Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Ukraine's presidential polls backfire

By Martin Sieff (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-26 08:03

The dramatic upsurge in violence in eastern Ukraine in the week before the new presidential elections should come as no shock to anyone. This was a predictable development which seems has taken only the United States and the European Union by surprise.

From Egypt to Afghanistan, the playbook of recent US administrations, whether Republican or Democrat, has been equally rigid, conformist and predictable. The US prescribes that democratic national elections be held as soon as possible with the somewhat hypocritical proviso that the candidate Washington believes meets its own "impeccable standards" should win. He or she will then accept the appropriate terms of the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, regardless of how many millions more people lose their jobs as a consequence. The glorious goal of nation building (or rebuilding) can then be launched anew.

Except, of course, the playbook never works out. The infinite diversity of societies, cultures and political structures and traditions in a world of more than 200 states and 7 billion-plus human beings makes that inevitable.

The rush to hold the new presidential election in Ukraine is urgent for the European Commission in Brussels and the Barack Obama administration in Washington. However, it was obvious from the word "go" that a significant majority in predominantly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine would never accept a diktat from the new rulers in Kiev. The most that the coup leaders and their Western allies could and should have aimed for was to accept an increasingly decentralized and federalized structure for Ukraine as a whole.

This would have given the people of eastern Ukraine the reassurance they urgently needed. It would also have offered an olive branch to Russia that its security interests would be recognized in the recently independent nation that had been part of the historic Russian and Soviet states for almost all of the 337 years from 1654 to 1991.

But no, the Maidan Nezalezhnosti-dominated regime in Kiev and its unquestioning poodles in Washington and Brussels knew only one mantra-presidential election now, presidential election as fast as possible to rush through the urgently needed ex post facto, after the event, retroactive legitimization for the February coup.

Unfortunately, this rush to hold the presidential election is pouring petroleum on a blazing fire. It is provoking violence on a far wider and more serious scale.

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