President Obama Owes Us Some Straight Talk About Ukraine

Before World War III starts, it would be kind of nice to get a candid statement from President Obama about what’s been happening in Ukraine.

This February 23 report by Radio Free Europe is very interesting.  Basically, it says that the Ukrainian parliament purported to impeach the Ukrainian president in February but without the required review by Ukraine’s Constitutional Court and without the required three-fourths majority vote by the Ukrainian parliament.  This piece in Haaretz makes the same point.  If it’s true, then we have been supporting yet another coup against yet another democratically-elected government.  Sometimes overthrowing rotten democratic governments may be necessary, but it seems like an awfully bad example to set for the nascent democracies of eastern Europe.  We need to insist upon some explanation from the White House.

UPDATE (February 20, 2015):

I have no doubt that Yanukovych was a lousy president, perhaps a criminal president, but he was replaced by a coup rather than according to the Ukrainian constitution. The U.S. should have supported an opposition candidate, and/or supported legitimate impeachment proceedings, instead of supporting a coup in that country. The results have been predictable.

I agree with Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen who wrote this: “Washington and Brussels endorsed the coup, and have supported the outcome ever since. Everything that followed, from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the spread of rebellion in southeastern Ukraine to the civil war and Kiev’s ‘anti-terrorist operation,’ was triggered by the February coup. Putin’s actions have been mostly reactive.”

The ongoing crisis would likely not be happening if the Ukrainian constitution had been followed. The Constitution of Ukraine says at Article 109: “The resignation of the President of Ukraine shall enter into force from the moment when he personally announces the statement of resignation at a meeting of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.” I don’t think anyone believes that happened.

I haven’t been able to find the alleged text of any recorded resignation speech by Yanukovych, but in any event such an announcement would have to comply with Article 109. Yanukovych left Ukraine and went to Russia; it is common for American presidents to leave the United States without being overthrown because of it. Also common is for a candidate to write speeches of both acceptance and concession before election returns are in..

In our own history, the Kent State shootings in 1970 did not justify or result in any regime change, nor have any protests in Washington DC ever overturned the government. The Obama administration wanted “Yats” in power immediately and regardless of any elections or other inconvenient democratic delays. Iran may get nuclear weapons because of the lawlessness that we have encouraged in Ukraine, if the threats that have been coming out of Moscow lately are to be believed.

Per Associated Press on February 19, 2014:

“Radical protesters willing to confront police with violence were largely shunned at the start of the demonstrations three months ago, but they have become a key force in recent weeks, with moderate demonstrators bringing them food and some even preparing Molotov cocktails for them. Police also have turned increasingly brutal after law enforcement officers were killed.”

As I write this update (on February 20, 2015) Russia has been subjected to western sanctions, and has continued to foment violence in Ukraine.  I am 100% against that violence, and believe we have to take measures to ensure the safety of NATO allies Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.  But all this was foreseeable from the coup in Ukraine.  In retaliation for sanctions, Russia is in the process of offering support to Greece if it withdraws from the eurozone, and that may be coming next.

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