The arrest, trial and conviction of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by former KGB agent Victor Yanukovych is certainly the most interesting foreign policy event involving Russia that occurred this year.
Russia’s foreign policy has been beset by humiliating failures as one after another of the malignant dictators supported by Russia in the Middle East have fallen under the wheel of popular revolution. Seeing Libyan maniac Muammar Qaddafi, long beloved by Russia, being dragged through the streets of his home town bloodied and dazed, and then watching him executed, must surely have struck fear into the hearts of the Putin regime, and it must have been bitter indeed to listen to U.S. Senator John McCain taunt the Kremlin from afar.
And then there is Georgia, where President Mikheil Saakashvili continues to laugh in the Kremlin’s face, building his democracy despite Russian threats and recently scoring 16 in the world for ease of doing business, compared to Russia’s pathetic 120.
But, for a while at least, the Kremlin hoped it still had a victory in Ukraine when the ostensibly pro-Moscow Yanukovich deposed the very pro-West Victor Yushchenko. Yet soon after it came to power, the Yanukovich regime arrested Tymoshenko, a tough critic of Yushchenko, on palpably ridiculous political charges, and accused her of handing over Ukrainian wealth to Russia. This earned a stern condemnation from the Kremlin, and even from Vladimir Putin himself, and it looked like Russia’s big win in Ukraine had been undone.
But now, it looks like Russia may still have an ace up its sleeve where Ukraine is concerned. The West’s condemnation of Tymoshenko’s conviction has been so intense that it may be driving Ukraine back into the waiting arms of Russia.
Tymoshenko is, by far, the most glamorous, captivating and compelling personality to emerge from post-Soviet space. She sat through her sham “trial” tapping away on her Apple I-pad and routinely shouting down the ape-like “judge” who presided over the kangaroo court. And the charges leveled against her are even more laughable than those faced by Mikhail Khodorkovsky. She has been sent to jail for seven years simply because a successor regime disagrees about the terms of a gas deal she made. Criminal liability on such grounds (when nobody at all claims a single penny from the deal went to Tymoshenko’s pocket) is unheard of in civilized countries. Who in their right mind would now want to lead Ukraine, knowing that policy disagreements can result in lengthy criminal terms? Ukraine will be left with only rapacious criminals as her leaders.
But for all that, Tymoshenko remains a mysterious creature. She opposed both Yushchenko and Yanukovych. Does she have a clear vision for Urkaine? If so, what is it?
So the question for the West is: Should it support Tymoshenko in the hopes that she returns to power and drags Ukraine once and for all into the Western camp? Or should it abandon her and continue to court Yanukovych, who seemed more than willing to follow the Western siren right into the EU and perhaps even NATO?
This depends, of course, on whether Tymoshenko actually is pro-West or not. What do you think?