OPINION: PLAYING HARDBALL WITH YANUKOVYCH

01.10.10


Opinion is divided as to what the diaspora's position should be with regard to the new President of Ukraine and his government.  On the one hand everyone would like to see a free and democratic Ukraine.  On the other hand, however, noone wants to be seen to actively support an authority that is seemingly prepared to trample over all of the key values that the diaspora were nurtured in  - freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, free press, rule of law...

So how should the diaspora react to a visit from the President of Ukraine. Wolodymyr Derzko shared his views with the Kyiv Post in the aftermath of President Yanukovych's visit to the US last week:

Ukrainian Diaspora must learn how to play hardball with Yanukovych

The question of how Ukrainian Diaspora living in the West should deal with Ukraine’s pro-Russian and anti-democracy stance has arisen several times since the election of the President Viktor Yanukovych on Feb. 7.

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) chose to ignore and bypass a meeting with the Ukrainian president on his recent trip to New York. Instead, they held a protest rally during the United Nations General Assembly meetings.

As Tamara Olexy, head of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America told the Kyiv Post: “We understood that there is no sense to meet with Viktor Yanukovych. The president has not yet answered the list of grievances that the World Congress of Ukrainians presented to him at the meeting in June of this year despite his promise.”

This leads to a bigger question: Strategically, what other options are available to Ukrainian community leaders when dealing with the current Ukrainian government? It’s not as simple as a yes or no decision and the question has not been well explored and discussed.

Traditionally, the Ukrainian Diaspora has exclusively used only two negotiation tactics in conflict situations with Ukraine, isolation and/or confrontation. Ask any master’s in business administration student who has taken a basic course in conflict resolution and they will tell you that there are three more approaches, which the Diaspora is ignoring and is not utilizing in its negotiation tool kit.

I’m constantly amazed at this frequent lack of transfer from professional life to volunteer life. Skills and techniques that managers, executives, consultants and professionals regularly use that were taught and studied in business school and are applied in everyday business affairs are ignored in the evening when we sit down as volunteers in our Ukrainian organizations.

While the snubbing of Ukrainian President Yanukovych by the UCCA in New York could be considered by many as a short term public relations victory, in my mind, it was a tactical and strategic error. A much bigger and more important opportunity window was ignored and missed by the western Ukrainian Diaspora leaders.

“Ask any master’s in business administration student who has taken a basic course in conflict resolution and they will tell you that there are three more approaches, which the Diaspora is ignoring and is not utilizing in its negotiation tool kit.”

Most people don’t realize that the Yanukovych government now desperately needs the support of the leadership institutions in the Ukrainian Diaspora in both Canada and the USA.

Why? And why now?

One signal that was misinterpreted by the Diaspora, just before the Yanukovych visit to New York, was the token attempt at a last minute reproachment with the Ukrainian Diaspora, which included the sudden reappearance of an edited and watered down Holodomor web page on the Ukrainian presidential web site, a reply to the five month old letter of demands from the UCCA, an offer to open the KGB archives on World War II and to set up a public TV broadcast station in Ukraine.
Is Yanukovych suddenly turning democrat? No.

It has long been rumored in policy and strategy circles and blogs that I hang out in, that the Yanukovych government will be seeking a prestigious and influential two-year seat at the UN Security Council table. That eventually requires convincing two thirds of the 192 member countries of the UN to vote for Ukraine. Currently Germany, Canada and Portugal are ferociously bidding for two vacant seats on the UN Security Council, which will be decided in a vote on October 12, 2010. The key influential players here are the USA and Canada. Without their overt support, any bids for a seat on the UN Security Council are doomed to failure say experts.

On Sept. 24, 2010, Ukrainian President Yanukovych officially confirmed Ukraine's intention to get membership in the UN Security Council. "On this occasion, I have the honor to confirm Ukraine's intention to acquire a membership of the UN Security Council for a period of 2016-2017," Yanukovych said at the debate at the 65th session of the UN General Assembly in New York. The president stressed that the changes in the UN are impossible without the renewal of its core – the Security Council. "Ukraine is ready to discuss all the promising concepts of reform of the Security Council. We are convinced that the key to success is recognizing the interests of all regional groups, which are under-represented in this body, in particular the Eastern European one," the president said.

In addition to a Ukrainian seat, Ukraine is pushing for the increased influence of Eastern Europe. “Ukraine is continuing to insist that the Eastern European countries be given an extra seat on the United Nations Security Council, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oleksandr Motsyk has said. We have our own position, which foresees that the interests of the Eastern European group should be definitely taken into account during the reorganization of the Security Council. The Eastern European group should be given an extra seat," he told Ukrainian journalists in New York on Thursday.

The ambassador noted that the negotiation process had started many years ago and that the issue was very complex, as it affects the interests of many member states of the United Nations."No consensus has currently been reached on this issue," he said on Sept. 23.

With this pronouncement, the Ukrainian Diaspora now suddenly finds itself in an elevated position, holding two strategically important trump cards in Ukraine’s bid for nomination to the Security Council. Sadly this issue is not even on the Diaspora radar. The Ukrainian Diaspora does not even recognize that it’s a new “influencer” if not a new player at the table and that it already holds two key winning trump cards, in future negotiations with Ukraine.

The Yanukovych government needs to court the UCCA and the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Ukrainian World Congress to convince both the American and Canadian governments – and other strategic member countries – to support Ukraine’s future bid. The Diaspora holds an important “Supporter trump card” where it can lobby both U.S. and Canada to support Ukraine’s bid as well as a “detractor” trump card that can be used equally well to derail Ukraine’s bid.

According to the Kyiv Post, “Olexander Motryk, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, called Askold Lozynskyj several days before Yanukovych’s visit and asked what the president could do to avoid the street protest. Lozynskyj answered: fire Soldatenko [head of the Institute of National Memory], Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk and recognize the Holodomor as genocide.”

With these two trump cards, the Diaspora can add many more demands to the negotiation table.


Wolodymyr (Walter) Derzko is a Senior Fellow at the Strategic Innovation Lab (sLab), and a lecturer in the MA program in Strategic Foresight and Innovation, Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCADU) in Toronto.

Read more: http://www.kyivpost.com/news/opinion/op_ed/detail/84019#ixzz114G8UgyV


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