainian problematic looks more promising.

Pawlina said...

Yes of course you're right Stan. A positive and proactive approach is the best long-term.

And maybe you're right that sanctions won't work. Belarus doesn't seem to have improved since Canada imposed sanctions in 2006. (Although they are lame.)

Still, to my thinking, the corrupt won't likely feel compelled to change their ways without some kind of pain imposed on them.

But I agree with your idea of empowering the grassroots. Fortunately technology can facilitate that better than at any time in history.

We live in interesting times!

Stanislav said...

Absolutely! Interesting time. Customization in the Marketing has been invented here, the West has just to apply it for those who keep us as enemies. Actually, some notorious Russіans banned from entering and doing business EU and USA, and this is a real pain in ass for their authorities.

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