Incompetent Democracy
Published on: February 18, 2010
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  • David Morgan

    The attitude of many in the Ukraine towards democracy and independence is neatly summed up by quote in the middle of this excerpt from The Economist’s survey of the Ukraine in 1994:

    “AT MIDDAY on August 24th 1991, [the speaker] read out the next item of business: Ukraine’s independence. Pandemonium broke out, and Mr Plyushch announced a 20-minute break. National democrat deputies scurried up to the third floor, while Communists trooped down to a cinema in the basement. The latter would decide the vote, for they controlled 239 of the 450 parliamentary seats.

    The atmosphere in the cinema was emotional. A putsch in Moscow had ended in farce only two days before, and many members of the Ukrainian Communist Party expected Boris Yeltsin to purge his enemies. The deputies were torn between fear of those who had taken power in Moscow, fear of mass Ukrainian nationalism which had been pressing for independence for months and an even greater fear of life outside the Soviet Union. This last was expressed best by one speaker who said: “I don’t see why we should be independent. We’ve done nothing wrong.” Eventually Stanislav Hurenko, the party head, stood up and said slowly, in Russian: “Today we will vote for Ukrainian independence, because if we don’t we’re in the shit.”

    For perhaps the last time, his deputies loyally obeyed him. When parliament voted, 392 deputies were for independence with only four against. Four months later, Ukraine’s independence became a fact when voters massively endorsed it in a referendum–and the Soviet Union finally collapsed.”

  • Painting Drezner and Larison with the same brush is ridiculous. Drenzer’s only comment on your post (and another): “Both of these posts suggests way too much focus on the immediate implications of the election — a president more favorably disposed towards Moscow.” Wow – incredibly insightful. And of course, he couldn’t help but link a picture of Selma Hayek. Sophomoric is being generous.

    Meanwhile, Larison writes 500 words ending with: “If Yanukovych’s election is a setback for U.S. and EU influence in post-Soviet space, it is not therefore a setback for democratization in that space. It should make Western policymakers consider whether democracy promotion actually complements or hinders the promotion of our interests. On the other hand, as allied and developing nations become more confident in pursuing their own national interests, the U.S. might begin to see what interests of ours are really vital and necessary and what interests are not very important.”

    Not much similarity there.

  • “Larison is a bit more optimistic than I am about Ukraine’s prospects.” Actually, he doesn’t claim to know what will happen in the Ukraine in the future, his point, as in the last paragraph cited is:

    “What we do see in the Ukrainian result is that democratic elections do not automatically lead to the most “pro-Western” or Washington-favored outcomes, and it suggests that as democratization progresses the divergence of interests between the West and Westernized or developing countries will become sharper and more pronounced.”

    Your take, “I see the whole political situation in Ukraine as representing the effective moral collapse of any real alternative to a future of dully corrupt authoritarianism,” is incredibly more pessimistic than Larison. Where did you pull moral collapse out from? We’re talking about an election.

    “It’s a tragedy for the many ordinary people of Ukraine who are likely to remain poor and powerless in the face of endemic corruption and lawlessness for some time to come.” Again, the president changed. How could that possibly alter the course of endemic corruption and lawlessness?

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