Dear Readers! Welcome to The Washington Notebook, a column compiled by the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS) to provide perspective and insight on activities in Washington that concern the Ukrainian community.
What did the November 3 elections prove in the United States? Firstly, an unprecedented number of citizens went to the polls to cast their vote for our elected officials. But more importantly for the Ukrainian community, many of our “Friends of Ukraine” in Congress have been re-elected, while those newly-elected to Congress have had opportunities to interact with community representatives during the campaign period.
Sadly, the dictatorial regime of illegitimate President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has again stepped up its repression of the people of Belarus struggling for their democratic rights and freedoms. This includes the violent death of protester Roman Bondarenka in police custody. After the shocking brutality against peaceful protesters that the world witnessed in the immediate aftermath of the August 9 fraudulent elections, the degree of abuse by the Lukashenka regime’s security apparatus had diminished somewhat – although it never completely went away.
The recent comprehensive and authoritative OSCE Moscow Mechanism Report on post-election human rights violations notes the numerous instances of police brutality and torture on the part of security forces that operate with impunity.
After basically stagnating for 26 years under the iron-fisted rule of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the people of Belarus suddenly erupted following the August 9 elections, which have been condemned as fraudulent by the opposition and Western democracies. Since then, massive protests have been held across the country on a daily basis. The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union have all initiated sanctions against top Belarusian officials, including Mr. Lukashenka himself.
Although there had been opposition to Mr. Lukashenka’s rule for a long time, people were afraid and expressed their thoughts only in closed circles. Until these elections, that is.
One day some time before 1914, an elderly gentleman from the Austrian crownland of Galicia was strolling through Vienna. Seeing some soldiers drilling on a parade ground, he asked a nearby officer what regiment that might be. The officer told him. “That is my regiment!” the gentleman responded. As it turned out, he was the oldest surviving member of the unit. He was invited to headquarters and suitably feted.
That, at least, is the story he told his son. Half a century and half a world away, the latter related it to his own grandson.
I did not see it coming. Few people did. As someone who has followed developments in Belarus since shortly after Alyaksandr Lukashenka became president in 1994, I am surprised and incredibly heartened by the size and persistence of massive peaceful protests following the rigged August 9 presidential elections in which Mr. Lukashenka claims to have won his sixth term. The vote fraud was so flagrant and shameless that most Belarusians believe that it was the opposition candidate, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who won. The weekly mass protests – often exceeding 100,000 participants – are now well into their third month. This would be remarkable anywhere. It is especially amazing for Belarus.
If there is one statistic related to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada that stands out like a sore thumb, it is the fact that 81 percent of the deaths have occurred in long-term care centers (nursing homes).
This is particularly true in long-term homes run privately on a for-profit basis. So bad is the situation in these particular centers that, last Spring, the military had to be called in to deal with the crisis in five Toronto homes and on May 26 issued a scathing report that detailed “horrific” allegations of insect infestations, aggressive resident feeding that caused choking, bleeding infections and residents crying for help for hours. Ontario Premier Doug Ford called it “the most heart-wrenching report” he’s ever read in his life.
I respect the arguments made by Ukrainian Americans on behalf of Joe Biden and Donald Trump. By voicing our opinions, we have demonstrated that we are patriotic Americans who love Ukraine.
I also want to thank Andrew Fedynsky for expanding on my recent column reviewing voting patterns among Ukrainian Americans over the years. Andy and I are at opposite ends of the American political spectrum, but so what. I respect him.
Anyone familiar with environmental or international law knows its limitations. While international environmental regulation is logical given the global nature of the problem, its efficacy is limited. The same is true of economic and technical approaches. Economic methods like emissions credits trading are imperfect. Nor can the dominant “technocratic paradigm” solve the world’s environmental problems. Technical approaches such as recycling are necessary, yet prone to criticism as economically unjustified. While addressing the food supply problem through biotechnology has arguably saved millions of lives, the risks of unintended consequences, as well as of crossing ethical boundaries, must not be ignored. Similiarly, nuclear energy is an obviously perilous alternative to hydrocarbons.
Now that a new tsar has been legitimized in Russia, and Alexei Navalny, his most formidable opponent is in Germany recovering from a “mysterious” poison, I can write with certainty that nothing ever changes in Russia.
We can trust the Russians to be Russians. They have been bullies from the day Muscovy emerged from the swamps of the Eurasian North.
“It has been difficult for the Western mind to comprehend the Russian philosophy of making conquests of her neighbors a way of life,” wrote Indiana Congressman William G. Bray in his 1963 book “Russian Frontiers: From Muscovy to Khrushchev.” He observed: “Russian aggression during the last five centuries has devoured 46 races, speaking 61 different languages, and her appetite remains unquenched.”
“Wow! Very impressive!” is how Myron Kuropas in his recent column here described the “Ukrainian-Americans for Biden” ad on these pages which nearly 350 signed, including Republicans. (And me.)
For years, Dr. Kuropas was a top officer in the Ukrainian National Association (UNA); he is a lifelong Republican activist. Where he writes that President Gerald Ford appointed a Ukrainian as White House special assistant for ethnic affairs, he fails to note that person was him. He also writes that Sen. Bob Dole had a Ukrainian on his staff: that too was Dr. Kuropas.