crisis impact the terror war? Today Frontpage Symposium welcomes a distinguished panel:
FP: John Radzilowski, John Swails and Rachel Enhrenfeld, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Mr. Radzilowski, let me begin with you. The events in Ukraine obviously affect U.S.-Russian relations. They are also about people power and democracy, which sends out significant signals to oppressed peoples behind the Islamist Curtain. This is all a pretty big and complicated picture, but overall, if it is possible to start with a simple theme, are the events positive or negative developments for the War on Terror?
Radzilowski: Positive in the long term. A stable democratic Ukraine will eliminate one possible transhipment point and a source for weapons going to terrorists and terrorist-supporting states. Over the long term, it may also eliminate a source of money laundering. The Ukrainian opposition is very pro-American (at least at present), so a new government is likely to support U.S. goals to the extent that it can. On the other hand, Ukraine's internal problems--which are very serious--mean that Ukraine may not be a major player in any international military coalition. Policies pursued by the Kuchma government--which included sending a contingent of troops to Iraq may be reversed but it is too early to tell. Ukraine may also serve as a very visible symbol to elements in an Iran or a Cuba of what can be accomplished if the time is right. If America's interests emphasize the spread of freedom and democracy, the event of the past month can only be seen as positive.
FP: Dr. Swails?
Swails: First, let me commend to any who may not have seen already the article in Commentary by Norman Podhoretz "World War IV," an excellent statement of the issues involved in the use of that term. As to the Ukraine, I can agree that the present situation there may be viewed as positive in the long term. My immediate concerns have to do with the effort being made right now by Ukrainian forces in Iraq. This is a real time and definite commitment to the war, a way in which the Ukraine is taking a stand. I suggest that the impact of that involvement goes beyond the actual number of troops on the ground. I am troubled by statements attributed to Yuschenko during the campaign which indicated he favored a withdrawal of those troops and with that perhaps the assumption of a position similar to the European Union, a position I believe to be one of appeasement and denial. In my opinion, a decision to maintain that troop presence or even to increase the level of commitment would be a far greater direct positive contribution to the war. To withdraw or step down would be from my point of view negative.
FP: Dr. Ehrenfeld?
Ehrenfeld: Like Dr. Swails, I’m concerned by the anti-American statements attributed to Mr. Yuschenko and his commitment to withdraw the Ukrainian forces from Iraq, since Iraq has become the battleground against Fundamentalist Islam - a battle that the US and the West must win. Most European governments, including now Mr. Yuschenko, object to this war and see it as American expansionism. Thus, as Dr. Swails had said, the withdrawal of the Ukrainian troops would have negative effect on the US War on Terrorism. As for other benefits steaming from the Orange Revolution, I doubt it has a meaningful effect on either Cuba or Iran, or on the Ukrainian illegal arms traffic. After all, some of our European allies engage in a similar activity. However, I hope that the democratic feelings awakened in the Ukrainian people will have a long term effect.
Radzilowski: It is not clear whether Ukrainian troops will be pulled out or not. Ukrainian troops were sent to Iraq by outgoing President Kuchma, the same fellow who was helping Saddam rebuild his air defense system. While the presence of Ukrainian troops in Iraq is certainly positive, the underlying lesson is that undemocratic, amoral regimes are not reliable allies for a war that will last for perhaps decades. Ukraine's participation in the effort in Iraq was not a major issue during the recent crisis. Simply put this is not an issue that the Ukrainians care about a great deal at this moment.
In general the mood on the streets of Kyiv was distinctly pro-American and pro-European. Policy clashes between the US and EU were not the radar screen. In light of this, the presence of Ukrainian troops in Iraq can be something of a bargaining chip for the new administration to curry favor either with the U.S. or the Europeans. If the U.S. maintains strong support for democracy in Ukraine, it will be harder for the new team to justify an early pull out.
The EU's support for Ukrainian democracy is already waivering and there is deep ambivalence about any sort of involvement there among the Eurocrats and among the established EU members. Yuschenko needs continued support from either the US or the EU (preferrably both) and I suspect that Ukraine's involvement in Iraq will very much depend on who is backing him. Finally, it is also important to recall that Ukraine is in an extended economic crisis and its commitment in Iraq is costly. Any responsible fiscal reform must reduce the bloated public sector and Ukraine's contingent could fall prey to economic realities. All politics is local.
As far as arms sales go, pointing to illegal sales by other European countries is not a helpful comparison. Ukraine's role in arm trafficking may not end under a democratic government but it will certainly never end under a continuation of the Kuchma mafia-regime. In Western Europe, illegal arms sales are still considered illegal and their public exposure brings embarrassment and censure. Right next to Ukraine in the so-called Trans-Dniestr region (a breakaway from Moldova run by Russian-supported mafia) one can practically buy a shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile on the street corner. The scale of corruption is far beyond anything in Western Europe.
Swails: The point was made that "undemocratic, amoral regimes" make for unreliable allies in a long term war. On the face of it the statement is true. But I must protest that this is very comprehensive statement about the Ukrainian government and could be contested in its full application. It does, however, seem to be a moot point as we are now informed that the Ukrainian parliament has voted unanimously to withdraw all their troops from Iraq. And following a suicide attack in which 8 Ukrainian soldiers were killed, Defense officials there have stated that they want to carry this withdrawal out as soon as possible. This, of course, tends to confirm my concerns that a withdrawal would be imminent upon the election of Yuschenko. It may be, after all, that he will stand firm and retain some sort of Ukrainian troop commitment on the ground in Iraq. I would hope that he does this because I consider a withdrawal to be a retrograde step in the war against terror.
I have no trouble accepting that there is widespread good feeling for the United States and a withdrawal would not be a part of anti-American expressions. I do hope the new government in the Ukraine would begin to make closer connections with the U.S. and not fall into the general opposition to the U.S. that seems to be predominant in the EU. The Ukraine is exceptionally important in the world affairs right now not just because of the elections and what they might mean. It is important because of the strategic position of the country, the influence that the Ukraine has in the region, but most of all because of the incredible vitality and potential this country has for growth and betterment. These very qualities make it so important that the Ukraine stay in the war.
I join in hoping that the elections result in the spread and thorough implementation of democracy in the Ukraine. I saw the serious effort being made in precinct after precinct in the November 21st election. The citizens were determined to have a open and fair election. That bodes well for the future.
Ehrenfeld: In addition, or perhaps because of his intent to act against American interests by removing the Ukrainian forces from Iraq, Yushchenko has become the darling of the Europeans.
Just as a reminder: Yushchenko, is not a political outsider or an anti- oligarch is we are led to believe. As prime minister he was actively involved in selling major national economic assets to foreigners, much below their value. Could that be a reason for George Soros’ support of Yushchenko?
While these sales had negative effects on the economy and caused greater unemployment, Yushchenko’s friends got richer. Clearly, his transformation – unfortunate physically, but successful politically, translated already to the European parliament’s endorsement of entering Ukraine into the European Union. One can only hope that with more Western influence, the people of Ukraine will demand and achieve better transparency and accountability from the new government than that we witnessed during the election.
Radzilowski: The vote of the Ukrainian parliament is not binding and is being engineered by the so-called ex-communists and there's a desire to get revenge for America's support of democratic transformation in Ukraine. There are clear divisions within the opposition on this question, but so far it is not a coalition breaker. There is no evidence that Yuschenko is planning to act against U.S. interests as Dr. Ehrenfeld suggests and rumor-mongering about George Soros taking over parts of the Ukrainian economy should be backed up with facts or left to the pages of tabloids.
Ukraine may well withdraw its troops, but it is not clear when this will happen or if it will happen. That said, a Ukrainian pull out would not have a major impact on the coalition. It is very short-sighted to look at Ukraine's role in the war on terror merely in terms of the troops being provided in Iraq. The significance of the last two month's events is that a major country close to the Middle East and of real strategic significance has taken a big step closer to real democracy and the rule of law--assuming that Yuschenko is sworn in as president, which is not yet a done deal. It has done so in the face of a regime with immense coercive power. Why we aren't all popping champagne corks over this is a bit of a mystery. Equally mysterious is why some otherwise thoughtful American conservative intellectuals have this odd nostalgia for ex-communist dictators in the states of the former Soviet Union. Kuchma was a holdover from the Soviet system. We would never accept a former crony of Saddam as the leader of the new Iraq--why accept a similar arrangement anywhere else? Ukrainians are no less deserving of freedom than anyone else.
For decades westerners looking at the region of the former Soviet Union were handicapped by an obsession with the personality of the leader. So let's forget about Yuschenko's known sins for a moment. The real transformation that occurred in Ukraine is that the people themselves took to the streets and forced the system to change. It was not just an exchange of oligarchs. This is an entirely new factor in Ukrainian history.
The notion that Ukraine or its new president-elect are now the darlings of the EU is almost laughable. The EU would have completely ignored this crisis had it not been for the new accession states--Poland and Lithuania in particular. The EU has completely ignored the abuses of the cryto-Stalinist regime in neighboring Belarus for years. The last thing EU bigwigs want is another "eastern entanglement" especially one that will cause any unpleasantness with Russia. The European left is furious with the Poles and Lithuanians for dragging the EU into Ukraine. On January 5, the Spanish Socialist President of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell, in a closed-door session of the Forum for New Economics in Madrid bitterly denounced the new members as agents of "U.S. influence." This hardly sounds like a love-feast in the making.
The EU faces a huge dilemma with regard to Ukraine. It can hardly bar Ukraine from any consideration of future membership while offering Turkey a path to full membership. Yet the inclusion of a huge country of 48 million would alter the EU almost beyond recognition and hugely complicate relations with Russia. There is serious concern about the present set of new members--whether they can be fully integrated, whether they are too pro-American or too free-market oriented. The prospect of Ukraine as a potential member will be rather terrifying to the Eurocrats and the French leadership.
Swails: However, the Ukrainian parliament vote to withdraw may have been sponsored or by whom, the effect is the same. It proclaims an end to the Ukrainian participation in the war. Even though the Coalition will unquestionably survive, a courageous stand by a physically weakened Yuschenko to stand against the parliament would send positive signals throughout the world. If, indeed, the vote was "engineered" in an attempt to get back at the U.S., a decision to remain in the war would be remarkable and unavoidable statement to the world and the EU especially of the resolve of the new leadership. I am heartened to hear and hope that the new leadership in the Ukraine is not to be strongly pro-EU. For the war this is extremely important.
World War IV is in a stage now analogous to the "phoney war" period of the World War II between the invasion of Poland in September, 1939 and the fall of the West in May of 1940. A state of war existed from that attack and there were during that fall and winter some warlike acts carried out, but most Allied leaders did not recognize the war for what it was. There were ongoing attempts to find a negotiated settlement even in the face of the blatant aggression of Hitler--all in the hopes that he would settle down and the situation could be stabilized. He did not and the attack on the Allies in Belgium and France was proof positive of the intransigent nature of his warmongering. The war in which we find ourselves is fully engaged and the enemy is very forthright about his intentions. The Ukraine because of its important position is valuable to the whole cause of the Coalition and the maintenance of their contingent would be historic. The war in Iraq will be seen as a major stand against the forces of radical Islam and the outcome there will have much to do with further battles. It could be that we are looking at a turning point.
I also have high hopes for the Ukraine whatever the decision on Iraq will be. This is a country bursting with vitality and hope. I do believe that the people of the Ukraine, its greatest asset, now tasting freedom in a new way, will not stand by and see any erosion of the freedom for which they are contending.
Ehrenfeld: How can anyone seriously suggest that “the EU faces a huge dilemma with regard to Ukraine”? One only needs to look at last week’s EU MEP’s “467 votes to 19 in favor of a non-binding resolution calling for Ukraine to be given "a clear European perspective, possibly leading to EU membership," to see that the European Parliament is strongly supports Yushchenko. The MEPs also called “to consider other forms of association with Ukraine besides the Neighbourhood Policy,” and even suggested relaxing visa requirements for Ukraine, recognition of Ukraine's market economy and support for the country joining the World Trade Organisation.” Such a strong endorsement can hardly be interpreted as the action of “terrified” Eurocrats....This is not to say that joining the EU will not benefit the Ukrainian people and economy. However, since Yushchenko owes his “victory” largely to the EU’s and Soros’ “help,” it is likely he will side with them against the US. The decision (Jan.10, 2005) to remove the 1,650-member Ukrainian force from Iraq, is just the beginning.
Radzilowski: Time does not permit a lesson on the workings of the EU and the difference between a non-binding vote in the European parliament and an action by the Council of Ministers. I would simply direct the reader to competent discussions of this matter, such as the Charlemagne column in the Dec. 4th issue of The Economist. Moreover, it is always better to argue from facts rather than wild speculation. If anyone has evidence that Soros bought the Ukrainian election or any similar Kremlinesque claims they should present it or keep silent.
The EU's current "Neighbourhood Policy" lumps Ukraine into the same category as Syria--hardly fair or realistic. The EU would be perfectly justified in the relaxation of visa restrictions and recognition of Ukraine's transforming market economy. If undemocratic China is allowed to join WTO, why not Ukraine?
The EU's interest in Ukraine was driven by its new members who are also its most pro-American. Currently, the EU country with the best influence in Ukraine is pro-American Poland. It is grotesque to equate all the members of the EU with anti-American policies. To lump Britain, Italy and Poland into the same category as France and Germany defies reason. The new EU members could have the effect of counterbalancing the Paris-Brussels-Berlin axis. We ought to be supporting our friends in the EU toward this end rather than crudely treating them as Chirac clones.
I don't think comparisons between World War II in 1940 and present situation in the war on terror are especially useful. In 1940 Germany was ascendant and the Allies had just abandoned Czechoslovakia and left Poland to stand on its own against both Hitler and Stalin. Presently, we crushed the terror-backing regime in Afghanistan, defeated Saddam, and cornered Libya. In the real war on terror it is better to have fewer but more reliable allies than fake allies who will curry our favor when we are winning but abandon us when the going gets tough. The thuggish Kuchma-Yanukovych gang for which some American intellectuals pine was just such a fake ally. They sold arms to Iraq and Syria and then tried to gain our favor with a token deployment of troops made up of volunteers who were offered extra money.
Ukraine may or may not pull out its troops in the near future--as I noted there are a lot of factors that come into play on this issue. I hope they stay, but I would rather have 16 soldiers sent by a democratic regime with the support of its citizens than 1600 sent by a corrupt autocrat. The war on terror will not be won merely in Iraq. Victory in the long run will entail the spread of freedom to parts of the world that have never experienced it. A democratic Ukraine that gets its own house in order will be in a far better position to serve as a reliable ally in the future than the outgoing regime ever could. Let's forget about conspiracy theories and the boogeyman Soros. The people of Ukraine at last have the right to determine their own future for better or worse. This is a step forward that true friends of freedom should support.
Ehrenfeld: I agree, the people of Ukraine have the right to determine their own future for better or worse. But these elections were anything but fair, and contributing to the fraud were large contributions from the West – according to thousands of “orange demonstrators” who were paid $150 per day (!) for weeks, to stage demonstrations...Thus, the Ukrainian people know first hand, that democracy can be bought. Is this the lesson the West wanted them to have? These elections left many Ukrainian confused. And rightly so. When mental hospitals are used to falsify election results, what can you expect?
I too, wish the Ukrainians democracy, freedom, and free market economy. However, I think that the way the regime change was enforced, will make their goal more difficult to achieve.
FP: John Radzilowski, John Swails and Rachel Enhrenfeld, we are out of time. Thank you for joining us. We hope to see you again soon.
Gender Apartheid and Islam: Mohamed El-Mallah, Julia Roach, Ali Sani and Robert Spencer.
Four More Years: Frank Gaffney, Phyllis Chesler, Robert Jensen and C. G. Estabrook.
Islam and Israel: Khaleel Mohammed, Mohammed El-Mallah and Salim Mansur.
The Terror War: How We Can Win: Walter Laqueur, Mihai Pacepa, Lt. Col. Ralph Peters and Robert Leiken.
Iraq: Fight or Flight? Greg Bates, David Lindorff, Clifford D. May and Jed Babbin.