Ukraine election looms [Commentary]
Amid the storm created by Russian President Vladimir Putin's extralegal incursion into the Crimean peninsula, the U.S. and Europe risk allowing an event equally important to Ukraine's future to fall out of focus: the May 25 election in which the divided country is set to select a new president. The credibility, inclusivity and peacefulness of this event are vital to U.S. and European interests.
To that end, as the Obama administration and its core European allies work together to respond to Russia's aggressive stance, they must also take care to provide the support necessary to enable Ukraine to hold a relatively free and fair vote. In so doing, and in helping Ukraine move closer to the West, they should consider taking three immediate steps:
First and foremost, the U.S. should take the lead by devoting sufficient resources to preventing and managing violence before, during and after the election. The threat of violence should not be allowed to intimidate candidates and voters. Given its nimble operational structure and ability to deploy quickly, the U.S. State Department's Bureau for Conflict and Stabilization Operations is well-suited to take this on in partnership with conflict-prevention experts from the United States Agency for International Development. The two agencies should work together to perform an electoral security assessment and prescribe associated, locally-led programming — this could involve messaging campaigns to promote peaceful participation as well as coordination mechanisms among police to ensure protection for candidates and their staffers.
Patrick W. Quirk is a Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy of the German Marshall Fund in Washington DC. His email is [email protected]; Twitter: @patrickwquirk.