Ukraine: Independence Square asks West to intervene

Article published on Jan. 17, 2005
community published
Article published on Jan. 17, 2005

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The corruption and authoritarianism of the ancien régime in Ukraine do not constitute a ‘cultural diversity’ worth respecting and preserving

Want to bring down a regime? Don’t call in an army! For fourteen years, outgoing President Kuchma’s ‘independent’ Ukraine was a corrupt state. And when a regime is corrupt, neither an army nor an international conspiracy is needed to bring it down. All it takes is enough enthusiasm from the people and a little international support.

What Western army marched in Kiev?

The only ‘army’ to have been present in the electoral proceedings in Ukraine were the 12,000 foreign election observers coordinated by the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and a network of international NGOs. This foreign intervention helped to unite the Ukrainian people who gathered in Kiev’s Independence Square in search of democracy; people who had had enough of their rights being violated. It was this international presence which helped the Ukrainian people to defend a historically acquired human right: democracy. The EU, initially somewhat slow and reluctant to ‘interfere’, also took part. For the first time since the war in Iraq, the EU worked together with the United States to show the world that it was time the West united to promote democracy, and that it was neither necessary to call in an army nor to use diplomacy to do so. It may not please Russian President Putin, or his European friends Jacques Chirac and Silvio Berlusconi, but when the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and the EU’s foreign policy representative, Javier Solana, work together, they work better. And what better example than the Ukraine to prove the point.

Military intervention not needed in Ukraine

Thus, the ‘Orange Revolution’ was born. While Ukrainian voters appointed Viktor Yushchenko (the leader of the democratic opposition) President on December 26th, ZUBR, a pro-democracy youth movement of neighbouring Belarus, began planning for 2005 a series of non-violent demonstrations to renounce the dictatorship of the Belarusian tyrant Lukashenko. And ZUBR is not alone. The Ukrainian youth movement, PORA - the real force behind the revolution led by Yushchenko - was joined by groups from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian republics. Even the democratic movement of Iranian students, who have been struggling against the theocratic dictatorship of the Mullahs, observed events in Kiev, hoping to benefit from Ukrainian know-how in non-violent means of protesting. These are the ‘international conspiracies’ that underlie the non-violent revolutions. In countries such as Ukraine, non-violent demonstrations (like the ‘Orange Revolution’) are enough to bring about democracy: all it takes is some slogans, publicity through internet sites and press releases, protesters and supporters. As PORA never tired of saying “When the time is right, nothing can stop us.”

And the moment was right in Ukraine. For Ukrainians, December 26th was the date they had to choose between following the democratic path of neighbouring Poland (which joined the EU last May) and benefiting from the ‘stability’ offered by Putin’s authoritarian paternalism. The business world helped finance the movements opposing the regime. The media, having long suffered from suppression of free speech, now revels in its new found freedom. An entire country mobilised, by itself. But the story did not end on December 26th. If the challenge for Ukraine is to keep the promises which were made to the country in order to secure support for the revolution, the challenge for Europe is to support the democratic process and to reward these efforts by offering Ukraine a status which leads the way to the opening of negotiations for Kiev’s accession to the European Union. This would be a good incentive for Eastern Europe to re-launch its push for democratisation, as EU accession has proven to be a real engine of change. And if Kiev has carefully chosen Europe, why should Brussels reject Kiev?