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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, Mar 18, 2004, 9:00 am ET

    OP-ED

    Ukrainian influence in the 2004 American presidential election
    By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep

    "I care no longer if the child
    Shall pray for me, or pass me by.
    One only thing I cannot bear:
    To know my land, that was beguiled
    Into a death-trap with a lie,
    Trampled and ruined and defiled . . .
    Ah, but I care, dear God; I care!"

    Taras Shevchenko

    Approximately 1.5 million Americans identify themselves with Ukrainian heritage. They often, like myself, support Republican candidates. The Party of Lincoln has a history of fighting Communism, containing Soviet expansion, and supporting the independence of subjugated nation's like Ukraine. Personally, I no longer believe this is the case. George W. Bush is not Ronald Reagan.

    Ironically, over twelve years ago, the father of the current president lectured Ukrainians during a trip to Europe about their dangerous display of nationalism and longing for self-determination. This occurred at a time when the Soviet Union was breaking apart. Former president Bush didn't care about Ukraine's Russification under the tsars or the ethnic cleansing by the Soviets. Nor did he think Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe, had any place as a sovereign state on the world stage. A magazine in the United States reported shortly thereafter that Bush was losing "the Ukrainian-American vote." It contributed to his lopsided defeat to Gov. Bill Clinton.

    Father like son. The attitude toward Ukrainian national identity has not changed in the current Bush Administration. Ukraine, although the fourth largest contributor of troops in the stabilization of Iraq and potentially one of Europe's wealthiest nations, is dismissed as not much more than a corrupt, third world country not meriting serious attention from the United States.

    This attitude has enabled Russia to assert influence over a nation still trying to move beyond centuries of foreign abuse, occupation, and exploitation. Today, Russian dominance is emerging over Ukraine's natural resources, cultural identity, and Moscow is eclipsing any sense that the land of Shevchenko has a leadership role in international affairs.

    Back in 1993, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, observed during an interview on Public Television, "Russia would like to subvert Ukraine so that the Ukrainians themselves say, 'to hell with independence, it's not good, it's not comfortable, we don't like it, we want to rejoin Russia' . . . It's tending in that direction, and [the United States] [is] contributing to it because we have done not one thing to encourage the Ukrainians in their desire to preserve their independence. We have done not one thing to give them the feeling that the West really accepts them as a permanent entity . . ."

    Four years later, Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State to President Richard Nixon, told an audience at the 14th Annual Ashbrook Memorial Dinner, "One of the countries that broke away from Russia is Ukraine, a country with a population of 58 million, as large as France. I have never met a single Russian who accepts the independence of Ukraine."

    This year, Yuri Scherbak, former Ukrainian ambassador to Mexico and Canada said, "Simultaneously, Russia's influence on the internal and, to some extent, foreign political orientation of Ukraine has dramatically intensified. Moscow has used the carrot and stick policy where the conflict regarding Tuzla played the role of the stick and the promise to establish a free trade area within the agreement on the SES the carrot. Here I need to admit that Moscow has clear and coherent strategy regarding Ukraine while Kyiv has not been able to elaborate such a strategy but makes more and more concessions."

    Washington's current attitude toward Ukraine will never enable it to become an integrated member of the European community.

    In 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell has pledged that America will support "fragile democracies." That hasn't happened with Ukraine. There's a willingness to allow Moscow to again assert an inordinate influence over Ukraine evidenced repeatedly by trade agreements that favor Moscow. There is a clear calculated strategy by Russia to make Ukraine, as Brzezinski described, "uncomfortable" to continue its democratic experiment and preserve its long desired and finally obtained independence.

    On January 12, 2004, the Washington Post ran an editorial, in light of Ukrainian President Kuchma's economic incompetence, disregard for free press, and disdain for civil liberties that President Vladimir Putin of Russia: "surely will be sympathetic to Mr. Kuchma's subversion of the system. The question is whether the Bush administration will work with Western Europe to mount an effective counter. Freedom could be consolidated this year in Ukraine or slip away. The outcome may just depend on how well Mr. Powell keeps his resolution."

    Make no mistake – it is irresponsible for any American of Ukrainian heritage to vote for a candidate based solely on their attitude toward Ukraine. We are Americans first blessed by liberty, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness in a great nation that has given us extraordinary opportunities. There are many factors that must be considered in selecting the next president – taxes, post-war Iraq strategy, U.S. Supreme Court appointments, etc. Ukraine's destiny should not be a primary motivation in our selection, but it must be considered. The Eastern Slavic soul demands nothing less.

    In my personal view, the Bush Administration has, so far, humored Ukrainian-Americans about strengthening a democratic, independent Ukraine. Talk is cheap. The Administration has yet to show real commitment to a free Ukraine.

    Ukrainian-Americans are over a million strong. In what is shaping up to be a very close presidential election between U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and incumbent Republican President George W. Bush they can have, as a solid voting block, significant influence in this year's outcome. In so doing they will not only exercise their rights as responsible American citizens, but help further democracy in their ancestral homeland.

    Regardless of who is elected the nation's next president, Ukrainian-Americans are in a position to have, in a tight election, their voice heard. They must seize the opportunity to make their presence felt. The person seeking to be leader of the free world who is sincerely committed to a democratic Ukraine gives another reason for earning Ukrainian-American support in November.

    Bishop Paul Peter Jesep is Chancellor of the Archeparchy and Vicar General for Government Relations of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church-Sobornopravna (UAOC-S). The views expressed here are strictly personal and in no way reflect the position of the UAOC-S. His Grace, also a lawyer, is a former aide to U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and past member of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee. Bishop Paul Peter may be reached at VladykaPaulPeter@aol.com.

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