WASHINGTON -- Now more than ever, the bedrock idea on which U.S. foreign policy rests is that the nation's security is enhanced by the spread of democracy. Since 9/11 the idea has been that security depends on democratization in nations with slight, if any, traditions of popular sovereignty.
However, the policy of promoting democracy is a sharp scythe that can mow down more than the persons wielding the tool might intend. In Ukraine's debased election, Russian President Vladimir Putin twice campaigned for the candidate who benefited from fraud, violence and other violations of civilized norms, incidents that seemed to bear Putin's signature. Commenting on Ukraine, Secretary of State Colin Powell said:
We cannot accept this result as legitimate because it does not meet international standards and because there has not been an investigation of the numerous and credible reports of fraud and abuse.
Which could have been said of President Putin's own re-election earlier this year. What President Bush said three years ago was that he had ``a sense of'' Putin's soul -- formed by 15 years in the KGB -- and liked what he sensed: ``We share a lot of values." Events in Russia have not tempered the president's reiterated insistence that ``freedom is on the march.''
Putin stands athwart that march in Russia, where he has marginalized inconvenient parties, controlled the media and used the criminal justice system to intimidate potential rival sources of power and social authority. Now the Kremlin, which issued instructions to Ukrainian state-controlled media during the presidential campaign, seems determined to export Putinism to contiguous countries.
Putin calls Viktor Yanukovych's 49.46 percent of the Ukrainian vote a ``convincing'' victory over Viktor Yushchenko. He received 46.61 percent in his challenge to the authoritarian regime that backed Yanukovych, who favors closer relations with Russia, in the manner of some other ``managed democracies'' among former Soviet republics. Yushchenko favors Ukrainian membership in the European Union and, perhaps, in NATO.
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