Jewish World Review Nov. 28, 2001 / 13 Kislev, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- THE United States has forced medieval totalitarianism into retreat in Afghanistan. Still necessary is expanding the access of countries like it to the global economy.
At the recent World Trade Organization meeting in Doha, Qatar, members decided to inaugurate a three-year negotiating round to lower trade barriers. The result should be increased economic growth for all members. But some countries are not members of the WTO. China finally entered at the Doha meeting, after years of global negotiations and congressional debate. Still excluded is Russia, along with several of the now independent nations that once were part of the Soviet Union.
They continue to fall under the Jackson-Vanik legislation, used decades ago to pressure Moscow to relax its restrictions on Jewish emigration. It makes no sense to treat these countries as second-class economic partners - they must receive annual approval to simply maintain their normal trading status with the United States.
The Cold War is over and integrating them into the global economy is likely to make them more prosperous and democratic. Moscow will probably gain a friendlier trade reception as partial payment for its aid in fighting terrorism.
President Vladimir Putin's willingness to accept American troops in Afghanistan's Central Asian neighbors has greatly eased Washington's military burden. Moreover, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the Bush administration is consulting with Congress about removing from the list six more countries, including Ukraine. Dropping restrictions on the latter is justified for at least two reasons.
First, Kiev, too, has been aiding the United States - supporting the administration's push to renegotiate the ABM treaty and campaign against terrorism. Moreover, Ukraine is working to overcome the ugly anti-semitism that has stained its history. For instance, overshadowed by the terrorist assault on America was the international commemoration of the Nazi atrocities at Babi Yar, outside of Kiev.
Jewish organizations in Ukraine want to end their nation's disadvantaged position. In mid-November Yaakov Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine, and several other Jewish leaders, wrote to President Leonid Kuchma reiterating that they "wholeheartedly support the removal of any and all impediments to the economic integration of Ukraine into the Western family of nations."
Ukraine's domestic politics remain difficult, however. Bleich and his colleagues are lobbying for the restitution of communal properties seized under the communists. They also urge vigilance "in identifying and immediately using all means available legally to fight against anti-Semitism and xenophobia."
Of particular concern is the fact that anti-Semitism continues to appear in Ukrainian politics, sometimes in unexpected places. The ouster of then-Premier Viktor Yushchenko by the Rada in April led to protests by nationalists and anti-semitic groups, as well as Western-style liberals.
Yushchenko, perceived as a favorite of the U.S. embassy and some Ukrainian emigres in America, has established the "Our Ukraine" bloc. Rabbi Bleich worries that it includes "some openly anti-semitic members." Sensitive to its image, Yushchenko's bloc has recruited Yevgen Chervonenko, a former co-president of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine.
Bleich, who visited the United States in mid-November, complains that open anti-semites "are using Chervonenko to have a Jew in the party": It's a bit "like joining the Bund." Indeed, Chervonenko has a checkered record, having been pushed out as head of the JCU two years ago. He is "not looked at favorably in his own country," says Bleich.
Yushchenko recently brought Chervonenko to the United States as the representative of Ukrainian Jewry. The latter claimed credit for moving the United States toward suspending application of Jackson-Vanik to Ukraine, even though Ukraine's Jewish community had been advocating ending Kiev's isolation for some time.
While easing economic restrictions, the United States should avoid appearing to favor one group or another. Determining who is a real friend usually isn't easy. For instance, the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine granted the United States overflight rights, but the leader of the National Rukh, a member party of Yushchenko's coalition, pressed for a Rada vote. That move was deflected by the parliamentary leadership, out of fear that the sizable communist contingent might defeat or delay the move.
U.S. interests were obviously at stake, apparently causing Yushchenko, at a recent appearance at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, to deny that a member of his coalition was involved. His behavior generated adverse press comment at home and concern among Ukraine-watchers in America.
There is no reason to maintain the Jackson-Vanik restrictions on Ukraine (or the other former parts of the Soviet Union). The Kuchma government has leaned toward America and Ukraine's Jewish community is seeking to integrate their nation into the international community. In lifting such controls, however, Washington should remain aloof from Ukraine's internal politics. U.S. policymakers aren't adept at picking winners in other
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