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Monday, July 31, 2006

Roundtable Talks Stall on Rough Edges and Soft Utopianism

In a series of powwows continuing well into night, President Yushchenko and parliamentary leaders are toiling to put a handle on a Pandora’s Box of disputes arising from the newly-emerged “anticrisis” coalition.

A cadre of guest speakers attended the opening session, including the founding fathers of Ukrainian democracy such as Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine’s first President (1991-94), and Ivan Plyushch, Speaker of the VR (1991-94). Also present were renowned poets and academics.

Former President Kuchma was conspicuous by his absence. Kuchma fans watching the live broadcast surely missed out on all the fun he would bring to it. After being a decade of being a captive audience to the genius of Kuchma’s eloquence and insightfulness, the loss they’ve felt is irreparable. Sad enough, except for occasional sightings, the retired pastor seems to shun his quondam parish.

The “salt of the earth” took turns in speaking their minds and troubleshooting hot issues. Each belted a song of his own, replete with barbs and rambling lectures.
Naturally, opinions ranged between two poles. Whether he likes it or not, the President should take the “anticrisis” coalition as a given argued the pro-acceptance school of thought. In contrast, the pro-abstinence school of thought suggested that the President disband Parliament. As expected, prospective membership in NATO and the status of the Russian language became instant sticking points.

Yushchenko stood his ground on these key issues, projecting an image of a tough negotiator. Tymo cruised around in a combative mood, while Yanuke, navigated the conciliatory harbor. Later, his fellow Regs bewailed Yushchenko’s “bait-and-switch” tactics. They expressed disappointment over the President’s demands, which they consider grossly out of proportion with NSNU’s election score. Also, the pointed out that the resolution being drafted, known as the Universal of National Unity, makes no mention of Yanukovych’s Premiership. The Universal owes its name to a series of four declarations (Universals) issued by the government of the UNR, the short-lived independent Ukrainian state squashed by Lenin.

Needless to say, the show sent Maidaners wondering what this was all about. A desensitization infomercial from Yushchenko’s PR shamans? A preamble to the NSNU-PRU prenup agreement, under the guise of piecing together the East and the West? Now that Washington’s eyes are glued to the war between Israel and Lebanon, could it be just an eyewash meant to sweet-talk the Orange audience into believing that this is how things should be?

Where does the government-opposition fault line lie? Is it in terms of issues, in terms of the election results, or in terms of fear of losing power? If NSNU’s joining the “anticrisis” coalition is about national unity, then why does it split the Orange Revolution — the very engine that brought NSNU to power? Two steps forward, three steps back. Welcome to the schizophrenic world of the Orange Counter-Revolution.

Anyway, the talks will resume Tuesday, August 1. This day will mark the 15th anniversary of the notorious “Chicken Kiev” address Bush Sr. delivered during his visit to the capital of then Soviet Ukraine. For those who vaguely remember it, listen to this: “Freedom is not the same as independence; Americans will not support those who seek independence in order to replace a far-off tyranny with a local despotism." Can anybody imagine that this piece Moscow-centric garbage that flies in the face of Wilsonianism actually came from the pen of Condi Rice?

Karmically speaking, the Universal exemplifies the worst of branding choices, considering how the UNR had fared. Why not call it the Universal of National Utopia? The UNR government, run by Socialists, had naively relied on the assumption that the dictatorship of the proletariat would not attack a socialist democracy.

Ukraine remains one of the few nations in the democratic universe where the opposition and the government can’t settle their identities. The Snoozes (NSNU) seem to be lost in the Peter Pan-like fantasy of squaring the circle, keeping the West while shacking up with the PRU. It’s this misguided dreaming, not the Regs’ (Regionalists) dominance itself, that makes this country vulnerable to outside influence.

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