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WHAT WE THINK
Bush meddles in Ukraine's crisis

December 10, 2004 | Page 3

THE ELECTION crisis in Ukraine highlighted once again how much the mainstream media reads straight from the White House script.

Still breathless from cheerleading the destruction of Falluja, the media fell right in line with the administration, portraying the standoff as a Cold War-style battle between a Russian-sponsored authoritarian, Viktor Yanukovich, and the Western-backed democrat, Viktor Yushchenko.

Journalists failed to mention that the supposed Moscow puppet, Yanukovich, did Bush's bidding last year by dispatching Ukrainian troops to Iraq. The same newspapers that ignore or deride protesters in the U.S. enthused over mass demonstrations in Kiev staged by supporters of Yushchenko.

They dutifully repeated Bush's pronouncement that the upcoming election rerun "ought to be free from any foreign influence." Someone at the White House forgot to tell Republican Sen. John McCain, who chairs the International Republican Institute, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, his counterpart at the National Democratic Institute. Both outfits--which are part of the government-funded National Endowment for Democracy--were active in Ukraine supporting Yushchenko's candidacy.

Ukraine's student-based movement, Pora--which means "it's time"--was not only modeled on the Serbian opposition that forced Slobodan Milosevic from power after a disputed election, but actually put U.S.-trained Serbian "student activists" at the center of the action.

There's no doubt that supporters of the Russian-backed Yanukovich stole the November 21 runoff election. But for all his opposition imagery, Yushchenko is a status quo politician--which in Ukraine means being an insider with ties to superrich "oligarchs" like Yulia Tymoshenko, who became wealthy through corrupt privatization of state-owned industry following the collapse of the former USSR in 1991.

To be sure, there is a historic conflict between the Ukrainian-speaking West of the country and the Russian-speaking East. But this divide has been manipulated by both Yanukovich and Yushchenko as a vehicle for getting votes and mobilizing support.

There is, nevertheless, a hunger for real democracy and change on the streets of Kiev, where people are fed up with a corrupt and authoritarian government--and outgoing President Leonid Kuchma's bid to hold onto power by installing Yanukovich in the fraudulent election.

The size and duration of the struggle raises the possibility that an independent movement for democratic change will emerge. But Yushchenko--whose forces carried out fraud of their own--is no alternative. As prime minister from 1999 to 2001, he imposed austerity programs that hit workers hard.

Yushchenko is favored to win the runoff vote, tentatively scheduled for December 26. If he takes office, the hundreds of thousands of people who demonstrated for him for weeks will soon find themselves bitterly disappointed.

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