The EuroMaidan protests in Ukraine stand for democracy and against the decision by President Viktor Yanukovych to sell Ukraine’s future to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s despotic, expansionistic and backward-looking Russia.
The Yanukovych-Putin deal signed on the heels of the turned-down Association Agreement with the European Union is a noose around Ukraine’s neck. Fifteen billion dollars of the “loan” goes to pay off the existing energy “debt” to Russia. The high interest payments enlarge it further while the lower energy price is renegotiable every three months. Worst, there is no requirement to fix Ukraine’s failing governance as the EU’s agreement demanded.
As bad as this is for Ukraine, it spells danger for the West; especially for Canada. Here’s why.
Above all, the deal advances the idea of Russian world empire. To this end, it strangles Ukraine’s sovereignty by, among other things, integrating the military establishment with its own and acquiring a further foothold on the Kerch peninsula. Like Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia, occupied by Russia in 2008, Kerch is a prized piece of geography. It provides Russia with greater access to the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and beyond. The deal is a de facto replay of the 1939 Russian invasion of Western Ukraine, then under Poland. So far, only the tanks are missing.
Also, the deal allocates $4 billion to rejuvenating Ukraine’s shipbuilding industry. Alarms should be ringing on Parliament Hill. Russia makes no secret of coveting Canada’s Arctic waters.
In the former USSR, Ukraine ranked among the world’s top five shipbuilders. Besides oil tankers — Russia claims to be ordering these — the shipyards around Kerch manufacture defence vessels: the world’s largest aircraft carrier; anti-nuclear research explorers capable of unprecedented depths; and the world’s best icebreakers. At one time, Port Churchill in Manitoba showed an interest in them.
As global implications of the deal become clearer, the EuroMaidan is raging against Ukraine’s lost future while atrocities against protesters grow. The regime is fighting EuroMaidan with dirty propaganda, provocations, beatings and false arrests. More than 100 leaders and journalists have been hospitalized since the November stand for democracy began. The regime’s tactics recall the peaceful Hungarian and Czechoslovak revolutions that turned bloody when Soviet tanks rolled in. Then the fifth-column apologists rose to defend Kremlin’s brutalities and its “rights” to control its near abroad. The free world failed to help. Russia enslaved the sovereign states and used the Cold War to plant dictatorships around the world.
Canada and other democracies must not repeat this mistake. They must support democrats who stand for their right to a free and just country, not a regime that is bringing one of the richest natural resource countries in Europe to the brink of economic ruin while its leaders join the ranks of the world’s richest billionaires.
Established democracies must help an emerging one, whose citizens want nothing more but to live more like we do. Otherwise the democracies are the losers.
To its credit, on Christmas Day, Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine visited the badly beaten and hospitalized EuroMaidan leader and journalist Tetyana Chornovol. Other ambassadors did likewise, demonstrating support for EuroMaidan and condemning the regime. Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned President Yanukovych of “serious consequences” for abandoning the rule of law. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said, “Canada stands with the Ukrainian people … and will continue to forcefully oppose all efforts to repress their rights and freedoms.”
Individual Canadians and NGOs are helping by supporting the freedom fighters financially and mounting coast-to-coast echo-demonstrations. For this, the diaspora is pilloried here and in Ukraine: Toronto’s political science professor Taras Kuzio was denied entry for criticizing the regime.
Clearly more is needed: When state leaders are the terrorists, other countries cannot just offer words.
The International Standards for Combatting Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Proliferation, signed by Canada, Ukraine and Russia, is tasked with ensuring that “politically exposed persons, PEPs” and their immediate families are not profiteering from public office.
The EuroMaidan has lists of Ukraine’s PEPs doing just that.
When it suited the United States, it arrested and imprisoned Pavlo Lazarenko for money laundering as he set foot in the United States. Yet, the outlandish wealth of the ruling PEPs is ignored by democracies as they travel the world’s money havens to sequester their ill-gotten wealth and play.
Canada can and must act against abusers. EuroMaidan calls for this; Canada’s sovereignty demands this. So does global security.
As the saying goes, all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Let’s act.
Oksana Bashuk Hepburn was the president of U*CAN Ukraine Canada Relations Inc., which brokered interests, including shipbuilding, between the countries. She is an opinion writer.