Point of VIEW.

A purely analytical perception...


Updated 1-4-04

THE UKRAINE

WHERE EVERYONE DISLIKES EVERYONE ELSE

A SHORT HISTORY

Ukraine is the second largest country in terms of geographical area in Europe after Russia, and it is located in the eastern quadrant of Europe.  Belarus, the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and Russia border Ukraine are its neighbors.  From an historic point of view, the country has hardly ever been a master of its own fate and has been dominated at one time or another by Poland, Lithuania and Russia for a great number of years. Thus, the Ukrainians have become so used to having someone else tell them what to do, they seem to have lost their ability to make there own logical decisions. The population of the Ukraine stands today at 50-million but if you stick around for a couple of more years it is bound to be less as births fall and emigration has become a tidal wave. Birth rates are abysmal, the economic conditions are worse and the people that aren't leaving the country have stopped having children, not wanting to bring them up in such a dank environment. Moreover, believe it or not, those people that have stayed are thinking about realigning with Russia.

Things were not always so bleak. History tells us that Ukraine was the center of the first Slavic state, Kievan Sus, which during the 10th and 11th centuries was the post powerful state in Europe. However, a tad later, the Mongols started to eye the area with some interest due to the fact that in order to expand to the West, this piece of then valuable property had to be dealt with. They waited as the country became a quarrelsome place with high ranking politicians of the day, each attempting to carve out a piece of country for their aggrandizement. The Mongols watched with great interest as Kievan Sus began to implode and at the opportune moment they attacked and conquered the already subdivided nation without the spilling too much blood on either side, which was unique in Mongol invasions.

However, now wishing any port in a storm and not believing that their best interests lie in being rolled up into the Mongol State, the Kievan Susians made a deal with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and for a time lost their identity but were possibly saved from a fate worse than death, which is what happened to other Mongol conquests. However, although the Grand Duchy had served an immediate need, Lithuania was not exactly a tower of strength and when they also became threatened, they merged into what became known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Because of the looseness of the merged countries, the indigenous peoples were for the most part able to retain their individual identities.

Because the ethnic Ukrainian people had never been fully integrated into the Commonwealth, when  the first opportunity arose, in the mid-17th century, they revolted and formed that for some strange reason was named Cossack Hetmanate. However, the Cossacks were from Russia and that country was flexing its Manifest Destiny and moving to expand geographically in all directions.  Pressures from Russia to roll-up the country in Greater Russia continued to boil for another century when for better or worse the country became absorbed by the viral-like Russian Royal Family. However, after numerous years of for the most part, benevolent subjugation, the Royal Family literally had its heads handed to it and the monarchy collapsed. That event occurred at the worst of all possible times, because it occurred during World War I while Russia was otherwise engaged on their western front.

The Russian solution was to merely pull up stacks and leave the war to others. Moreover, when no one was looking, Ukraine once again formed their own government which lasted a total of three years, from 1917 until 1920 by which time, the Communists had taken over and although there was still a scuffle for leadership, the State itself was now in good enough shape to notice that while they weren't looking, Ukraine had left the nest. The Commies were really annoyed at these folks and on several occasions in order to correctly show their pique, the created several "artificial" famines (1921-22 and 1932-33) during which time, over 8 million died of starvation.

Just when the Ukrainians had thought that they had suffered just about everything that could possibly happen to them, starvation, depression, enslavement and death; World War II broke out and the Ukrainians found themselves as a stopping point on their slash and burn excursion to Moscow and Stalingrad. While the Germans sought to kill more Ukrainians than the Russians had, they just were otherwise occupied with bad weather and unpleasant pheasants. However, in their spare time, the Germans probably equaled Russia's record of 8-million, but this was from an already depleted population and as a percentage was  probably a moral victory for the Nazi occupiers. It would seem that everyone wanted a piece of Ukraine.

Ukraine suffered an enforced divorce from Moscow in 1991 when the Berlin Wall came down. However, the country was unable to take advantage of this development and was and is still stuck with an unpleasant and intellectually deficient group of party hacks. Today, the people of the Ukraine have about the same freedoms that they had under the pillaging Nazis and the permanently annoyed Russians. However, their problems today are of their own choosing as there are no visible lingering enemies on the horizon that would even be remotely interested in subjecting these pitiable people who have now suffered the ultimate brain-drain. Anyone that had half a mind or more has left long ago for greener quarters. Moreover, this is probably the only country on earth other than neighboring Belarus that has had not a stitch of economic reform, privatization or a enhancement of civil liberties. Worse yet, millions of these people live under a death sentence imposed by the Chernobyl meltdown and if those conditions improved tomorrow, it would already be far to late.

Resources and Geography

Interestingly enough, during the time that the USSR was in active business, Ukraine was considered a particularly valuable resource. This area was producing four times the economic product of the next leading Russian Republic. The Ukraine produced a prodigious amount of the USSR's gross national product, contributing 25% of all of its agricultural products because of its extremely rich soil and was by far the leader in the production of meat, milk, grain and vegetables which was primarily being used to support the mostly unproductive and disorganized Russian system of designating rich Republic's would produce what and when they would produce it. This has become a tremendous problem since 1991 because it left these regions totally unable to produce enough of everything else to satiate their own population's requirements. Moreover, the quality that was acceptable to the USSR would be for the most be termed unusable by multinational purchasers.

During the period of Russian domination, craftsmen from the Ukraine were able to setup modern factories which produced highly sophisticated machinery from first rate production lines; the areas productive mines were able to do more than their share in contributing raw materials to a national effort to transport the USSR into a modern world that was now dealing in economic warfare as opposed to physical war. However, in order to mine, mill and produce a never ending list of quality finished goods and agriculture products, there was a huge price that had to be paid by the Russian Government. Ukraine had little or no energy supplies and was always on the dole to Russia for energy because the value of their import - export imbalance just was so skewed toward the high price of energy, that all their exports put together didn't even make a dent in their energy imbalance.

It was in order to break away from that sustained flaw that Russia determined to build the enormous atomic generating plant in Chernobyl, and at breakneck speed. However, that did not work and the hoped for equalization between energy needs and production of goods fell into hopeless disorder as a result. Moreover, after the disaster occurred, It was quickly discerned that the cost of cleanup required at Chernobyl was literally more than the Russian Government could bear at that time and it was easier for them to tell Ukraine to get lost. As a matter of fact, in economic terms, Ukraine was probably a substantial part of the decision process at the Kremlin to give up on their dreams of world domination. There just wasn't enough money around to pay the freight.

Labor under Russian domination was to a large degree enforced and when the Russians left, people became complacent while the government has never had a clue about what to do about anything. Thus, in eight short years from 1991 to 1999, production valued in 1991 dollars fell over 40%. Even more disturbing was the fact that this economic disaster included estimates of illegal black market goods on which no taxes were paid. Thus, not only were the stores bare, but so were the government agencies. The Russian Government started to demand the billion that the Ukraine owed them for energy and simultaneously, the country was hit with a massive hyperinflation. Even if Ukraine had wanted to pay Russia, or themselves, for that matter, their money had become worthless both domestically and internationally.

Moreover, Ukraine still needs the energy but they have little to pay for it with. Kuchma, now 66, a former Soviet rocket factory boss who came into power in 1994 and is now in his second term has once again promised Ukrainian Citizens the world and has delivered nothing but the prolonged agony of unceasing bureaucratic world-class bungling. However, the government still owns most of the land that the people till and they seem hesitant to part with it. This is in spite of the fact that in a free society, it has proven that people produce more when they are working for themselves and not the government. Economists have estimated that by privatizing the farm land held by the Government, production would rise substantially, tax collections would increase dramatically, the national debt would drop and the Ukrainian currency would stabilize or strengthen, thus proving the country with the ability to pay for their much needed energy supplies. Little movement is apparent in this sector in spite of significant prodding from the International Monetary Fund who indicates that this would also help to solve the lingering import - export imbalance.

However, in spite of the outlook being bleak, exports have been rising in the last three years by an average of about 6 1/2% per year. If only me Kuchma and his inept government and its cadre of extreme bureaucrats would allow a legitimate election and then pull up stakes. This would allow the people of this country to at least have a chance before there is no one left other than those that are to weak to leave. There is already little left to work with here, and time is swiftly passing this country by.

The Economics

This is a country that is on the permanent dole to the rest of the world and without assistance from other countries and agencies, it would not be able to pay any of its debts. The Ukraine Treasury constantly  has less funds total funds available than its short term debt. The Ukraine seems either unwilling or unable to collect taxes and their record in that department has become so poor that the International Monetary Fund, one of the agencies that has been helping them, recently cut off their assistance until they can show an improved record. Many economists are already writing Ukraine off as bankrupt and if Russia ever demands full payment for its energy supplies, the Ukrainian people will not even be able to buy food. Oleksiy Plotnykov who is on the inside while working with the Economic and Political Center said, "The prospect of the IMF and other international financial organizations freezing their relations with official Kiev is now as real as never before. A situation may arise in which Ukraine would be recognized as a bankrupt state."

There are few if any products produced in Ukraine that have any value and for the most part the population is engaged in what is called the "shuttle trade." Effectively what this means is that if you want anything that is any good at all you have to cross over a border to get it. It doesn't so much matter which border it is, any border will do because they all better than what there is at home, or at least so say the Ukrainians themselves. The shuttlers will  illicitly shop in Poland, Russia, Hungary and once in a while they will even travel to Turkey. Not only are these foreign goods better, but they are also substantially cheaper an element that disturbs Western companies that have moved their production to the Ukraine, no end. One strange industry is all the Ukraine can point to as being successful. That is the producing of pirated CDs and Europe has proclaimed the Ukraine as the biggest player in this illegal industry with exports to South America running a close second. Moreover, these same discs have permeated the streets of Ukraine's major cities at a price of $2 per copy. In spite of this inspired price, the Ukraine Government unbelievable contends that they are indeed legit. While Europe was effected by this illegal enterprise, it was the United States that took action, sanctioning the importation of Ukrainian Steel and other metal products into this country.  It was the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry that led the charge.

Another oddity produced by Ukraine is stranger still. It seems that physicians in Lviv have been in the kidney supply business for some time. When someone dies in the area and their kidneys remain in good shape, it seems that some of the good doctors here, cut them out and sell the product to the highest bidder. Amazingly, some of the people that were injured in road accidents and were treated by these folks seem to have lost kidneys while under anesthetic and didn't find out what they were missing until much later. The organs average about $4000  a pop which is a very tidy sum in this country where the per capita GDP is only a tad over $500. However, in another strange twist, the case was never prosecuted, the doctors were never charged and in the end, it has begun to look like just another politically oriented frame up in this dirty little country.  As you will read later, Lviv is a college town and is extremely literal. Thus, these people are out in front in the rage business against President Kuchma. Two and two in this Alice in Wonderland Country can well equal any number you want and still be right.

Lastly, Ukraine has produced something even worse than working kidneys. They are now the continental leader in cases of AIDS, the first country in Europe to hit 1% of the population. You can get AIDS through needles and sex and both have become very popular in this country. Sadly, wives are getting it from their needle sharing husbands and when they become pregnant it is inherited by the child. In Odessa, the largest port city in Ukraine, the disease is found in a much higher percentage of women than men and over 60% of the cases are transmitted sexually. For some reason the incidence of AIDS infections are rising at an incredible rate. It has been so high that the United Nations is seeking to raise a substantial "special fund" just for fighting AIDS in Ukraine.  

The Ukrainian Government itself admitted that easily 11% of all imports are shuttled and to give you a better idea of the scope of this traffic, they said that fully one adult out of every thirty-five in the country are actively engaged in it. Bribery of customs officials is endemic and in one recent year, one out of every 13 border and customs officers stationed in the Ukraine were dismissed for receiving bribes or worse. Customs officials can ascend the ranks quickly by paying off superiors  and somewhat like a massive daisy chain, they higher you go in that business, the more people that must pay you off. 

Rank in the custom service in the Ukraine is bought and paid for. It has nothing to do with a person's ability or performance. The New York Times ran a story entitled, The Border Is So Near, The Smuggling So Easy, by Michael Wines that in part said: Much of the take from bribery is said to flow up the chain of command. Only last November, the German police arrested the director of customs operations along with half of the Poland-Ukraine border patrol as he was withdrawing more than $1.1 million in German marks from a German bank. The official, General Oleksiy Chernyshov, was accused of being part of a smuggling ring that traded alcohol and cigarettes. How the general managed to rise from a third-class adviser, at two customs checkpoints, to head of the region in the space of several months has yet to be explained."

Of course in many instances no one really knows where the border is such as the continuing hot debate over who owns what territory between Ukraine and Belarus. Most of the big time smuggling takes place in Moldova as no one can discern any of their borders with any degree of accuracy. Border patrol folks don't even know where to set up their posts and smugglers consistently take advantage of their dilemma. Other border disputes are in negotiation with Russia and Romania without tangible results. 

The Ukraine is one of the great places in the world to read about in books or newspapers, but it probably we would find it hard to believe that it is high on your vacation agenda.  With a startling annual per capita gross domestic product of only $800, the Ukraine has become the global leader in failure.  This is an extremely disciplined society that seemingly works diligently at getting things done wrong. Let’s look at the country's economic history since the Soviet Union split apart in 1989, which was also strangely the last year the Ukraine's Gross Domestic Product entered the plus column.  The country declared independence in 1991, and things have been going south ever since.  The economy shrunk by 50% during that period, and in the year when everything was supposed to turn around, 1998, the economy shockingly slipped yet another 1.7 percent.  In January 1999 alone, the GDP shrunk by 3.3% and seems to be gathering considerable momentum as it rolls downhill en route to oblivion. Now that the U.S., Japan and most of Europe are headed for a recession, the Ukraine, from an economic standpoint may just drop off the face of the earth.  

Strange Goings On

Ukraine has also been the home to weird things. A man known as the most demonic murderer in the history of serial killings called the country his home. The Anatoly Onoprienko was given by father and brother to an orphanage at the age seven after his mother died under strange extremely strange circumstances. There was no thought of Anatoly's involvement at that time but in light of what occurred thereafter, many people here are no longer as  sanguine about that event. He admitted in court that even at an early age  the messages that he continually received to kill can not be swept under the carpet. This man did so many horrible things to his victims that in spite of the fact that there is no death penalty in the Ukraine, there seems to be little question that an exception will be made in Anatoly's case. 

He killed at least 52 people and did it without remorse in the cruelest of manners. He was big on killing defenseless older people that could not defend themselves and would watch them scream for mercy. He also enjoyed doing whole families, especially those with you young children. He would lock them in their houses and set the building  ablaze while he watched with great excitement. Couples were also a mark for Anatoly and he seemed to take special pleasure in killing one of them in front of the other just to watch the reaction. In court he had literally no defense for what he had done and asked for no mercy. 

However, Anatoly was a friendly sort and he made a good friend when he met Sergei Rogozin at the local gymnasium where they both worked out. Sergei enjoyed Anatoly's company so much that he became his helper in many of the killings. Rogozin described his accomplice in no uncertain terms. "You could say that we were friendly,  he seemed a normal person. He wasn't greedy, he seemed good-natured, I cannot say anything bad about him."  These things came out in court when Anatoly stopped testifying. This came about when he became unhappy with his legal representation, he demanded a new lawyer that was at least fifty years old and Jewish. This was indeed a difficult request to fulfill with most of the Jewish people in the Ukraine having been killed by the Nazi's. In any event, many of the Ukrainians, horrified at what had happened indicated that it had been caused because there was probably something in the air. They said that nothing had been the same since Chernobyl. 

Chernobyl and Its Affect

And talk about being short of energy, can you conceive of a country that is so energy starved that they were forced to leave  the Chernobyl nuclear facility turned on when it desperately needed repairs. We are talking here about repairs so critical that the whole thing could have gone up one more time. Even the Ukrainian officials stated that some of the reactors safety equipment was reaching the end of its operation life and needed to upgraded or replaced. 

The only reason that the thing wasn't mothballed altogether was the fact that the country perceived that it could not get through the coming winter without the additional supplies that even a thuggish Chernobyl would offer. However, they were once again forced to play with the lives their own citizens. The energy commission itself, Energoatom warned of dire consequences should Chernobyl be taken off stream as entire regions of the country would be totally without energy. It is a said day when a country is forced to bet their existence on a tin-lizy that never did work right. 

The Price of Energy In Real Terms

And if you think things are bad in the nuclear end of the energy situation in Ukraine, you only have to look a coal mining to blanche altogether. In that industry, there is no money for wages, there is no money for repairs and  there is no money for rescuers who must attempt to save the miners that are trapped because of a lack of repairs. Because of this, there is no money for food for the miner's families and there is no money for the guards with no guns that guard the mine shaft so that the very cable that takes the men to work in the morning is not stolen and sold for next to nothing. The buildings are dilapidated because they have not been fixed since they were built, the roads are impassable and led nowhere and if wasn't for the trains, nothing would move from the spot where the coal is mined under an endlessly dreary-grey sky.  

Death is a constant companion of everyone who must do this for a living as the number of miners that are killed annually in this country has skyrocketed as greater demands are made of the time and bravery. It takes bravery to even enter one of these tunnels because you never no whether you will ever see the light of day again.  An interesting interview was conducted with one of the Forman of the Sukhodolskaya-Vostochnay mine in eastern Ukraine by the Associated Press entitled Danger, Despair at Ukraine Mines. It speaks for itself: "Everything is falling apart, we have no technical supplies at all, nothing to repair with. A problem that once took an hour to fix now takes two days, the number of rescuers is 40 percent of what is needed. Once we used to have spare parts, work clothes, hot meals, underground, and now we barely manage to preserve work safety.. People seal cables, anything they can, because they are poor, we are sitting here without communications- somebody cut down the telephone wire." The picture is so bleak that we can actually feel their pain. 

The Ukrainians had become complacent under Russian rule and weren’t concerned a lot about the economics of their under-performing state of affairs.  There was no question about the fact that the country desired its independence, but no provisions or contingency plans were ever put in place if such an unlikely event should ever occur. Although life under the Russians was certainly not a cakewalk, interestingly enough, everyone was a lot better off under their rule, than they are today and that is by a wide margin. The reason is simple, but nobody in the Ukraine has ever bothered to search for it. Ukraine received all of its energy from Russia in the form of Atomic Energy Plants that were exported to the Ukraine, coal that was provided gratis to the Ukraine or oil that was pumped into Ukrainian pipelines in unlimited quantities from the massive oil producing districts that originated in the bowels of the Soviet Union.  

The Price of Energy in Economic Terms

By far the most widely used energy source in the Ukraine was oil, because it could be easily transported, but what the newly freed Ukrainians didn’t consider was the fact that they really had never actually been paying for it. The Russians were charging 3% of the world price, which upon Ukraine’s independence was upped to 80%.  Still a bargain, but no longer a free lunch. The Ukraine which had trouble absorbing 3% prices got a fast case of the tremors when that figure was upped better than 2000 percent. Moreover, these costs were quickly passed through to the people who had a collective national conniption fit when they finally realized what Mother Russia had been doing for them all of this time and where that put them today.  

The bills continued to pile up, and the Ukrainians, who had voted 10 to 1 for independence, were incapable of figuring out how to solve their newest dilemma.  In the meantime, the Russians were terribly concerned about the about the massive stores of weaponry that they had left behind, particularly in the Ukraine.  The country had a massive navy, for the most part provided by the Russians, along with atomic missile installations located throughout the country. Russia didn’t need their former vasslized state getting mad at them and squaring off against them.  

An Interesting Trade

A deal was proposed in which Ukraine would give Russia the majority of its navy and ship their atomic missiles back as well.[1]  In return, Russia would forgive a great deal of the onerous oil debt. Talk about a big price to pay for getting a little debt off your back, in one fell swoop the Ukraine gave up their rights to protect their national sovereignty and simultaneously lost whatever national pride they had, on the other hand, at least they could eat.   Picture the British offering to reduce the tea tax in exchange for the Continental Army’s muskets and munitions. What do you think Patrick Henry have said under these circumstances?  

The Ukrainians mislaid something else as well when Russia pulled the plug on their economy.  Keep in mind that the Soviet Union was always juggling the regional economics of their empire to keep everyone as complacent as possible.  The non-Russian states for the most part were assigned production categories, and regulations required that production be primarily devoted to those State authorized goods. In addition, whatever the Ukrainians produced was far from first quality, primarily because of the bureaucratic system that was in place throughout the USSR in which each country sold their surplus to other members of the cartel.  However, this aside, new economies make new and strange bedfellows. Gazprom recently submitted a bill to Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova which indicates that the combined countries owe them $3.5 billion and of this amount, Ukraine's share is $2.5 billion. 

The Enormous Price of Communism and Its Failures

Thus, none of the members were particularly interested in doing high quality work and the goods and materials that were exchanged was of extremely shoddy quality.  Literally, the society that had been established was one of barter where each country within the system provided a necessary cog in a massive logistical wheel.  When you received goods that were not well made, there was no one to really complain to because there was nothing that could be substituted and beside which, a commissar could crack your skull for being a dissident. It became a vicious circle where to avenge that last poor shipment received from the Ukraine, a sister country would go to particular extremes to gum up the works. Such was the society that was being promoted before the Berlin Wall came crashing down.  

Thus, the worse it got, the worse it got. Those in the Soviet Union that were producing agricultural products had no problem adjusting to the new order, nor did those whose countries contained an abundance of natural resources.  However, countries like the Ukraine that were manufacturing oriented had totally lost touch with the reality of making products that anyone would want to buy in a open economy.  What is so amazing about the system that the Communists had established was the fact that this system was so economically unviable it was absolutely amazing that it functioned at all.  When the Soviet Union finally did collapse, the newly freed Republics had no way economically to fend for themselves, however none of them knew it at the time.  It wasn’t until they were forced out of their economic hearth that the facts of life became apparent and no one liked what they saw even a little.  

However, there was yet another problem that had been unforeseen.  Independence had come almost like childbirth.  A shocking experience, but one that the people wanted to be irrevocable.  When the Communists allowed the Berlin Wall to be torn down and freed the slaves, the world stood and watched and wondered, and then wondered some more. Was this for real, what was really going on, was this a trick.  This was a puzzlement to the Democracies of the World, the United Nations and just about everybody else but those inside the Kremlin.  The Communists knew that that they had lost an enormous global game of economic chess and that they just could no longer support their military, their people and their satellites all at the same time.  The satellites had to go.  The Communist leadership did not send a particular message to their former client states that they had gone bankrupt in attempting world domination, they only sent the quiet message that they were all free to go about their businesses in whatever way they desired.  

The Ukrainians were highly concerned that Russia could change their minds if they didn’t act like good little soldiers and make the best of this unexpected gift from above.  They wanted the people to act in unison relative to their independence in spite of the fact the country was made up of highly diverse economic and ethnic groups.  In order to show the people that things were going to be better than before and that rallying behind the government was an incremental part of remaining free, everything became subsidized: labor, factories, food, energy, the works.  

By the time the Ukraine realized that Russia was hardly playing a game in setting them free, they had already built up so much internal debt that it became highly questionable whether they could ever get out from under it.  So the legacy that the Ukraine received from the years of Russian domination was one of shoddy goods, economic chaos, world-class debt, energy dependence and a broken umbilical cord that could not be repaired.  

“With the breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Ukraine inherited a dysfunctional economy of worn-out factories, exhausted mines and mismanaged collective farms. Many of its 50 million people looked optimistically to the West as a model, hoping to build a market economy out of the ruins of socialism. International financial institutions rushed to lend billion of dollars to Ukraine. The U.S. gave it more foreign aid each year than any country except Israel and Egypt. Nevertheless, its progress has been paralyzed by pervasive corruption and the difficulty of breaking free from Soviet tradition. Ukraine’s economy has shrunk every year since independence. Its currency, the hryvna, has lost half its value in the past nine months alone. More than 40% of all trade takes place by barter. Falling tax revenue is not enough to finance the government, which is months behind in paying wages and pensions. Payoffs and bribes are commonplace.” [2] 

The Bottom Line

Tax evasion is rampant, but so are unpaid wages, and in spite of reassurances to stay current by the Ukrainian Government, most people are fortunate to get a small fraction of what they are due.  No wonder that Poland had to recently tighten the border with the Ukraine to not only keep refugees from flowing in like the tide, but also to stop illegal trade between the countries. Moreover, for many impoverished Ukrainians the only source of currency is crossing into Poland and selling their possessions.

To put Ukraine's problem in perspective of absolute terms we have only to look at the table produced by Myron B. Kuropas in his article entitled "Is Ukraine the Black Hole of Europe?".  He compares the GDP on an individual basis and comes up with the following numbers. Russia's is $1,740; Poland's is $4,660; Slovakia's is a similar $4,660; Egypt's is $1,430 and Bulgaria's is $1,890. Ukraine according to published figures checked in with a miserly $642 per head causing the World Bank to add the country to their list of the World's poorest.

Voting In A Fixed Election Is Like Not Voting At All

Not only has the Ukraine Government screwed things up to a degree at one time believe impossible but they do not learn from their mistakes. The only good thing to be said about the Government in power is the fact that they have allowed elections. However, an additional bad thing that should be noted is the fact that the elections that are allowed in this country are fixed. It would seem that everyone other then the government of Ukraine itself is in agreement with that statement. In an unprecedented act, the United States House of Representatives on March 21, 2002 a resolution was passed urging the government of Ukraine to ensure a free and fair election process. This action was not received with enthusiasm in the Ukrainian White House.

The Washington Times reported recently (2004) that "We are disappointed that the government of Ukraine did not move in a proactive manner to ensure a level playing field in the election for all political parties." State Department deputy spokesman, Philip Reeker was quoted as saying that media coverage of the election campaign was "highly biased and opposition candidates did not have equal access to the electron media." Moreover, literally everyone agreed that there was a feeling of mistrust and some fear as the population went to the polls. Transparency International stated that "After 10 years of independence, this former Soviet republic is rated as among the world's most corrupt nations.

Rigging the elections has caused numerous uprisings by various groups against President Kuchma but what you see here is not necessarily what you get. The equivalent of Congress in Ukraine, the Supreme Rada, announced that they were going to institute criminal proceedings against him. Interestingly enough when the facts became known, this action was not initiating because of ballot box stuffing but because there was substantial evidence that the assassinations of Rada Deputies Eugeny Scherban and Vadi Getman were organized by Leonid Kuchma himself. However, dissent is not looked on favorably by Mr. Kuchma, the Economist reported that there were numerous demonstrations against the regime by college students in Lviv. Officials at the universities were told to reign in the decent and to their credit, they told Kuchma's henchmen to shove it. Now the university, a non-profit institution is going through an extensive criminal tax investigation. This little magic trick is used often when folks in this country step out of line.  Moreover, there are several foreign "rectors" teaching at the institutions, they are now being deported for their actions.

Most of this country's investigative reporters have vanished off of the face of the earth and newspapers now primarily follow the party line in fear that they too will disappear. Those that seem to be fans of the Voice of America or the BBC and expound on their beliefs on the air have also vanished without a trace or their corpses are left in a convenient place to become an example for those that would take the same path. As the price of poker here continues to rise, all of the pro-western advocates in the government have also been dispensed with and Ukraine has once again become Russia's best friend. After all, its all the have left. And guess what; according to the Financial Times, "Mr. Kuchma has blamed "certain non-Ukrainian forces (read the U.S.) not pleased with Ukraine's closer links to Russia" for "masterminding a well-prepared campaign" to discredit him. However, ties at many levels remain with Russia and for example, in the southern and eastern regions of the country, Russian is still the predominant language.

However, this sort of shotgun marriage is often not a romance that can last indefinitely when the players as high-strung as Putin and Kuchma. One of the last unresolved issues between Ukraine and Russia is control of the Kerch Strait and the Azov see. Why are these places that have strange names of any importance to countries that would seem to above this petty sort of bickering? The answer is quite simple, the strait is a key sea lane from the Azov to the Black Sea, Turkey and the Mediterranean. The real battle going on is simple, Russia is more than willing to share the sea lane, however Ukraine is currently shaking down Russia for in excess of $200 million a year to use the strait and they don't like to be held up one bit. However, Russia is not taking this lying down and has been erecting sea walls all over the area. The Ukrainians for there part have not been standing still and have replied with jet fighters and other shows of force on the Island of Tuzla wich is central in the dispute. Who knows where this will lead, it has not cooled off as yet.  

However, the New York Times in an article entitled Ukraine's Leader Struggles to Go Quietly by Patrick E. Tyler; according to memos that seem to leap off the page regularly, seem to tie Kuchma to one illegal action or another. It stated that Kuchma's forces have plans to "secure technological breakdown of the electronic vote count system for at least two hours for detailed specification of results" on election night. Seems right to me. Things have gotten so bad here that Europe's Organization of Security and Cooperation planned to mobilize election observers to monitor numerous of the polling station during the next election.

However, one doesn't need to guess about all of the incidents that tend to help discredit Mr. Kuchma, whose popularity rating has now dropped to an unprecedented low,  such as the secretly taped recordings that indicate that he was proposing sending weapons to Iraq and there is no question at all by NATO members that he was supplying arms to Macedonia and to various factions not generally in favor located in Africa. Moreover, the fact that a Russian passenger airliner was downed by a Ukrainian missile killing 23 innocent children and 53 adults was not taken well by their best friend to the East.

There seems little question that Kuchma has endeared himself to literally no one here and the now constant rallies and placards against him give this view credibility. On May 27,  2002, he was expelled from the Ukraine Communist Party for not even being a true Communist and that he only called himself one to be able to garner votes from that group of voters. However, for some time the party has been outlawed and its resurrection could bring claims by some of the countries senior leaders for assets confiscated when its doors were forcibly shut. Now that anything goes in this country's political process, why should the Communists share a part of the spoils with Kuchma's self-proclaimed imperialists.

While things haven't been going well for Mr. Kuchma on any front, he no longer has much choice but to gut it out. As opposition strategist, Oleksandr V. Turchinov stated: "Either they (he) gain a controlling majority that will ensure Kuchma's security, or the democratic forces will form a majority, and Kuchma and many of the people around him will go to jail. Therefore he is struggling for his life."



[1] In November 1993, Ukraine became the last of the former Soviet republics to ratify the START-1 nuclear-arms reduction treaty. This followed the signing of an agreement with the U.S.A. under which Ukraine would dismantle the majority of its nuclear weapons in return for $330 million aid . A year later, it ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In June 1995, Ukraine returned the remainder of its warheads to Russia for destruction, thus relinquishing its nuclear status.

[2] Richard C. Paddock, Ukraine’s Abyss of Despair, Los Angeles Times, 4/9/1999.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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