The EU should be congratulated on criticizing the election after the second round of voting. They said they could not accept the results of that election because of the widespread fraud that their own election observers had reported and that was a good thing. It may also have helped save lives.
And by doing this, they risked the displeasure of the Russians. This is no small thing for the EU to do. Russia supplies about 30% of the natural gas used in Europe and, though it would not be in their interest to simply shut off the flow, there was some concern about this in Europe during the past few weeks of unrest in Ukraine. So they ought to be congratulated in doing the right thing too in the face of what was seen as a risk to many there.
The problem came later. The EU sent Javier Solana to Ukraine to broker talks between Yuschenko, Kuchma and Yanukovych. The first agreement that came out of this was simply a statement that the parties rejected the use of force as an alternative. The rest talked about setting up some round table discussions to deal with the issues between the two sides. What it was, in other words, was an agreement to agree.
The second agreement was trumpeted in the press as some sort of final agreement on certain issues. This was seen as the case likely because there was a big press conference in the Marinski Palace to play up the fact that there had been an agreement. But I watched the announcement and didn’t hear anything other than another agreement to agree, so I didn’t think it worth posting anything here about it. The fact that the press thought it was, later lead me to post this.
The real problem with that agreement was that Yuschenko agreed to remove the blockade from government buildings. That ended up not happening, and Yuschenko may not have really intended for it to happen in the first place—maybe it was more of a sop to the EU. But it did have an effect on Yuschenko supporters, that and the handshake with Yanukovych at the end of the press conference. The whole thing riled them up. Nothing had been gotten with that agreement to cease the blockade and Yuschenko appeared too cozy with the enemy.
This risked a split within the ranks of the protestors. It was at this time you began to hear that the Orange Revolution wasn’t really about Yuschenko and that he needed to toe the line with the people too just like the government did. Yulia Tymoshenko even made statements like this. Could it have served any useful purpose here to have the opposition split into factions? Would that have been what the EU wanted to do? I think not, but the obsession to get an agreement with the compromises that go along with that threatened to split the opposition. And that would have doomed the revolution.
The second problem with their involvement is that they gave Kuchma cover. Kuchma kept talking about the agreements made that he said Yuschenko had not kept. And there was at least one we know of where this was true--there may have been others. But this allowed Kuchma to make the argument that Yuschenko was not operating in good faith and it also suggested that Yuschenko might be working some other deal than what was in the interests of the revolution. Some were already thinking that Yuschenko might be a liability and now he might be dealing on his own with Kuchma? The point is that this allowed Kuchma to think he might fracture the opposition and gave him reason to delay doing anything.
Which brings up the last point. I think the negotiations delayed the end of the revolution. The negotiations ate up time and delayed what finally ended things--the negotiations with the legislature. Those negotiations there ended up getting for most of the supporters what was wanted. As long as Kuchma was negotiating under the EU auspices and there was the threat of a split, that allowed him hope that he could weather this thing. This meant a delay in negotiating where it would make any difference--with the Rada. In the end, the opposition stuck together, did not pack up and go home, nothing meaningful came out of the EU mediated negotiations and the government had ceased to function. Kuchma, at that point, had to negotiate with the legislature, there was nothing he could do. And that is what he did. But I think it would have happened earlier if there had been no negotiations with the EU.
There is not one agreement that came out of the EU negotiations that did anything but require the opposition to stand down. I find it hard to believe that this was the EU position coming in. But that is what comes of thinking that everything can be negotiated. Their position, and it is seen in other foreign policy areas, is that you can sit down and negotiate any position. The problem is that negotiation means compromise and in this case compromise would have ended in the status quo. Nothing would have changed if there had been compromise. Would that have been in the EU’s interest? Hundreds of thousand of people take to the streets, openly defying the authorities to do so, and, after all is over, they end up with virtually the same regime they had in the first place.
What would have been the fate of those who had taken to the streets if the government had remained in control? Would that have been in the EU’s interest?
There are certain things that cannot be compromised on and certain people that there cannot be compromise with. That is the case here. There could not be any compromise with a corrupt regime capable of doing anything to stay in power. Yet the EU acted as if what might have come from negotiations would have been acceptable. Fortunately, something different happened.