BRAMA, Dec 8, 2004, 1:00 pm ET|
Ukraine must run the extra mile
By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Viktor Yushchenko has brilliantly handled the political situation in Ukraine. He has demonstrated not just vision and leadership, but the pragmatic gamesmanship necessary to balance peaceful resistance with political hardball that doesn't result in the loss of life. He understands the dire consequences if momentum by the Orange Patriots diminishes. Losing momentum provides the pro-Moscow establishment an opportunity to salvage what's left of its corrupt system that talks of freedom while fostering the same kind of quasi-dictatorship now unfolding in Russia.
Recently, outgoing Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma met with Vladimir Putin, Russian president and former KGB agent, at an airport outside Moscow in the aftermath of Ukraine's rigged election. He behaved like a serf bowing to an overlord. This will be one of the last images Ukrainians will see of the disgraced president. It's not much of a legacy.
It's because of Kuchma's political humiliation that he will need a graceful way to exit. Otherwise he may become like a cornered, rabid animal that continues to fight by helping to fix the outcome of the next election. Kuchma is a survivor and no doubt has his future in mind as democratic reformers organize to take office.
He needs to be given the space to run for safety, maybe even given a chance to save face. The last thing Ukraine needs is for him to invite Russian Special Forces to quash the Orange Revolution. Putin, during a recent visit to Turkey after the Ukrainian Supreme Court's historic decision, continued to warn the West not to interfere with Ukraine. The Russian threat remains very real.
Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church courageously said that "this is a conflict between an immoral and overbearing political system and a prospect of democracy and moralization."
His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyiv-Patriarchate has often been seen prior to and especially following the election with Viktor Yushchenko. It's clear that the Byzantine Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, among other religious groups, have placed their respective moral authority behind Yushchenko, the candidate who embodies liberty. This support is complemented by the activism of Ukrainian church leadership in the Diaspora.
"These are the times that try men's souls.
The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will,
in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country;
but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman."
Thomas Paine (American Revolutionary Patriot, 1737-1809)
Of course there is more at stake than just political freedom in Ukraine. The Russian Orthodox Church Moscow-Patriarchate thinks it's entitled to Byzantine Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church property stolen by it many years ago now reclaimed by Ukrainian religious authorities. At risk is not just democracy, but also the freedom to worship without the interference of a spiritual oppressor from the north.
The nation's soul, literally and figuratively, is in danger. Yushchenko understands the need for a reawakened national consciousness on many different levels. So far he has been a deft leader galvanizing the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions of people.
The fight, however, is far from won. There is a great deal that can happen before December 26th. Those in the streets have made enormous sacrifices. Elderly marchers are without pension checks, students are without education, and wage-earners are without the money to properly support their families. And still they must persevere.
Putin and the West have increasingly been at odds about Ukraine's future. There is simply too much at stake for Russia not to meddle in some way with the December 26th election. Kuchma of course can face personal consequences for his unscrupulous stewardship of the country in the last ten years. He isn't about to walk away until he has established his post-presidential personal and financial security.
Yushchenko must handle each in a different, yet calculating manner. The Russian bear senses it's about to lose the Ukrainian meal ticket. Ongoing attention by Western governments and Diaspora Ukrainians is critical to keeping the beast at bay. Bravo Canada for offering 500 election observers for December 26th! Other nation's must help in this important task as well. In contrast, Kuchma must be treated like any other school yard bully. He either behaves now and during the election or suffers the criminal consequences later. Better to manage Putin without the alliance of Kuchma than with it.
The slightest amount of weariness by the Orange Patriots will be Putin and Kuchma's greatest weapon against freedom. It's when we become most tired that victory is illusive. Ukraine is like a marathon runner that must now pace itself to win. The finish line is in sight, but still a long way off. Each of us must continue to cheer on the ancestral motherland as she sprints toward the liberty that awaits her over the finish line.
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep is the Vicar General and Chancellor of the Archeparchy for the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of North and South America Sobornopravna. His Grace, a lawyer and political scientist by training, is a former legislative analyst to U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). He has studied at Bangor Theological Seminary (bts.org), the third oldest such school in the United States. His Grace may be reached at VladykaPaulPeter (a) aol.com. The views expressed here are strictly personal.
* * * * *
Apr 22 12 - Op-ed: Aiding and Abetting the Moscow Patriarchate
Mar 23 12 - Friends of Ukraine Take Action
Feb 24 12 - Will Ukraine have Its First Modern Political Martyr?
Jan 23 12 - Holocaust Remembrance Day
Dec 30 11 - Ukrainian World Praise for Major Archbishop Shevchuk
Dec 21 11 - Lessons from Muscovy
Aug 10 11 - Russian Truth
Apr 14 11 - President Yanukovych's Chance to Show Leadership
Mar 14 11 - An Open Letter to Viktor Yanukovych
Aug 27 10 - Independent Ukraine 2010
Jan 31 10 - Remembering Ukraine's Jews
Jan 15 10 - Orange Forever!
Aug 27 09 - UAOC Mourns the Passing of Senator Edward Kennedy
Jan 14 08 - UAOC Bishop Condemns United Fatherland and Union of Orthodox Citizens
Oct 25 07 - Bishop calls for Annual Holocaust Memorial Day
May 28 07 - Priests try to end anti-Semitism
Feb 12 07 - Statement on Anti-Semitism
Feb 5 07 - Kyiv Patriarchate Appoints U.S. Director of Public Affairs
Nov 23 05 - Archbishop Husar's Orange Revolution of Faith
Sep 12 05 - Yushchenko showed leadership
Sep 7 05 - Metropolitan Mefodiy of Kyiv to visit America
Sep 2 05 - UAOC issues strong condemnation of anti-semitism
Apr 28 05 - Yushchenko at the Kennedy Library
Apr 1 05 - Diaspora rebirth begins in dialogue
Mar 11 05 - The Politics of Orthodoxy
Feb 11 05 - The Diaspora's Future
Jan 21 05 - Ukraine, Orthodoxy, and the Greek Prelate
Dec 22 04 - Has the Diaspora failed? Can more be done?
Dec 22 04 - Russia will not leave Ukraine alone
Dec 14 04 - God, Faith and the Orange Revolution
Dec 8 04 - Ukraine must run the extra mile
Dec 1 04 - Cage the Russian Circus Bear
Nov 24 04 - Support liberty - Practical things you can do
Nov 22 04 - Ukraine's Election - NOW WHAT?
Oct 11 04 - Catholic Patriarchate in Kyiv
Sep 29 04 - Kuchma and the American presidential election
Aug 13 04 - Op-ed: Foreign churches cannot dictate a unilateral non-Ukrainian spirituality in Ukraine (Patriarch Filaret and Ukrainian Spirituality)
Jul 26 04 - Op-ed: Viktor Yushchenko and Ukraine's future (Ukraine needs a patriot as its next leader)
Mar 18 04 - Ukrainian influence in the 2004 American presidential election
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