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In and Out of the Cold

WASHINGTON--On 28 June, Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma, a man unwelcome at the last large NATO summit, met U.S. President George W. Bush in Istanbul at another major NATO gathering. On 3 July, Ukraine’s presidential election campaign officially begins. Inevitably, the message that Kuchma’s media is relaying back to Ukrainians is that the West is a friend of Kuchma’s.

Kuchma’s return to relative respectability might also be seen as indication that the West’s suspicions of his complicity in murder and illegal arms dealing have been allayed. But they have not. Kuchma’s alleged role in the killing of journalist Georgy Gongadze in 2000 remains murky, and nothing has emerged to disabuse Washington of its belief that Kuchma sanctioned the sale of radar systems to Iraq.

Bush is stretching out his hand to Kuchma at the same time that the U.S. State Department and Congress are pledging support for free and fair elections. This is a part of a carrot-and-stick policy. But the United States waves its stick according to no clear rules, and the stick is too weak, the carrot too distant, for them to have much role in promoting democracy.

These flaws also mar the EU’s policy. In October 2002, Javier Solana, one of the two chiefs of EU foreign policy, told Kuchma that he was “not playing by the rules.” But an April commentary in Zerkalo Nedeli, hit upon the problem when it wrote: “The president does not know how far the West is prepared to go in punishing [him] for the total use of administrative force during the election.”

(TOL 30.vi.04)

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