Back in 2010, a couple of things seemed strange to me about the Ukrainian election. Yulia Tymoshenko came across as much more corrupt and autocratic than I had recalled. At the same time, Victor Yanukovych had greatly upgraded his image from unimaginative apparatchik.
I don’t follow Ukraine as closely as I do the Baltic states, so I figured that I had missed some things about Tymoshenko and that maybe Yanukovych was transcending his origins. This week I learned that those impressions were a result of Paul Manafort’s work with Yanukovych’s campaign.
Manafort’s campaign against Tymoshenko was intended to discredit her beyond Ukraine. Through Breitbart and by other means, the negative information reached US media. The US media is often taken in by pro-Russian propaganda. For years, American media have repeated Russian claims of unfair practices of language requirements in the Baltic states. In fact, another storm on that issue is brewing in Latvia. If American media cover it at all, look for a lean toward the idea that Latvia is persecuting Russian speakers. So it probably was easy for Manafort to get his material into the mainstream media.
Yanukovych won the election. Immediately after that, he prosecuted Tymoshenko for corruption and put her in prison. Compare that with Donald Trump’s encouragement of “Lock her up” chants. Similarity of election tactics, to be sure, is not a prosecutable offense, but other Trump connections to Manafort’s activities may be.
As president of Ukraine, Yanukovych was notably corrupt and willing to do Russia’s bidding. The response to this was the demonstrations in the Maidan, a major square in Kyiv. Yanukovych’s government eventually responded to those demonstrations by shooting protesters. If Tymoshenko had been president, things might have gone differently. Without the Maidan protests, there would have been less pretext for Vladimir Putin to move his “little green men” into the Donbas.
Manafort has a lot to answer for. We may not yet know the full extent of it.
Cross-posted to Balloon Juice.