[Aaus-community-list] Fwd: Ukrainian-Russian Relations: Changes in
Foreign Policy under Yanukovych
Robert A. DeLossa
radelo at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 13 07:49:08 EST 2010
Reproduced with permission. -rdl
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Research Update. Vol. 16, № 7/605, 9 March 2010
Ukrainian-Russian Relations: Changes in Foreign Policy under Yanukovych
By Yaroslav Dovgopol, UCIPR expert
There is time, when the Kremlin is satisfied with the course of Ukraine’s high leadership and its positions
on the further Ukrainian-Russian dialogue. Moscow has eventually seen a time, when Ukraine denied the
"clearly anti-Russian position" and decided to "follow principles of friendship and partnership with the
RF". In this context, it is indicative that Yanukovych’s victory in the presidential race drastically changed
accents of the Russian media in the preparation of materials on Ukraine and its new leader "elected by the
majority of Ukrainian citizens". It has been a kind of indicator for long: criticism or praise of a country’s
policy mirrors a position of official Moscow. So, the intensive preparations in the Russian media space on
the eve of Yanukovych’s visit to Moscow evidenced the Kremlin has already been waiting for the
Ukraine-Russia: a shared vision on prospects of bilateral relations
What was going on in the Russian capital on 5 March in the framework of the first visit of the President
of Ukraine to the RF was reflected in the Joint Statement by the Heads of State. The document reads that
Moscow and Kyiv will now create "conditions as favorable as possible to consolidate potentials of both
states" and develop "a constant political dialogue and partnership on acute international problems". The
Presidents determined primary industries that need joint efforts as follows, "It is the modern fuel and
energy complex, aircraft building, atomic energy, military and technical cooperation." They also
mentioned the humanitarian area, “The parties shall promote, by all means, the Ukrainian language in
the RF and the Russian language in Ukraine in compliance with general European standards.” A special
paragraph of the document was dedicated to Ukraine’s anti-NATO course – as "a European country that
shall keep out of NATO" and that shall, together with the RF, "actively participate in the dialogue on
Also, the parties discussed prospects of “Ukraine’s joining the Common Economic Space on the WTO
conditions" and the problematic for the Kremlin issues of awarding S. Bandera and P. Shukhevych the
title of “National Heroes of Ukraine”. To strengthen these new accents (radically different from former
ones) in foreign political views of Kyiv, the Ukrainian President constantly repeated them at the meetings
with D. Medvedev and V. Putin and pointed out the need for drastic changes in bilateral relations.
The above set of declarations can partially explain real reasons for the “thaw” in the Kremlin’s attitude
towards official Kyiv. The Russian leadership was satisfied with the theses of the new Ukrainian
President. In a conversation with V. Yanukovych, D. Medvedev even said, "We wake up and go to sleep
thinking of Ukraine." In his turn, Putin told a couple of unofficial jokes.
It has to be mentioned that definitions made by the Russian and Ukrainian parties were mostly general
and declarative. However, in this case, it was impossible to discuss specific decisions, at least, for three
reasons. First, at that moment, official Kyiv has not yet had a stated clear concept of developing
Ukrainian-Russian relations that experienced a serious crisis in a few recent years. Second, Yanukovych’s
visit to Moscow was prepared in a hurry, only within a couple of days, which made it impossible to
formulate a basis for negotiations aimed to meet key challenges. And the third (but not the last) reason
was that at the moment of the visit, the issue of appointing a new government remained open though the
destiny of Tymoshenko’s Cabinet has already been determined by the decision of Parliament of 3 March.
Nevertheless, declarations stated by V. Yanukovych in Moscow came to a very clear message: the
authorities in power in Ukraine will gradually neutralize points of tension in relations with the RF that
have emerged under the “Orange team” and will not resist the realization of Moscow’s political interests
in the country. In one of his addresses, the Ukrainian leader said gas relations and the Black Sea Fleet
problem are the most acute issues that still remain unsettled.
Ukraine’s GTS – a small change?
The new President of Ukraine has placed an accent on the country’s gas transit opportunities before his
inauguration. At that time, he voiced desired changes in the scheme of gas transit via Ukraine through the
“setting of a gas transit consortium” that would divide stocks of the Ukrainian GTS into three equal parts
between Ukraine, the RF and the EU. V. Yanukovych is sure this could increase the attractiveness of
Ukraine’s gas pipeline for foreign investors, who, in their turn, would ensure its modernization and
enhance its capacity up to 200 billion m3 per annum. Yet, this was just a “vague” proposal by the new
Ukrainian leader, which, among other things, runs counter to the law of Ukraine that clearly sets the right
of the state to own the Gas Transit System. Hence, there is a strong possibility to state that Ukrainian
parliament will oppose efforts of Yanukovych’s team to put the above scenario into practice.
This issue might be especially interesting for Gazprom that strives to own the controlling block of shares
of the Ukrainian GTS. Perhaps, the entourage of the new President staked on this. Conversely, proposals
by V. Yanukovych contained debatable aspects: after the increase of the capacity of Ukraine’s gas
pipeline, Moscow and Europe allegedly deny the North Stream and the South Stream projects, in which
Gazprom and its western partners have already invested billion Euros.
Meanwhile, at the Moscow visit, the gas issue remained out of official statements of the Ukrainian and
Russian leaders. However, this does not mean the issue was not discussed behind closed doors. Before the
visit to Moscow, V. Yanukovych stated the supply of gas to Europe via Ukraine will be one of the key
issues at the negotiations in the Russian capital. So, as is seen, either this issue lost its topicality for the
Ukrainian President compared to the meetings with the Russian leadership or it traditionally remained
behind closed doors.
In the long run, the Russian party is now satisfied with the existing gas contracts with Ukraine. It is Kyiv
that initiates their revision. It is unclear what the Ukrainian government will offer in exchange for the
abolition of the “enslaving terms” in this area. There is a possibility that the sale of shares for the
Ukrainian GTS might be considered as an option.
A body of problems linked to the preservation of the Russian identity and language in the former USSR
states has always been a special topic for Moscow. In this aspect, Ukraine remained a “sore point” for
Kremlin strategists. This has especially been the case under Yushchenko, who set a clear-cut language
policy in Ukraine and initiated the revision of certain historical events (in particular, the Famine of 1932-
33, activities of the OUN UPA). So, for Moscow, these problems are solved almost by themselves with
the change of political power in Ukraine. At the same time, a provision on “the promotion, by all means,
of the Ukrainian language in the Russian Federation” has suddenly appeared in the text of the Joint
Statement signed by the Russian and Ukrainian Presidents in Moscow. Even if it is a gesture of good will
of the Russian leadership, how will it be put into practice?
In a conversation with Yanukovych, Medvedev publically promised, "There will be digital TV channels
broadcasting in languages of the nearest neighbors, including two Ukrainian-language channels.” In this
connection, there are two questions: in what year will digital television start functioning in Russia and
what Ukrainian TV channels will be included into this package. It is no secret that Russian companies
own a lion’s share of Ukraine’s TV space, which, in its turn, formulates a respective policy of these
The Presidents of both countries also agreed "to personally control the preparations for the celebration of
the 200th anniversary of T. Shevchenko in 2014.” It is difficult to say for sure what the Kremlin meant in
this context. Probably, in the eyes of the Russian leaders, Shevchenko is also a Russian poet as he wrote
some poems in Russian?
At the meetings in Moscow, the parties reached a series of agreements on ideological issues, in particular
on the abolition of the decrees on awarding S. Bandera and R. Shukhevych the title of “National Heroes
of Ukraine”. On his part, V. Yanukovych assured he will try to sort out the problem before 9 May.
Though, it will be impossible to smooth over the differences in Ukraine’s political life.
Talks will be more specific in a few months
V. Yanukovych promised to come next time to Moscow on 8 May (in the framework of the Victory Day
celebration) and invited D. Medvedev to visit Ukraine in the first half of 2010. Until this moment, all
problematic issues will be worked out by the Ukrainian-Russian Commission said the President of
Ukraine. And practice evidences there are a lot of such issues.
Hence, the current visit of Yanukovych to Moscow can be viewed as “basic” to build up further bilateral
relations. The Ukrainian and Russian parties set their initial positions, which have a lot in common now.
Yet, many blank spots remain, in particular in accords on the BSF of the RF and “ideological issues”.
Yanukovych’s visit to Moscow, like his visit to Brussels, was, first of all, declarative in nature. The near
future will show whether he will manage to build a “bridge between the East and the West”. Though,
from the viewpoint of the Ukrainian voters, the PR leader still demonstrates the adherence to the earlier
declared positions – the strengthening of the Russian vector in the economic, political and humanitarian
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