Wagging the Dog in Ukraine?
by Robert Hornak
Jan 23, 2019 | 6133 views | 0 0 comments | 610 610 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Is there a “wag the dog” event happening in Ukraine? But where the popular movie foisted the theme of using a singular event in refocusing the public’s attention away from an embattled president, the situational deflections of the administration of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko are many.

There is no shortage of troubling issues for Mr. Poroshenko. Recently Ukraine graced the headlines around the world when the Russian military seized Ukrainian vessels at sea.

The Azov sea crisis, as it has come to be called, has led many activists in that country to not only call into question Russia’s aggression, but also the real intentions of the Poroshenko administration.

Many among those activists are voicing legitimate concerns about Mr. Poroshenko using the crisis to delay elections currently scheduled for March 2019.

Manipulating election timetables is a staple political move in the former Soviet sphere of influence. That manipulation has never served the promise of freedom.

Mr. Poroshenko is, indeed, facing an uphill battle when it comes to re-election. He is lagging in the polls for someone who makes claim to the mantle of reform.

In fact, the current president is facing serious competition from a wide and diverse range of candidates, who, ironically, include a stand-up comedian, a singer, and some old familiar faces in Ukrainian politics.

The embattled Ukrainian president’s unpopularity is not without good reason. He has done little to provide a solution for the ongoing pro-Russian separatist upheaval in Donbass; the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine.

His current administration is mired in the kind of corruption that conjures images of the Soviet Era. And Mr. Poroshenko’s commitment to an uncorrupted rule of law is subject at best, which complicates true opportunity for the poverty-stricken people of Ukraine.

Poroshenko came to power in 2014 with substantial backing from the Obama administration. The sentiment in the Obama administration – and in many European capitals – was that he was the path forward for Ukraine.

But in the four years, he has held sway his performance has resulted in dwindling support. The Trump administration is seriously questioning the effectiveness of Poroshenko’s leadership abilities and he is no longer viewed as the hope for Ukraine’s future, neither in Washington nor in key European capitals.

To that end, many respected Ukrainian politicians, who identify Poroshenko as an existential threat to Ukraine’s relationship with the EU and prosperous future, are seeking to protect Ukraine’s future.

Many of them are traveling to Washington to seek political alliances. Many have made it clear that the Poroshenko administration is incapable of affecting a solution and are approaching lawmakers in the United States urging them to engage to achieve a settlement of the conflict in Donbass.

They believe the situation is so far gone in Donetsk and Luhansk that Poroshenko needs to be replaced with a strong leader who is originally from Donbass and who can play an effective role in ending the conflict, one of the only hopes of reinvigorating the Minsk process, or efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, which is badly stalling.

One such leader is former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who now lives in exile in Russia and who is currently on trial in absentia on treason and corruption charges brought upon him by the Poroshenko administration. The irony of this situation is not lost on those who are politically aware.

If the situation that toppled Yanukovych is honestly examined, it is quite possible that Yanukovych was a victim of an organized disinformation and provocation campaign in 2014, a campaign that was executed in the Ukrainian and international media.

Further examination of these events lends to the belief that the effort was aided by the Obama administration and some Ukrainian oligarchs. This type of effort would not be foreign to the history of the Obama administration.

Could the prosecution of Mr. Yanukovych be nothing more than a “wag the dog” exercise to salvage Mr. Poroshenko’s political future?

The United States has an opportunity to correct a mistake that was made in 2014. The Trump administration has an opportunity to undo another Obama action that resulted in good people getting hurt and disenfranchised.

Further, President Donald Trump and his administration would benefit from taking a leading role in settling the Donbass conflict, the result being a successful, free, peaceful and – most importantly – a Western-aligned Ukraine.

Robert Hornak is former deputy director of the NYC Office of the New York Assembly Minority Leader and longtime president of the New York Young Republican Club.
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