Thursday, December 02, 2004

Is Yanukovich So Horrible?

I mean, I stated in a pre-election post, I thought his rhetoric was pretty mild. And some of the things he stands for seem fairly rational - slow integration into the EU, dual Ukranian-Russian citizenship, Russian as an official second language...

So why the power grab? Why the falsification of elections? And why the disproportionately intense interest of Putin's Russia (with rumors of Russian troops being carted in by the trainload)?

Orange Ukraine (who has joined Yushchenko's team) explains:

Why does the Russian government love Yanukovych so much?

Because they are for style over substance. Yanukovych's style of suppressing the media and the opposition, his disconnect from economic policy relative to power politics, even his very unpopularity in western and central Ukraine is "safer" to the Russian government. The Russian government prefers Yanukovych because he is an illiberal strongman, like it preferred Shevardnadze and supports Lukashenko. Economically-rational and democratic countries will turn to the west because that's where the money and stable democracy is. This is basic self-interest, not a massive propaganda drive by the West against Russia. The Russian government prefers Ukraine to be ruled by a strongman, the more illiberal the better, because it is illiberal and the vast majority of its people poor and oppressed, and each friend that becomes otherwise is a friend it eventually loses touch with, and a dangerous example to ordinary Russians.

That is what is ultimately meant when it is said that Yanukovych is the "Eastern" candidate and Yushchenko the "Western" one. Eastern here means illiberal, economically irrational, and against the interests of ordinary Ukrainians. Ukraine should choose rational economics, improved democracy, and its leaders should act in the people's best interest. Calling that "Western" is a misnomer.


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