U.S. spends millions in Ukraine politics

While the Cold War officially ended over a decade ago, the current political crisis in Ukraine suggests that Washington is still in a Cold War mode, trying to “encircle” Russia and helping to install governments that are subservient to U.S. corporate interests in the former republics of the USSR.

The Bush administration and Western Europe’s ruling interests want to open up these markets and end any socialist programs left over from the USSR. The U.S. also aims to increase its military presence in the area.

The crisis arises from the battle for the Ukrainian presidency between Viktor Yuschenko, who says that he will bring Ukraine into NATO and institute a wider opening of markets, and current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych is seen as maintaining the status quo and has been backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yuschenko and Yanukovych stood in a runoff election Nov. 21, with Yanukovych being declared the winner by about 3 percentage points. According to the U.K. Guardian, Yanukovych’s campaign released an exit poll showing himself to be ahead by 1.4 percent, with a margin of error of 5 percent points. However, Yuschenko’s exit polls, financed by Western embassies, showed him to be ahead by 11 points, and he quickly declared the election results to be invalid.

This led to the standoff.

There were days-long demonstrations in the nation’s capital, Kiev, by a number of different groups united around Yuschenko, calling for an “Orange Revolution.” The demonstrations were well planned and included well-organized distribution of food and necessities to the crowd, and festivities such as rock concerts. The demonstrations appeared to be an open manifestation of “people’s power.”

However, there is good reason to believe that while most of the participants in the demonstrations thought they were fighting for democracy, the protests were organized to serve U.S. imperialist interests. The Dec. 11 New York Times reported that the Bush administration had spent over $65 million in Ukraine, and had paid to bring Yuschenko to meet with American leaders and to aid political organizations. While some of that money was given to organizations whose stated aim is to promote and teach democracy, millions of dollars went to partisan political organizations and parties supporting Yuschenko. It is worth noting that in the United States, federal election laws make it illegal for political parties to receive foreign funding.

There most likely were attempts at election fraud — from both sides. The Western-financed exit polls, showing Yuschenko as the winner, may have been skewed. According to the Times, one of the U.S. government agencies funding the polls was the National Endowment for Democracy — the same organization that helped fund the anti-Chavez coup in Venezuela and used such tactics there.

“It is clear that a significant amount of U.S. taxpayer dollars went to support one candidate in Ukraine,” said U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). It is unclear, he said, “how many other efforts, overt or covert, have been made” to support that candidate.

Taking President Bush to task for his hypocritical criticism of Russia’s involvement in the situation in Ukraine, Rep. Paul said, “President Bush is absolutely correct: elections in Ukraine should be free of foreign influence. It is our job here and now to discover just how far we have violated this very important principle, and to cease any funding of political candidates or campaigns henceforth.”

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation issued a statement denouncing Yuschenko as an ally of U.S. imperialism. At the same time, the leader of the Communist Party of the Ukraine, Peter Simonenko, acknowledged that there have been problems of vote rigging by both sides in the election, and questioned the role a president of the Ukraine should have. “Taking into account massive vote rigging,” he said, “I propose declaring the 2004 elections to be invalid, raising the problem of political reform in Parliament and amending the constitution. All power must be passed over to Parliament. The current president’s tenure must be suspended and the cabinet must be obliged to exclusively fulfill Parliament’s decisions.”

The election results were thrown out, and a compromise plan was reached between the two sides, which included anti-electoral-fraud measures enacted by the Rada (Parliament), and a new election on Dec. 26. The powers of the president will also be scaled down.

The author can be reached at dmargolis@pww.org.