It’s not Personal, It’s Appropriate
Imagine a US official travelling to, say, Beijing to settle an issue that is vital to the US economy, say – to re-negotiate the discriminatory exchange rate of renminbi to dollar. Imagine this official entering an eye-to-eye negotiation with the Chinese counterpart, spending two hours there and coming out with an agreement that is much more discriminatory to America. Imagine that the negotiated agreement would be not only devastating but also obligatory for 10 (!) years.
Imagine what kind of uproar that would cause domestically. It would be simply incomprehensible. Yet, try to think beyond incomprehensible. Imagine that while signing the agreement this official violated the government procedure. And, on the top of that, picture that there would be strong evidence implicating this official of depending on his/her counterpart, having strong personal interest in the transaction and, finally, compromising national interests.
Wouldn't the political opponents and the society in the US want to fully investigate the situation? I'll say more – wouldn't they try to crush this official with all the authority of the Department of Justice, if they were at power? And – if suspicions of felony confirmed – wouldn't they want this official go to jail? It wouldn't be good or bad, it wouldn't be right or wrong. It would be simply appropriate.
Now – switch "the US" to "Ukraine", "China" to "Russia" and "exchange rate" to "natural gas price" – and you will have a real story that happened in 2009. Yulia Tymoshenko, back then the prime-minister of Ukraine, traveled to Moscow to negotiate the natural gas price down from $230 – and came back with the price of $450! She forced her immediate subordinate to urgently sign the discriminatory 10-year contract – contrary to the government procedure.
In terms of Ukraine's statehood and economic prosperity, it gave Russia a "short leash" that could be used as a stranglehold at any given point of time.
Not only does Ukraine pay under the Tymoshenko contract the highest price. It is obliged to buy the maximum possible volume at the maximum possible price. And if it doesn't buy it, it pays the fine in the amount of the missed payments. For the gas-addicted Ukrainian economy, it is like a 10-year-long obligation to buy the most expensive alcohol in town's most expensive grocery while you want to quit drinking.
Soon afterwards the evidence surfaced that Moscow had at its disposal pretty "juicy" implicating documents against Tymoshenko from the 1990s when she got rich on gas trading with Russia. Moscow holds the documents proving that Tymoshenko's company is more than 400 mln dollars in debt before Russia and that the criminal case on corruption by Ms. Tymoshenko in Russia was dismissed under strange circumstances.
It was a blitzkrieg. Russia made the best deal ever. The EU has assured itself the Russian supply. And Ukraine was taken to the cleaners. The energy servitude towards Russia was written in stone on the highest political level – by Ms. Tymoshenko, the prime-minister.
But no one wanted to endorse this deal, neither Ms. Tymoshenko's government, nor the parliament or the President of Ukraine. On the top of that, still during the Yushchenko term in office as President, National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, officially recognized that the gas deal posed a threat to the national security of Ukraine and tasked Office of the Prosecutor General to bring those guilty to criminal responsibility.
Two years later, the parliament of Ukraine established the Commission to investigate the 2009 gas deal while Office of the Prosecutor General brought official charges against Yulia Tymoshenko. The case was thoroughly considered by the Court; she was found guilty of the abuse of power and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
The uproar is incomprehensible, indeed. However, not because of what Ms. Tymoshenko did but because someone dared to go after her. Let's be clear about one thing: by demanding Ms. Tymoshenko's release, the West demands of Ukraine something it would never-ever apply to itself – a legal immunity for a citizen, whose guilt is obvious, be he or she member of the government or the opposition. One would think there must be an explanation for this kind of reasoning. And there is one. As the narrative goes, Ukraine is a corrupt country, whose courts lack credibility.
In order to provide justice, the president is urged to use his authority to invalidate the court's ruling and stop all pending investigations on "Yulia". In other words, to provide justice he is urged to annul the existing system of justice; in order to "stop authoritarianism" he is urged to act authoritarian.
They say, most analogies between the US and Ukraine are faulty. Maybe, but are they faulty to the extent that Ukraine should be treated like some kind of parallel universe where basic laws of politics cease to exist? After all, it's the same Ukraine who is dear to my heart and whose leadership was so eagerly embraced after the 2010 elections. And it is the same Ukraine that managed to achieve 5% economic growth instead of 15% decline under Tymoshenko as prime-minister. And it is the same Ukraine that after a considerable ensured successful completion of the negotiations on Association and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the European Union.
There is no doubt, that the West is truly worried about democracy in Ukraine. Yet what it lacks is the ability (or desire) to listen to both sides. And if it would it would realize that the whole matter is not as much about democracy or revenge or whatever other after-shocks of the 2004 Orange revolution.
It's about – plain and simple – natural course of events. On the one hand, there is a politician who abused her office and did something tremendously hurtful to the interests of her country. On the other hand, there is a politician who is entitled to use his opponent's blunders and violations against her. And on the top of that there are global players (Russia, EU) whose interests Tymoshenko served well at the expense of Ukraine's tax payers and national (energy) security.
By Inna Bogoslovska, Ukrainian parliament deputy and chair of parliament's commission to investigate the 2009 natural gas agreement with Russia.