BRAMA, Sep 12, 2005, 10:00 am ET|
Yushchenko showed leadership
By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Viktor Yushchenko is an honorable man with integrity, character and strength of purpose seeking to put Europe's second largest and potentially one of its wealthiest nations above political self-interest. The difficult decision he made to shakeup the cabinet after seven months in office underscores that Ukraine's democracy is alive and well.
The concern expressed by some may reflect how President Yushchenko's televised speech was written. Although he raised legitimate concerns and showed the resolve to fix the problem the speech lacked an inspirational thread needed to assure citizens that democracy can sometimes be messy. The speech didn't emphasize that with patience and commitment all will be well. More important the speech writer didn't realize that there would an international audience assessing it.
But the speech did reflect the depth of Yushchenko's character. He acknowledged that those dismissed "were devoted people, without whom, I believe, our success in the autumn 2004 would not have been possible." The President had the political security and intellectual honesty to give credit to others.
In addition, he said that "we've stepped away from the goals of the revolution...I could not pretend that nothing was happening. Not for this did I survive a poisoning. Not for this did people stand on the square. I had to take radical steps." It showed that while he has esteem and affection for those he fired, he will do what is necessary to safeguard Ukraine's democratic development. He did not put personal friendship or political alliances above the best interests of the nation.
"But let patience have its perfect work,
that you may be perfect and complete,
Some of Ukraine's detractors tried to spin the situation in a manner favorable to the northern neighbor. Not surprisingly, several are making the case that "Little Russia" needs its oppressive, big brother to manage its affairs. While the notion is absurd it does indicate, as I have pointed out in other editorials, that Ukraine must do a better job managing, marketing and communicating a message to the outside world. Yushchenko needs to be mindful of this when giving any speech. Ukraine and the world are listening.
Yushchenko's actions showed decisiveness. If something doesn't work try something else. Yushchenko didn't wait two or three years to restructure the cabinet. To have done so would have squandered valuable time and jeopardized the nation's move forward.
There's an unrealistic expectation that the transformation of Ukrainian society will occur overnight. For over three hundred years Ukraine lived shackled to Moscow. It is now trying to find its way into full sunshine while dealing with this confused, complicated legacy. There is still a Soviet infrastructure in place that greatly hampers democratic progress. A mentality exists that festers incestuous corruption. Even spiritually and culturally Ukraine is learning to find its own voice after centuries of foreign control. The legacy and contemporary political interests of the northern neighbor remain a real threat to Ukraine's liberty.
In April 2005, the Russian gas company, Gazprom, announced that it would triple prices for Ukraine. In August, the Kremlin said it would rescind Ukraine's discounts for oil. A Kremlin spokesman was quoted by UPI saying that discounts "create grounds for 'Orange Revolutions,' which change little in people's lives but bring to power rulers, some of whom are...in the pay of the United States." It was an obvious slap at Yushchenko. And such actions will no doubt hamper economic reform.
The situation in Ukraine is delicate. The northern neighbor will do what is necessary to disrupt Ukraine's embrace of a free market economy. It is delusional to think that the Kremlin or the Russian Orthodox Church will ever accept the emancipation of "Little Russia." Hence the many challenges Yushchenko faces are not going to be resolved overnight. Patience is needed. This is not to suggest that complacency or incompetence should be tolerated in the Yushchenko Administration. It means that everyone must be pragmatic about the situation and to think long-term.
Some of the most vocal critics of Yushchenko have been the Ukrainian media. I applaud them for holding him accountable. It may be one of the reasons why he acted decisively and sacked his cabinet. No democracy is safe nor can it thrive without a free, independent press.
Journalists, however, also must show discretion. There is a fine line between helping to keep the citizenry informed, bringing about positive and much needed change and turning into a destructive force that criticizes for the sake of it. Although I'm not able to survey all that's been written in Ukraine about the change in government, I hope that journalists, commentators and newspaper editorial boards see the positive aspect of Yushchenko's decision.
There's also a need for a sense of professional maturity and responsibility by those in the media. Not long ago there was much controversy over the President's son who seems to live rather well. Yushchenko became spirited during a press conference when pressed on the high life style of the young man. The President received widespread scorn from the media because of his response.
Probably Yushchenko deserved some criticism, but let's not forget, the man is a father before he is President with deep love for his son. He behaved like any father should when a child is publicly criticized. Of course that does not mean his son should not be held accountable for any possible wrong doing. Yet the media must keep things in perspective.
The son later said in an interview that his father gave him a very tough talk. The young man described it as one of the most difficult things he had ever experienced. Unfortunately, the son's contrition and Yushchenko's stern rebuke didn't receive nearly the same attention as earlier stories of a young, single guy living well.
No one should be concerned that Yushchenko shook up his government in a nation of 48 million still trying to free itself from its corrupt, ethnically distinct and spiritually bankrupt past. Those supportive of Ukraine's aspirations toward full liberty should be, however, very concerned when he doesn't take such actions. Democracy is on the right path because of Viktor Yushchenko. Patience, however, is needed.
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep may be reached at VlaydkaPaulPeter(at)aol.com. His Excellency is Chancellor of the Archeparchy and Synellus of Public Affairs and Government Relations for the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of North and South America and the Diaspora. He is also Episcopal Vicar for Colombia and Venezuela. In the past he as served as a Legislative Analyst to U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Legal Counsel to a Massachusetts State Senator and Director of Legislation to a New York think-tank.
* * * * *
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Jan 23 12 - Holocaust Remembrance Day
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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
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Apr 28 05 - Yushchenko at the Kennedy Library
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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)
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