Welcome to the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council

OP-ED: By Morgan Williams, President
U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC)
The Novynar weekly magazine, #5, in Ukrainian Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 8, 2008

If Hillary Clinton becomes US president, support for and a friendly attitude to Ukraine will be a kind of a family tradition for her, Morgan Williams believes.

The process of presidential primaries in the United States is very peculiar and looks even somewhat mysterious for most Americans. Small wonder, it is like a terra incognita for the rest of the world, Morgan Williams, president of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council (USUBC), writes in a fresh issue of The Novynar.

The Super Tuesday, a major chain in this seemingly endless political soap opera, has partly clarified the situation in the Republican camp. However, the issue of a Democratic candidate for president is still open. The answer is in the way we nominate candidates for president.

In Great Britain, like in the majority of democratic countries, the nomination of candidates is mainly a prerogative of party members who typically endorse candidatures at closed party conventions.

We, Americans, are used to having our own way with everything, and therefore prefer the full measure of democracy. That is why we turned the nomination of main runners into a circus show that lasts almost two years and is made up of endless road shows from one state to another and media events that very often defy common sense and logic.

Incidentally, election campaign battles in Ukraine are beginning to look more and more the same.

The endless chain of campaign events, speeches, and interviews run candidates down both physically and mentally so much that only the toughest bidders for president's office stay in the race - the rest just drop out.

I was personally involved in this business in 1979 when I was head of Republican Senator Bob Dole's nomination campaign in the Iowa caucus.
Then, polling voters in Iowa became a harbinger of his future failure in the presidential race.

At the end of his campaign in Iowa, Senator Dole, like his rivals, had visited every court house, every hall and every fair in the state. He shook thousands of hands, many of them several times, answered at least a million questions from journalists that covered topics ranging from social insurance programs to prices for corn and grain.

Still, no matter how exhausting the campaign in Iowa was, it was a mere warm-up before candidates got into cars, busses, trains and planes to reach out to all the 50 states. This activity ends in national conventions at which parties officially nominate their candidates for president and vice president.

In the course of conventions, most of party members, both ordinary and heavyweights, waste no time in publicly praising their favorite candidate.

Most of their speeches spark some indifferent applause in the best case, just open boredom in the worst case. This year, the Americans will have to be eyewitnesses of much the same show.

How does all this refer to Ukraine and the Ukrainians? - Most of this year's candidates for president have earlier visited Ukraine.

During the presidential tenure of her husband Hillary Clinton went to Ukraine on her own, staying in Lviv. Later in 2005, she went to Ukraine on a team of US senators headed by John McCain, one of the incumbent nominees for president.

Her husband Bill Clinton visited Ukraine thrice or more, both during his presidency and afterwards. His public speeches in Kyiv attracted a large number of people. I was eyewitness to an exceptionally warm welcome the Ukrainians gave to this leader.

Therefore, if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, support for and friendly attitude toward Ukraine will be a kind of a family tradition. It will be a major departure from the attitude of the Bush administration, as Pres Bush has not visited Ukraine.

The other Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, also visited Ukraine jointly with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN). His visit was not limited to official meetings as he went on several field visits to defense industry sites in the Donetsk oblast.

Republican Senator John McCain, a hot favorite among the nominees, is also interested in backing Ukraine and its democratic path.

Ahead of the 2004 Orange revolution, he wrote in The Washington Post about the need to foster closer ties with Ukraine to stop it from being dragged in the Russian orbit. Both as senator and head of the International Republican Institute (IRI), McCain did much for his voice in support of Ukraine to be heard.

Therefore, with a high degree of probability one can predict that, regardless of who becomes the US president in 2009, Ukraine will be ensured all the support it needs to become a strong independent nation and powerful democracy with developed economy based on private capital and advance on its Euro-Atlantic path.

For those who view the US primaries as a weird thing, I must admit that I agree with them: it is a weird thing. However, as an American, I must assure you that without primaries the United States would have never become a great nation. I hope, we will preserve our primaries as open, transparent and dynamic as they were this year.

Morgan Williams serves as President of the U.S.-Ukraine Business Council
(USUBC) in Washington, D.C. (www.usubc.org). He is the Director, Government Affairs, Washington Office, for the SigmaBleyzer Emerging Markets Private Equity Investment Group. He has been active regarding the economic and democratic development of Ukraine since 1993.

LINK: http://novynar.com.ua/opinion/19906