Washington, DC, Jan. 11 (UPI) — The democratic “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine has just had its first unanticipated blowback for the United States: When outgoing President Leonid Kuchma decided to pull Ukraine’s military contingent out of Iraq, his successor and political enemy, President-elect Viktor Yushchenko supported the move.
And on Tuesday, Ukraine’s Supreme Rada, or Parliament made the decision official. A motion to withdraw the Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent from Iraq was approved overwhelmingly by 308 out of 450 deputies.
Yushchenko’s support for the pull out of Ukrainian troops from Iraq should come as no surprise. He had made that position clear during his hard-fought presidential election campaign. Still, it makes a mockery of the neo-conservative and Bush administration fantasy that they could rely on a “new Europe” in the former communist East to replace the caution and skepticism of the “old” Europe in the West of the continent. ~Martin Sieff, UPI
Three things can be learned from the Ukraine’s near-future withdrawal from Iraq: 1) No remotely sane government, no matter its relationship with Washington, wants anything to do with policing Iraq; 2) Lackeys, even those so heartily supported as Yushchenko, will act in their own political interests just as readily as independent-minded foreign governments and will be just as willing to leave the U.S. hegemon in the lurch when things begin to go awry; 3) “New Europe” is, and always has been, a ridiculous fiction invented by people who despised effective central and eastern European representative government during 2002 and 2003 as much as they billed it as the panacea for all Near Eastern problems. Vast majorities of every country in the so-called “new Europe” were profoundly opposed to the war and wanted nothing to do with it, and at present all opposition parties are reaping a political windfall from the folly of those governments that committed soldiers to Iraq.
There will be the predictable attempts to cite this as a new proof that Yushchenko is not a Western lackey, and that the U.S. must not have deeply involved in backing his ‘election’. But this would be to view the policy towards Ukraine simply in terms of the current political obsession with the war, when it is part of a much more general project of pushing back Russian influence, expanding NATO and eventually creating a solid bridge of pro-hegemony countries and permanent military bases across Eurasia. It would also be a mistake to forget that Mr. Yushchenko, as submissive as he is going to try to be to American and European political demands, plays at being a Ukrainian nationalist and derives significant support from this rhetoric, so that it will suit his purposes from time to time to reject or withdraw from American and European projects. As an electoral matter, no sane politician anywhere in eastern Europe could campaign on a continuation of an Iraq deployment, especially one as large as the Ukraine’s when Ukrainians have suffered some of the largest numbers of casualties from the second-tier allied states (admittedly a handful compared to American and British losses, but they have far more impact in those countries where the governments are not reflexively in favour of the policy).
Mr. Sieff’s analysis becomes less reliable when he writes the following: “No political movement in Central or Eastern Europe has been more pro-American or heavily influenced by American free-market and democratic philosophies than Yushchenko’s opposition bloc in Ukraine.” This is simply untrue, and betrays the preoccupation that Western journalists have with reproducing the Yushchenko-as-pro-Western liberal reformer story.
Vaclav Klaus’ conservatives in the Czech Republic are decidedly more pro-American, in part because they are Euroskeptic, and more devoted to a real free market principles (as opposed to oligarchic looting of the economy) than Yushchenko’s band of socialists, populists and hoodlums will ever be. Klaus is, indeed, the only self-described Thatcherite in politics in the former Soviet bloc.
Viktor Orban’s Fidesz, the young Hungarian (classical European) liberal party, while certainly given to the occasional populist economic enthusiasm, is the only major party in central Europe that avowedly prefers a liberal system in contrast to the social democratic positions of the other main party in Hungary and those throughout the region. Since it is part of the false received wisdom in at least certain Western political and media circles that Mr. Orban is some revanchist nationalist (he is a cultural nationalist, but has never expressed any irredentist sentiments whatever), it is not surprising that his party would go unmentioned.
Nonetheless, Mr. Sieff’s conclusions are salutary. Sovereign nations will act according to their own interests, and allies will dissent from policies they regard as dangerous and misguided from time to time. Whether as the government of a hegemony or simply that of a peaceful republic, the government in Washington must come to grips with the reality that it possesses virtually no public goodwill in any country. In the strictest political sense, this does not “matter,” and this is not a call for American policy to be dictated by other countries. But for those who aim to run the world, and for those who are simply interested in the welfare of the United States, encouraging voluntary cooperation through addressing the concerns of allies and unaligned nations makes a great deal of sense. The great powers of the past, when they were well-governed, sought to work through existing power structures and not simply upend them to create obvious puppets. What may be gained in terms of immediate control is often lost in local political support.
But perhaps American politicians are not clever enough to understand and implement this: ignorant of so much of the world, they are undoubtedly wary of trusting to cooperation with peoples they can barely find on a map and prefer the current, direct approach of barking orders and issuing ultimatums to erstwhile allies. Not to stretch the historical analogy too far, but when Athens so abused its dependent allies it found itself seriously endangered and eventually defeated by its main rival. Neglecting the privileges that were due to their allies, the Romans were very nearly broken as a significant power in the Social War (90-88 B.C.) when those allies united against them. We are quite a long way from something like that, but if we want fewer obstacles and lighter burdens in the execution of our policies, whether we stay in the hyper-interventionist mode or not, the need for encouraging willing cooperation cannot be stressed too much.