A Closer Look at Ukrainian Independence

The tone of the editorial "The Ukraine's Vote," Nov. 27, particularly the reference to "an army larger than the German Wehrmacht" in a "nuclear-armed Ukraine" and the suggestion that the Russian minority issue is comparable to the Serb-Croatian conflict, betrays a misreading of the situation.First, the "Wehrmacht" reference is inappropriate to a nation that lost millions to the Nazis. As an independent nation, the Ukraine would have every right to an army, particularly given Moscow's use of force to try and squelch independence movements in the Baltics and Georgia. It was the Red Army that crushed the Ukraine's independence in 1918-20. As to nuclear weapons, the Ukraine has long insisted it wants to be a nuclear-free zone. But Boris Yeltsin's plan that the weapons be turned over to the Russian republic is unrealistic. Should Ukrainians unilaterally surrender arms to a huge neighbor that colonized them for centuries, Russified their culture, and has revanchist territorial claims? Clearly, the nuclear weapons are a bargaining chip for future negotiations. Finally, most of the Ukraine's 11 million ethnic Russians support independence. To date, the Ukraine has been free of ethnic conflict because of its minority-rights guarantees. So the Serb-Croatian analogy is specious. Ukrainian and Russian officials have repeatedly advocated broad economic cooperation. The Ukraine doesn't pose a danger to the West or other republics. It is Russia's history of imperialism that keeps Ukrainians wary until independence is secure. George Zarycky Freedom House New York

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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