Ahead of this Sunday’s parliamentary election in Ukraine, Hillary Clinton’s U.S. State Department has become more critical of the government’s ruling party, expressing fears that democracy is being ill-served in the former Soviet satellite nation. Unfortunately, by backing a “democratic” coalition and undermining the current government, Clinton is helping to pave the way for a fringe party to agitate anti-Semitic messaging. Our allies in Israel have taken notice, and while this is par for the course in the Obama administration, Mrs. Clinton should reverse course immediately.
In a New York Times editorial last week, Clinton threw her weight behind United Opposition, a coalition of parties in Ukraine that consists of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party (or Batkivshchyna) and others. Tymoshenko is the cause célèbre of several pro-democracy European interests. But along with Fatherland, the coalition Hillary is putting her money on also includes Svoboda — a “social-nationalist” party — so this coalition is not the pure western democratic group it claims to be.
Both Clinton and the U.S. Senate may be backing the wrong horse. In September, the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution threatening sanctions against Ukraine for the conviction and imprisonment of former PM Tymoshenko, a leader in Ukraine’s opposition. Clinton also backed the U.S. Senate, calling for Tymoshenko’s release. But it isn’t as cut-and-dried as U.S. authorities think. Even the jailed PM’s closest ally, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko, has thrown her under the bus quicker than Obama threw Clinton under the bus over Benghazi.
Worse, there are fears that some elements of this coalition are edging toward the sort of anti-Semitism of old.
Recently members of the Israeli Knesset issued some dire warnings that anti-Semitism might be creeping into this coalition.
The Israeli side is wary of the fact that radical movements and anti-Semitic organizations come to the surface on the election eve, he said, exemplifying the coalition agreement (of the United Opposition – Ed.) with the party Svoboda, and expressed worry that this kind of parties in the future coalition would promote some national themes of anti-Semitic nature.
The Vice Speaker of the Knesset, the head of the Inter-Parliamentary Association Israel-Ukraine Alex Miller, went to pains to note that Ukraine currently has good relations with Israel and he hoped that this relationship stays strong.
One of the fears that Clinton and the U.S. Senate expressed is that current president Yanukovych is perpetrating a move to go back to a Soviet-like era of authoritarianism. U.S. authorities have also expressed fears that Yanukovych is too close to Putin. That would be a surprise to the Russians who have recently whined that Yanukovych is being too independent and not properly “toeing the Kremlin’s line.” But given Svoboda’s ability to rise, thanks to the U.S.’s misguided, blanket support for the opposition, Clinton and the Democrat Senate should be more worried about the resurgence of a Nazi-like era of hate.
Yanukovych and his Regions Party have been deeply involved in the electoral reforms that are helping bring Ukraine more in line with western democratic ideals. This, too, has vexed the Russians, and new thresholds in the proportional system should help keep Svoboda’s ideas about ethnic purity and other atrocious ideas at bay.
Secretary of State Clinton and the U.S. Senate need to commit to reviewing the true situation in Ukraine before making more pronouncements. Explicit support for Ukraine’s reformed process could signal to Israel that there is nothing to worry about, as well as helping to discourage Election Day shenanigans this weekend.
Unfortunately, this lack of clarity on Ukraine is yet another example of the Obama administration’s fumbled foreign policy scheme.