The rule of law is
indeed at stake in Ukraine, as are the the long-term prospects for peace and
stability in Eastern Europe, not to mention the aspirations of the Ukrainian
people for an independent and prosperous future.
In Ukraine, the rule of
law is manifestly represented by the people occupying Independence Square, not
the occupants of the government buildings they are besieging. We can be certain of this because Ukraine’s
most prominent opposition figure, Yulia Tymoshenko, is in prison, convicted of
the types of corruption that are standard operating procedure for the Yanukovych regime. Under Yanukovych’s leadership, Ukraine has
been ridiculed as a “kleptocracy” and has earned Ernst and Young’s ranking as one
of the most corrupt governments in the world.
The deficiencies in the legal and judicial system of Ukraine are
notorious, including selective prosecution, corruption and bribery, nepotism,
cronyism and an unacceptable lack of transparency. If the people of Ukraine
take defiant action against a corrupt government, they should be supported by
the international community, not discouraged.
But the last straw for
the Ukrainian people, and the imminent threat to the international community,
is that Yanukovych has proposed the ultimate corruption, selling
Ukraine’s European birthright to Russia for the Biblical “mess of pottage.” Rejecting the long-sought invitation to join
modern Europe – which was conditioned, of course, on the obligation to adhere
to the rule of law, starting with the release of Tymoshenko — Yanukovych seems
determined to turn instead toward the open arms of Russia, which is blackmailing
Ukraine to join an alternate “free trade” zone centered in Moscow. Who believes that those open arms portend a
warm embrace from Mother Russia?