Brian Bonner: Ukraine’s Friend & Foe of the Week
Editor’s Note: This feature separates Ukraine’s friends from its enemies. The Order of Yaroslav the Wise has been given since 1995 for distinguished service to the nation. It is named after the Kyivan Rus leader from 1019-1054, when the medieval empire reached its zenith. The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, whose demise Russian President Vladimir Putin mourns. It is named after Vladimir Lenin, whose corpse still rots on the Kremlin’s Red Square, more than 100 years after the October Revolution he led.
The four-year stint of the International Monetary Fund’s resident representative in Ukraine is a good time to take stock of its mission. Goesta Ljungman, a Swedish national, was the calm face of an organization that not only offers low-interest loans to struggling nations such as Ukraine, but also sound public policy advice.
Ljungman has spent a lot of time “promoting an understanding of why we are here, what we’re doing, how we work.” His outreach counters public anger stoked by populist politicians who portray the organization as a bunch of Westerners trying to control Ukraine.
“We are not some dark box with anonymous people in gray suits and briefcases coming in and dictating things that are free-market Washington consensus policies,” Ljungman said. “If we engage in lending, that country should be able to repay that credit at the end of that so it is available to lend to another member. We are in this to provide temporary financing for countries going through temporary problems. We don’t have any room to deviate from that, to give a country a break, for political or geopolitical reasons.”
Because of corruption, a poor investment climate, and fiscal mismanagement, Ukraine has not been able to get by without IMF loans almost since the start of independence in 1992.
That’s why, Ljungman said, the IMF analyzes a government’s policies and makes recommendations for change, with the aim of creating enough macroeconomic stability so that the country in question can stop borrowing.
“In that sense, I don’t look at us as dictating. We’re saying ‘these are the policies we can support.’ If you agree with us and come to the same conclusion, then we can work together.”
Ljungman will go back to the Washington, D.C., headquarters, but the IMF will stay in Kyiv, probably for a long time to come, even though Ukrainian officials say they want to end their dependency on the IMF by 2023.
Michael O’Hanlon, the senior fellow and director of research at the Brookings Institution’s foreign policy program thinks Ukraine should not be allowed into the NATO military alliance and should remain non-aligned. That approach is how the Kremlin stole 7 percent of Ukraine.
In a Washington Post op-ed published on June 16, O’Hanlon wrote that “inviting Ukraine to join NATO would be a significant strategic mistake” because it would provoke Russia into war against Ukraine.
O’Hanlon, wake up, Russia has already militarily invaded Ukraine and now illegally occupies the eastern Donbas and the Crimean peninsula. The Kremlin engages in covert attacks, sabotage, murder and disinformation. It buys off corrupt politicians. Ukraine has valiantly fought for its survival as an independent nation for nearly eight years, with not enough help from the West, either in military or financial aid.
O’Hanlon represents the misguided Western pundits who, while paying lip service to the idea of Ukraine as an independent nation, don’t actually believe it.
He writes that Ukraine is independent, but should accept a Kremlin-run autonomous zone in the Donbas. Crimea needs to be “finessed.” And he insists on “permanent nonalignment” for Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.
This retrograde, Cold War sphere-of-influence thinking is exactly what Ukrainians fought two revolutions and are fighting the ongoing war to replace. Ukraine deserves to be part of NATO or any other organization for which it qualifies, including the European Union.
“We in the West also owe a certain debt to Ukraine, which aided in global nonproliferation efforts when it gave up its nearly 2,000 nuclear warheads after the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s (in exchange for security guarantees from the United States, Britain, Russia and other countries — guarantees Russia has violated),” O’Hanlon wrote.
We’ll let London-based analyst Timothy Ash, a veteran Ukraine watcher, respond to this one: “The West’s guarantee of its sovereignty in the Budapest memorandum also was not worth the paper it was written on. The Ukrainians want NATO membership as they tried this non-aligned status, and it failed. In terms of offering Ukraine a NATO MAP, what is NATO worried about? If it offers Ukraine this status, what is Russia going to do? Invade Germany or France? No, if anything it will escalate in Ukraine, which is a risk the Ukrainians seem willing to take, if that is the price of their own sovereignty. Why not allow them to take that risk? Indeed, by giving Ukraine a NATO MAP it’s not the same as membership, but a vision for the future and helps with their military preparedness. Giving them a NATO MAP puts the ball in Putin’s court and calls his bluff.”