Viktor Yanukovich has won the presidential election in the Ukraine, and the news will greatly please the Kremlin, whose invisible hand has been hard at work. Ukraine is a huge and devastated country, mercilessly bullied by its Russian kith and kin down the centuries. In recent years, Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoschenko, leaders of the so-called Orange Revolution, made a bid for real independence, which in practice meant joining the European Union and NATO. The Kremlin made sure that nothing like that happened.
The Orange Revolution took shape in the previous presidential elections in 2004. Yanukovich was supposed to be rail-roaded into office by the out-going president, Leonid Kuchma, the way that Boris Yeltsin had simply put Vladimir Putin into the Kremlin. The attempt at rigging was so blatant that millions took to the streets (memo to Ahmadinejad in Tehran: that’s not how to do it unless you want trouble). Yanukovich was defeated and even left the country. But he’s the kind of hard man that emerged from Communism. In his youth, he took part in gang warfare, and has a couple of convictions for robbery and assault.
What opened the way to his comeback was the stupidity and selfishness of Yushchenko and Tymoschenko. Supposed to be allies, they were busy sabotaging one another. Ukraine sank into debt, with inflation and unemployment adding to the general helplessness. For this election, Yanukovich was crafty enough to acquire the air of being a democrat. He called on the services of an American political consultant, Paul J. Manafort, who had once advised Sen. Robert Dole. Did Mr. Manafort really have to do his bit to make sure that the Orange Revolution has run its course?
In the White House, they may have installed that much-touted reset button to deal with Russia, but someone must have forgotten to wire the wretched thing up properly.