Thursday, October 23, 2014
Ukraine, Washington & the Coalition of Freedom
During President Poroshenko’s historic visit to the United States and Canada a month ago, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin made his own rounds with the domestic press corps, during which called for the formation of a Coalition of Freedom.
A far-reaching, succinct and timely concept filled with promotional opportunities to defend Ukraine.
Outraged by the Russian invasion of his homeland, Klimkin proposed a Coalition of Freedom to defend democracy and Western values in a troubled world, according to Fox News.
“It is about security for everyone,” said Klimkin, during an exclusive Fox News interview on the eve of the 65th UN General Assembly. “If someone in this interchangeable and intertwined world cannot feel secure, how can US citizens here feel secure?”
Klimkin told reporters that Ukraine is confronting a threat any nation can face, adding “we need a network of security.” His Coalition of Freedom would consist of “countries which are committed to freedom, to democratic values, where we are not talking about spheres of influence, but the values and real interests of democratic countries.”
Not a unique idea. The world has already seen many coalitions, organizations, leagues and caucuses in defense of freedom, democracy, independence, human rights and other similar values. However, it is appropriate considering Russia’s war against Ukraine and global threat.
The 47-year-old diplomat opined that despite Russia’s invasion and occupation of his country, Ukraine has “the solidarity of the Western world.”
Klimkin added: "We are in the process of the fight for freedom, for European values and for Western values, and we will definitely pull it off."
Canada, Great Britain and Australia are a few of the countries with integrity that must be considered for membership in this coalition, based on Klimkin’s requirements. The United States also cannot be overlooked for its steadfast political support of Ukraine and condemnation of Russia for violating all norms of civilized behavior. Leading American officials have expressed their support for Ukraine in its war for independence, sovereignty and freedom, emphasizing that Ukraine is not alone.
“And as Vice President Biden said when he was here for President Poroshenko’s inaugural, you will not walk this walk alone. The United States will be with you,” assured Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at a Ukrainian State Border Guard Service (SBGS) base in Kyiv on October 8.
A day earlier, speaking to students at the Taras Shevchenko University in Kyiv, Nuland, who is the State Department’s point person on Ukraine, observed: “You’ve had the support of Europe, you’ve had the support of the world, you’ve had the support of my country. Ukraine this year has received $290 million in U.S. financial support plus a billion dollar loan guarantee,” pointing out that the US is also materially aiding Ukraine.
While Ukraine now is fighting for its life against Russia, Nuland told the faculty and students that ultimately Ukraine needs peace, security, unity, and a clean and accountable government. She reminded the audience, especially its younger members, that it started the fight for a better Ukraine and the future is theirs – a hackneyed phrase but one that is true. The younger generation, born in the year of independence today – “Gen Free” to coin a phrase – has matured into young adults, primed to assume the leadership of all segments of their country. Moreover, this demographic knows well Russia’s crimes against Ukraine and is steering Ukraine on a course toward Europe.
“Just as you fought for a fresh start, now you have to fight to end it and to end it well. To end it democratically. To end it accountably.
“You need to fight now for peace. You need to fight for unity. You need to fight against corruption. You need to fight for that clean, accountable Ukrainian government that you stood in the snow for. You need to fight for a free media. You need to fight for justice and accountability for the victims,” Nuland urged.
She pledged America’s support for Ukrainians’ attempts to build a better Ukraine, saying “We will support your security with a program we have already instituted to train and advise your military and rebuild it after the devastation of the conflict. We will support your commitment to economic reform with technical support, with assistance, with advice including in the energy sphere. And we will continue to support the people-to-people exchanges that make us strong as nations.”
Sounding as if she was at a political rally for first-time voters in the US, Nuland energetically coaxed the audience to vote in parliamentary elections this Sunday: “So I ask each of you. Go out and vote on October 26. Keep pushing for peace. Keep pushing for unity. Keep pushing for accountability. Keep pushing for checks and balances in your internal system. Keep pushing for a clean, accountable judiciary. Be active in your communities. Work for your country. Be builders, not destroyers.”
Favorable political rhetoric notwithstanding, Washington has also helped Ukraine with financial and non-lethal military assistance. There is evidence that the US is working to bolster Ukraine’s ability to secure its borders and preserve its territorial integrity and sovereignty in the face of Russian invasion and occupation of Crimea and regions of eastern Ukraine. President Obama has approved more than $46 million in additional defensive security assistance since August, in addition to $70 million of security assistance announced earlier.
Nuland’s boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, has also used pointed language to dispute lies by Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov while expanding the circle of Ukraine supporters to include the European Union: “And together with our partners in the European Union, the United States and France are deeply committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Kerry’s demands of Russia to end the war and restore peace and stability in the region are in line with the minimums that I had discussed. “Foreign forces and weapons need to be withdrawn. Hostages – all hostages – need to be released, and that includes the pilot, Nadia Savchenko. And sovereignty has to be restored along the Ukrainian-Russian international border, and that border needs to be closed and held accountable,” he said.
Even President Obama, known for many lapsus linguae about Russia, Putin and their belligerent intentions, has been quoted supporting Ukraine: “Russia cannot dictate the terms,” Obama told Poroshenko while he was in Washington, adding that he has “a strong friend not only in me personally” but also strong bipartisan support in Congress.
Indeed, US congressional support, beyond the long-time backing of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, has been without reproach.
This broad support should assure America and other countries that have echoed these sentiments and words a rightful place in the Coalition of Freedom.
Realistically, absent this support, Ukraine would not have been able to stand its ground against Russia for the past 10 months.
However, we should remember that it took a violent war to wake up Washington from its pro-Russian trance. Even without considering nearly four centuries of Russian domination, oppression and killings, didn’t at least the post-World War I history of Russian crimes against Ukraine warrant the US government’s condemnation of Moscow? Was Washington’s recognition of the Soviet Union during the height of the murderous Holodomor justified?
As welcome and necessary as today’s US support for Ukraine are, I find it difficult to rid myself of this gnawing feeling that it’s unintended; it isn’t based on decades of convictions but rather Washington’s inexplicable fear of Russia or desire to tolerate and accept it. And today’s solid bond between Kyiv and Washington may fade with the return of peace and stability. After all, Stefan Romaniw of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations indicated that the US and Germany were already eager to allow Russia to take a seat at the upcoming G20 table rather than ban it for waging a war against Ukraine.
Unfortunately, the US, Great Britain, Canada and Australia, the potential charter members of Klimkin’s Coalition of Freedom, really don’t get it about Russia beyond the artillery explosions.
I recently saw “Red Danube,” a 1949 movie about the post-World War II forced repatriation to the Soviet prison of nations of refugees who fled the captive nations. That vile, merciless exercise itself, that required the western allies to capture these expatriates like rabid dogs, was proof enough that the US and England didn’t understand Russia. In the movie, the British officer in charge, played by Walter Pidgeon, having personally realized why innocent people fear returning to their occupied homelands, infuriatingly questioned why the high command in London doesn’t understand that these refugees haven’t done anything wrong and they don’t want to return only because they fear and hate communism.
Hopefully, the Coalition of Freedom will take to heart the lessons learned during Russia’s war against Ukraine and keep Moscow on a tight leash so it won’t invade any of the other former captive nation.