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We need a Marshall Plan to fix Ukraine

We need a Marshall Plan to fix Ukraine


Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Feb. 13 2014, 10:07 AM EST

The turmoil in Ukraine, now in its third month, will be not be resolved without robust intervention on the part of its key western partners, the European Union, the United States and Canada
. The crisis began when Ukrainians swept into the streets to protest President Yanukovych’s abrupt refusal to sign an association agreement with the European Union. Explaining that Ukraine was bankrupt and required an immediate cash injection that the EU was unprepared to provide, the president gratefully accepted a $15-billion bailout from an obliging President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

While the protests have morphed into a countrywide revolt against cronyism and corruption, a political resolution is currently deadlocked, while Ukraine’s beleaguered currency remains in freefall and its bankrupted economy faces imminent collapse. A bellicose Mr. Putin is using the unfolding drama to suborn Ukraine economically and politically, in much the same way that Stalin attempted to leverage the devastation in Europe to advance communism after the Second World War.

These circumstances pose a clear geo-strategic choice to the EU, U.S. and Canada: can the West afford a poor, politically unstable, autocratic, economically derelict nation of 46 million potential refugees on Europe’s eastern border tethered to a poor, but aggressive Russia; or is it in the West’s collective interests to embrace a prosperous, democratically confident and economically stable Ukraine firmly integrated into Europe?

Indeed, as pithily explained by geo-strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski, the ultimate prize for the West is not even a stable Ukraine, but a democratic Russia; a peaceful, prosperous European Ukraine destroys Mr. Putin’s residual imperial ambitions and provides Russia with an opportunity to eventually transform into a democratic, responsible and peaceful partner, sharing common values.

This outcome requires the development of a comprehensive assistance plan for Ukraine modelled on the post-war European Recovery Program, better known as the Marshall Plan. In 1948, facing the dual threats of Soviet expansionism and the total collapse of Europe’s economies, the United States pumped $15-billion (roughly $148-billion in today’s terms) into modernizing and integrating Europe’s economies. This far-sighted strategic decision resulted in the total political reconstruction of Western Europe, leading to decades of unprecedented growth and prosperity on the continent.

The recovery plan for Ukraine (let’s call it the Ukraine Recovery Program, or URP) should take this same bold, strategic approach. It should be based on the following framework: in return for starting to implement pre-agreed structural reforms (and only then), a new reform-oriented Ukrainian government demonstrably committed to (and capable of) implementing reforms should be offered a substantial three-to-four-year aid package that 1) facilitates the democratic transformation of Ukraine’s governing institutions; 2) stimulates the modernization and competitiveness of the Ukrainian economy; and 3) by offsetting the adverse socio-economic consequences of Russian economic retaliation, provides a social cohesion cushion in three key sectors: energy, state-owned enterprises, and the pension system. Social cohesion assistance in the following areas would cost between $21-25-billion, comprised of stand-by money to be used to backstop the plan agreed with the government to modernize the economy.

Moreover, a detailed outline of the URP, beyond vague promises, should be announced immediately. The impact of the EU, U.S. and Canada demonstrating their willingness to stand behind Ukraine with a massive program of assistance will help break the political logjam and provide a framework for the outcome of the current negotiations. It will 1) reassure Ukrainians of the West’s seriousness in helping Ukraine integrate into Europe; 2) build support among Ukrainians for a European future; 3) assuage the fears, stoked by the governing party and Russia, among Ukrainians (especially in the densely populated and heavily industrialized eastern part of Ukraine) of losing their jobs and pensions during the integration process; and 4) undermine the specious arguments that Ukraine’s only hope of economic salvation lies with Russia.

With this plan the West reaffirms its position as an honest broker to the current dispute, as the URP would be politically neutral and addresses the concerns of all sides.

Notwithstanding the hobbling economic problems in the West, the URP is worth the investment; the cost of containing the long-term fallout from economic collapse in Ukraine will be significantly higher. For the West, Ukraine is too big to fail. Moldova and Georgia may also lay claims for massive assistance, but their own viability as independent states may depend on whether or not Ukraine falls back into Russia’s orbit. Only Ukraine has the heft to block Russia’s imperial aspirations.

Ultimately, the URP will reassure the Ukrainian people that they can enter through Europe’s “open door” not as paupers, but as proud partners.

Finally, the EU, backed by the U.S. and Canada, should take the long overdue, and now obvious step of explicitly promising to open talks with Ukraine on EU accession following implementation of the reforms.

Ukrainians have shown the world that they are prepared to die for the values behind the original Marshall Plan – they have certainly earned the right to be integrated back into Europe.

Daniel Bilak is an international lawyer based in Kiev and a former UNDP senior governance advisor to the government of Ukraine.

It is important for the Western World to act decisively and support the evolution of a prosperous, democratically confident and economically stable Ukraine firmly integrated into Europe!

Talks Stall As President Of Ukraine Takes a Leave

Talks Stall As President Of Ukraine Takes a Leave.

KIEV, Ukraine — Critical negotiations between the embattled Ukrainian government and opposition leaders were thrown into disarray on Thursday when President Viktor F. Yanukovych went on sick leave, complaining of a respiratory infection.

Ukraine has been in turmoil for months, since Mr. Yanukovych shocked much of the country by refusing to sign a trade deal with Europe and instead accepted a $15 billion loan package from Moscow. But he has found himself caught between the competing demands of the protesters in the streets of Kiev and other Ukrainian cities and his allies in the Kremlin, who suspended the loan deal on Wednesday after disbursing only $3 billion.

The nature and timing of the president’s illness raised immediate questions about his true motive for withdrawing from the political fray when negotiations with the opposition seemed to be gaining momentum. A statement on the president’s website said Mr. Yanukovych, 63, was taking time off because of “respiratory illness accompanied by a high temperature.” It offered no indication of how long he was expected to be absent.
Protesters remained in Independence Square in Kiev on Thursday. Maxim Shipenkov/European Pressphoto Agency

Some opposition figures speculated darkly that the president was removing himself from the scene in preparation for declaring a state of emergency, a last-ditch measure that the protesters have been warning against for weeks, saying it could ignite an all-out civil war.

“I remember from the Soviet Union it’s a bad sign — a bad sign because always if some Soviet Union leaders have to make an unpopular decision, they go to the hospital,” said Vitali Klitschko, the former boxing champion who leads the opposition party Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform.

Vitali Portnikov, an opposition journalist, suggested that rather than a virus, Mr. Yanukovych was falling prey to internal political pressures, perhaps losing power to a hard-line faction in his government, a development that could presage a coup d’état.

“I don’t remember official statements of Viktor Yanukovych having a cold,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “But I remember well that on the 19th of August, 1991, the vice president of the USSR, Gennady Yanayev, announced a serious illness of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev.” The next day, Mr. Gorbachev was arrested as part of a failed coup.

Other opposition leaders took a less alarmist view. Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, a leader of the Fatherland party, who was offered the position of prime minister over the weekend but declined, said Thursday in an interview that the government seemed to have adopted a policy of dragging its feet, hoping the momentum on the streets would wane.

Mr. Yatsenyuk said the opposition would not falter. “I wish President Yanukovych good health,” he added.

“We will try to seek a peaceful resolution,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said.

Mr. Yanukovych’s sick leave took effect before he could sign a bill repealing harsh restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly that were enacted this month. The repeal was passed by Parliament on Tuesday with support from the pro-government Party of Regions, a significant concession to the opposition but one that means little unless the president signs it.

The rollback and other measures negotiated with the opposition this week had seemed to open the way for a possible ceding of some power by the government, potentially quieting the crisis atmosphere that has enveloped the capital for weeks.

The president, though, is facing pressure from Russia to take a harder line with protesters, rather than continue negotiations. The loans were suspended, the Kremlin said, until it became clear what sort of government would emerge from the current negotiations.

In Berlin, the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, called in unusually blunt terms for Mr. Yanukovych and his allies to stop “playing for time.” Germany has followed the drama in Ukraine closely, with several news media outlets and politicians hastening to Kiev.

Last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany was “outraged to the utmost” by Ukraine’s insistence on limiting freedom to demonstrate and by the use of violence against protesters.

Imagine Sen.McCain, Catherine Aston, the asst sec of state, Victoria Nuland, appearing in, for example Brazil, urging them to join NATO, and…

This all could have been avoided if politics weren’t so deaf to the citizens voice. After all, Power belongs to citizens or I’ve got it all…

It took decades to create the Soviet system and it is taking decades to dismantle it – by the citizems themselves – go Ukrainian people!…

On Wednesday, she opened a speech to Parliament with a renewed appeal to Ukrainians to stick to peaceful resolutions and demanded that the Ukrainian government not ignore the “many people who have shown in courageous demonstrations that they are not willing to turn away from Europe.”

There were signs in Kiev late on Wednesday that negotiations were unraveling. The Party of Regions passed a version of an amnesty law for protesters that lacked support from opposition lawmakers. It stipulated that the amnesty would not take effect until the prosecutor general certified that protesters had vacated all occupied administrative buildings, including provincial capitols that were seized last week, and it set a 15-day deadline, requiring police action after that to clear the buildings.

At least four demonstrators died during battles with the police last week, and evidence is mounting of kidnappings and abuse by the authorities or their surrogates. On Thursday, Dmitry Bulatov, a prominent opposition figure who had been missing since last week, turned up alive in a village outside Kiev, but photographs showed him bloodied and badly hurt.

The financial aid that Russia said it was halting had helped Ukraine avoid defaulting on its foreign debts. The Russian step was a signal of displeasure with the negotiations in Ukraine to resolve the crisis by bringing the pro-Western opposition into a coalition government to replace Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s cabinet. It was dismissed when Mr. Azarov resigned on Tuesday.

Under the Constitution, if the president is incapacitated or dies, the prime minister serves as acting head of state. After Mr. Azarov resigned, Serhei Arbuzov became acting prime minister; both men are allies of Mr. Yanukovych. There was no indication on Thursday that Mr. Yanukovych intended to hand over authority to Mr. Arbuzov, even temporarily, because of the illness.

Among protesters on the streets of Kiev, though hardly a crowd wishing the best for the president, no one could be found who believed that Mr. Yanukovych was truly ill.

“Of course he is not sick,” concluded one protester on Independence Square, who offered only his first name, Oleksandr, and his job, a bartender. “He wants to look like he is ill and therefore cannot sign these laws. This is obvious.”

Alison Smale contributed reporting from Berlin, and Oksana Lyachynska from Kiev.

Mr Yanukovych needs a psychiatric evaluation first and then an international tribunal court for crimes against humanity- No one from Lenin on in the former Soviet Union space have been held accountable for their crimes against the Ukrainian people and other nations subjugated to their oppression! Lenin, Stalin, Yanukovych and their collaborators MUST BE MADE TO REPENT FOR THEIR SINS!