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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, Sep 29, 2004, 11:00 am ET

    Op-Ed

    Kuchma and the American presidential election
    By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep

    Bishop Paul Peter Jesep

    Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma unintentionally made the case in his last Independence Day speech why Viktor Yushchenko should be elected Ukraine's next leader. Although the remarks, as reflected in the text, reflect modest sophistication for the leader of Europe's second largest country, it is an ironic a self-indictment of his own policies. In Kuchma's own words, he suggests why the world has not considered Ukrainian sovereignty legitimate.

    In August 2004, he told an Independence Day gathering that "our transformations resembled a journey in the wilderness." He refers to Ukraine as a "province." He suggests a lack of political self-esteem. If Ukraine regards itself as nothing more than a province in transition then it will be more inclined to suffer the influences of Russia and be treated as a second class citizen on the world stage. Ukraine, although it has much to sort out in the post-Soviet era, need not "journey in the wilderness."

    He complained that Ukraine had to "start everything from scratch, from the beginning, from nothing, using the method of trial and error." Democracy has a long history dating to ancient Greece, continuing with the signing of the Magna Carta in England, and of course the American Revolution. Taras Shevchenko asked in one of his poems "when will we have a Washington." Perhaps the American experiment in democracy is not the ideal model for Ukraine, but to suggest, as did Kuchma, that there are no successful democratic nations for Ukraine to model itself after is absurd.

    It is this almost defeatist attitude that has contributed to Ukraine's struggle to develop into a viable democracy. It is this outlook that makes him and his anointed successor unable to nurture a national consciousness. It is for this reason he has shown such extraordinary hostility to a free press which is one of the few guarantors of an independent country. Of course Ukraine has had nominal moral support from the West.

    In a September 2004 editorial, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski underscored, as has so often in the past, that "Unfortunately, over the last several years the White House has fostered a cult of Putin that has done great harm to the increasingly isolated Russian democrats . . . Today, many in the newly independent post-Soviet states fear that in the name of a war against terrorism the U.S. may also ignore Mr. Putin's intensifying efforts to encourage manipulated elections in Ukraine . . . There is a basic lesson for America in all this: For democracy to thrive in Russia, its neighbors must be truly secure . . ."

    ". . . [the Ukrainian Orthodox Church] Kiev Patriarchate will pray for a free and fair presidential election. We pray that God enlightens people's minds and doesn't let voters sell their votes for buckwheat, money or other gifts, and make the wrong decision. We pray that God sends to both candidates and voters sincere and true love for their country."

    – His Holiness Patriarch Filaret

    President George W. Bush has shown a simplistic black and white attitude toward foreign policy. A Faustian deal seems to have been struck to allow Putin extraordinary influence over the sovereignty of Ukraine. Bush thinks Putin his friend and ally. Politics does make for strange bedfellows. This relationship, however, has a cost – Ukrainian national consciousness and long-term democratic stability.

    With the brazen calls by Ukraine's northern neighbor for re-integration it is clear that the Bush Administration's policies in Eastern Europe have failed. Independent of my submissions to this website that questioned the current president's commitment to a free Ukraine, one need only read Dr. Bohdan Vitvitsky's hard hitting and accurate assessment of failed Bush policies in appearing in the Ukrainian Weekly and then Brama.

    Don't think me a partisan Democrat. In fact, I once served on the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, later as National Vice President of the Washington D.C. based Republican Ripon Society, and then worked diligently for U.S. Senator John McCain's presidential candidacy in the first in the nation primary state before entering seminary and being consecrated a bishop. More recent, I served on the staff of a Republican U.S. Senator.

    U.S. Senator John McCain recently said: "I fear that in recent years the United States and Europe have not been fully cognizant of the critical role Ukraine plays, and as a result, the aspiration of Ukrainians to see their nation firmly ensconced in the West has drifted." He added, "The United States and Europe must see Ukraine for what it is – an important, proud, and populous country in a geo-strategically critical position – a country with much to offer the West. It would be a terrible blunder if, because of our inattention and mistakes, we allow Ukraine to slip back into the Russian orbit."

    McCain saw first hand the ongoing threats to Ukraine's fledgling democracy having traveled their in August with U.S. Senators Susan Collins, Lindsay Graham, and John Sununu. It's important that McCain speak out about this issue. It's troubling, however, that despite the public comments of such a respected national leader the Bush White House still doesn't take Ukraine's future seriously. Presidential candidate Viktor Yuschecko is fighting extraordinary odds due, in part, from a corrupt political establishment in Kiev that Washington's attitude helps to foster.

    I've joined with others to write about America's lack of formal interest in Ukraine. At times I feel redundant making the same points because of the Washington establishment's indifference. Yet despite all the attention given to Ukraine by distinguished scholars and elected officials, the Bush Administration still does little. There isn't much time left before the October 31st election.

    Dr. Vitvitsky offers an intellectual, well-reasoned challenge to Ukrainian-Americans who blindly vote the GOP ticket. This includes not just the presidential elections, but local congressional races as well. Philosophically, I am a traditional-Republican (from the Javits-Warren-Winant-Lindsay-Rockefeller wing of the party), but it would be immoral to support any candidate because they share my party affiliation. Just as important, as a proud citizen of this country, it is wrong to support an American presidential candidate solely because he would be pro-Ukraine.

    His commentary posted September 15th on Brama merits careful consideration by approximately 1.5 million Ukrainian-American voters. His point to those likely to cast a vote in this year's U.S. presidential election is clear – don't let a political party take you for granted. Otherwise we, as a community, fall victim to passivity, complacency, and do an injustice to the memory of Thomas Paine and Taras Shevchenko.

    Bishop Paul Peter Jesep is Chancellor of the Archeparchy and Vicar General of Public Affairs and Government Relations for the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church-Sobornopravna (UAOC-S) based in Cleveland, Ohio. In the past, His Grace also a lawyer and political scientist by training, served on the staff of U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). Bishop Jesep may be reached at VladykaPaulPeter@aol.com. The views expressed here are strictly personal and do not reflect the official position of the UAOC-S. The UAOC-S does not endorse candidates.



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