Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Moldova on the brink

By Aussiegirl

Hat tip to Orange Revolution -- here's an article I had missed by Dick Morris, in Front Page Magazine, who has been doing yoeman's work in helping these East European former Soviet countries stage their own peaceful elections and democratic revolutions. He wonders why the State Department appears to be doing it's usual job of backing the status quo instead of taking President Bush's speeches to heart. Are you listening, Secretary Rice? Or are all your credentials as a Moscow watcher causing you to see the world in the old Cold War terms -- of not riling up Mr. Putin?

FrontPage magazine.com :: Eastern Europe's Orange Revolution by Dick Morris:

To paraphrase Marx and Engels, a specter is haunting the tyrannical former communist regimes of Eastern Europe ? the specter of the Orange Revolution.

Once safe ruling their impoverished enclaves of repression and corruption, the ex-communists, who go by such euphemisms as ?moderate centrists,? are now facing massive popular revolt and a spreading demand for freedom and real democracy.

Beginning in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, the orange tide spread to Ukraine, where it engulfed the former nomenklatura and apparatchiks of the Soviet era and forced them from power. Now the revolution spreads, on its own as they all do, to tiny, oppressed Moldova.

Born in infamy by a provision in the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, Moldova was split off from Romania and given to the Soviet Union, where it languished as a ?people?s republic? until 1991. But this battered and oppressed land of 4 million mistook the democratic promises of former communists who turned out to be controlled by the Russian mafia. Their leader became the richest person in the nation through unfathomable corruption.

The stench became so pervasive that, in 2001, a desperate electorate turned the mobsters out and put the unreconstructed communists back in charge. The repression that followed was predictable. Free media was snuffed out, opposition politicians were ?investigated? and, in local elections, opposition parties had no access to the media and were denied permits for their meetings and rallies.

But the birth of freedom in Ukraine has inspired the tiny Christian Democratic Party, under the charismatic and tireless Iurie Rosca, to aspire to create a genuinely free Moldova."

The Revolution is being blogged!!

Publius Pundit - Blogging the democratic revolution

As predicted on the blogs!! Check it out!! The Cedar Revolution is underway -- and it's being blogged live -- if it wasn't for the blogs could we have this sort of heart-stopping coverage of earth-shattering events? On the networks we get a few seconds of video before they hurry back to breaking stories about Michael Jackson or the Oscars. Tyrants are falling the world over -- and Hollywood and the media fiddle with the Oscars.

And now for something completely different

By Aussiegirl

Since there are a lot of Yulia Tymoshenko fans out there, I didn't want to leave out Ukraine's newest revolutionary heroine, the pop singer Ruslana, who won last year's Eurovision Song Contest held in Turkey with "Wild Dances".

Here's a photo of Ruslana, who seems to favor black leather, especially for Mr. P. Pundit, who seems to have a soft spot for Ukrainian beauties -- and all you other guys out there in blogoland -- you know who you are.

Ruslana took an active part in the Orange Revolution, coming often to the Maidan, cheering the crowds on with her songs, and also participated in drum beating outside some Ministry offices that were being besieged.

As I noted earlier, Russia has censored the parts of her "Wild Dances" video which feature these dangerous revolutionary scenes. Personally, I think it was the black leather that Putin objected to -- but maybe it was the message of freedom.

Here's the Ukrainian language cover of her latest album, also called "Wild Dances"

Since Ukraine won last year's contest it means that this year's contest will be held in Kyiv. The old Sports Palace is being refurbished in time for the May concert.

This year's entry will be the Orange Revolution rap anthem "Razom nas Bahato" -- or "Together we are Many". The song quickly swept the crowds and was enthusastically cheered at every gathering.
Here's the story from the
BBC where you can also get a link to hear and excerpt of "Razom":

The song that became the anthem of Ukraine's "orange revolution" has been chosen to represent the country at this year's Eurovision song contest.

The hip-hop tune Together we are many! (Razom nas bahato!) by Greenjolly beat 18 other contestants in an interactive vote in a qualifying final in Kiev.

It became an instant hit with many Ukrainians who rallied against last November's rigged presidential poll.

It was written by the Greenjolly duo in the early days of the mass protests in Kiev that eventually brought West-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko to power.
"No to falsifications!... No to lies! Yushchenko - yes! Yushchenko - yes! This is our president - yes, yes!" the song says. "We aren't cattle!... We are Ukraine's daughters and sons! Now or never! Enough with the wait! Together we are many! We cannot be defeated," it says.

Oil pipeline reversed to reduce Russia's influence

By Aussiegirl

In a move designed to lessen both country's reliance on Russia for their energy needs, Ukraine and Georgia today agreed to reverse an oil pipeline which had previously carried Russian oil into the Ukrainian port city of Odessa.

In addition, the two leaders discussed resuming bilateral ties and an old alliance called the GUUAM, which includes Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova. It was established in 1997 in a bid to seek cooperation between the countries outside the influence of Moscow.
Both of these moves are significant in sending a strong signal that these former Soviet Bloc countries will not be intimidated or influenced unduly by their former ties to Russia. I see in the future the possibility that the former Soviet countries, like Poland, the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, along with Ukraine and Georgia may become another power bloc in Europe, perhaps a useful counter to the "Old Europe" of ossified France, Germany and Belgium.

Of these I could see Poland, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Lithuania taking the lead. The East Europeans might lead Europe out of the wilderness yet, or they might find that, united, they may have enough economic and political clout and not need to sign onto the virtual death grip and suicidal pact that is the EU.

Interesting things are happening in that part of the world. We may still have an Iron Curtain -- only it will have moved further east -- further isolating Putin and Byelorus, if they can hold it together.

Read more:

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli said that the Odessa-Brody pipeline would be used for oil shipments from Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan through Georgia to Western European markets, in contrast to the former government's decision to pump Russian crude through the pipeline to the Black Sea port of Odessa, said Vitaly Chepinoga, a spokesman for Tymoshenko. Russia is Ukraine's largest trade partner and energy supplier. Key Russian pipelines and other infrastructure links with Europe run through Ukraine.

Nogaideli traveled to Ukraine on Sunday for a three-day trip and was scheduled to meet top Ukrainian officials including President Viktor Yushchenko.

It was Nogaideli's first trip abroad since filling the post left empty by the sudden death of Zurab Zhvania, who apparently suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.

Last summer, Ukraine's Cabinet agreed to open the long-idle Odessa-Brody pipeline for shipments of Russian oil to Odessa. But the United States has opposed that, saying it will increase Ukraine's energy dependence on Russia and raise chances of an oil spill as more tankers would travel through Turkey's clogged Bosporus strait.

Georgia stands to benefit from the new deal because it will earn transit fees. And Georgia, like Ukraine, is interested in expanding its self-reliance vis-a-vis the regional energy power, Russia.

But there's always a silver lining

By Aussiegirl

According to Interfax, the Ukrainian parliament is considering some guarantees for ex-presidents. I guess this means he won't be walking the plank into the Black Sea anytime soon.

Yulia Tymoshenko said:

"The parliament will soon consider a draft law concerning all former presidents and a certain system of guarantees and protection for them. The future of Leonid Kuchma is not a question for the government. It is up to law enforcement departments to investigate his activities."

That golden parachute turns to lead

By Aussiegirl

True to her promises, Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has stripped former President Leonid Kuchma of many of his presidential perks, which included cars, drivers, maids, cooks and assorted residences plus a fat pension.

He will get to keep his primary residence, so we needn't have the sorry spectacle of a homeless Kuchma, selling pencils on the street corner. According to the BBC he'll keep most of the benefits that were accorded ex-presidents in a 1992 law. His present lavish perks were approved by his own government only days before he left office -- sort of like the Clintons cleaning out the White House of its silver and furnishings.

Read More:

Under the new arrangements - in line with the 1992 law on benefits for ex-presidents - Mr Kuchma will receive a reduced pension and have less staff.

. . . The BBC's Helen Fawkes, in Kiev, says the move will come as no surprise to the former president, as the arrangements for Mr Kuchma's retirement had been criticised by the new administration. The government is now reported to be planning changes to the law on benefits for former heads of state.

Friday, February 25, 2005

There's always room for Beethoven

By Aussiegirl

When the world is too much with us, laying waste our powers, there's always Beethoven to turn to. A consolation and balm to soothe the savage beast in all our hearts -- in all weathers. A man for all seasons and for eternity. Herewith some excerpts from the book: "Beethoven: The man and the artist as revealed in his own words" -- Beethoven's thoughts on God -- and it is through the window of his genius that we glimpse the eternal.


"It was not a fortuitous meeting of chordal atoms that made the world. If order and beauty are reflected in the constitution of the universe, then there is a God."

Ludwig van Beethoven is considered by many to be the world's greatest composer. From the time he was born in 1770, Beethoven faced overwhelmingly difficult circumstances. The defining tragedy of his life, and the one which diminished his performing career, was his growing deafness. It was this miserable affliction that intensified the tumultuous eruption of emotion which is found throughout Beethoven's life and music. As Beethoven's deafness increased, he withdrew more and more into the work of composing and into his intimate and unorthodox relationship with God.

Discerning Beethoven's belief is no easy task. All his biographers agree that he was intensely spiritual. But his untraditional faith makes it difficult to categorize the composer. Beethoven, like many geniuses, was a very complex man with eclectic interests and influences. Beethoven was born and baptized into a Roman Catholic family. His mother was very pious. In his youth, he attended a variety of churches and his principle teacher, Christian Gottlob Neefe, was a Protestant believer. Beethoven's letters and diaries contain dozens of devout references to God, giving evidence of strong conviction. His relationship to God was deeply personal, and he turned to God to make sense out of life's unfairness.

To a close friend in 1810, he confessed an almost childlike faith: "I have no friend. I must live by myself. I know, however, that God is nearer to me than others. I go without fear to Him, I have constantly recognized and understood Him."

Beethoven owned both a French and a Latin Bible and late in life he prayed with his young nephew almost every morning. His library included such Christian devotionals as Thomas a Kempis' The Imitation of Christ and a very heavily marked copy of Christian Sturm's Reflections on the Works of God in Nature. And of course Beethoven composed some of the most profound Christian masterpieces of history.

Beethoven's complex personality traits leave the world's greatest musicologists at odds on the subject of the composer's faith. Perhaps the best clues to his personal beliefs can be found in Beethoven's music - music which reveals the man himself. The portrait of
Beethoven's life which emerges from historical accounts, his own written reflections and his music is one of tremendous achievement in the face of unimaginable difficulty and tragedy.

Hearing loss would present a severe trial to anyone, but for a musician - indeed, a master musician - deafness was devastating.
Nevertheless, Beethoven was determined to prevail and to continue in his art, which he considered a sacred trust placed upon him by his Creator. It is astonishing to study the complexities and beauty of his late works and to realize that, except in his imagination, he never heard them performed. Beethoven's principle virtue was his sheer determination to overcome. The judgement of a man's greatness is not only to be measured in the mission he accomplishes, but in the obstacles he has overcome in the process.


Some of Beethoven's writings:

"... From my childhood onward my heart and soul have been filled with tender feelings of goodwill, and I have always been willing to perform great and magnanimous deeds. But reflect, for the past 6 years I have been in an incurable condition made worse by unreasonable doctors. From year to year I have hoped to be cured, but in vain, and at last I have been forced to accept the prospect of a permanent infirmity... Ah, how could I possibly have referred to the weakening of a sense which ought to be more perfectly developed in me than in other people, a sense which I once possessed in the greatest perfection, to a degree which certainly few of my profession possess or have ever possessed... Such experiences have brought me close to despair, and I came near to ending own life - only my art held me back, as it seemed to me impossible to leave this world until I have produced everything I feel it has been granted to me to achieve. So I continue this miserable existence - truly miserable, as my body is so sensitive that my condition can change rapidly from very good to very bad.

Patience - that must be my guide, as I am determined, and I hope will always remain so, to endure until it pleases the inexorable Parcae to break the thread. Perhaps my lot will improve, perhaps not... It has not been easy, and more difficult for an artist than for anyone else. Oh God, you look down on my inner soul, and know that it is filled with love of humanity and the desire to do good... You my brothers...
I hereby nominate you both as heirs to my little property (if it can be so called); share it honestly, live in harmony, and help each other. You know that the harm you did me has long since been forgiven... My wish is that your lives will be better and less careladen than mine. Urge your children to follow the path of virtue, as that alone can bring happiness - money cannot. I speak from experience, as virtue alone has sustained me in my misery, and it was thanks to virtue, together with my art, that I did not end my life by committing suicide... So be it, I go joyfully towards death. If it comes before I have had the chance to develop all my artistic abilities, that will be too soon for me, despite my hard fate, and I would wish it to be postponed - yet should I not be satisfied, would it not release me from a condition of endless suffering? Come when you will, death, I will meet you resolutely. Farewell, and do not entirely forget me when I am dead; I have deserved to be remembered by you, as I have often thought of you during my lifetime. May you be happy. Ludwig van Beethoven." - Heiligenstadt Testament, 6th October 1802

"You must not be a human being, not for yourself, but only for others; for you there is no longer any happiness except within yourself, in your art" - Beethoven, 1812

"Would that it were possible without offending the widow, but it could not be. Only You, Almighty, see within my heart, and know that for my dear Karl's sake I have given up what is best for me: bless my work, bless the widow! Why can I not follow my heart completely and help her, the widow?" - Beethoven, 1812, during custody battle with his nephew's mother

"I have no friend. I must live by myself. I know, however, that God is nearer to me than others. I go without fear to Him, I have constantly recognized and understood Him." - Beethoven, 1818 letter to close friend

"God above everything! For an eternal, all-knowing Providence guides the fortune and misfortune of mortal men." - Beethoven, 1818

"[God] sees into my innermost heart and knows that as a man I perform most conscientiously and on all occasions the duties which Humanity, God, and Nature enjoin upon me." - Beethoven, July 1821 letter to Archduke Rudolph

"To my God, who has never abandoned me." - Beethoven, 1823, dedication of "Missa Solemnis" which he considered his greatest work "My chief aim was to awaken and permanently instill religious feelings not only into the singers but also into the listeners." - Beethoven, 1823 letter on "Missa Solemnis"

"Only in my divine art do I find the support which enables me to sacrifice the best part of my life to the heavenly Muses." - Beethoven, 1824

"... Indeed, a hard lot has fallen upon me! But I resign myself to the will of destiny, and only ask God constantly to grant through His divine will that, so long as I must still suffer death in life here, I am protected from penury. This will give me the strength to bear my lot, however hard and grievous, with resignation to the will of the Almighty." - Beethoven, 14th March 1827 letter to Ignaz Moscheles in London (Beethoven died on the 26th)

"Brothers, beyond yon starry canopy there must dwell a living Father."

- Beethoven, Ninth ("Choral") Symphony
"Regard Karl as your own child, disregard all idle talk, all pettiness for the sake of this holy cause... Your present condition is hard for you, but He who is above, - O, He is, and without Him there is nothing. In any event the sign has been accepted."

"In praise of Thy goodness I must confess that Thou didst try with all Thy means to draw me to Thee. Sometimes it pleased Thee to let me feel the heavy hand of Thy displeasure and to humiliate my proud heart by manifold castigations. Sickness and misfortune didst Thou send upon me to turn my thoughts to my errantries. - One thing, only, O Father, do I ask: cease not to labor for my betterment. In whatsoever manner it be, let me turn to Thee and become fruitful in good works."

"God is immaterial, and for this reason transcends every conception. Since He is invisible He can have no form. But from what we observe in His work we may conclude that He is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent."

"It seems as if in the country, every tree said to me, 'Holy, Holy, Holy.'"
"Before my departure for the Elysian fields I must leave behind me what the Eternal Spirit has infused into my soul and bids me complete. Why, I feel as if I had hardly composed more than a few notes. To men are allotted but a few days."

A copyist of his, Rampel obsequiously addressed Beethoven as "gracious Sir," to this Beethoven replied "Go to the devil with your 'gracious Sir!' There is only one who can be called gracious, and that is God."

Odds and Ends

By Aussiegirl

Blogging has been light and intermittent, like the snow around here -- and just like the weather bureau -- my prediction of the consistency of blogging for the next few days may or may not hold true -- and depends on a variety of factors. The computer programs which determine the final prediction aren't agreeing as to whether or not blogging will be heavy or light, or what the total accumulation over the next few days may be.

In the meantime -- just a few random thoughts.

It seems like the state-ordered execution of Terry Schiavo has been postponed for three weeks. It is unclear whether she will get a last minute reprieve and call from the governor's office. Unlike convicted rapists, murderers and monsters, though, Terry will not get a humane injection, complete with alcohol wipe to the site of injection (to prevent infection). She will have her feeding tube removed and die an agonizingly slow death from dehydration and starvation. This is called "euthanasia" -- which comes from the Greek -- eu=good, thanatos=death. How nice -- how sanitary -- how clinical -- how merciful -- how humane. Medical science fully understands the horrors of organ breakdown and suffering that she will endure during this time, not to mention the agony that will be endured by her parents and family who will have to stand by helplessly and watch the state and her husband execute their daughter by death by torture.

Where are the protestors holding candlelight vigils for this helpless woman and her family held hostage by a cruel and inhuman judicial system? Where is the moral outrage? Where are the bleeding-heart nuns, the ones who love the "Dead Men Walking"?? Do they not love Terry Schiavo as much as they love the murderers?

But so much for that little footnote to the news. There's more important news -- like Michael Jackson -- and Paris Hilton -- and the Oscars. Didn't Chris Rock make some insulting comments about black gays? Oh, the outrage!! The insult!! The scandal!! By all means let's talk about that.

Let's see -- Ruslana's video is being censored in Russia -- there's a tidbit for you. Russian TV is not going to air the parts of her video which show the Orange Revolution -- and which show her banging on steel drums with other protestors outside a Ministry building during the protests in October. No -- that won't do in Putin's free democracy. Might give the natives ideas, don't you know.

Bush and Putin did the press-op dance -- and Putin did his impression of a cobra again. And a planted Russian journalist planted a loaded question about press freedom. What press censorship in Russia? There is none -- on the other hand, Mr. President, how do you explain the firing of Dan Rather? Hmmmm? Oy -- as my dear mother always says.

More random thoughts and/or news may or may not follow in concentrated bursts, or in intermittent showers.

Regular weather will resume soon.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Beirut's Berlin Wall

By Aussiegirl

David Ignatius pens a stirring column in Wednesday's Washington Post about the blowing winds of freedom following the assassination of Hariri in Lebanon. This trend towards a new Ukrainan-style Orange Revolution in the Middle East was first flagged, as far as I know, by Kirk Sowell back on February 14th, in a post entitled -- "Lebanon in Revolution: The Ukraine of the Middle East?" Kudos to Kirk for picking up on this trend by watching Al Jazeera in the days following the assassination.

Just a thought -- is John Kerry still advising that no one should be tempted to hype the Iraqi election too much? Is anyone listening to the great "nuanced one"???

From the article:

"Enough!" That's one of the simple slogans you see scrawled on the walls around Rafiq Hariri's grave site here. And it sums up the movement for political change that has suddenly coalesced in Lebanon and is slowly gathering force elsewhere in the Arab world.

"It is the beginning of a new Arab revolution," argues Samir Franjieh, one of the organizers of the opposition. "It's the first time a whole Arab society is seeking change -- Christians and Muslims, men and women, rich and poor."

The leader of this Lebanese intifada is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year

. . ."It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."

Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

And a final addendum -- this prediction from Mr. P. Pundit himself, Rob Mayer -- when Publius Pundit comments -- we listen:

Make sure to be paying very close attention over the next couple of days -- especially Monday. That's when the vote of confidence in the government takes place. The striking similarity here is that the entire business, banking, and industrial power of Lebanon will be shutting down for this day. Support of the millionaire middle class against the current regime was a prime variable in the success of the Orange Revolution, and that looks to be the same thing happening here.

I'm putting my money on a Monday revolution : )

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Let's shake on that!

By Aussiegirl

Gateway Pundit has a great shot of Viktor Yushchenko and President Bush shaking hands at a recent joint appearance at the NATO conference.

I wonder what nickname Bush has picked for Mr. Yushchenko? Any ideas?

Lest We Forget the Cost of our Freedom

By BonnieBlueFlag

Pulitzer Prize winning photo by AP photographer, Joe Rosenthal.

Iwo Jima is an island that is 4 miles long and 2 miles wide, just one in a group that the Marines were taking control of in 1945.? Expecting to take this island in about a week as they had the others, they landed on Iwo Jima on February 19.

At first everything was very quiet, but within minutes they were under fire from the Japanese.? It was a volcanic island which had allowed the Japanese to build numerous underground tunnels that ran from one concrete pill box to the next.? The island had airfields that were very important to the US in the war effort.? Capturing the island saved approximately 20,000 men in the air corps.

Today, February 23, is the 60th anniversary of the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi on the southern tip of the island, but the battle raged on for a total of 36 days.? More than 6,800 American servicemen died, which was approximately one-third of all the Marines killed in W.W.II, and an additional 19,000 were wounded.? The Japanese who intended to fight to their death lost 20,000 men, only 1,000 were taken prisoners.

On November 11, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the US Marine Corps, President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the statue of the flag raising at Iwo Jima to all the Marines who have given their lives in defense of the Unites States since 1775.

Photograph by Steve Hudson
Located in Arlington, VA

The Statue Inscription Reads:

For Further Details On The Battle At Iwo Jima
click here
by BonnieBlueFlag

New world order?

By Aussiegirl

An article in The Times Online today highlights the reasons why admitting Ukraine and other former Soviet Bloc states into NATO will be an important element in the war on terror and efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation.

When the Soviet Union first broke up, Ukraine voluntarily gave up all the nuclear weapons and missiles that were on its territory, the leftover legacy of Kremlin rule. There seemed to be great pressure and haste by the United States then to make sure that these weapons were returned to Russia as it seemed to the United States that Russia was the more stable partner. In the long run I think they miscalculated, from their ignorance of history and the importance of Ukraine as a buffer between the west and the east. Ukraine has no territorial ambitions and wishes only to live in peace and be free to determine its own destiny. But the old cold war warriors in our State Department believed that only Russia could be relied upon as they had been comfortable dealing with the Soviets for years.

Russia persists in its Soviet-era paranoid world outlook of seeing itself as permanently in opposition to the West and to the United States and seeing every move as a threat against its territorial integrity and political stablitity. There is no reason that Russia itself could not join Europe and become a fully functioning free market economy with a true democratic form of government given the proper tools and the will.

But Russia is not content to be one among many democracies working towards a peaceful and more stable world -- they still see their destiny as that of a great world power, and long for the days of empire or the colonial expansionist Soviet days, when the entire world trembled when someone in the Kremlin sneezed. Unfortunately this is now leading them into adventurism and dubious alliances with countries such as Iran, Syria and China. Before long they will be engaging in covert support of terrorist activities meant to undermine the United States and the western democratic powers.

More and more it appears to me that the forces of freedom and democracy are gathering on one side -- and the undemocratic and autocratic and terrorist oriented regimes are amassing on the other side. A new cold/hot war -- with slightly different groups cooperating with each other in persuance of widely divergent goals.

The world is realligning itself in a major way in the 21st Century -- and we still don't know exactly how it's all going to look in a few years. But I hope there are plenty of people out there reading the new tea leaves and watching this new arrangement of elements in the world -- because if not -- we may find ourselves facing some totally unexpected outcomes in the next few years or decades.

My gut tells me that it is not inconceivable that in the not too distant future we may see an unholy alliance of China, Iran, Syria, Russia and a host of other terrorist and repressive third world regimes (think Venezuela) joining forces with international terrorism to pose a monumental threat and risk to the western powers. Europe may not wake up in time, drowsing as it is in its socialist and anti-American zeitgeist. Again, as in the past, it will most likely be the English-speaking peoples that have to join forces and hope they can defeat and withstand what for all intents and purposes may become a new and terrifying bipolar world.

From the article:

COLD WAR tensions threatened to flare anew yesterday after Ukraine, once the heart of the Soviet industrial-military complex, declared its intention to join Nato and won the blessing of the United States.

Ukraine's admission would bring Russia's Black Sea naval base and much of the former Soviet armaments industry into the embrace of the American-led military alliance, and expand Nato to Russia's southwestern border.

Mr Bush questioned Russia's commitment to democracy in a major speech in Brussels on Monday, and Washington is concerned about Moscow's plans to sell nuclear fuel to Iran and missiles to Syria. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Secretary-General of Nato, said he would support Ukraine's membership and announced a fund to decommission 1.5 million small arms and 133,000 tonnes of munitions in Ukraine as part of reforms of its military.

Ukraine is likely to win the strong backing of
other former Soviet bloc countries that have escaped Moscow's orbit.

Antanas Valionis, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, insisted that concern over Russia's reaction should not inhibit any plan by Nato to welcome former Soviet states. "We have to co-operate with Russia, but at the same time there are sovereign states which are choosing their road, their way to democracy . . . and our obligation is to support them," he said.
If Ukraine does join Nato, it will enable the alliance to control its weapons exports and to prevent them falling into the hands of hostile states or terrorist groups. Those risks were highlighted yesterday when Ukraine's Unian news agency reported that two anti-aircraft missiles had gone missing from a military depot in Crimea.

Last month a key Ukrainian lawmaker revealed the secret indictments or arrests of at least six arms dealers accused of selling nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran and China.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Making all the right noises at NATO


We, the 26 Heads of State and Government of the member countries of the North Atlantic Alliance, reaffirm the enduring value of the transatlantic link, renew our commitment to collective defence, and remain united in our commitment to our shared security and common values of democracy, freedom, individual liberty and the rule of law in addressing today's security challenges. Recent elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Palestinian Territories, as well as Ukraine have once again demonstrated, in diverse circumstances, that these values are shared in the aspirations of people around the world.

Afghanistan has turned an important corner in building a stable, democratic and multiethnic state.� In support of the Government, NATO is expanding its ISAF operation to the western part of Afghanistan and will provide additional forces for the forthcoming National Assembly elections. We will continue the expansion to the rest of the country, and enhance cooperation and coordination with Operation Enduring Freedom, with a view to increasing synergy and better integrating the two operations.

The Iraqi people have shown enormous courage in shaping their own future at the election booth. Reaffirming Iraq's sovereignty, unity, and territorial integrity, we are united in our commitment to support them and their newly-elected government in their effort to build an inclusive democracy and secure nation. Consistent with UNSC Resolution 1546, all 26 Allies are contributing to the NATO mission to assist in training Iraqi security forces, to hasten the day when they can take full responsibility for the stability of the country and the security of its citizens.

We remain firm in our commitment to stability in the Balkans and see the future of this region firmly anchored in the Euro-Atlantic community. NATO will maintain its strong presence in Kosovo and contribute to the UN-led political process of building a multiethnic, peaceful and prosperous society.

The Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative are proving effective tools in enhancing consultations and developing mutually beneficial relationships and cooperation on common security concerns with states of the Mediterranean and Broader Middle East.� We welcome the recent positive developments in the dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and we expect they will benefit the whole region as well as those initiatives.��

We intend to develop further our strategic partnership with the EU. A stronger EU will further contribute to our common security.� We will enhance cooperation with the United Nations and with other international organizations in our common efforts. We will continue to work closely with Russia, in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, and with our partners and friends to address common threats to our security.
We met with President Yushchenko and congratulated the people of Ukraine on their commitment to democracy and the rule of law. We pledged continued support and welcomed their aspirations for building a democratic and prosperous Ukraine and strengthening their integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.

We are determined to fight terrorism, strengthen security, and build peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond.� We will further transform the Alliance and its capabilities to respond to our common security challenges.� We are committed to strengthening NATO's role as a forum for strategic and political consultation and coordination among Allies, while reaffirming its place as the essential forum for security consultation between Europe and North America.

Looks like there's a NATO in Ukraine's future

By Aussiegirl

BBC reports that NATO hopes look good for Ukraine.

Read more:

Nato has hinted to Ukraine that its hopes of joining the transatlantic alliance could be fulfilled.

Nato's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Nato was open to democracies that met the membership criteria. But he set no target date.

Ukraine's new liberal president, Viktor Yushchenko, met Nato leaders including US President George W Bush at a summit in Brussels on Tuesday.

He told them he would like Ukraine to be integrated into the EU and Nato.

Earlier Mr Bush, who had a brief face-to-face meeting with Mr Yushchenko, called upon his European allies to welcome Ukraine "into the Euro-Atlantic" family.

And this from the White House press release:

President and Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer Discuss NATO Meeting Joseph Luns Press Theatre
NATO Headquarters
Belgium, Brussels
2:45 P.M. (Local)

... Of course, let me come back to Ukraine this morning. There is strong support, strong support, first of all, for NATO's bottom line, which is NATO has an open door for those European democracies who fulfill the obligations, strong support for giving President Yushchenko, in his challenging endeavor to bring Ukraine closer to Euro-Atlantic integration, to support him in that respect.

... So the discussions were fruitful. The Ukraine -- the meeting with President Yushchenko was, I thought, historic. I thought it was really interesting, to be sitting next to a person -- the Secretary General put me right next to President Yushchenko -- who had just led a revolution, a peaceful revolution, based upon the same values that we hold dear. And it was a remarkable moment, I thought.
And we -- at least in my intervention, and other interventions, we welcomed President Yushchenko, and reminded him that NATO is a performance-based organization, and that the door is open, but it's up to President Yushchenko and his government and the people of Ukraine to adapt the institutions of a democratic state. And NATO wants to help, and we pledged help. I pledged my own government's help to a fund that will help get rid of Madpads -- MANPADS, and certain different types of weapons. In other words, the country has got work to do, but we want to help them achieve that work. It was a remarkable moment. I appreciate you inviting him, Jaap, to come.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Ukraine's Jewish population looks to improved lives and access

By Aussiegirl

Considering the disturbing rise in open anti-Semitism in Europe and now in Russia, this is certainly a heartening story on Ukrainian-Jewish relations from JTA. In addition, an earlier posted article on UT mentioned that Ariel Sharon had placed a personal call to Yushchenko, congratulation him on his victory and inviting him to Israel, at that time Yushchenko accepted and said he would be visiting "soon".

Here's some of the article:

Ukrainian Jews have high hopes that their nation's new president will bring real changes to this former Communist republic.

Like other Ukrainians, many of the country's estimated 200,000 to 500,000 Jews are banking on the promises of democracy, wealth and increased participation in international bodies made by Viktor Yuschenko in the days after he was sworn in earlier this month.

. . . "Yuschenko showed his direction toward turning Ukraine into a democratic European nation with full respect for freedom of speech and a fair judicial system," said Eduard Gurvitz, a Jewish member of Parliament and a longtime Yuschenko supporter.

. . . "The new president stretches out his hand of collaboration to all who want to shake it," said Alexander Feldman, a Jewish lawmaker and a prominent community leader who backed Yanukovich. "I do believe that Yuschenko's politics will be aimed at protecting the interethnic peace and concord in Ukraine. Otherwise we shall correct him. But today I have more hopes than fears."

Those Jews who share Yuschenko's Euro-focused vision of Ukraine have faith in his ability to make Ukraine a more prosperous nation.

. . .He added that a recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents in neighboring Russia, including an anti-Semitic letter signed by a group of Russian lawmakers, showed what Ukraine may have averted by defeating Yanukovich, who was backed by pro-Russian voters and the Kremlin.
"Today, we can better understand what Putin's Russia, which backed Yanukovich, really means," he said.

. . .On Jan. 27, addressing an audience in Krakow, Poland, where he traveled to participate in commemorations of the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Yuschenko said, "I publicly swear that the so-called Jewish question will never be raised in Ukraine."

Meanwhile, some of the first appointments in Yuschenko's administration suggests that politicians of Jewish descent may be as powerful during his presidency as others were during Kuchma's reign.

Yevgeny Chervonenko, another Jewish lawmaker and a close aide to Yuschenko, is expected to be appointed to a key post in the new government. Chervonenko, 45, is also vice president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, an umbrella group.

Another public personality with Jewish ancestry already has been appointed secretary of the Council for National Security and Defense. Pyotr Poroshenko, a member of the Parliament, a financier and media magnate, has never publicized his Jewish background but it is known to many in the Jewish community.

There is a possible pitfall, however. Now that expectations have been raised, they can be dashed if improvements do not follow.

"Now people will simply not allow the authorities to treat them as before," said Semyon Gluzman, head of the Ukrainian-American Bureau for Human Rights in Kiev. "The only thing I'm afraid of is the disappointment of people."

But for now, optimism seems to be prevailing.
"We ourselves must help Yuschenko and his team to change our lives for the better," Gluzman said.

Those Rainbow Revolutions just keep coming

By Aussiegirl

The Times Online has an article on an emerging democracy movement in Kyrgyzstan modeled on the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. It's interesting to me that the idea of establishing a campaign color has captured the imagination of so many. I love the idea that each revolution will have its own hue -- Jesse Jackson take note -- this is not your father's Rainbow Coalition.

In America I suppose ever since the elections in 2000, when the networks for some reason labeled the Bush states as red and the Democrat states as blue, we've been talking about "red states" and "blue states". I know initially that a lot of conservatives were irritated at the choice of colors because red has always been associated in the conservative mind with communism -- and many felt that red belonged more properly to the Democrats, who espoused a leftist policy. But it's too late to change it now, red we are -- and blue they are -- and come to think of it -- considering the outcomes of recent elections -- the Democrats are blue -- and Republicans are seeing red over all the media bias in Hollywood and the mainstream media outlets.

There are psychologists who study the effects of colors on the human psyche, but probably never before did they imagine that colors would affect and galvanize the imaginations of people the world over struggling for democracy. Let's just hope we don't run out of colors -- or we might be seeing a chartreuse revolution someday -- and the men wouldn't have the faintest idea what to wear to the revolution!

More from the article:

Demonstrators in Krgyzstan are taking their cue from the upheaval in Ukraine
IT WOULD be either the "lemon" or the "tulip" revolution. Kazbek and his friends could not quite decide.

But as they watched Ukraine's Orange Revolution unfold last year, they were convinced of one thing: Kyrgyzstan could be next. Their mountainous homeland was thousands of miles east of Ukraine, and one tenth of its size, but the political parallels between the former Soviet republics were striking.

Kyrgyzstan, like Ukraine, was hailed as a beacon of democracy after the Soviet Union's collapse but had slipped into the standard post-Soviet habits of clan capitalism and authoritarian government. After 15 years in power Askar Akayev, the President, now appears determined to pack the parliament with relatives and allies at elections on February 27 � and to install his chosen successor at a presidential poll in October. Kazbek, a young Kyrgyz democracy activist, had been an election observer in Ukraine and witnessed first-hand the tactics used to mobilise opposition protests there.
Returning to Kyrgyzstan, he co-founded a youth movement, Kelkel, (Renaissance) modelled on Otpor (Resistance), the Serbian group that helped to topple Slobodan Milosevic and spawned similar movements in Georgia and Ukraine.

"We decided on the lemon revolution, because yellow is a colour of change � like on a traffic light," Nazik, another Kelkel leader, told The Times. The tulip idea was to match the Rose Revolution in Georgia. So far, the protests that began in January have attracted only a few hundred people, waving yellow banners and handing out flyers with catchy slogans. But the demonstrations illustrate how the ripples of the Orange Revolution have spread all the way from the new frontiers of the EU to the borders of China.

. . . Moscow has been careful to appear impartial this time, holding talks with opposition leaders as well. But analysts say that it could be heading for another foreign policy failure. "In Ukraine, the West was like a skilful lover, while Russia was like an impotent rapist," Andrei Piontkovsky, director of the Centre for Strategic Studies, said. "I'm afraid Moscow is going to repeat the same mistakes in Kyrgyzstan."

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Why it's always a good idea to read the fine print before signing on the dotted line

By Aussiegirl

All you need to know -- the U.S. Constitution is only a few pages long. The EU constitution is over 500 pages long. Is Ukraine really sure it wants to join?

Why the EU Constitution is bad for Britain and bad for the US

From the Daily Telegraph by Charles Moore.

Rome really WAS built in a day -- very long ago

By Aussiegirl

NEWSFLASH! -- Romulus and Remus were probably real -- still unclear whether the wolf bit was true, though.

What a fascinating piece of news in the Washington Times today -- don't miss if you are a Roman history buff. More and more of these legends are proving to have a historical basis in fact. Troy too was thought to be a myth until its remains were dug up.

Read more -- or as Rommie and Reemie would have said -- legite:

Italian archaeologists digging in the Forum have unearthed the ruins of a palace they say confirms the legend of Rome's birth " a discovery that may force the rewriting of Western history.

Most contemporary historians dismiss as fable the tale that Romulus founded Rome in 753 B.C. and built a walled city on the slopes of the Palatine hill where he and his twin brother, Remus, were suckled by a wolf in their infancy.

Andrea Carandini of Rome's La Sapienza University has spent 20 years trying to prove the skeptics wrong and last month he and his team hit on the final piece of a puzzle he believes shows the myth has root in fact.

"Archaeology and legend appear to go better together than contemporary historians thought," Mr. Carandini said in an interview before presentation of his findings this weekend.

"We now have all the elements to show that part of the legend may very well be true."

The source of Mr. Carandini's confidence is the discovery of traces of an 8th century B.C. house of regal proportions on the edge of the Forum that dates from the period of the Eternal City's legendary founding.

Am I the only one who finds this troubling?

By Aussiegirl

Am I the only one who finds this troubling?

CNN has a disturbing story about the increasing presence of China in the Caribbean. I'm just so delighted that the State Department thinks this is all so peachy-keen. And since when does an economic offensive equate to political liberalization? Strikes me as mushy-headed wishful thinking.

Americans are often so naive about the aims of regimes like this. We can't seem to put ourselves into the mindset of evil people -- and make no mistake -- China is an evil regime, which oppresses its people and is guilty of the most rank human rights abuses. In addition Russia and China are beginning to cooperate on a number of fronts. China is also developing long range missiles and also has its eye on developing a military presence in space. Democracy is not going to flower there just because they are expanding economically. As a matter of fact it makes China even more of a danger in the long run than even Russia is right now. I think China is perfectly capable of continuing to grow as an economic powerhouse, while still maintaining long-range hegemonic goals.

Coupled with the article below on the deterioration of democratic institutions in Russia, one is left to wonder if the emphasis on the war on terror and the Middle East is not distracting the administration from seeing more long-range dangers gathering on the horizon.

More from the article:

China is waging an aggressive campaign of seduction in the Caribbean, wooing countries away from relationships with rival Taiwan, opening markets for its expanding economy, promising to send tourists, and shipping police to Haiti in the first communist deployment in the Western Hemisphere.

And the United States, China's Cold War enemy, is benignly watching the Asian economic superpower move into its backyard.
(I'm glad somebody is happy about this)

. . . The United States has applauded China's economic offensive, seeing it as a herald of political reform.

"China's intensified interest in the Western Hemisphere does not imply a lack of focus by the United States," Roger Noriega, the U.S. assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, said in a recent letter to the editor of New Jersey's Newark Star Ledger.

"The United States has long stood for expansion of global trade and consolidating democracy."
This year, two Caribbean countries -- Dominica and Grenada -- switched allegiance to China, abandoning Taiwan, which China calls "a renegade province."
(So -- are we abandoning Taiwan?)

Once mortal enemies
In the Caribbean, only five countries still maintain relations with Taiwan -- the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

But China has commercial missions in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti, where in October China dispatched 95 police officers to join a U.N. peacekeeping force. It is Beijing's first contribution to a U.N. mission in the Western Hemisphere.
(Anybody the least bit uncomfortable with Chinese "police" in our neighborhood? They could just as easily be military.)

And perhaps the reason for all this complacency on the part of the US can be found in the last sentence:

U.S. exports to China have grown more rapidly than to any other country with cumulative investment there reaching $35 billion, according to the State Department. Among leading U.S. businesses there, Wal-Mart sales in China totaled $707 million in 2003.

No democracy in sight for Russia

By Aussiegirl

Don't miss a chilling and sobering editorial in the Weekly Standard, based on testimony by Bruce Jackson delivered before the U. S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which details the demise of any hope for democracy in Russia in the near and perhaps long term, and the dangers Russia's aspirations to become a global power pose to its "near abroad" and to the interests of the United States.

Excerpts from the article:

. . . If the conditions which supported democratic change and reform in Georgia and Ukraine are any guide, President Putin has orchestrated a sustained and methodical campaign to eliminate not only democratic forces in civil and political life, but also the possibility of such forces arising again in the future. I do not think that it is accurate to say that democracy is in retreat in Russia. Democracy has been assassinated in Russia.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov wrote, "A country that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of its neighbors," and this is an admonition to hold in mind when assessing the overall direction of Putin's policies. Rather than simply label Russia as an autocracy or as a borderline dictatorship, it is probably more accurate and useful for this Committee to regard Russia as an "anti-democratic state" locked in what its leadership imagines is a competition with the West for control of the "post-Soviet space."

. . .To put it bluntly, the growing view in Putin's inner circle is that in order to regain the status of a world power in the 21st century, Russia must be undemocratic at home (in order to consolidate the power of the state) and it must be anti-democratic in its "near abroad" (in order to block the entry of perceived political competitors, such as the European Union or NATO, invited into post-Soviet space by new democracies.) The war on terror is not central to this calculation and is little more than something to discuss with credulous Americans from time to time.

Again, the statements of Gleb Pavlovsky confirm understandable suspicions about Russian intentions. Shortly after the election of Victor Yushchenko as President of Ukraine, Pavlovsky urged the Kremlin to adopt a policy of "pre-emptive counter-revolution" towards any neighbor of Russia which manifested politically dangerous democratic proclivities. Another of the so-called "polit-technologists" Sergei Markov, who also advises President Putin, has called for the formation of a Russian organization to counter the National Endowment for Democracy, whose purpose would be to prevent European and American NGO's from reaching democratic movements anywhere in the Commonwealth of Independent States, in other words in post-Soviet space. (There is, of course, not the slightest reference to countering militant fundamentalism or Islamic terrorist cells in any of this.)

. . .In Ukraine, the massive scale of Russian interference and President Putin's personal involvement in the recent fraudulent presidential elections is well-known. Most analysts believe that the Kremlin spent in excess of $300m and countless hours of state television time in the attempt to rig the election for Victor Yanukovich. What may be less well known to this Committee is that explosives used in the botched assassination attempt on Victor Yushchenko and the dioxin poison that almost succeeded in killing him both almost certainly came from Russia. Western diplomats and numerous Ukrainian officials in Kiev say privately that the investigation into these repeated assassination attempts is expected to lead to Russian organized crime and, ultimately, will be traced to Russian intelligence services. There is mounting evidence that the murder of political opposition figures in neighboring countries is seen by some factions of the Russian security services, such as the GRU, as being a legitimate tool of statecraft, as it was in the dark years of the Soviet Union.

. . .The policies of Russia and the conduct of President Putin are growing increasingly eccentric and seem to be motivated more by an angry romanticism, than by a rational calculation of national interest. Putin's insistence in an interview with Russia journalists at the time that there were no casualties in the slaughter in the Nord-Ost Theater is revealing. Putin was only conscious of casualties among the Russian security services; the lives of civilians did not figure in his calculus. As everyone knows, the unpredictable and uncalculated use of power in international politics is highly dangerous. In a word, we are not dealing with a benevolent autocracy; we are now dealing with a violent and vulgar "thuggery."

(6) And, finally, President Putin's plan cannot possibly work. Both strategically and economically, Russia cannot support itself as a world power and cannot feed its people with an economy run by the Kremlin. Thus, if these trends are not reversed, Putin will bring about the second collapse of Moscow which may well be far more dangerous and violent than the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989. It was precisely this outcome, the return to empire and the resultant collapse, that US policy has been trying to avert since the fall of the Berlin Wall. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) advised presciently some years ago, a critical challenge for US policy will be "to manage the decline of Soviet power." So far, we are not meeting this challenge.

. . .A stern and public rebuke to Putin may cause Russia to rethink the self-destructive path on which it has embarked and serve to protect the long-term democratic prospects and future prosperity of Russia and its neighbors. It would also send a message of hope to embattled democrats inside Russia and the beleaguered democracies on its borders. Let us hope that President Bush (news - web sites) delivers this message to Putin next week in Bratislava.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Kuchma takes the waters (or is that a powder?)

By Aussiegirl

What infamous ex-President of Ukraine, whose initials are L.K., is hiding out - er -vacationing in a luxurious villa in the spa town of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, with a woman who, according to papparazzi, does not resemble his wife?

And could his absence from Ukraine have anything to do with a pending murder investigation? He is said to be taking the waters and his "treatment" may last 3 or 4 weeks, or as long as his doctors tell him it is necessary. We wish him a speedy recovery so he may speedily rejoin the business at hand in his beloved Ukraine.

Let's revisit the Orange Revolution

By Aussiegirl

Check out this great site for loads of wonderful photos of this group of election watchers in Ukraine. Great shots of Kyiv at night with all the crowds.

Sale of Steel Mill ruled illegal

By Aussiegirl

Washington Post takes an in-depth look at Thursday's court ruling which declared that the privatization of Ukraine's largest steel mill, Kryvorizhstal was illegal. This reversed the court's own previous ruling. It had been sold to Viktor Pinchuk, Kuchma's son-in-law and an associate, for a much lower bid than that offered by several American and Russian companies. It is the opening salvo in the new administration's aim to clean up what has been seen as fraudulent deals which enriched a number of Kuchma cronies.

Showing his eagerness to get along, Pinchuk quickly recognized the ruling of the court and vowed to follow the law. (in another report I read that he had offered to make up the difference between his own bid and whatever bid comes in highest at the next sale). His lawyer of course, decried the ruling as "illegal".


Yushchenko has called the mill's sale for $800 million a theft. He pledged earlier this week that his government would return the mill to the state "at any cost." He has said that if the mill is put up for a transparent resale open to foreign bidders, the government might receive more than double what it sold it for last year.

Andriy Dmytrenko, an analyst with the Kiev-based Dragon Capital investment bank, called the court ruling "one of [the] first steps in the process of the cancellation of murky privatization deals."

. . .Analysts have warned that a massive re-privatization could be used as political revenge by the new leadership against Kuchma loyalists and could scare potential investors.

Yushchenko tried to dissipate those fears Monday, telling an investment conference that a list of enterprises to come under scrutiny "will be limited and final and will not be extended after its completion."

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said Wednesday that the government would investigate the privatization of about 3,000 enterprises to learn whether they had been sold at discounts to tycoons connected with the former government.

Dmytrenko said that the government should develop "an elaborate mechanism of repossessing illegally privatized companies" to avoid "a situation similar to Russia's Yukos."

That's about what it's worth

By Aussiegirl

Headline in the Herald Sun:
"Chernobyl metal sold for crap"

If this wasn't so tragic it would be funny -- so much of life is that way.

"Comedy -- tragedy viewed from a distance"~~Aussiegirl

Read more:

PIECES of metal from the Chernobyl nuclear power station in northern Ukraine, scene of the world's worst civil nuclear disaster in 1986, are to be sold for scrap.

Olexandre Smyshliayev, the director of the public company, Chernobylskaya, which ran the former power station, today said part of the plant would be cut up and sold by weight to help pay for reinforcing the sarcophagus of the damaged reactor.

He was quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency as saying all the material to be taken from the site had been tested by the authorities for levels of radiation and had been found to be "clean".

The scrap metal, which will go on sale in March, will come from sections of the plant farthest from the reactor, which is at the heart of the contaminated zone. The director said that no material from the reinforced concrete sarcophagus that surrounds the reactor would be sold.

The sarcophagus is currently threatening to collapse.

Russia could be the biggest customer for the scrap metal as it still operates power stations similar to the one in Chernobyl.

In April 1986, the core of the fourth reactor at the Chernobyl plant exploded and for 10 days spewed radioactive material equivalent to more than 200 Hiroshima bombs into the air, contaminating large swathes of Europe, particularly neighbouring Belarus.

The Soviet government said 31 people were killed on the spot.

According to UN figures, between 15,000 and 30,000 have died since the disaster in 1986 and nearly 6 million people continue to live in contaminated zones.

Chernobyl was finally closed in December 2000 with international financial aid, only part of which has been paid.

The international community has raised more than 720 million euros ($1.19bn) for the construction of a 20,000-tonne steel case to cover the present sarcophagus, which was built in a rush after the accident. That must be completed by 2008.

Chernobyl to get a new cover

By Aussiegirl

The following news from
a news site in Moscow:

Work has begun to repair the sarcophagus that was hastily built in 1986 to contain the radioactive debris of Chernobyl's No. 4 reactor, after experts warned it was so old it could collapse at any minute.

Workers will only be able to spend a few minutes at a time at the site, which is still spewing radiation, so they will have to plan out each step of the reconstruction in detail, the Vesti news program reported.
Plans to repair the shelter were underway for several years, but it was only recently, with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko elected in December, that the funding was found.

With the inauguration last month of President Yushchenko, a pro-Western former opposition leader, new authorities have taken power in Ukraine who enjoy enormous American and European goodwill. As a result, financial backing for the project came from abroad.

Repair plans include adding a second shelter around the old one. "Shelter 2" is a huge 19,800-ton steel arch designed to be assembled nearby, then slid into place on rails to minimize workers' radiation exposure. The sarcophagus is designed to last at least 100 years, providing improved conditions for further stabilization work and eventual cleanup of radioactive debris isolated inside.

A Valentine for a dear friend

By BonnieBlueFlag

Valentine's Day this year brought the usual bouquets of flowers, and big red hearts filled with fine chocolates and tied up in fancy ribbons.

This year, however, all of our hearts were broken, when we learned that someone so near and so very dear to us, had been diagnosed with cancer.

Almost with one voice, we all asked how could this be, he is so young, so much a part of our everyday lives, that we cannot help but feel that he belongs to each of us in a very special way.

Some of us learned about it alone while listening to him on the radio, others were more fortunate to have the immediate fellowship of Lucianne's many Ldotters. Lucianne graciously provided us with the opportunity to pray together for his quick recovery.

With very little prompting, his AOL e-mail address was inundated with notes of encouragement and additional prayers and good wishes. His mail box was completely filled in a matter of hours.

By this time, I'm sure that you know of whom I am speaking, our dear friend, Tony Snow.

Tony was born Robert Anthony Snow in the small Appalachian town of Berea, Kentucky. Berea is located 35 miles south of Lexington, in an area known for Appalachian traditions and music mixed with southern hospitality and charm.

Tony was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and then went on to receive a bachelor's degree in philosophy in 1977 from Davidson College, North Carolina. He continued to study philosophy and economics at the University of Chicago. Tony taught school in Kenya and in Cincinnati, he also worked on behalf of the mentally ill and disabled in North Carolina.

His career as a journalist began in 1979 as an editorial writer for "The Greensboro Record" in North Carolina. Tony also worked for "The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot," "The Daily Press" in Newport News, Virginia, "The Detroit News," and "The Washington Times."

In 1991 Tony served as Deputy Assistant to President George H. W. Bush (41) for Communications and Director of Speechwriting. On March 19, 1992, President Bush announced the appointment of Robert Anthony Snow as Deputy Assistant to the President for Media Affairs.
Then in 1996 Tony joined the FOX Broadcasting network, and casually charmed all of us. We grew to be very fond of this intelligent, polite but firm man, who was able to interview his guests in a precise but gentle manner.

Tony and his wife, Jill, were married in 1987 and have three children, a son and two daughters. Various published articles mention that the family also includes two or three dogs, two cats and three guinea pigs. The picture of a wonderful American family. A family that will now have to deal with the stress of a serious illness, a family that will need all of our prayers and good wishes for many months to come.

Tony, Jill and family, we are sending you all the biggest Valentine ever.� One that is filled with our love and prayers and best wishes, and tied up in fancy ribbons.

by BonnieBlueFlag

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Moody's in a good mood re Ukraine

By Aussiegirl

Moody's Investors Service
on Thursday changed the outlook on Ukraine to stable from developing on relative political stability reached in recent weeks.

Justice for Georgiy Gongadze

By Aussiegirl

The poster reads: Kuchma - where is Gongadze?

Reporters Without Borders is demanding a complete and thorough investigation into the Georgiy Gongadze case, as news came today that the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office had called for new DNA tests to be conducted by German and Swiss experts to determine conclusively that the headless corpse found in a Kyiv suburb ditch was indeed that of the crusading journalist, who is widely believed to have been murdered on orders from President Kuchma or his close associates. Earlier DNA tests requested by his mother established within a 99.991% range that the body was related to her, so there is little doubt that it is indeed Gongadze's body.

The worldwide press freedom organization said that Viktor Yushchenko must do everything possible to follow the case up to the highest levels in order to clear up conclusively the case which has already dragged on for more than 4 years.

I am confident that the Yushchenko government will do everything in its power to follow this investigation to a satisfactory conclusion. Leaving corruption like this to fester will eventually rot the entire body politic, even if the previous administration is out of office. Malfeasance, corruption, bribery -- these things can be swept under the rug in order to maintain some peace in transition, much as the Bush administration did not want to make a big deal out of the childish vandalism that was committed by the outgoing Clintonites. There is a certain comity and pardon allowed to former presidents, lest future presidents become subject to hounding and imprisonment following their leaving office.

But murder should never be allowed to go unpunished -- especially murder intended to silence political speech. Gongadze ran an internet news site called Pravda.com which was highly critical of the Kuchma government.

Internet bloggers and newshounds take note, some of your counterparts in many parts of the world risk their very lives to report the truth. The right of free speech means nothing without the right to life.


"We will not be fobbed off with the mere window-dressing of yet another DNA test only intended to demonstrate the new Ukrainian authorities' goodwill to international opinion and the journalist's family.

"It is more than time for the entire truth to be told about this horrifying case and new tests are not enough," said the organisation.

. . But Reporters Without Borders said that revelations made throughout 2004 by the British daily The Independent, implicating former interior minister Yuri Kravchenko and highlighting the suspicious death in prison of former police officer Igor Goncharov, key witness in the case, had not resulted in the opening of a just and fair trial. Nor had any action been taken against former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, even though there was no evidence clearing him of blame.

Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world, as well as the right to inform the public and to be informed, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Reporters Without borders has nine national sections (in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom), representatives in Abidjan, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Montreal, Moscow, New York, Tokyo and Washington and more than a hundred correspondents worldwide.

From the Reagan Revolution to the Orange Revolution

By Aussiegirl

Bruce Bartlett, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and frequent columnist in the Washington Times and numerous other publications, recently wrote an article for the January 24, 2005 edition of the Weekly Standard entitled, "Ukraine's Reaganite First Lady: From the Reagan Revolution to the Orange Revolution", in which he offered a fascinating insight into Ukraine's new First Lady, Kateryna Yushchenko, from her days in Washington, when she and Mr. Bartlett worked together on a number of projects. Mr. Bartlett was instrumental in guiding her to several important positions she held in the State Department and White House liason offices before she decided to move to Ukraine in order to find a life for herself there. That is where she met Viktor Yushchenko in 1998, they have since married and have three children.

Here are a few revealing glimpses of Katya Yushchenko from his article:

. . . Although I have neither Ukrainian blood nor any special interest in foreign affairs, I have followed events in that country closely because a dear friend of mine, Katherine Chumachenko, is married to Yushchenko and about to become first lady of Ukraine. Leading up to the election, I was called by Russian "reporters" looking for information on Kathy, or Katya, as she prefers today. I should say that they were looking for dirt, because the Russian press and its counterparts in Ukraine have been telling terrible lies about her for some time, saying that she is a CIA agent and other untruths designed solely to undermine her husband's political support. I know that these things are untrue because I was intimately involved in several of her career moves, which are now portrayed as some sort of nefarious plot to move Kathy into a position of power in Ukraine. If anyone is responsible, I am; not the CIA.

. . . But after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, I could see that Kathy was becoming agitated about what might happen in Ukraine. While it seemed clear that most of Eastern Europe would soon free itself from the Soviet yoke, it was not at all certain that Ukraine would also be able to do so, since its position as a Russian vassal long predated the Soviet Union.

. . .Toward the end of 1991, Ukraine declared its independence, and there was no stopping Kathy from being part of it. Although born in Chicago to Ukrainian parents, she was always more Ukrainian in some ways than those born in Ukraine. She had been raised to speak Ukrainian and was thoroughly steeped in that nation's culture and history. And with a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago, she knew that she could help her people recover and prosper in a free economy.

Kathy left the JEC and began traveling back and forth to Kiev, where she hoped to establish some sort of business. But the situation was very precarious, even for someone with family there. For example, I recall her telling me that she could not buy a car because auto theft was rampant. But for less than a car payment, she was able to hire a full-time car and driver. She told me that her driver slept in the car to prevent it from being stolen.

. . . Although Ukraine became independent, it took a long time before it was able to shed its Communist legacy. I recall Kathy telling the story of a reception in Kiev, where she struck up a conversation with one of the attendees. To her surprise, he knew all about her. It turned out that he had worked for the Ukrainian KGB and had been assigned to follow her career, since she was one of the more prominent Ukrainians in the United States. Kathy asked him what he was doing now, and he said he was running for the parliament--against one of her cousins, in fact.

. . . I haven't seen Kathy since before her marriage, so I have no personal knowledge of their relationship. But knowing her as I do, I think it says a great deal for the new president of Ukraine that he won her heart.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Well, that's mighty big of them

By Aussiegirl

The Los Angeles Times reports that Russia has decided not to arrest Yulia Tymoshenko (on trumped up charges) upon her arrival in Moscow.
Russia will not arrest Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko if she travels to Moscow, though criminal charges against her remain in force, local media quoted Russia's prosecutor general as saying.

As a senior government official, Tymoshenko enjoys immunity from arrest, Vladimir Ustinov said.
(No relation to Peter Ustinov, the recently departed British actor famed for playing Nero and other sissified decadent Roman types, I presume.)

You try democratizing Belarus!

By Aussiegirl

Check out Daniel Drezner for some interesting articles and comments relating to democratizing Belarus ala the Orange Revolution.

The muddle in the huddle

By Aussiegirl

Kremlin economic muddle

While Yushchenko and Tymoshenko waste no time in restucturing and dragging Ukraine's economy in line with other western economies in preparation for WTO and EU membership, Russia is going in the opposite direction. Why am I not surprised?

Forbes has an in depth analysis of the muddles in the huddles of the Kremlin that will make any economic policy wonk go gaga. Here's just a sample of the much longer article:

Global Strategic Analysis
Policymaking Muddle In Russia
Oxford Analytica

While frictions between members of the same team in a national administration are common, the situation in Russia is unusual in that some disagreements are both fundamental and publicly aired. Also, there have been a series of muddles that indicate an unusual lack of coherence in the public administration.

The fundamental policy split in Russia's policymaking elite is between liberals and statists. The controversy over the state's attack on the Yukos oil company has revealed this split most clearly, but that is not the only matter at issue between the two camps. The division is between those who broadly favor free markets and private enterprise and those who have a traditional Russian preoccupation with national security and put more trust in the state as an economic manager.

The clearest liberal voices inside the state machine are German Gref, head of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, and presidential adviser Andrei Illarionov. However, senior officials in MERT and the Ministry of Finance broadly continue to pursue a liberal line.

(And let's not forget that all-important macro-economic factor -- yes -- Evgeny Primakov attacks Gref's 3-year projection as being "idologically flawed". They just can't forget that ideology stuff, can they?)

. . .Closely connected with this issue of state intervention is a controversy over medium-term growth prospects. MERT has the chore of devising rolling three-year projections of the economy as a framework for policy. President Vladimir Putin has been calling for a doubling of gross domestic product over ten years, but Gref's team continues to come up with projections well below the average required rate of 7.2% a year. They say that growth at a rate above 7% is unlikely before 2011 and requires a faster pace of reform. Yevgeny Primakov, a former prime minister and now a member of the upper house of parliament, described Gref's latest three-year projections as "ideologically flawed" and as "ignoring the crimes and mistakes of the 1990s." A "new phase of policy" was now needed.

Primakov's criticism of Gref is an example of a widespread phenomenon: courtiers and underlings displaying their zeal for what they see as the new turn in Kremlin policy, and creating more trouble for senior policymakers in the process.
(Some things never change.)

I guess this means there won't be a Kuchma Presidential Library

By Aussiegirl

Why is this woman smiling?

It looks like Kuchma will not escape the wrath of crusading Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as she looks into depriving Kuchma of a cushy set of retirement benefits, which include an exclusive dacha, 2 cars, cook, maid, generous monthly pension and other goodies. True to form, "Nasha Yulia" (our Yulia) as she is known, has included a review of Kuchma's retirement package as part of her general house cleaning -- or should we say stable cleaning -- when it comes to the mess left behind by the former corrupt government. Kuchma had once thrown Tymoshenko in prison on trumped up charges which have all since been dismissed as baseless. It's not nice to fool with Nasha Yulia.

According to a good article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, these are the least of his troubles. The matter of the murder of crusading journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, whose headless corpse turned up in a Kyiv suburb, is still hanging over his head as Gongadze's mother, the country's Interior Minister and others demand that prosecution proceed on the matter. Kuchma is widely believed to be behind the murder, and there are tapes made by a disgruntled body guard that seem to bear this out. The case is becoming a cause-celebre in Ukraine and Yushchenko may have little choice but to pursue the matter, even if his preference might be to let sleeping ex-Presidents lie.

. . . In secret tapes made by a former bodyguard, the president was overheard repeatedly complaining about Gongadze's reporting and ordering then-Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko to "drive him out, throw (him) out, give him to the Chechens."
Kuchma has denied the authenticity of the tapes, and insists he had nothing to do with Gongadze's abduction.

. . .The new interior minister, Yuriy Lyutsenko, was one of those who joined the street rallies in 2000 for Kuchma's impeachment over the journalist's killing. Heorhiy Omelchenko, one of Kuchma's most aggressive parliamentary foes, has formally requested the arrest of Kuchma. So far, the prosecutor's office has not responded.

If Kuchma isn't arrested, Omelchenko warns, he'll claim cover-up. "It'll mean there is a secret - and illegal - agreement ... that Kuchma can't be touched."

. . .Yushchenko, a Western-oriented reformer whose wife is American, has a reputation as a compromiser, but his anger at the former regime's attempts to discredit him runs deep. During a visit last week to Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, a region that overwhelmingly backed his rival, Yanukovych, the new president lashed out at officials who in 2003 decorated the city with cartoon posters depicting him dressed in a Nazi uniform.

Reminding the crowd that his father was imprisoned in Auschwitz, he asked: "Who ordered these posters? Who hung these up? ... I don't want to forgive this."

Still, those close to Kuchma insist he is not worried.
"He is optimistic," said son-in-law Pinchuk. "I think he's expecting a normal, full life as a member of the club of ex-presidents."
(Nice to know that Kuchma has not lost his legendary sunny disposition.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Is There Orange in Lebanon's Future?

By Aussiegirl

Check out A Window on the Arab World, and More! for an article on how Lebanon might potentially become the Ukraine of the Middle East. Here's a short excerpt:

Lebanon in Revolution: The Ukraine of the Middle East?

By Kirk Sowell

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri has been assassinated by a suicide bomber. A Shia terrorist group calling itself "Victory and Jihad" has taken credit, and the Lebanese opposition is blaming Syria, of whom Hariri was a critic.

I was just watching a news report on Al-Jazeera covering this, and it is looking like Lebanon, once known as the "Switzerland of the Middle East," may soon become the Ukraine of the Middle East. The crowds gathering in the streets and the political opposition's press conference certainly reminded me of recent events in that country. Syria has long maintained control over Lebanon's political system, and overt opposition - rare in the Arab world - has been growing louder and louder.

An Orange Revolution in Byeloruss?

By Aussiegirl

A commentary in the Wall Street Journal lays out the possibilities of an Orange Revolution in Byelorus, and why it may be more difficult to achieve there than it was in Ukraine. Although, I must say, that a year ago, or even when this election originally took place, I would have said the same thing about Ukraine. I was sure that the entrenched corrupt government, in league with Putin, held too many levers of power to allow a true reformer to come to power.

An interesting point among many in the article is the notion that one of the factors in the success of the revolution and democracy in Ukraine was the return of the diaspora -- Ukrainians living abroad who, like Kateryna Yushchenko, returned at the first opportunity to help the country of their parents and ancestors.


I was going to summarize the following speech, but on reading it find it such an excellent summary of recent momentous events in Ukraine that I thought I would reproduce it here in its entirety:

Ambassador John Tefft, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

Remarks to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations
Chicago, Illinois
February 7, 2005

I am very pleased to be with you today. I want to talk about the exciting events of the past three months in Ukraine and the role played by the United States. Against great odds, the Ukrainian people took an historic stand for democracy, and the United States stood by them. I also want to look forward and talk about the challenges that lie before Ukraine and the U.S. as we support the democratic process in that country.

One of the most interesting things about the "Orange Revolution" -- and I think "revolution" is probably not too strong a word for it -- was the extent to which it was a truly democratic movement, that is, a movement of the Ukrainian people to decide their own fate. This came through clearly in the many stories that emerged from Kiev's Independence Square, known in Ukrainian as the "Maidan." One of my favorite stories came from, of all people, the ambassador of Kazakhstan to Ukraine. The Kazakh ambassador told our Ambassador John Herbst that he visited the Maidan in the tense days before the Supreme Court decision of December 3rd mandating a re-run of the second-round vote. The Kazakh met a man from western Ukraine who said he had been working in Western Europe for a couple of years to earn money. He returned to Ukraine with $8,000 and all his belongings. Between the border and his home, the man had to pay $5,000 in bribes to various officials. When he got home, he was so angry that he used the remaining $3,000 to travel to Kiev to join the demonstrators to make sure that the system that stole his money was brought down. The Kazakh ambassador said that after talking to this man, he knew that the "Orange Revolution" would succeed.

Ukraine's Journey
The Ukrainian people's heroic stand for democracy in the last few months should not really surprise us. As dramatic as the recent events have been, they are part of a long, hard journey by the Ukrainian people in search of independence and self-determination.

Ukraine enjoyed a brief period of independence after World War I, but following several years of conflict and civil war, the western part of Ukraine was incorporated into Poland, and the central and eastern regions were incorporated into the Soviet Union. While the Ukrainian national idea would persevere, Ukraine suffered immeasurably during the Soviet period. In the 1930s, the Soviet authorities waged a campaign of terror against Ukrainians, creating an artificial famine (called the HolodoMOR in Ukrainian) that took the lives of many millions of innocent victims. World War II was another heavy blow to Ukraine, which lost millions of civilians and soldiers and suffered enormous destruction. In 1986, Ukrainians again suffered a tragedy of historic proportions with the explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear power station.

Ukraine regained its independence in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and set about the task of creating a modern, democratic, and economically prosperous state. Ukraine's success in this endeavor has been uneven. In some areas, its achievements are undeniable and laudable. Ukraine has strengthened its statehood, putting to rest the fears of those in the early 1990s who predicted that Ukraine could not survive as an independent country after years of Russian imperial, then Soviet, domination. Ukraine has also successfully rid itself of nuclear weapons, acceding to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state in 1994 and completing the transfer of its weapons to Russia in 1996. Ukraine's recent strong economic performance has been another major achievement. While much remains to be done in terms of economic reform, Gross Domestic Product over the last few years has grown at phenomenal rates.

Poor Record on Democracy and Human Rights
The one area where until very recently Ukraine has significantly lagged, however, has been in the development of democracy and human rights. In fact, in the period preceding the "Orange Revolution," Ukraine experienced a deterioration in its democracy and human-rights records. The latter Kuchma years were characterized by selective enforcement of laws, corruption, and growing government interference with the media through harassment, intimidation, and, in some cases, violent attacks against journalists. The murder of the journalist Heorhiy Gongadze in 2000, which earned Ukraine international condemnation, was one of the most notorious cases. (I would note, by the way, that President Yushchenko in his speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France, on January 25 said that the Gongadze case represented a moral challenge to his government and that it was important to act fast to resolve it.)
The negative trends of the late Kuchma years only accelerated during the 2004 presidential campaign. Let me give you some examples:

- We witnessed the harassment of, and attacks on, the opposition;

- Abuse of state resources to support the government's candidate, Prime Minister Yanukovych;

- A near-monopoly of media attention for Yanukovych;

- Violence and intimidation directed against independent media outlets; and

- Eleventh-hour attempts to change the Ukrainian Constitution to extend the authorities' hold on power.

This approach was carried over from the campaign to the conduct of the election itself. The first round of balloting on October 31 was plagued by numerous problems and irregularities, as detailed in the reports by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other reputable international and domestic election monitors. But if the first round represented a "step backwards" for Ukrainian democracy, as the OSCE found, the second round on November 21 featured even greater and more widespread fraud and abuse. Senator Richard Lugar, President Bush's special representative at the election in Ukraine, noted "a concerted and forceful program of election day fraud and abuse with either the leadership or cooperation of the governmental authorities." A U.S.-funded foreign NGO observer mission also described "a coordinated, systematic pattern of major violations leading to an outcome that does not reflect the will of the Ukrainian people."

Post-Election Crisis
On November 22, the Central Elections Commission (CEC) announced preliminary results showing Yanukovych in the lead. Yushchenko supporters began pouring into the streets wearing orange ribbons and scarves, the campaign color of the opposition. In Kiev, the demonstrators eventually numbered in the hundreds of thousands, despite daily temperatures below freezing. A number of municipal and regional councils declared Yushchenko the rightful president. Many government functionaries from various institutions declared their allegiance to the opposition. The latter included several diplomats at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, who issued a statement decrying fraud in the election, supporting Yushchenko as the winner, and calling on other members of the Ukrainian diplomatic corps to join their protest. Eventually, three hundred other diplomats reportedly signed their letter. To their credit, the Ukrainian military and other security forces remained on the sidelines of the crisis, though there were reports of troop movements at times and credible indications that government officials were, at one point, preparing to crack down on the protestors. In the east and south regions where support for Prime Minister Yanukovych was strongest�several governors declared that they would seek autonomy or even secession from Ukraine if Yushchenko were to be declared the winner; these calls were criticized by most Ukrainian leaders, including Kuchma, but not Yanukovych.

Resolving the Crisis
The Ukrainian leadership and government at first appeared stunned and surprised by the strong reaction of Ukrainians to the reports of fraud. They evidently believed that the demonstrations would melt away and protestors would return home as temperatures dropped and the finality of the results sank in. A precedent for such a scenario was set in 2001. Then, large-scale protests following revelations of the probable involvement of President Kuchma in Gongadze's disappearance and murder died out as protestors realized the government would not yield to their moral outrage. This time, however, the protestors were able to maintain discipline and their numbers did not decline and, in fact, increased with time. Their resolve appeared to strengthen after the Supreme Court's order on November 24 that the CEC's announcement of Yanukovych as the winner could not be promulgated (and thus become official) until the Court heard the opposition's case for election fraud.  With no apparent resolution of the crisis in sight, international mediation efforts were begun by Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski, Lithuanian President Valdus Adamkus, EU High Representative Javier Solana, and OSCE Secretary General Jan Kubis. A roundtable framework for negotiations was set up to include Yushchenko, Yanukovych, Kuchma, Parliament speaker Lytvyn, and the European mediators. The roundtable produced an agreement that included an opposition promise not to block government buildings, and renewed pledges from both sides to refrain from violence, reform electoral legislation, and preserve the country's territorial integrity. There was also a controversial pledge to adopt constitutional reforms, which had been rejected by the Rada last April but were still supported by President Kuchma. The constitutional change would shift significant power from the presidency to the Rada and prime minister. On December 3, after hearing testimony from both sides, the Supreme Court demonstrated a welcome independence and ruled that there had indeed been significant fraud in the second round vote, declared the vote invalid, and ordered a re-vote of round two by December 26.

A New Birth of Freedom and Democracy
Despite some irregularities, the December 26 re-vote of the second round was a great improvement. According to the OSCE assessment, the election "brought Ukraine substantially closer to meeting OSCE election commitments and Council of Europe and other European standards." Other observer missions, including the large mission mounted by Freedom House and the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO) -- which included observers from central and eastern Europe, including the countries of the former Soviet Union -- recognized the elections as valid, as did Ukraine's CEC. Only the official observer mission of the Commonwealth of Independent States (the organization of many former Soviet states) said its monitors had witnessed a large number of irregularities. The final results gave Yushchenko approximately 52 percent to Yanukovych's 44 percent. The turnout was 77 percent (compared with 75 percent on October 31, and 81 percent on November 21). Yanukovych said he would never concede defeat. His campaign filed thousands of complaints to local courts and polling stations, contending that new restrictions placed on "mobile ballot boxes" and absentee voting effectively disenfranchised millions of elderly and infirm voters. The Supreme Court rejected all his complaints, however, and eventually the inauguration went forward. President Yushchenko took the oath of office on January 23, as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians looked on at Independence Square and people all over the world watched with a sense of deep respect and solidarity.

Role of U.S. Policy
Nowhere were the feelings of joy and good will toward the Ukrainian people's accomplishment greater than in the United States. The U.S. has long been a strong supporter of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people's quest for freedom, independence, and democracy. The U.S. has been a leading nation in terms of assistance to Ukraine, and we were in the forefront of those members of the international community advocating an election process in Ukraine that was free, fair, and conformed to international democratic standards.

Indeed, from at least the fall of 2003, the presidential election was the primary focus of U.S.-Ukraine relations. Over a period of many months, the U.S. and our European allies repeatedly advised Ukrainian authorities, publicly and privately, that we were watching the election closely and considered it a test of Ukraine's commitment to democracy. The United States funded local civil society groups to conduct voter education and get-out-the-vote campaigns. We worked with independent media to improve coverage of campaign issues. We provided nonpartisan training to political parties and leaders, trained election officials and observers, and more. Our election-related assistance to Ukraine was approximately $18 million. Of particular note, the U.S. funded what we believe was an unprecedented election-observer effort, which turned out to be critical in spotlighting electoral fraud, particularly in the November 21 second round.

Some in the U.S. and abroad have accused the U.S. Government (USG) of interfering in Ukraine's affairs by supporting Yushchenko's candidacy. This is absolutely untrue. A careful review of our statements and actions would demonstrate to any unbiased observer that the USG at no time offered its support to any particular candidate. This was confirmed on December 30 by the Ukrainian Ministry of the Economy and European Integration, which is responsible for monitoring such things. We did, however, strongly support a democratic process in Ukraine, and I must say that I think the American people can be quite proud of the role that the United States played in helping to ensure that the will of the Ukrainian people was respected.  Beginning last February, a wide range of senior U.S. officials and prominent private citizens visited Ukraine carrying a strong message about the importance of democratic elections to Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration. These included Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Armitage, former President Bush, former Secretaries of State Albright and Kissinger, a number of Congressional delegations (CODELs) and, of course, Senator Lugar. The President asked Senator Lugar to return in November as his representative to deliver a letter to President Kuchma and observe the conduct of the voting.

The White House and the State Department communicated clearly our standards and expectations. Secretary Powell spoke frequently during the election crisis to President Kuchma, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, President Kwasniewski, EU High Representative Solana, and many others. At the crucial moment when the Central Election Commission announced that it had certified Prime Minister Yanukovych as the winner of the fraudulent second round, Secretary Powell spoke out publicly, saying that the United States could not accept that result as legitimate. President Bush issued a statement saying that the "United States stands with the Ukrainian people at this difficult time." Many Ukrainians have told us that these statements, in particular, were seen in Ukraine as a watershed in terms of international reaction to the election. President Bush, who spoke with Presidents Kwasniewski and Adamkus during the crisis, made known his strong support and deep appreciation for the mediation efforts of European leaders. The day before the Ukrainian inauguration, President Bush called President-elect Yushchenko to congratulate him and to commend him and other Ukrainians for the courage they showed in standing up for democracy. This was appropriately the President's first phone call to a foreign leader after his inauguration speech, in which he emphasized his support for freedom and democracy. Secretary Powell -- in one of his last official acts as Secretary of State -- attended President Yushchenko's inauguration as President Bush's representative.

As for Russia, we discussed repeatedly with Russian officials our concern over the conduct of the Ukrainian campaign and elections and the role of Russian citizens in that process. We consistently encouraged the Russian Government to join other states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in organizing common monitoring and mediation activities to promote a free and fair election that reflects the will of the Ukrainian people. We urged them to refrain from any activities that could limit Ukrainians' ability to choose freely. And we urged them not to view Ukraine in traditional "sphere of influence" terms, but to work together with Europe and us. As Secretary Powell said in Sofia, Bulgaria, at the early December OSCE Ministerial conference, "You can have friends to the East and to the West and it is not a matter of a 'sphere of influence.' It is a matter of allowing a country to choose how it wishes to be governed and who it wishes to have as its friends."

Long-Term U.S. Policy
U.S. strategic interests in Ukraine have remained steady for more than a dozen years and will continue unchanged. The U.S. wants to see Ukraine develop as a secure, independent, democratic, and economically prosperous country that respects human rights, has good relations with its neighbors, and increasingly draws closer to European and Euro-Atlantic institutions.
President Yushchenko faces many challenges in trying to realize this vision.

Expectations of him among the Ukrainian people are already high -- and rising; meeting those expectations will be a serious challenge. Large majorities in Russian-speaking eastern and southern Ukraine opposed him, and some regional officials there have, as I have said, spoken of federation, autonomy, and even secession. His anti-corruption policies will directly challenge those Ukrainians who have used corrupt practices to enrich themselves. He will have to work hard to maintain a working majority in the parliament, which will be essential to enacting his legislative agenda. Yushchenko went to Moscow for his first foreign visit. He declared Ukraine and Russia to be "eternal strategic partners," while at the same time reiterating his intention to pursue integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. But eventual membership in the EU and NATO will depend on Ukraine's willingness to implement difficult political, economic, and military reforms. We stand ready to help Ukraine as it launches on this path.

Indeed, U.S. policies toward Ukraine in the aftermath of the election are designed to help the new president and his government meet these goals. We have already unveiled some of these programs. For example, the U.S. has just announced that it will assume lead-nation status in a NATO - Partnership-for-Peace program to assist Ukraine in the destruction of excess and outmoded small arms, munitions, and the very dangerous portable surface-to-air missiles (MANPADS). This is the largest program of its kind ever undertaken anywhere and will take a dozen years to complete. It meets a critical need, as there have been several fatal explosions in the past year at Ukrainian munitions depots. The U.S. is also prepared to make an additional contribution in the tens of millions of dollars to the construction of a new safe containment structure (called the Chornobyl Shelter Implementation Program SIP), which will completely cover the deteriorating old Chornobyl sarcophagus. We are encouraging our G-7 colleagues to do the same. Finally, the Bush Administration will seek to increase significantly assistance to Ukraine, including through the FREEDOM Support Act, to support the new government's reformist plans.

Beyond these immediate measures, we will work closely with the Ukrainian Government on a number of other issues that Ukraine has designated as priorities. One of these is "graduation" from the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the Trade Act of 1974, a measure passed by the U.S. Congress during the Soviet era to force the USSR to permit more liberalized emigration for Jews and other minorities. Ukraine has met all requirements of the legislation, and the Administration hopes Congress will soon address the issue.   Accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) is another priority for Ukraine. The U.S. strongly supports Ukrainian accession, but Ukraine will need to make progress in several areas of economic reform and adopt several pieces of legislation before it can do so. We are planning meetings with Ukrainian legislators and officials of the new government to discuss accession-related issues and to explore ways to offer Ukraine additional technical assistance on WTO issues.

A third important consideration is Ukraine's relationship with NATO. U.S. policy toward Ukraine and NATO is no different from that toward earlier aspirants: the United States is prepared to support Ukraine, if it so chooses, in its efforts to draw closer to, and ultimately enter, the Alliance, provided that Ukraine takes and implements the decisions needed -- for defense, economic, and political reform -- to meet the standards of NATO.

What happened last December 26 with the final vote was a major step in the right direction. NATO already has a substantial and important relationship with Ukraine within the framework of the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine (signed July 9, 1997). NATO has advised Ukraine on the content of its annual Action Plan goals on defense, economic, and political reform. The decision on whether to speed up Ukraine's reform efforts belongs to the new Ukrainian leadership. If they do, the U.S. will support their decision. I am also pleased to note that NATO and Ukraine have just last week announced that they would hold a summit meeting later in February during President Bush's visit to Brussels.
President Yushchenko has set as one of his main priorities a closer relationship with, and eventual membership for Ukraine in, the European Union. The EU has invited Ukraine to participate in its new European Neighborhood Policy, and the parties have negotiated a draft Action Plan for strengthening relations. The Action Plan calls for strengthening Ukraine's democratic institutions, especially with respect to free elections, freedom of expression, and media freedom. Similarly, Europe hopes to see Ukraine make progress on improving its investment climate, which involves transparent and predictable conditions for doing business, improving rule of law, and fighting corruption. It's a challenging agenda, but in many ways it coincides with the priorities Yushchenko has already articulated. Europe has made clear the importance it places on a stable, democratic Ukraine, and the U.S. anticipates closer relations between Ukraine and the EU and will actively look for ways to coordinate with them.
Ukraine's deployment in Iraq has been another important bilateral issue. The U.S. deeply appreciates Ukraine's troops in Iraq, which number just under 1,600, one of the largest contingents in the Multinational Force. The Ukrainian brigade operates in the Polish-led division in the south-central sector of Iraq and has played an important role in securing freedom for the Iraqi people. While President Yushchenko has set withdrawal of Ukrainian troops as an eventual goal, he has assured the U.S. that Ukraine would only do so as the situation warranted and in close consultation with coalition partners. More broadly, he has made clear his intention to work with us as a responsible partner on international challenges.

Finally, I should note the large number of high-level visits that we have planned for U.S. officials going to Ukraine and for Ukrainian leaders coming to the U.S. As I mentioned earlier, Secretary Powell attended President Yushchenko's January 23 inauguration as President Bush's representative. On January 26, Vice President Cheney met with President Yushchenko in Poland and reaffirmed U.S. support for his leadership and vision. We have invited President Yushchenko to visit Washington for official talks. The President may have an opportunity to see President Yushchenko during the NATO-Ukraine Summit later this month in Brussels. Of course, we expect as well a large number of Congressional delegations and executive-branch officials to travel to Ukraine in the months to come, as Congress considers how it can play its part to support reform and democracy in Ukraine.
I began this talk with a story from the Maidan, and I would like to conclude with another. This one comes from one of our political officers at the Embassy who spent quite a bit of time on the Maidan talking to the demonstrators and monitoring developments. He noticed that a group of Crimean Tatars with their distinctive flag seemed never to leave the area around the rostrum. The Crimean Tatars were amongst those peoples deported wholesale from their homelands to Central Asia by the Stalinist government at the end of WW II for alleged disloyalty. It was only in the 1990s that they began returning home. Our officer asked the group on the Maidan why they were there. They replied:

Those of us who have suffered collectively and individually understand what has been at stake here over the past five weeks, for our own future and for the country. We had to travel here to Maidan from Crimea to add our voice and support to the Orange Revolution. When Yushchenko is inaugurated President, we'll be back; watch for our flags up front.

Sure enough, when Yushchenko was inaugurated the first flag behind the camera stand directly in front of the rostrum was a Crimean Tatar standard, its inverse trident dancing above the crowd. Because of the built-up stands where the choirs, cameras, and bands were situated, our officer couldn't see the people who were holding the flag, but he didn't really need to; he knew they were there.
Ukraine now moves from the drama of revolution to the more mundane -- but no less important -- work of reforming its polity, economy, and society. But this work, too, will require heroism as Ukrainians make difficult choices and new sacrifices. The U.S. is ready and willing to help them in this effort, and we look forward to a new and increasingly close and mutually beneficial relationship with Ukraine. Thank you.