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Russia still sees Ukraine as satellite
May 22, 2003
Hoover's Online

Written by Serhiy Solodkyy and Viktor Zamyatin
Posted by HW on August 8, 2020

Russia is more equal
The recent visit by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to Kiev shows that Russia is still thinking in terms of spheres of influence rather than equal partnership, the pro-presidential Ukrainian newspaper Den believes. Moscow never tires of making declarations of strategic partnership with Kiev, but on issues of strategic importance for Ukraine it forcefully asserts its own position without taking Ukraine"s interests into account, Den writes. The following is the text of an article by correspondents Serhiy Solodkyy and Viktor Zamyatin published in the Ukrainian newspaper Den on 21 May; subheadings have been inserted editorially.

Tense time
The visit by the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, to Ukraine took place at a tense time for Russian diplomacy: Moscow needs to win a place in the Iraqi sun. Given this, Igor Ivanov"s visit coincided with the start of a period of comparative warming in relations between Ukraine and the USA. At a time when Kiev is deciding on terms of participating in stabilization forces in Iraq, Moscow has to hope that the new draft UN resolution on Iraq will take account of the interests of not only participants in the former anti-Iraqi coalition but other countries as well.

"This is a sovereign decision of Ukraine. It is completely obvious that it will be very difficult to create conditions necessary for Iraq"s reconstruction without international cooperation. But, in the final analysis, it will be a decision that Ukraine will take itself." This was the position expressed by Igor Ivanov regarding Kiev"s intentions to take part in stabilization forces in Iraq. Many Ukrainian experts have said that deploying Ukrainian soldiers to Iraq might be perceived in Moscow with jealousy, to put it mildly.

Russia"s interests in Ukraine
The Russian press actually links Ukraine"s possible participation in restoring order in Iraq directly with the recent past. By sending a contingent to Iraq, the argument goes, the state is trying to normalize relations with the USA.

Business interest
The relative support by Russia for the possible dispatch of Ukrainian servicemen to Iraq is evidence of several things. If it is a question of the price for support of this kind, such issues always hide behind the scenes of official talks, but the results of accords sooner or later appear. Russia"s interests in Ukraine are local - mostly, opportunities for business.

Political issues
There are also interests of a more strategic nature, linked with politics. They include the gas transport consortium, where one sees a clear unwillingness on the Russian part to solve the issue to the advantage of equal participation of Western partners, and hence of Ukraine. There is also the issue of using the Odessa-Brody oil pipeline in the reverse mode [to pump Russian oil to Odessa an then ship it to Europe via the Bosporus] (which means that the EU will immediately lose interest in Ukraine), the problem of the [Russian] Black Sea Fleet [stationed in Ukraine"s Crimea], the question of unofficial, but obviously state support for the [Ukrainian] Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the language problem, defence of the "Russian-speaking population" and perhaps many other things.

Discussions about state border
Moscow appears to have "swallowed" the dispatch of Ukrainian soldiers to Iraq [a Ukrainian chemical cleanup battalion was deployed to Kuwait], but as far as Russia"s position regarding many other issues is concerned, there is not that much clarity. First, Kiev and Moscow have not yet completed negotiations on the state border. The delimitation of the land border has been completed, special maps have been compiled and accompanying documents have been signed. Accord has even been reached on a synchronized submission of these documents for ratification. At the same time, it is unclear when border demarcation will start, nor when the parties will submit the documents for parliamentary approval, nor how the problem of determining sea border will be resolved. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko, speaking at a news conference with his Russian counterpart about the delimitation of the Sea of Azov and the Gulf of Kerch, only said: "We are open to a process of negotiations."

Black Sea fleet
The second issue that needs to be solved is the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. Igor Ivanov said that the parties had discussed this topic during their talks, but they had been tackling problems other than moving the fleet"s base. If Ukraine"s intentions to join NATO are serious, then the problem must be resolved before the 1997 agreement ceases to be valid. The fact that NATO is still saying that the Black Sea Fleet problem is an exclusively Ukrainian-Russian problem most likely shows that the possibility of Ukraine"s accession [to NATO] will not be considered in the near future. But that does not mean that Black Sea Fleet problems do not exist.

Strategic rivalry
Another problem is that Ukraine and Russia are now effectively rivals on the road to joining the World Trade Organization. Understanding this, Moscow is doing all it can to ensure that Ukraine does not join the organization before Russia, demanding "synchronization" or "coordination" of efforts and policy, talking of the need to take Russian interests into account (Ivanov spoke about this in Kiev) and so forth.

Single economic area
Strategic rivalry between the two countries can be eliminated through another project - the single economic area. Nobody has even tried to prove the expediency of this project using simple facts, but it has been accompanied with enormous amounts of rhetoric. "The realization of this important project would not only speed up the economic development of our countries, but also to a considerable extent strengthen our international positions," Ivanov said during his speech at the Institute of International Relations. He forgot to add that the project is intended to serve exclusively Russian interests, first and foremost political ones, since its framework leaves no chances for independent policy.

Partners that won"t agree
It would only be logical to ask: why partners who talk so much about strategic interests have been unable for many years to achieve free trade and coordination on building the An-70 aircraft or to reach agreement on sharing the foreign property of the USSR?

Model of relations
"We do not believe that differences in choosing this or that form of developing relations with the EU and NATO set off Ukrainian and Russian interests in Europe against each other," the Russian minister continued. There is, however, a important detail: the choice of the model of relations with the EU and NATO should predetermine the model of relations between Ukraine and Russia, which has not happened yet.

No true partnership possible
When the creation of a strategic area for Russian business is continuing with methods which are far from transparent, when Moscow representatives allow themselves to talk of political sympathies in Ukraine, when furious pressure is exerted on all issues that are truly strategic for Ukraine"s further development, when "trade wars" are continuing, regardless of what they are called, when border defence is out of line with minimum requirements of common sense, strategic partnership in its current form cannot continue from the viewpoint of European integration. Not even if it is underpinned by a declaration on strategic partnership ratified in Kiev.

However, if strategic partnership is aimed at keeping Ukraine in a controlled state and in a zone of [Russia"s] complete influence, everything proceeds correctly.

Russia"s not prepared to change
On the other hand, neither during President Putin"s unofficial visit to Crimea in May, nor during Minister Ivanov"s visit has it become clear that Russia is genuinely prepared to move from the concept of "zones of influence" and "spheres of interest" towards normal, calm and mutually beneficial cooperation. This means normal, healthy competition.
Ivanov, Igor (M) Politician Russia
Zlenko, Anatoli (M) Politician Ukraine
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