President Trump has praised Ukraine many times. According to him, things there are “coming along pretty well.” Those two countries are cultivating nothing less than a “lasting strategic partnership,” built on common security interests and shared principles. The United States emphasizes the fact that it places great significance on the success of Ukraine’s transition to a modern democratic state. Washington is backing Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership. It supports Kiev militarily, including by supplying weapons and providing training. Indeed, the two countries’ officials never forget to mention that they are close friends and partners.
A man is known by the company he keeps. On April 20, the State Department published its annual report on human rights practices. The document mentions alleged human rights violations by Ukraine’s government security forces (SBU). That list includes torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances, among other crimes, all of which seem to have become somewhat routine occurrences in Ukraine.
Media outlets are under pressure, facing censorship. Websites are routinely blocked. The perpetrators of violence against journalists are never brought to justice.
The human rights violations in Ukraine have been in the crosshairs of international organizations since 2014. It makes one wonder what took the State Department so long to include them in its annual report.
Perhaps it is hard for them to admit that gross human rights violations are routinely occurring in an allied country. But there was no way to hide from the truth, as the United Nations and international human rights organizations have been sounding the alarm. The UN human rights commissioner’s report that was released in March tells dire stories about human rights abuses, violations of fundamental freedoms, and crimes that have been committed in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has backtracked on its human rights pledges, claims the World Report 2018 published by Human Rights Watch, adding that “The authorities are carrying out some deeply undemocratic practices and proposing new laws that that undermine Ukrainians’ fundamental freedoms.” No one has been brought to justice for torturing detainees or other war-related abuses. The latest annual report issued by Amnesty International echoes these complaints.
And it’s no wonder. Widespread corruption has taken root in that country, literally killing its economy. Ukraine is the image of a kleptocracy. It’s an open secret that those in power have made a mockery of the economic and financial assistance provided by the West.
Ukraine was ranked 130th out of 180 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2017. The country topped the 2017 fraud survey conducted at the direction of Ernst & Young. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker believes that corruption is undermining all the efforts to rebuild Ukraine in line with European Union standards. Ukraine, along with Moldova, tops the list of the poorest European nations. The country’s politicians are increasingly embracing extremist rhetoric. Far-right views are popular in the ranks of the military.
When he presented the State Department’s report, Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan said, “Promoting human rights and the idea that every person has inherent dignity is a core element of this administration’s foreign policy.” Sounds great but is the US putting its money where its mouth is?
With all the universally recognized problems mentioned above, Ukraine remains a darling of the US. With American help, the discussion of NATO membership has been revived. Last month the nation was granted an official status in the bloc, as an aspirant country. The US media have reported about the widespread corruption throughout the Ukrainian military, but nobody seems to care.
The sale of Javelin anti-tank systems has been approved by the State Department. Hundreds of US, British, Canadian, and Lithuanian military instructors are training Ukrainian military personnel at the Yavorov firing range. The US Navy operates a facility in Ochakov and its ships routinely drop anchor in Ukrainian ports.
US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, Kurt Volker, is openly biased, blaming Russia for every ill while never saying anything critical about Kiev. For instance, he ignores the obvious fact that Ukraine has failed to comply with its obligations under the Minsk-2 accords.
A blind eye is turned to all these facts. The reason is obvious — Ukraine “is a bastard but it’s our bastard.” It is firmly in the anti-Russia camp and ready to dance to the US tune, whatever the issue. It allows foreign forces on its territory. Last month, it joined a new anti-Russia, pro-NATO alliance comprising three former Soviet republics that are always ready to bow to American pressure. That’s enough to earn forgiveness for such minor matters as human rights violations.
One could hardly find a better illustration of the fact that democracy and freedom are far from the focal point of US foreign policy. The truth is, Washington does not care about such things. America’s duplicity on Ukraine is an obvious confirmation of the fact that hypocrisy and double standards, camouflaged by harangues about “democratic values,” prevail in its foreign policy. The recent State Department report removes any lingering doubts about this.