Western naivete

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

It’s clear that even with new lead­ers, the na­tions of the West have run out of ideas about how to force Rus­sia to call off its war against Ukraine and re­turn the Crimean penin­sula, let alone com­bat the Krem­lin’s at­tempts to men­ace the free world, in­clud­ing, it seems, with cy­ber­war­fare at­tacks and as­sas­si­na­tions abroad.

Western lead­ers don’t want to im­pose the tough, painful eco­nomic sanc­tions that will be needed to make the Krem­lin change tack. Con­se­quently, dan­gers will keep ris­ing.

Germany and oth­ers, in fact, are con­tin­u­ing to pro­mote co­op­er­a­tion with Rus­sia, in­clud­ing via the Nord Stream 2 gas pipe­line be­tween Rus­sia and Germany. The main aim of the Krem­lin-pushed project is to by­pass Ukraine as a tran­sit coun­try, sav­ing Rus­sia, and deny­ing Ukraine, up to $4 bil­lion in tran­sit fees a year.

Far from be­ing treated as the leader of a rogue state, Putin con­tin­ues to have a seat at the table with Western pow­ers, who still des­per­ately cling to the 2015 Minsk peace agree­ment and the four-na­tion Nor­mandy for­mat, even though the Krem­lin dic­ta­tor dis­re­gards both.

Mean­while, the United States, the United King­dom and the Euro­pean Union cough up hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in an­nual as­sis­tance to Ukraine — not with a par­tic­u­larly smart and co­or­di­nated strat­egy. In the U.S. and U.K. cases, it seems the money spent serves to as­suage their guilt over their empty as­sur­ances of the 1994 Bu­dapest Me­moran­dum.

Rus­sia vi­o­lated that land­mark agree­ment, un­der which Ukraine sur­ren­dered its Soviet-era nu­clear weapons, and the im­pli­ca­tions are dire for the world if Ukraine does not re­gain its ter­ri­tory and peace.

As Dan Coats, the di­rec­tor of U.S. na­tional in­tel­li­gence, put it, Ukraine’s sit­u­a­tion is a sig­nal to na­tions with nu­clear weapons that they should never give them up, and it is an equally pow­er­ful sig­nal to na­tions with­out nu­clear weapons that they should ac­quire them. So much for nu­clear non-pro­lif­er­a­tion.

There is still time to save the sit­u­a­tion, but the West needs to move with greater ur­gency, com­mit­ment and tough­ness. If the new dividing line in the world is free vs. un­free na­tions, so be it. Ukraini­ans want to be with the free na­tions. They de­serve sup­port.

Yet in helping Ukraine, the West shows naivety and a lack of imag­i­na­tion. Many Western gov­ern­ments have frit­tered away money on in­ef­fec­tive rule-of-law and other pro­grams, leav­ing the sit­u­a­tion no bet­ter than it was be­fore: an un­re­formed In­te­rior Min­istry, Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine, Gen­eral Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice and court sys­tem. To put it bluntly, Ukraine’s lead­ers have been play­ing the West’s lead­ers for fools.

Col­lec­tively, the Western na­tions and their am­bas­sadors are far too in­dul­gent of Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko and Ukraine’s ob­struc­tion­ist do­mes­tic in­ter­ests, in­clud­ing the oli­garchs. They choose to ig­nore the fact that Poroshenko has been foot-drag­ging on the re­form agenda for much of his three years in of­fice.

This has got to stop. Ukraine de­serves fi­nan­cial aid, even in greater amounts, but it must come with the strictest of con­di­tions.

To get aid from the West, Ukrainian au­thor­i­ties must, at least: cre­ate an in­de­pen­dent anti-cor­rup­tion court; en­sure greater staffing, in­de­pen­dence and re­sources for anti-cor­rup­tion in­sti­tu­tions, from po­lice to pros­e­cu­tors; cre­ate a truly qual­i­fied and in­de­pen­dent Supreme Court; sell off or close most of the 3,500 state-owned en­ter­prises and lift the ban on farm­land sales.

This, how­ever, would just be a start to all the changes that are re­quired to join the ranks of pros­per­ous democ­ra­cies.

We think Ukraine must go fur­ther. Af­ter more than three years of crimes go­ing un­pun­ished, Western lead­ers and civil so­ci­ety must join forces with the Ukrainian peo­ple to cre­ate a fast-track, anti-cor­rup­tion ju­di­cial sys­tem to take on the big­gest crimes and tough­est fi­nan­cial fraud.

Con­sid­er­ing this na­tion has been fleeced to the tune of tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in the last three years alone, out­side over­sight is long over­due. There is no more time to wait for new in­sti­tu­tions to take hold as the same old cor­rupt ones wield the power and re­sources.

The West rarely uses its lever­age prop­erly or strongly enough with Ukraine. The Ukrainian peo­ple want more help in this area be­cause they see vested in­ter­ests hav­ing suc­cess in block­ing their as­pi­ra­tions.

If Ukraini­ans are to see any progress, it means the West will have to get tough on their ob­struc­tion­ist lead­ers. No progress, no aid. Sim­ple as that. Oth­er­wise, the money and peo­ple will con­tinue to flow in one di­rec­tion — out of Ukraine.

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