July 22, 2024


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Ukraine is committed to Europe and democracy

Ukraine is committed to Europe and democracy

By Stephen Beaver, Carlos Pascual, John Herbst, William Taylor, John Tefft, and Marie Yovanovitch

(Photo by Artur Vidak/Noor Photo via Getty Images)

Last month, E.U Officially agreed To begin accession negotiations with Ukraine, and to recognize Ukraine's future as a free democratic state and a full member of the Community of European States. If the 27 EU member states can see Ukraine's future clearly, why can't Thomas Graham?

In a recent article, “Political obstacles on Ukraine's path to European Union membership“Graham, a former senior director for Russia at the National Security Council, a Yale University professor, and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, mischaracterizes the state of democracy in war-torn Ukraine and its prospects for EU accession. Ukraine has significant work to do in Building a democratic state compatible with EU rules and standards. However, based on our collective twenty-three years of service in Kyiv and our close following of Ukrainian developments over the past quarter century or more, we believe that he fundamentally misunderstands the main trends of Ukrainian political development.

Graham's article is starting to go wrong. Its opening sentence claims that the Maidan Revolution “overthrew” former President Viktor Yanukovych. The Maidan Revolution, known in Ukraine as the Revolution of Dignity, began in November 2013, when Yanukovych, under intense pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin, postponed the scheduled signing of the Association Agreement and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. The protest was originally a pro-EU demonstration, but then turned into a broader protest against Yanukovych's tyranny and epic corruption. In late February 2014, after special police units opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, killing about 100 people, European foreign ministers mediated a settlement between Yanukovych and opposition leaders. Shortly after signing the settlement, Yanukovych fled Kiev to Russia. Faced with the president who abandoned his position and disappeared, the elected Ukrainian parliament chose an acting president, awaiting the elections that will be held after three months. Calling Yanukovych's abdication in the face of overwhelming popular pressure an “overthrow” echoes the Kremlin's description of it as a “coup,” though in reality it was less a coup than Richard Nixon's resignation from the presidency in 1974.

Graham continues to say that the process of Ukraine's accession to the European Union will be “long and arduous.” This is true – EU accession negotiations always are – but it also confirms that some EU members may later reconsider supporting Ukraine's membership because they “seek to form a permanent security system that includes Russia.” Even with a rank guess, this is unreasonable. Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine has shattered the previously existing European security order. Its successor will be designed to defend against and contain Russia, not to include it, as evidenced by the decisions taken by Sweden and Finland to abandon their neutrality and join NATO. At the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius, the Allies stressed that Ukraine's future lies in NATO, and there was great sentiment among the Allies (although no consensus) in favor of an invitation for Ukraine to join the alliance between now and then.

The assertion that Ukraine has “made little progress in consolidating democratic governance since gaining independence in 1991” does not reflect the Ukraine we know. First, the country has a vibrant civil society. Residents showed their support for democracy in the Orange Revolution of 2004 after an attempt to steal the presidential election, as well as in the Maidan Revolution nine years later.

Second, Ukraine has held six presidential elections since 1991. The incumbent has only been re-elected once. The loss of incumbents in elections is a good indicator of the health of a democracy.

Third, it is not difficult, Graham asserts, “for Freedom House to be constantly evaluated [Ukraine] Just as 'Partially freeFreedom House has placed Ukraine in the “free” category for four years in the wake of the Orange Revolution. The country did not return to “partly free” until after Yanukovych was elected in 2010. While the country continued to be classified as “partly free” after 2014, no informed observer would be able to assess that democracy in the period 2015-2021 did not improve compared to the four periods. Previous. years (even if improvements are not captured by Freedom House's methodology). And his house of freedom Explain Reason for the lower score since early 2022:

Russia's large-scale military invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 led to a significant deterioration in the political rights and civil liberties enjoyed by Ukrainians. . . . Freedom in the World reports assess the level of political rights and civil liberties in a given geographic area, regardless of whether they are affected by state, non-state actors, or foreign powers.

Graham lays out much of Ukraine's legislation prohibiting holding elections during martial law and decisions to postpone parliamentary elections last fall and likely presidential elections scheduled for this spring. These decisions enjoy widespread support, not only from the Ukrainian people, but also from non-governmental civil society organizations, political leaders from across the spectrum, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems. Moreover, it is not clear how suspending elections while large segments of the population remain displaced, abroad or under occupation is undemocratic. Would it be more democratic to hold incomplete, random, dangerous, and only partially contested elections under conditions of war?


Given Ukraine's democratic history, there is no basis for the article's speculation that a wartime suspension of elections might become “self-perpetuating” even after the war with Russia ends.

Curiously, Graham blames Kiev for “promoting the Ukrainian language and culture” even before the Russian invasion. (Promoting French language and culture has never jeopardized France's EU membership.) As evidence of this, he points to the actions of the Ukrainian government before Russia's large-scale invasion in February 2022, but after the invasion of Crimea and Donbass in 2014. It is true that the Ukrainians shut down Viktor Medvedchuk's TV channel in 2021, but Graham overlooked an important context: Putin He is the godfather of Medvedchuk's daughter; Medvedchuk was widely viewed, inside and outside Ukraine, as a Russian agent; Moscow exchanged several Ukrainian prisoners of war to secure his release to Russia. In 2014, the US government imposed sanctions on him for engaging in “actions or policies that undermine Ukraine’s democratic processes or institutions, and actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine.” Ukraine lacks the First Amendment protections that Americans enjoy (as do many other EU countries), but Medvedchuk's case does not amount to a “complex” and “risky minority rights situation,” as he claims. Graham.

Likewise, the Ukrainian government's support for a national Orthodox church in Ukraine separate from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church should come as no surprise to anyone. The government “viewed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church as a subtle means of Russian influence” because it is one of them. Russian Orthodox priests Bless Weapons Aiming to kill Ukrainians. Those who oppose the war risk being criticized within the church or accused of “discrediting the Russian army.” When protests broke out in Russia after Putin mobilized conscripts to fight in Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, said, Announce “Sacrifice in the performance of your military duty washes away all sins.” However, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Russia continues to function in Ukraine, although many of its dioceses have converted to the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church (declared by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople). Granted Cape Independence in 2019). This contrasts sharply with the repression of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, evangelicals and other Protestant denominations in those parts of Ukraine occupied by the Russians.

Graham's reference to “flagrant violations of civil and political rights” does not ring true, given the circumstances. Ukraine is at war with Russia. Russian forces killed thousands of Ukrainian civilians and frequently struck civilian targets and infrastructure. If we add to that the Ukrainian military personnel who were killed defending their country, their homes, and their families, the death toll rises to tens of thousands – and all of this is because of Putin’s new, unjustified imperialism. Steps taken in a war that Ukrainians rightly view as an existential war should not be interpreted as diminishing the country's overall commitment to democracy, just as Abraham Lincoln did in suspending military operations. Issuing a subpoena During the Civil War it was not a sign of an American turn against democracy. Ukrainians have proven time and again that they want a democratic state and that they are willing to fight for it.

Graham offers no basis for his suggestion that if the Ukrainians succeed in defeating Russia and maintaining their sovereignty, they will be reluctant to hand over some of that sovereignty to the European Union. Ukrainians understand what EU membership means and requires. Polls Owns It is shown There has been strong support for joining the European Union for twenty years, if not more.

For all his errors of fact and logic, Graham is right about one thing: “Ultimately, a free, prosperous, democratic Ukraine anchored in the West will constitute the ultimate defeat of Russian aggression.” This goal is achievable. Ukrainians sacrifice their lives for this every day. They deserve not only help, but appreciation.

Stephen Beaver, Carlos Pascual, John Herbst, William Taylor, John Tefft, and Mary Yovanovitch served as the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and ninth United States Ambassadors to Ukraine.


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