Monday, November 29, 2004

El Jefe's Return, Ukraine

But yes ! El Jefe has returned to his capital (Houston, known by the enlightened as Ciudad de El Jefe Maximo). Greeted by the High Patronesses MILO and FLINKY, the diplomatic corps, an honor guard from his elite security force of goombas (the Wiseguys) and literally millions of fanatically loyal subjects, El Jefe has returned from visiting the Mother-In-Law and stands ready to give his wisdom to the world once more. MILO and FLINKY thank T for taking care of them in the absence of El Jefe, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and the Heir.
On to less significant subjects. El Jefe is disturbed by the disputed election in the Ukraine, and thinks this has potential to develop into an even sticker mess than it is already. The current Prime Minister, Mr. Victor Yanukovych, backed by the current Ukrainian President, Mr. Leonid Kuchma, and by the Russian government, is claiming victory over a more liberal, pro western candidate, Mr. Viktor Yushchenko, in elections held on 21 November. Exit polls had predicted Mr. Yushchenko would win, and U.S. and European observers say that widespread fraud appears to have taken place.
A Yushchenko government would be more oriented towards Europe, a Yanukovych government towards Ukraine's powerful neighbor, Russia, to which Ukraine used to belong. There is a real regional split in support for the two candidates, the western parts of the country supporting Yushchenko, the more Russified regions east of the Dnipro River (which oldsters like me still call the Dnieper) supporting Yankovych.
El Jefe is, of course, abstractly more sympathetic to Mr. Yushchenko. The US Government has already rebuked the Ukraine authorities, saying the recent election "does not meet international standards." However, El Jefe wishes both the Government and the American public opinion makers (i.e. the media), which seem to be solidly behind Mr. Yushchenko, would slow down, be quiet, and let the Ukrainians work out their own problems.
Is El Jefe the only one who thinks that the US has quite enough on its plate at present ? Yes, in a perfect world, the Ukrainians would conduct completely free and fair elections, without interference from powerful neighbors, which would produce results all could live with. However, this has not happened, and the US can indicate its displeasure as loudly as it wishes, but the utterances of the State Department will not change anything unless the real players (the Russians, the various Ukrainian factions and the Europeans) want it to. Even if matters are arranged to Washington's taste, the price may be more, long run, than the US can afford.
More than rebuilding ties with France, Germany or NATO, the US desperately needs good relations with Russia. Russia and the US have too many common interests: tamping down Islamic fundamentalism and irredentism and keeping an eye on China and the EU for starters. Present US difficulties with the Europeans have less to do with distaste for President Bush and his Iraq policies then with fundamentally changed strategic conditions, and antagonizing the Russians over matters America has only a limited ability to affect is most unwise. It also follows that expanding the EU sphere of influence is not necessarily beneficial to American interests.
The Ukrainians wish to stay out of the Russian orbit, which is natural. Similarly, it is only natural for the Russians to fish in troubled waters and try to reel Ukraine back into their sphere of influence, where Ukraine has dwelled for hundreds of years. The wisdom, much less the practicality, of Russia's wish to resurrect its empire certainly seems dubious, but it is nevertheless a fact. We should wish the Ukrainians well, but in no way harm our own interests by becoming involved in a mess which primarily concerns the Ukrainians, the Russians and the Europeans, but not us. America should be, as John Quincy Adams put it, the friend of liberty everywhere, but the guardians only of our own.

No comments: