DICK MORRIS & EILEEN MCGANN
22, 2004 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin's brazen scheme to rebuild the old
Soviet Empire by annexing Ukraine has backfired. The backlash is brewing
throughout the former Soviet republics that Russia calls its "near abroad."
trying to win the electoral contest in Ukraine for his pro-Russian puppet and
then seeking to steal an election, Putin sacrificed valuable political capital
and credibility in the region. That his allies in the KGB and the Russian Mafia
likely sought to poison pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko when they
couldn't defeat him just compounds the blunder.
overreaching by this would-be czar is most reminiscent of the 1991 Moscow coup
attempt by hardline communists. They sought to oust Mikhail Gorbachev and turn
the clock back — but instead triggered the liberation of Russia, the dissolution
of the Soviet Union and the victory of Boris Yeltsin.
end result of Putin's arrogant assumption that he could take over Ukraine by
manipulating its democracy is likely to be a massive rush of nearby states away
from the "Confederation of Independent States," set up by Russia to dominate its
sphere of influence, toward the European/U.S. camp.
repercussions of Putin's audacity began to reverberate over the past month and
are likely to accelerate after the likely Yushchenko victory in Ukraine's new
election Dec. 26.
are picking up the seismic shock from the streets of Kiev in the little nation
of Moldova, where we are helping the pro-democracy forces.
tiny nation, formerly the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova, was once a
province of Romania but was given to Moscow in the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939.
Nominally independent since the Soviet Union broke up in '91, Moldova has
actually been headed by a communist government that would like to go back under
November, the communists held a comfortable lead in the coming election. A
national poll by the International Republican Institute (an international
pro-democracy foundation funded by the U.S. Republican Party) found that voters
saw Russia as more of a partner than a threat by the lopsided margin of 68
percent to 25 percent.
now — in the aftermath of the Ukrainian mess — Moldovans are not so sure: They
rate Russia favorably as a partner by only 52-38. Now, the polls show that
Moldovans want closer relations with the European Union and the United States
more than they want to be tied to Moscow.
increasing feeling of freedom in the former Soviet empire has roiled Putin and
his Kremlin cronies. They're relatively mellow in their international comments —
but for Russian consumption, they are breathing fire.
Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies and a Putin buddy, was
quoted in the Moscow Times as saying that relations between Russia and the West
"are gradually slipping into the danger zone of possible conflict" and predicts
that "a crisis in international relations could come at any moment."
Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika Foundation think tank and a
knowledgeable commentator on Putin's policies, wrote a blistering column in the
newspaper Trud. He called the Western insistence on a free election in Ukraine a
de facto anti-constitutional putsch — indeed, the "first large-scale
geopolitical 'special operation' of the united West aimed at a revolutionary
regime change in a CIS country, which is Russia's [strategic] ally."
says Russia will distance itself from Europe and America and warns of specific
economic steps to try to cripple the newly independent-minded Ukraine. He also
threatens that Moscow will become "more strict and selective" in helping Western
corporations function in Russia and will place obstacles in the path of any
Western NGO or foundation that "promotes democracy or the development of civil
society" in Russia.
these are the ravings of a dragon that can still breathe fire but has no teeth.
Ukraine is proving — and other Eastern European nations will follow suit — that
the former slaves of the Soviet Union can look to the economic life of Europe
and the military protection of NATO to lead them to political and economic
power is triumphing, and Putin can't stand it.
Morris and Eileen McGann are political consultants for Viktor Yushchenko in
Ukraine and for the pro-democracy forces in