Political Opinion
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Publication Kyiv Postopinion-flag
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 Staropinion-flag
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 Postopinion-flag
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 Timesopinion-flag
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 Weeklyopinion-flag
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 Affairsopinion-flag
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 opinion 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 Economistopinion-flag
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 Timesopinion-flag
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 Timeopinion-flag
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,leav es 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.