Before leaving office, outgoing US President George W. Bush, Jr. intends to bequeath to his successor and the world yet another headache. As if the
During his Kyiv visit on April 1, Bush told the Ukrainians, “Your nation has made a bold decision” to join .
This was, as other things we have heard from his administration, wrong.
A plurality of Ukrainians continue to reject NATO membership. Moreover, ’s sizeable ethnic Russian minority tends to see as an anti-Russian organization, and receives propagandistic (and possibly other) support from .
The current debate about ’s NATO membership is surrealistic. All Ukrainian political forces, including as well as Yulia Tymoshenko and their political blocs, accept that ’s entry into will have to be decided by an all-Ukrainian referendum.
However, many Ukrainians, including supporters of Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, continue to tell pollsters they are, to one degree or another, against NATO membership. This means that ’s pro- political forces would probably lose such a referendum. This, in turn, implies that no such referendum will happen in the foreseeable future.
As little as four years ago, was a country with a dubious political system, one not much more democratic than ’s is today.
The 2004 changed this. The popular uprising was successful not the least because the West was unified in its support of a rebellion that had the backing of the majority of Ukrainians. Neither of these conditions apply today.
and , among others, have their doubts about ’s NATO membership, and only a minority of the Ukrainian population is clearly in favor of it.
Like with earlier actions of the Bush administration, it is not realism, a concept one would think dear to conservatives, that guides US foreign policy.
Rather, the impression is that a misconceived messianic democratic vision drives the White House’s behavior on the international scene.
Whatever the recent advances in spreading democracy might be, the damage that Bush’s and his advisors’ arrogant behavior have done to international law, Western-Muslim relations, and US-Russian cooperation outweighs the gains.
Now the Bush administration is getting into another quagmire that might cause unrest in and lead to a breakdown in US-Russian relations. Knowing that the majority of Ukrainian citizens are against NATO membership, the Russians will not compromise on ’s rapprochement with the North Atlantic alliance. The roots of Russian statehood lie (at least in the Russians’ view) in Kyiv, and hosts a major Russian .