American Institute in Ukraine Grades the Candidates’ Programs

January 13, 2010

V. Lytvyn
Yu. Tymoshenko
S. Tigipko
V. Yushchenko
V. Yanukovych
A. Yatseniuk

In a few days Ukraine’s voters will go to the polling stations to elect a new president. The choice they make will have profound implications for the country’s future, for the well-being of its citizens, and for its relationship with other countries, including the United States, Russia, the European Union, and Ukraine’s other European neighbors.

As Americans observing developments in Ukraine, the staff of AIU naturally takes as our point of reference the experience of our own political system. Admittedly, there are some obvious differences, starting with the fact that in the U.S., while numerous candidates participate in the presidential race, only two – the nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties – are considered viable. And of course we have no second round run-off system.

In America, one of the most important tools voters have for evaluating their choice is the party’s written program, called a “platform.” The product of a large committee drawn from party representatives across the country, it is less a personal statement by the candidate than a pro forma recitation of the party’s promises to various interest groups it hopes to appease or attract.

Perhaps the Ukrainian system, where the candidates issue a personal statement about their goals and intentions, is better than our system in this regard. After all, when all is said and done, a presidential election means one man, or woman, who will have major responsibility for leading the country during the ensuing term. While the list of positions on this or that issue is important, even more important is the sense one derives from what is presented to the public as a personal manifesto: Really, who is this person, and where does he (or she) want to take Ukraine?

Issues Rated in this Paper

For that reason, this paper has settled on four issues which we believe give clues as to the character and vision of the candidate. They are:

  • Social Values
  • Family and Demographics
  • Foreign Policy
  • Russian Language

This selection may come as something of a surprise, perhaps a disappointment to our readers. What about issues voters really care about, like corruption, and above all the economy?

No one disagrees that corruption and the state of the economy – which are closely related – belong at the top of the list voters’ concerns. In fact, all of the candidates’ programs rated here include strong statements about rooting out corruption. (Presumably such promises should be assessed in the context of the degree to which the candidate has held government positions with authority to do something about corruption, and what the actual results were.)

With respect to the economy, clearly the number one crisis facing Ukraine, we also offer no grades on the candidates’ programs To start with all of the candidates swear to fix the economy and propose a number of measures and benefits for the people, leaving unclear how they intend to pay for it all. The sad fact is, that under current circumstances it’s hard to see how the next president can do much to alleviate Ukraine’s tragic economic plight anytime soon. All the candidates promise to do wonderful things, such as develop science and technology and improve the business environment, and in fact the promises of the various candidates do not significantly differ.

The obvious problem is where the money will come from. The country is effectively bankrupt. Ukraine is on an IMF life-line support, while having problems with compliance, which has resulted in suspension of a November tranche of $3.8 billion until at least after January 17. A new conflict with Russia over gas was averted only because the IMF relaxed its conditions for Central Bank foreign exchange reserves to permit spending them on $2 billion in payments to Gazprom.

Such stopgap measures are not any kind of long-term answers to Ukraine’s problems, and everyone knows it. The sad fact is, there can be no miraculous recovery, and it will be a hard slog to overcome the crisis and get the public spending under some measure of control.

Having said all this, Ukraine next president must be a competent manager of the country’s economic destiny. More than that, he or she must be possessed of a vision of the common good and the personal qualities of intelligence, fortitude and prudence to lead the nation to a better future. Ukraine is inherently a rich country: it possesses a large, well-educated population, an economy well-balanced between industry and agriculture, a strategic location close to Russia, Europe, and the Black Sea Basin, and is a major energy transit point. The next government must come to grips with the all of the impediments that prevent Ukraine from realizing the fullness of its potential.

Which leaves us back where we started: the character and vision of the next president, who, let us hope, can begin to provide a degree of certainty and confidence about Ukraine’s identity and the direction it will take over the next five years.

Social Values

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) What was true three thousand years ago is no less true today. A country cannot base its future on economic statistics and projections of interest rates but on a clear moral perception of who it is and what it believes in.

As Americans, we note approvingly that several of the candidates specifically base their vision for the future on Ukraine’s heritage of Christian values. Such expressions by a U.S. presidential candidate would be taboo, nor would they be found in the platforms of either the Republican or Democratic parties.

While no one can judge the sincerity of a politician’s appeal to eternal spiritual and moral principals, the fact of such an appeal at least points to a standard for holding him or her accountable. Accordingly, we think it is a part of the programs of which voters should take note.

V. Lytvyn – Excellent.

  • Calls for revival and establishment of spirituality and morality based on Christian values.

Yu. Tymoshenko – Satisfactory.

  • Calls for unnamed, non-specific “spirituality” and “spiritual education of children and youth, granting equal status to spiritual and secular education.”
  • Mentions Ukraine “blessed by God” and nation’s “abiding faith in God.” Interestingly, the only program of the six rated here to mention God.

S. Tigipko – Unsatisfactory (no grade).

  • No mention in program of values that should guide society and state.

V. Yushchenko -- Unsatisfactory.

  • Calls for “credit for the role of Christianity” in the establishment of Ukrainian state – which is fine.
  • But reference to the “unity of Ukrainian Orthodoxy” can only be taken as support for state meddling in Church affairs in support of canonically questionable initiatives, in which the government should not be involved.

V. Yanukovych – Unsatisfactory (no grade).

  • No mention in program of values that should guide society and state.

A. Yatseniuk – Excellent.

  • Unified space of mutual European humanistic values, shaped by Christianity and European philosophy;
  • Ukraine as the center of a Great Kievan Rus’, historic world center of Christianity.

Family and Demographics

Ukraine, even more precipitously than most European countries, is demographically moribund. (The United States is not in much better shape, though this is masked by our pattern of large-scale immigration, both legal and illegal.) A healthy society and state cannot exist without real, flesh-and-blood people. If a country is dying off as a physical reality, no appeal to values or economic plan can have any application. At the same time, economic recovery, which political candidates promise as a goal, should be linked to social objectives, especially demographic recovery.

V. Lytvyn – Excellent.

  • Would put into place a 25% housing credit for birth of first child, 50% for second child, and 100% for third.

Yu. Tymoshenko – Satisfactory.

  • Continuation of current childbirth payment.
  • It is noteworthy that the most prominent woman in the presidential race makes no mention of women, children, and the family.

S. Tigipko – Excellent.

  • Improvement of maternity and childhood.
  • Demographic policy starts with individual family.
  • “Ukrainians will start giving birth to more children”

V. Yushchenko – Satisfactory.

  • Continue existing protections for maternity and childhood,
  • Reduce mothers’ workday by one hour, with salary.

V. Yanukovych – Excellent.

  • “My goal – fifty million citizens in Ukraine by the year 2020.”
  • Beginning 2011 25,000 UAH for first child, 50,000 for second child, 100,000 for third and subsequent.

A. Yatseniuk – Unsatisfactory (no grade).

  • Not mentioned in program.

Foreign Policy

AIU consistently has suggested the need for Ukraine to abandon a one-sided policy of “Euro-Atlantic” integration that has diverted the country from the critically important task of internal economic development, and perpetuated the political stalemate rooted in the country’s profound regional differences. As such, it has only invited foreign powers to see Ukraine as a playing field on which to vie for political and geo-strategic influence. Instead, Ukraine should seek permanent, neutral status in the context of a new European security system, for which the new government should become a staunch advocate. Such an approach would not only help promote Ukraine’s economic development but facilitate cooperation with all of Ukraine’s partners and advance unity among the country’s diverse regions.

V. Lytvyn – Excellent.

  • Realization of out-of-bloc status for Ukraine on policy of “active neutrality”
  • Calls for common market zone with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Yu. Tymoshenko – Satisfactory.

  • Basically describes a non-aligned policy without referring to it as that.
  • Calls for “friendly relations with Russia and other CIS countries”
  • Wants Ukraine to achieve energy independence.
  • No collective security organization to be joined without referendum

S. Tigipko – Excellent.

  • Multivectoral policy, Ukraine should “stop looking for elder brother”
  • Ukraine playing an active role in its geographic area, especially with respect to Moldova and Pridnestrovie
  • Active contacts with Central Asia, China, and India
  • Equal relations with EU
  • Restoration of good neighborly relations with Russia, “reboot policy” with Russia, stop peremptory anti-Russian rhetoric

V. Yushchenko – Unsatisfactory.

  • Calls for Ukraine to “actively dialog with all our neighbors on the basis of equality, neighborliness, mutual respect”
  • But calls for “strengthening the Euro-Atlantic system of collective safety and security together with European neighbors.” No one can doubt that in this context “Euro-Atlantic” is a codeword for the failed agenda of NATO accession.

V. Yanukovych – Excellent.

  • Ukraine must have non-aligned status
  • Friendly and mutually beneficial relations with Russia, CIS countries; secure strategic partnership with USA, EU countries, and G20 countries.

A. Yatseniuk – Excellent.

  • Ukraine must be co-author of project for Greater Europe.
  • Europe not limited to the EU
  • From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Ukraine should have a “multipolar” policy.
  • Only by resolving problem of European East-West split can the issue of the regional split in Ukraine be solved.

Russian Language

Polls consistently show that most voters in Ukraine don’t place the status of the Russian language in Ukraine as of high importance. We disagree. The state policy of favoring one language over another is a powerful symbol of status and power in any society. It is significant, for example, that in Finland, while native speakers of the Swedish language constitute only about five percent of the country’s population, the constitution places both Finnish and Swedish on an equal footing as official languages. The message is that Swedish-speakers are no less full citizens, and their identity as citizens of the same country is no less valid than that of Finnish-speakers.

This contrasts with Ukraine’s denial of official status to the native language of its Russian-speaking citizens, who make up a far larger percentage of Ukraine’s population than do Swedish-speakers in Finland. The “Euro-Atlantic” course on which Ukraine has been wasting its time in recent years has been powerfully reflected in internal divisions – regional, linguistic, religious – that translate in essence into: “West equals good. East equals bad.” To move forward, Ukraine needs to overcome the notion that one region of the country with its unique historical consciousness has the moral right to lecture and, eventually, transform other regions. Politically, economically, and internationally, Ukraine’s course must reflect a consensus of all its diverse regions. Language equality is an important place to start.

V. Lytvyn – Satisfactory.

  • Calls for “settlement of the language situation in Ukraine,” with Ukrainian as the state language “with real content,” and with Russian as the language of international communication in all spheres of social life.

Yu. Tymoshenko – Unsatisfactory (no grade).

  • Not mentioned

S. Tigipko – Satisfactory.

  • Equal domestic policy, “resolution of language issue,” independently resolved by local governments, though evidently not on a national basis.

V. Yushchenko – Unsatisfactory (no grade).

  • Not mentioned

V. Yanukovych – Excellent.

  • “Two languages, one country”
  • “I support granting Russian language a status of a second state language” – only program in the six reviewed that calls for Russian as a state language.

A. Yatseniuk – Satisfactory.

  • Ukrainian as the “unified state language,” with nondiscriminatory treatment of Russian speaking, as well as any other language of Ukraine.