Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Ukraine’s Drift Away from Europe and the Western Response"

Listen here to the March 27, Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings (CUSE) discussion on the challenges facing Ukraine, the U.S. and the European Union.

In the first panel, Edward Chow, senior fellow with the Center for Strategic & International Studies; Nadia Diuk, vice president at the National Endowment for Democracy; and Brookings Senior Fellow Steven Pifer discuss current Ukrainian domestic and foreign policy. Brookings Senior Fellow Fiona Hill, director of CUSE, moderates.

In the second panel, Pirkka Tapiola, an officer with the European External Action Service, and Daniel Russell, deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, discuss the European Union and U.S. policy responses. Senior Fellow Steven Pifer moderates.

Essential listening to anyone interested in Ukrainian affairs...stick with it...

An important observation [from the transcript of the discussion]:

"Keith C. Smith from CSIS.. I don’t know Ukraine as well as the panelists, but I spent a long time as a diplomat and I made a lot of mistakes in judgment. I estimated governments wrong in, I can think of many, many cases; but after being... I was in Ukraine, Kyiv three months after the Yanukovych government, this one took over and somebody in the U.S. Government asked me to give them a summary of what I thought, and I said two things. One, I thought the level of corruption would increase, and two, that the main thing would be to make sure they never lose another election.

And I think that when we talk about actions by the government that are against their own interest, we have to put ourselves in their place, which is something I failed to do many times over my career, and I think that they see this as, no matter what, the most important thing is to make sure they never lose another election, no matter what, no matter what it takes.

And it think that that’s what their pattern has been from the very beginning, and paying off some debts, the debts to Dmytro Firtash, for instance, for his election support.

The first thing they did was put in jail Igor Didenko, which was a payoff for, you know, carrying out Tymoshenko’s order on gas -- moving the gas from his control to Naftagas’ control. And you can see this in a whole pattern of things. It’s paying off a certain campaign debt and ensuring that there not be a loss in the next election.

And I think that’s how they see this: as even more important than a balance between East and West or getting into the EU or anything else, quite frankly.

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