I am Bohdan Skrobach. Information about Ukraine is dedicated to the memory of my father Petro, for whom the independence of Ukraine meant so much.
My Ukrainian Poem
Ukrainian Political Opinion - 1993 to 2019
Publication The Globe and Mail
Title Open For Business
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 27 December 2019
Re Republicans’ Impeachment Deflections Are Bad For Ukrainian Business (Report on Business, Dec. 20): Contributor Michael Bociurkiw plays down corruption in Ukraine, noting that it ranked 120 out of 180 countries in the corruption-perceptions index by Transparency International. However, a top Ukraine foreign-policy goal is to join the European Union. In the same index, the lowest ranking EU country is Bulgaria at 77. For Ukraine to realistically have a chance at EU membership, it needs to address corruption.
This year, Ukraine has heard not just from U.S. politicians about corruption in its borders. Its own citizens spoke loudly about it in this year’s presidential election when Petro Poroshenko lost overwhelmingly to Volodymyr Zelensky, who had no political experience but was viewed as non-corrupt.
Publication Financial Times
Title Nothing has changed in Ukraine even after two revolutions
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 28 April 2019
It was noted in your report that the recent election of Volodymyr Zelensky as its president was another "great day for Ukrainian democracy" (“Poroshenko leaves mixed legacy as he hands over power in Ukraine”, April 24). The question, however can be asked: is democracy still futile in Ukraine? The country has rampant corruption and the economy is in the hands of a few oligarchs. This defines a dictatorship. When Ukrainians have voted in “free and fair” elections their only choice on the ballot was the preservation of this system.
Ukraine has now experienced two revolutions in the last two decades. Both led to an election of a President promising great change. Both of these Presidents, however, have now left office - democratically, but widely disgraced because the corrupt system has remained.
If Mr Zelensky fails in tackling corruption and becomes unpopular for this failure, waiting in the wings is an oligarch, who in five years' time, promises to “save” Ukraine. Mr. Poroshenko has vowed to run again for President in the next election.
Publication Wall Street Journal
Title Why Ukraine Must Have Nuclear Deterrence
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 3 January 2017
Victor Pinchuk's assessment that "Ukraine must make painful compromises for Peace with Russia," Dec 29, reflects the reality that today Ukraine is negotiating from a position of weakness. This happens to countries that lose territory in military conflicts. Ukraine lost the Crimea and parts of Donbas. The peace solution for the end of the conflict in Donbas, through the Minsk agreements, is being imposed on the weak party, in unfavorable terms.
During the dismemberment of Ukraine in 2014, it had no military treaties with a nation or bloc that would guarantee its security. As a result no nation intervened militarily on Ukraine’s behalf. Today Ukraine is still subject to the same threats of further partition. Russian troops are amassed in large numbers on Ukraine’s border. With no nation still required militarily to come to Ukraine’s aid, the only manner Ukraine can reverse a future violation of its territorial integrity is to acquire a position of strength. This can only occur today when Ukraine becomes a nuclear state. The possession of a nuclear deterrence would give Ukraine the breathing space it needs to build up its war torn economy, without the threat of further Russian incursions.
All nations have the right to self defense. Ukraine’s only plausible defense against a much large adversary is a nuclear deterrent.
Publication Financial Times
Title Why not ask what Ukrainians can do
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 26 November 2013
Mr Yushchenko is viewed as a disappointing president by the west. He failed to enact fundamental changes in the political, economic and judicial spheres in Ukraine, for which the Orange Revolution provided an opportunity. Instead he interpreted the revolution as earning Ukraine the right to receive substantial EU support. That policy, similar to what he calls for today, resulted in no substantial change in Ukraine. This is evidenced by the act of the present Ukrainian government.
Publication New York Times
Title A Chance for Change in Ukraine
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 1 April 2013
Regarding "Ukraine can't have it both ways" (Views, March 29) by John Herbst: A fear expressed in the denial of an association agreement between the European Union and Ukraine is that it could push President Viktor Yanukovich to join a customs union with Russia. Such action, however, could also be a catalyst for reform in Ukraine.
As noted in Herbst’s article, only a minority wishes to join the customs union with Russia. The majority would be galvanized against it and likely engage in national protests to force an early presidential election. This change could lead to the signing of the association agreement with the European Union.
The issue that would promote such moves would be to make the immediate release of Yulia Tymoshenko a requirement for the signing of an E.U.-Ukraine Association Agreement at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November. Yanukovich could not accept this. After November, with no prospect of an accord with Europe, Yanukovich would be isolated from the West. The European Union would then wait for internal Ukrainian events to bring forth positive change.
Publication Wall Street Journal
Title As a Bridge, Ukraine Is Stronger to the West
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 23 February 2010
With the election of Viktor Yanukovych, the debate about which direction the new Ukrainian president will take his country has begun, such as with Mr. Yanukovych's own oped "Ukraine Will Be a Bridge Between East and West," Feb. 17. The opposite question also needs to be asked. In what direction will Ukraine make Mr. Yanukovych turn?
A place to look for this answer is the issue of Ukraine joining a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Mr. Yanukovych had indicated interest in joining such a union during his campaign, but could Ukraine today realistically do so? Ukraine has become a member of the World Trade Organization. All the existing members of this other union are not. In disputes within the union, the existing members could engage in any actions they wished, including protectionism. Ukraine would be held to the rules of the WTO, barring it from taking the same actions as Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan could. Ukraine would then be at a disadvantage.
The political realities of Ukraine will also have an influence on how Mr. Yanukovych governs in Kiev. Ukraine today is a genuine democracy. It has moved politically away from countries that still are a one-person states. Mr. Yanukovych will not be able to use the same tactics that politicians in such states do. He has to deal with an open and free media that he cannot attempt to silence. Ukraine is becoming a very different society than the other countries in the former Soviet Union. Mr. Yanukovych will have to govern by these new rules.
Mr. Yanukovych says that Ukraine will be a bridge between East and West. For a bridge to be strong, its pillars must also be. Today, as a bridge, Ukraine would be attached in the West to a pillar that is robust in terms of individual freedoms and democratic rule, the same foundation that Ukraine is being built on. In the East it would be attached to a pillar that remains weak in these attributes. A bridge with a weak support could collapse Mr. Yanukovych's vision.
Publication Financial Times
Title Victory a wake-up call for Brussels
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 10 February 2010
Sir, Gideon Rachman indicates that last weekend’s presidential election has set back Ukraine's joining the wider European community ("Oranges and lemons in Ukraine", February 8). Although Viktor Yanukovich’s apparent victory will create the headline that Ukraine will move away from Europe and towards Russia, the result may have the opposite effect. His victory can be a wake-up call for the European Union regarding membership for Ukraine
There will be concerns and some fear in Europe about the potential consequences of Mr Yanukovich’s victory. After the Orange revolution the EU dragged its feet about Ukrainian membership. It indicated either that Ukraine still was not ready or that it was not ready for the acceptance of Ukraine. There is nothing like fear to cause action. The Yanukovich victory could be the catalyst for the EU to feel a need to act at last on Ukrainian membership, out of concern over the alternative.
Publication Kyiv Post
Title Short-sighted compromise
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 16 February 2004
It would be interesting to speculate what would exist today in the United States if your Dec. 9 "Compromise with bandits" editorial appeared in the 1860s in response to Abraham Lincoln's signing a political compromise with the South. The United States would not have remained united if Lincoln had sought conciliation with those whose actions were meant to destroy it.
When one compromises with "bandits," one allows them to continue to be what they are. In Ukraine, their actions have seriously weakened independence for 13 years. How will Ukraine be stronger now after power has been transferred to the parliament, where they still have great influence?
Publication Kyiv Post
Title Kuchma fearful of likely Yushchenko victory
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 6 September 2002
President Kuchma's call for a shift of power from the presidency to the parliament ("Kuchma's great U‑turn," Aug. 29) could be an acknowledgement that Viktor Yushchenko would become president within two years time. If this occurs, the benefits of the existing strong presidential powers would no longer be available to the present "party of power." Worse still, these powers could now be used against it to settle old scores. Strong presidential rule is only an asset if you are in control of it.
In Ukraine's political landscape, the only place where the existing "party of power" could still have influence after the next presidential election is in the Rada. The rules of the last parliamentary election allowed it to obtain a significant role in it, even though it finished a distant third in the popular vote.
It is maybe now in the interest of the president and his supporters to shift power into this political body, where they still would be able to use their position for their own benefit.
For Ukraine, the move from presidential to parliamentary democracy would not necessary solve anything. The problems that have plagued Ukraine are not a result of the existence of the wrong type of political system, but how it is used (or abused).
A strong presidential system may in fact be most beneficial to Ukraine at the present time. Ukraine is now seeking European Union and NATO membership. To achieve these goals will requires the implementation of rapid reforms, so Ukraine can catch up with it East European counterparts. A strong central authority could implement the needed changes.
What Ukraine needs today, more than political reform, are politicians who are willing to use their power to build a nation that allows all Ukrainians to be able to benefit from independence, not just themselves.
Publication Kyiv Post
Title Papal visit will bring Ukraine closer to Europe
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 21 June 2001
In the editorial "Welcoming the Pope" ( June 14 ), the point was raised that it was difficult to understand why the pope's visit to Ukraine raised such consternation among some Orthodox. One reason for this can be found when one views the pope's visit in both political and religious terms.
The Russian Orthodox Church is closely tied to Russian political aspirations. Before communism, when the Russian Empire existed, the church strongly promoted the empire's reach and power. One of the cornerstones of the empire was the subjugation of Ukraine. Not surprisingly the Russian Orthodox Church still has nearly half of its parishes in Ukraine. When communism ended, the Russian nostalgia for the old empire's influence still remained. If Russia however loses its church's hold in Ukraine, one of the keys of retaining the old empire's influence will be lost.
Although today the Russian Empire formally no longer exists, Western Europe still accepts the Russian sphere of influence in the region of the former Soviet Union. This has resulted in the continued existence of a line that divides Europe. It has many times been drawn between Western Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. This religious divide mimics the political divide. Only when this line disappears will one be able to speak of a united Europe.
The pope's visit will help remove this dividing line. When he steps on Kyiv soil he will be indicating to the world that the centuries old rule in this region of Europe by Russia no longer exists. He will be telling both Western Europe and Russia, that the divide cannot continue to remain, if an independent Ukraine now exists.
The pope's trip will be historic for helping make the goal of a united Europe become a reality.
Publication Financial Times
Title New US Admin puts strain on Ukrainian relations
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 5 February 2001
Sir, Ukraine's increased level of military co-operation with Russia ("Kiev-Moscow pact could threaten Nato links", January 22) reflects an assessment in Ukraine that the new US administration will not possess as much interest in Ukraine as the outgoing one did.
Ukraine's relations with Nato are dependent on US support. Its ability in the past to go much farther in co-operation with Nato than Russia was a result of this support. The seeking of close ties with Nato always infuriated the Kremlin. However, Moscow could not fully display its scorn against Ukraine, for such action would bring a rebuke from Washington.
The sense that Ukraine will now have to go more alone in its relationship with Russia leads to the development of a more pragmatic policy towards its eastern neighbour. Actions that could anger Russia will be avoided. Ukraine already has adjusted its foreign policy by replacing Borys Tarasyuk, its foreign minister, who had a pro-west leaning.
It remains to be seen whether these adjustments in policy are justified. History indicates that a certain level of realignment would be necessary. Many members of George W Bush's foreign policy team served during the previous Bush presidency.
Ukraine cannot forget the lack of support from President Bush in 1991, when he told Ukraine not to seek independence. The manner in which relations between the new administration and Ukraine develop will determine whether the present adjustments are warranted or will be reversed.
Publication Kyiv Post
Title Ukraine still lacks its own identity
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 29 December 1998
The collapse of the Soviet Union gave Ukraine statehood without an identity. Many have sought to define one by promoting a certain external orientation. As a result, much of the discussion about Ukrainian foreign policy centers on which political camp Ukraine should belong in.
Some advocate joining the Western camp as the best means for ensuring independence. Others call for reunion with Russia as the only solution to Ukraine's present difficulties. Still others seek a place in all camps.
Ukraine's official foreign policy is to become politically part of Europe while retaining economic ties with Russia. Although that policy emphasizes the pro-Western option, realistically it places Ukraine in the third category, because you cannot divorce economics from politics. Ukraine thus follows a multi-vector foreign policy, seeking to be part of the European Union while retaining an attachment to the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Seven years of enacting that policy has produced a distinct result. Ukraine is unable to join any political camp.
As an independent state, Ukraine cannot return to Russia. Moreover, to do so would be unwise. The future of Russia is uncertain. If Russia restores its undemocratic roots, there will be no room for an independent Ukraine within its grasp.
Russia and Ukraine were also hatched from the same egg, the Soviet Union. They inherited many similar problems and deficiencies. In a post-Cold War world, Ukraine's survival now depends on learning how to produce quality consumer goods, not just tanks and rockets. Such knowledge does not exist in Russia. An alliance with Russia has its limits.
As a non-capitalistic entity with rudimentary democratic credentials, Ukraine has not been accepted by the West. When it visits the West, it is only given a small handout, with the hope it goes away. It will only be taken seriously when it has achieved the same level of reform as those Central European states about to enter the European Union.
As the process of EU enlargement gains momentum, Ukraine is paying the price for its lack of real progress. Unable to obtain a commitment from the EU for associate membership, its politicians now warn of a new Iron Curtain that could descend on Europe.
If one does go up, it will not be because the European Union has sought it. The EU's first wave of eastern expansion will bring it to Ukraine's border. It will be natural for the EU to seek a close relationship with its neighbor. Eventual membership should be a normal outcome of this. It is the responsibility of Ukraine to be in a position to take advantage of the situation that will soon present itself. If a new curtain does appear, it will be of Ukraine's own making.
Although Ukraine remains very vocal about its goal of joining the EU, membership in itself will not solidify independence. There is no substitute for carrying out the necessary work within Ukraine to build statehood. That lesson was not learned when Ukraine voted overwhelmingly for independence in 1991. It was thought that the vote alone would free it from the problems of its past. The vote, however, only provided the means, not the end.
One of the old problems that has not been eliminated is the historical East-West divide. Since independence it appears half of Ukraine has waited for the West to save it, while the other hoped Russia would do the same. As long as that difference remains, so too will the question of whether an independent Ukraine can endure.
A single national identity based on a particular external orientation cannot be forged within the existing divisions that remain in Ukraine. It therefore needs to be developed from within. This identity should be based on values that can be embraced by all Ukrainians.
Ukraine's people must be able to interact within democratic institutions, using a free press and the rule of law. And they need to possess the ability to create economic wealth. If those values become the foundation of the Ukrainian identity, then the old divisions will dissipate. The people (regardless of which region they are from) will have a convincing reason for living in an independent Ukraine.
The need to develop a Ukrainian identity from within is best exemplified by the question of future NATO expansion. Today, depending on where you live in Ukraine, NATO is viewed either as a great savior or a great threat. Its discussion accentuates the existing divide. When Ukrainians can begin experiencing the benefits from living in their own state, then any question about NATO expansion could be conducted on a constructive level. Regardless of where a Ukrainian stood in the country, they would ask the same question: Does NATO membership best protect what Ukraine possesses? By consensus an answer could be obtained.
With a strong national identity Ukraine will embrace (and be embraced by) those who share its values. That will include Western Europe. It can also include Russia. The level of compatibility of the Russian identity will determine that.
Publication Toronto Star
Title Put genocide in perspective
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 29 June 1997
In a June 22 article, Olivia Ward notes that Hitler appointed Erich Koch to administer Ukrainians as "slaves" to be beaten and subdued.
During Nazi occupation, Ukraine suffered a population loss of more than 7 million. More than 2 million were sent to work as slave labor in Germany. Koch never paid for these crimes. He lived to age 90 (1896-1986).
Ward also notes that in 1934, Stalin's starvation policy led to the death and deportation of a least 15 million Ukrainians. The perpetrators of this genocide also went unpunished.
To understand what took place without adequate justice being applied, imagine if the population of Canada was completely liquidated in the next decade while the world remained silent.
Publication Washington Post
Title Ukraine Boxed In
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 14 June 1997
The Post's June 4 editorial "Russia and Ukraine" stated that it can only be positive that Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma are building a structure of normal state relations. Unfortunately, the deal to lease bases in Sevastopol to Russia will not permit such an occurrence.
Sevastopol is Russia's litmus test for accepting an independent Ukraine. Today Russia cannot pass this test, and the 20-year lease for the Black Sea Fleet ensures that Russia will not be able to pass the test within the next generation. Future Russian leaders will not wish to see Ukrainian statehood as a natural thing, because doing so could mean losing Sevastopol.
Leasing of Sevastopol ensures that Russia has the incentive to undermine Ukrainian independence. Ukraine's present weakness relative to Russia has made it impossible for Ukraine to enforce its neutral status and demand that Russia withdraw its troops from the Crimea. If Ukraine truly became independent and economically stronger, this is what it would demand. Russia thus can stay in Sevastopol only if it promotes a weak Ukraine. Such a policy will not lead to normal state relations.
Publication Financial Times
Title A dangerous vacuum
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 23 November 1994
Sir, Your editorial,"Ukrainian virtue" ( November 18), states that the Ukrainian parliament made the world a safer place. But has it also made an "independent" Ukraine safer?
Ukraine cannot survive as an independent state without creating economic prosperity. Poland has understood this very well. But Poland also knows that economics does not guarantee security. This is why it is strongly seeking Nato membership and integration with western Europe.
Ukraine begins an attempt at radical reform with no offer to become part of Nato. The possibility of becoming part of European Union is measured in decades.
An independent Ukraine today exists in a vacuum. Because of its size and location, this is a dangerous state to be in. Ukraine's history attests to this.
Publication Ukrainian Weekly
Title Kravchuk's defeat shows U.S. error
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 14 August 1994
The defeat of Leoind Kravchuk shows that the American administration, which desired his re-election, is still on the wrong side when it comes to Ukraine. Mr. Kravchuk rightfully did not deserve another term because of the economic situation. The Clinton administration supported him,however,because of his commitment to a non-nuclear Ukraine.
The administration's losing streak when it comes to Ukraine started in 1991. Just months before independence, an American president came to Kyiv and urged Ukrainians to remain part of the Soviet Union. This bad advice was followed by two years of what has proven a shortsighted and dangerous "Russia only" aid policy.
Recently the administration has begun using the right words, when describes the importance of a strong independent Ukraine. It needs to match the right words with the right policy. The implementation of the G-7 aid package will show if the losing streak is over.
In regard to the defeat of Mr. Kravchuk: the game of chess can be used to describe the legacy his presidency will leave. When Mr. Kravchuk became president in 1991 a new chess game was started in the region of the former Soviet Union. Ukraine had the potential of being a strategic piece on the new board. Today it has been reduced to a pawn.
Publication Foreign Affairs
Title A Jittery Ukraine
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date May / June 1994
Ted Galen Carpenter ("Closing the Nuclear Umbrella," March/April 1994) describes as "worrisome" the widespread public sentiment in Ukraine for retaining nuclear weapons. The overwhelming opin in the West is that becoming nonnuclear is in Ukraine's best security interest. Why then does a nuclear sentiment persist in Ukraine?
The last time Ukraine declared independence - in 1918 - Moscow invaded it. Today concerns over a revival of the past have been heightened. As the articles by Zbigniew Brzezinski ("The Premature Partnership") and Yuri N. Afanasyev ("Russian Reform Is Dead") indicated, "central planning" in Russian domestic policy and a "military influence" in its foreign policy have returned.
This retrenchment is a historical trait of the Soviet Union, which has consistently alternated between liberalization and authoritarianism. In the 1920s, when the Soviet Union was forming, liberal programs such as the New Economic Policy were introduced to increase farm and industrial production. In Soviet Ukraine, the Ukrainian language and culture were promoted after czarist regimes had suppressed them. When Joseph Stalin took power all these activities were silenced. Through a forced famine, which caused the death of over seven million people in Ukraine in 1932-33, the Kremlin sought to liquidate the Ukrainian identity. Stalin's death brought Nikita Khrushchev to power, and attempts at reform and internal liberalization replaced rule by an iron hand. The overthrow of Khrushchev brought a return of complete authoritarianism with Leonid Brezhnev. In 1982, 18 years of stagnant Brezhnev rule gave way to the perestroika and glasnost of Mikhail Gorbachev.
Today an independent Ukraine looks at Moscow from the outside and sees the political pendulum swinging again. This creates a natural nervous reaction that expresses itself in pronuclear sentiment.
Publication The Economist
Title Yaroslav's legacy
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 4 December 1993
Sir - The remark (November 6th) about "Prince Yaroslav the Wise, who formed the first alliance of Russia's squabbling princedoms nine centuries ago and gave them their first written laws," is not accurate. The prince ruled over "Kyivan-Rus", not Russia. This distinction is important to make today, because the demise of the Soviet Union brought statehood to the nation of Ukraine. Its greatest national treasure is located in St. Sophia cathedral, which was built by Prince Yaroslav in 1037.
Publication Financial Times
Title Question of consistency
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 1 October 1993
Sir, The west's support for Boris Yeltsin's dissolution of parliament ("West's best bet" September 29) is based on the idea that this body and the constitution were inherited from the Soviet Union.
When the disbanded parliament is replaced by a democratically elected legislative body and a new constitution adopted, Russia can assert it has domestically renounced the old Soviet system. Such a declaration implies a similar repudiation externally. Russia can no longer claim a special sphere of influence in the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union. The west should only support a consistency in Russian domestic and foreign policy.
Publication Time
Title Ukraine's Nuclear Card
Author Bohdan Skrobach
Published Date 10 May 1993
Ukraine's history of subjection to foreign domination means that its ability to define itself is based on the capacity to ensure its sovereign status (April 19). Your portrayal of 17th century Ukrainian cossack Bohdan Khmelnytsky as a liberator whose lasting legacy includes the consigning of Ukraine to Russian subjugation offers an important lesson to this end. No foreign power will guarantee the autonomy Ukraine has won, but its substantial military strength does not automatically guarantee independence. Ukraine's President Kravchuk deserves credit for carving out Ukraine's own defence force from the former Soviet Union. It is impossible to determine how many of the former Soviet soldiers who took an oath of loyalty to Ukraine did so out of necessity rather than patriotism. This uncertainty, along with Ukraine's desire to obtain international security guarantees for giving up its nuclear arsenal, leaves it vulnerable to repeating history.
President Kravchuk could become another Khmelnytsky. He would be revered for leading Ukraine to independence, yet, by placing reliance on foreign nations' security assurances, repeat one of the cossack's legacies.