Monday, February 8, 2010

Yanukovich Wins...for now

It seems evident after 90% of the votes have been counted, with the election commissioner saying that most of the rest come from Yanukovych strongholds in the south and east, that Ukrainians elected the guy whose first victory in 2004 caused the Orange Revolution.

 CEC: With 89.13% of the vote counted, Yanukovych hangs on to 2.76% lead

This shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The financial crisis in 2008 crushed the Hryvina, causing people with savings to lose over half of it, and the economy contracted by something like 18 percent in 2009 while inflation remains in the double digits.

Yet, many Americans persist in their belief that simply having democratic elections will generate wealth and prosperity. It hasn't happened in Ukraine, and it generally doesn't happen that way. Sure, nobody wants to live under oppression, but nobody wants to go hungry, to work for wages that can't pay the bills, and see the value of their savings crushed under significant inflation. Most people, anywhere, just want some stability and personal prosperity. Whoever they think gives them a better chance of that will usually win.

Don't get me wrong. I'm no huge fan of Yanukovych. I would have preferred somebody with at least a modicum of general intelligence (he insists that Chekov, who spent much of his life in Crimea, was a poet). But I realized a few years ago during a trek across Russia that all the democracy in the world won't CREATE stability, and stability is crucial to the effective governance of a nation as well as a foundation for economic growth. People loved Putin not because he was a liberal democrat, but because he stabilized the Russian economy and society. This does not forgive the oppression of the people, by any means. It is just a tradeoff that Americans have never faced, never had to even consider.

Only when the USA has a better understanding of how the rest of the world lives can it make foreign policy that is a net benefit to the world.

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