Ukraine swears in new president
It finally happened today -- at last we can say -- President Yushchenko. Inauguration day was marked by a huge rally in Indepependence Square, site of the massive demonstrations following the first election which was declared fraudulent. The stage, the massive columns of a large building facing the square, and the crowd were all decked out in orange. What a fortuitous color in the middle of a dreary and cold winter. I remember those orange scarves and hats and banners in those first days of the revolution when the snow was falling hard and the crowds refused to falter and disperse. And now we know how close we came to an armed and bloody confrontation.
So today's peaceful and legal transfer of power is a huge step in Ukraine's path to true independence and true democracy. May God grant his wisdom, guidance and protection to Victor Yushchenko in the coming years as much difficult and rewarding work lies ahead.
In no small measure, the victory of the democracy forces in Ukraine is due to the pressures applied by the European powers and especially by the support of the United States. Secretary Powell was one of the first to express his support for a true democratic outcome to this election, and to press for a full accounting and investigation of the widely reported fraud perpetrated by Kuchma and Yanukovych (helped in no small part by Putin).
President Bush also lent his support to the people of Ukraine in their quest for a fair and free election. In normal times, this election would have been falsified, the people might have protested somewhere, but the powers that be would have silently assented to Kuchma because they did not want to offend or upset Russia. But times have changed. And Russia has embarked on a dangerous, freelance policy of attempting to reform itself as a mini-Soviet Union -- an empire, and embracing Ukraine once more into the embrace of the Russian bear was crucial to its aims.
It is exactly the result we have in Ukraine today that President Bush was talking about in his inaugural address. By expressing support for a free and fair accounting, by refusing to recognize the results of an obviously fraudulent election, and by standing side-by-side with freedom loving Ukrainians, the United States sent an unmistakeable signal that it stands with those who desire freedom.