Jewish World Review Dec. 29, 2004 / 18 Teves, 5765

Jack Kelly

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More powerful than tanks | The "Orange Revolution" in the Ukraine is the most significant political development in Eastern Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"For 14 years we have been independent, but now we are free," said Viktor Yuschenko, who won the presidential election Dec. 26th.

Freedom isn't free. Few know this better than Yuschenko, who survived an attempt to poison him that has left his once handsome face disfigured, and a ham-handed attempt to steal the election by supporters of his opponent, current prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, in the election of Nov. 21st. The fat lady hasn't sung yet. Yanukovich, taking a leaf from Al Gore's playbook, has refused to concede. But the handwriting is on the wall.

Yuschenko's margin was large; 12,000 international observers said this election was fair, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he can work with Yuschenko.

This last is important, because Putin poured millions of rubles into the campaign of Yanukovich, a former communist apparatchik, and hinted at military action if he weren't declared the victor.

Yuschenko will be the next president of the Ukraine because his supporters refused to accept the fraudulent result of the Nov. 21st election, and refused to be intimidated by threats. In the hundreds of thousands they camped out in the bitter cold in the streets of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, refusing to leave until justice was done.

The eyes of the world were on Kiev. That's probably why Putin failed to send in the tanks, as Stalin had done in Hungary in 1956, and Brezhnev had done in Czechoslovakia in 1968. The government of outgoing president Leonid Kuchma buckled to public pressure, with the normally rubber stamp parliament advocating, and the normally compliant supreme court ordering the new election.

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Yuschenko, who is married to an American who once worked for President Reagan, wants to orient the Ukraine towards the West, to join the European Union, and perhaps even NATO.

This alarms Putin. After Russia herself, Ukraine  —  which is nearly the size of Texas with a population of 48 million  —  was the largest and wealthiest of the Soviet republics. Ukraine is the ancestral homeland of the Russian people, and has the longest western border. (Ukraine means "border.")

Russians are paranoid, but they come by it honestly. Russia has been invaded by every country which conceivably could do so, including Poland, Sweden and France. Putin has been trying to reconstruct the old Soviet Union as a buffer against the West, which he and most of his countrymen still regard with suspicion. A Western-leaning Ukraine puts the kibosh on that plan, and is an enormous blow to Russian pride, and to lingering Russian pretensions to be a super power.

With all the Russians and a corrupt Ukrainian establishment at least imagined they had to lose from the accession of a genuine democrat to the presidency, the peaceful triumph of the Orange Revolution (orange is the color of Yuschenko's party) is both one of the most remarkable and one of the most hopeful developments in modern world history.

But this triumph of the people over the powerful elicited little interest from self-styled liberals, noted Daniel Berczik, who was surfing the web the day after.

"I went to the Washington Monthly, Tom Paine, the New Republic, Joshua Marshall, even Atrios, among several others, " Berczik said. "Only DailyKos bothered to mention (the election in the Ukraine), and then with a dismissive 'we've been here before.'"

Berczik is an old lefty himself, who "hated our government and the men who ran it," and "harbored a secret desire for the comeuppance that I knew America deserved."

But he was interested in "power to the people," and today's leftists aren't, Berczik said in his web log, "Bloggledygook."

"I'm starting to believe that the modern left is not interested in the march of freedom and democracy so much as heaping petty spite and hateful condescension on the rebellious children of a long-lamented and deceased empire," Berczik said.

"To be in the left today is to scoff at whole countries that want a free and open society," he said. "The left sees the liberation of Ukraine as an embarrassment... another reminder of the failed, fake revolution we counted on."

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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