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LOOKING AHEAD
22.05.2008

May 16, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Anatoly Grigorenko, Ilya Kvetny

A NINNY WITH A BEADED POUCH

The effort to sell the Holodomor myth to Israel is as arrogant as stupid

AN ILL-TAILORED SUIT

US diplomats, dispatched to Ukraine, should be granted an additional allowance like their colleagues in Iraq. Unpleasant surprises in the process of steady democratization are happening here as often as in Baghdad, though Washington had been moulding up the thriving banks of the Dnieper thrice as long as the Iraqi desert.

Ambassador William Taylor, when replacing the unsuccessful John Herbst who suddenly dedicated himself to religion, hardly realized the background of the shift not only in the mind but also in the appearance of his predecessor, with a dismayed glance above humped shoulders, for his three years of service in Kiev. Taylor’s immediate experience made clear that this neurotic transformation was quite natural.

In Kiev, a diplomats head encounters both a mental and physical challenge. One has to break his head over the ways of conciliating local rivaling political clans that are as friendly to one another as the notorious Sunni and Shi'i. Entering the hall of the Supreme Rada, one has to stoop the head, as the parliamentary, stuffed with tension, is regularly crossed by various objects – happily not bullets but chairs, uprooted mikes and voting keys. On May 13, Ambassador Taylor narrowly escaped soaking from head to foot when an anti-fire sprinkler system snapped into action in Hotel Hyatt during preparation of talks between President Yushchenko and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

William Taylor was regarded as a person scores more resolute than his dismayed predecessor. Still, when he was forced on the same day to explain to the global audience that the political disarray on the entrusted territory is not more than a routine conflict, he looked as despicable as John Herbst at the time when his office was besieged by the two rivaling "orange-revolutionary" clans of Victor Yushchenko and Yulia Timoshenko two years ago. Despite all efforts to re-assemble their teams into a viable coalition, the President and Prime Minister of Ukraine stay as incurably ambitious and egocentric as the two small landowners from Nikolay Gogol's Mirgorod, who once labeled one another a true-born gander and a ninny fussing about with a beaded pouch and would never agree to shake hands since.

The most unpleasant feature of the US Ambassadors job is its depressing ungratefulness. When Mrs. Timoshenko's faction blocked the access to the tribune, preventing the president from delivering his annual address to the Parliament, not only the State Dept's bosses but any other spectator realizes that for the time of his tenure, not a bit has changed here, though this bewitched land had been known as the third largest client of US financial assistance after Israel and Egypt.

In this particular issue, reference to "foreign factors" was desperately void. The "orange" rivals were behaving quite irrationally. From a political viewpoint, they were supposed not to quarrel but on the contrary, to unify at the face of imperial pressure from Moscow, personified by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov who had just descended upon Russian Navy parade in Sevastopol to doubt Kiev's suzerainty over this city. Instead, Mrs. Timoshenko chooses this very day for pushing constitutional amendments regrettably, for reasons of rather personal than national interest.

The fractious lady could not keep patient not only because of her wish to acquire the now non-existent status of Ukraines Chancellor. One more reasons for the scandal emerged from the competition for control of the State Property Fund, each side promoting its own protégé in the view of lucrative re-privatization, neglecting Russian Navy, Russian gas, as well as the proprieties. The misfortunate Taylor, failing despite his name to assemble a more or less acceptable garniture from the scattered pieces of orange cloth, must be experiencing bitter envy to his colleagues in Moscow, where a similar state authority was dismantled in a day without any sign of unrest.

 

A STOLEN TOY

Still, at the nearest approximation, one could discover a factor of foreign influence in the Supreme Rada brawl, the traces leading not to Moscow but to Jerusalem. The high-scale international conference, convened by Israeli President Shimon Peres, was supposed to involve Presidents, not Prime Ministers. Therefore, it was not Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko but President Victor Yushchenko who was expected to travel to the Promised Land to celebrate the 60th anniversary of foundation of the State of Israel.

Moreover, the format of the event allowed Mr. Yushchenko's predecessor, the notorious tyrant, corruptioner and journalist-slaughterer Leonid Kuchma to arrive at the event as well. At least, his presence there was not less legitimate than that of USSR's first and last President Mikhail Gorbachov. In this case, the imperial Moscow enjoyed one more advantage: while Mr. Kuchma's rule is remembered in Ukraine with increasing nostalgia, the last General Secretary's influence in Russian including foreign policy is proportional to his rating of 1% he gained in the last elections he took part in 1996, or smaller.

Annoyed with the presence of his arch-enemy and with the same day's scandal in his Parliament, Mr. Yushchenko still chopped in his remark on recognizing the so-called Holodomor, the (allegedly man-made) famine in Ukraine of 1933, to genocide of ethnic Ukrainians.

Could Mr. Yushchenko be anxious that his electorate might blame him for spending state funds for needless travels? It looks more plausible that a believing materialist, recoded according to a liberal pattern, could not imagine a foreign trip without some immediate diplomatic purpose.

His rival, though lately surrounding her personality with a kind of a home-made mystical cult, has got a similar mindset, with the difference of the early business background in distribution of non-licensed video production that determines not just practicality but also a specific thirst of photo opportunities. The particular subject of Holodomor is a matter of a most heated envy from her side, as it was she, and not Mr. Yushchenko, to have raised the issue of Ukrainian genocide in Israel, arriving in January 2007 in Jerusalem on the same day with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The additional subject of vexation was that she then failed to attract attention from the Secretary while Mr. Yushchenko was going to see and possible deserve a photo opportunity with President George W. Bush.

Thus, due to exceptionally formalistic reasons, the favorite toy of Holodomor was literally stolen from Mrs. Timoshenko's hands, though it seemed so convenient to be used on two occasions the recent V-Day and Israel's anniversary. She will hardly forgive this misfortune to her rival, and use her talent of intrigue-making while Mr. Yushchenko is reporting about the achievements of Ukrainian democracy in London's Chatham House, the next point of his destination.

However, it will be not she but rather the Donetsk business community, the third power clan that is going to benefit from Ukraine's entry in WTO. Instead of the supposed effect of snubbing Russia on this matter, both Mr. Yushcenko and Mrs. Timoshenko are going to be entangled into an even more murky and worrisome brawl with an unclear outcome and new scandals in the Parliament.

This perspective promises a stronger headache for William Taylor, in addition to domestic troubles: at this time, Hillary Clinton's bid for US Presidency is waning away while the very idea of Mr. Taylor's courting of Mrs. Timoshenko had been based on expectations of her success. The witty lady had meanwhile initiated a flirt with the Republican team behind the Ambassador's back. Thus, his position in Kiev is according to an old but relevant Russian saying "worse than a Governor's".

 

YURI AND OSAMA

The modern Kiev riddle about the difference between Yulia Timoshenko and Jeanne d'Arc has got a trivial answer: the heroine of France has never been interested in the Nikopol Ferroalloy Plant. The fighters for Ukrainian property, aptly assimilating the manner of concealing private interest beyond political claptrap, derive profit from propaganda fairly subconsciously, on the level of the grasping reflex. The simultaneously strong conviction that global policy revolves round Ukraine represses the smallest suspicion that propagandist efforts may be not universally adequate and timely.

Despite attempts of Israeli Ambassador Zina Kalai-Kleitman to explain to the Ukrainian leaders that famine, even admittedly man-made, is not equal to genocide, Victor Yushchenko could not overcome the temptation to use the political card of Holodomor in the nation that keeps the memory of the Holocaust. The place and timing for the historical grudges towards Russia appeared to be not quite adequate.

Organizing his event in Jerusalem, the aged President of Israel, who was sixteen at the outbreak of World War II, was focused not only on the jubilee. For Shimon Peres, one of the few universally respected Israeli politicians, this possibility of discussion was vital not for immediate materialistic reasons. In the situation in which his country found itself due both foreign and domestic political circumstances, his major concern was to raise the immaterial though extremely valuable important factor the status of his nation that was allowed what nobody else was allowed, precisely due to the background of Holocaust.

For six decades, Israeli Jews have got rid of the manner of panicking at any sign of danger. However, when the leader of the regional Islamic power compares their nation's jubilee with a "birthday of a dead man", and the earlier reliable patron, the United States, is unable to make him shut up as well as to seize an even more brutal adversary, Osama bin Laden, the president of this country has grounds to think of immaterial issues.

From a merely practical viewpoint, the independent Ukraine had been useful for Israel. The popular website "Criminal Ukraine" told in details about some unofficial sales of former Soviet weaponry from Kiev to the Promised Land. During the last two years, however, the pragmatic Ukrainian generals have been exposed of trading high-precision missiles to Iran. Meanwhile, Mrs. Timoshenko was promoting a gas pipeline through Iran and Turkey to solve the notorious problem of "energy independence". This practice could not stay unnoticed in Jerusalem, and became more significant at the moment when the pro-Iranian Hezbollah Party, right before Israel's jubilee, demonstratively occupied one half of the capital of the neighboring state. This city, Beirut, is much closer to Jerusalem than Kiev to Moscow, while Hezbollah's leader is far less attractive than the notorious imperialist Yuri Luzhkov.

Israel encountered this situation in a weaker shape than during Shimon Peres' tenure of Prime Minister. The failure of the Lebanese war of 2006 has actually launched a double process progressive self-discredit of the Israeli establishment, and the increased influence of pro-Iranian forces in the region, not restrained any longer with overt or covert countermeasures.

 

IN NEED FOR STRONG ALLIES

In February 2008, when Hezbollah's man No.2, Imad Mughniah, was killed in his auto on the territory of Syria, the man No.1, Sheikh Sayed Hussein Nasrallah, acknowledged of accepting this challenge from Israel, and that his associates will now attack Israel not only on the open battlefield. "The question is not whether Hezbollah responds but how this will happen", wrote Ha'aretz's Iossi Melman at that time. Admitting that Mughniyah was eliminated by Israeli and Syrian services, the paper's analysts hinted that it was "not yet time to open the champagne" and this was proven by Hezbollah on the first week of May.

When a Qassam smashes a major Israeli store in Ashkelon, and a scot-free Osama reminds the public that 9/11 was all about Palestine, a stirabout from Kiev, fussing about Jerusalem with his beaded pouch of grudges towards Russia in order to hammer out the same status for his nation as the Jewish people, can't arouse here anything but scornful disgust. Though it could sound surprising for Mr. Yushchenko, Israeli politicians have got a lot of other things to do besides listening to his complaints at Moscow. They may rather have some common subjects to discuss with Kuchma, reminiscing together of better times when the word of the US President made the world tremble.

The Iran-supported Hezbollah and Hamas have proven that the world will have to countenance with their influence in the region. Shimon Peres will certainly pull all the strings to gain a tactical let-up in the unfolding conflict. When Condoleezza Rice, with her typical rusticity, dubs this conflict as a proxy war (the term earlier attributed to the carnage in Korea or Vietnam), the Israeli establishment realizes that the prospect, proposed by the patrons, is not promising.

Therefore, the Promised Land is likely to rely upon other poles of influence of the rapidly transforming world, including London, Paris, Cairo, Ankara, possibly Beijing and quite probably Moscow. Though Russia sells weapons to most of Arabic countries, its energy interests are associated with maybe an unstable balance but not the condition of what Arabs call fitmah, that is chaos. In any case, Moscow possesses a far stronger influence in the Middle East than the second-rate marionettes of Washington who cant control the situation even in their own parliament.


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