EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘EU ponders ‘what to offer’ to Ukraine‘:

According to the employee of the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and Eastern European Studies of the University of Georgetown (USA), Mr. J.Kulhanek, and the scientific employee of Association of Foreign Affairs in Prague, Mr. M. Larish, after the first round of elections in Ukraine it became clear that the tendency to prompt rapprochement with Europe which was supported by the President Yushchenko has settled itself.

Both presidential candidates (we will call them such until 17 March) are at loggerheads concerning foreign policy issues: V. Yanukovich acts as the pro-Russian candidate, and J. Timoshenko, ex-facte, looks the Westernised politician.

Both candidates, nevertheless, have the opportunity to curry favour for Ukraine’s European choice as an ultimate foreign policy goal, simultaneously supporting rapprochement with Russia.

Irrespective of who is declared by the Electoral Commission as the winner of the election, Kiev will probably follow a foreign policy a the balancing scenario between the West and Russia.

After the war in Georgia in 2008, neither Yanukovich nor Timoshenko, taking into account their pretty cautious position concerning NATO, will aspire to membership of the military bloc. At the same time, both of them hope to come to a closer relationship with the European Union, clearly understanding the impossibility of Ukraine to joining the EU during the five-year period of their presidency.

After the second round of elections the EU once again stated the possibility that Ukraine would become a member of the European Union. The eventual cooperation agreement opens a prospect of profound political and economic cooperation and integration of Ukraine in the EU. The official Kiev point of view is that agreements on free trade and liberalisation of visa policy could become the desirable award.

But Brussels operates on a political wicket, acting circumspectly on the interests of Russia, since approximately 80% of the Russian gas which is exported passes through the territory of Ukraine. Maintaining continuous inflow of gas is one of the paramount priorities of influential European politicians, and it directly raises interest in the long-term political stability of Ukraine.

After Yushchenko’s resignation, Moscow may attempt to regain the influence it lost after the Orange Revolution of 2004. Russia does not consider EU membership for Ukraine to be any more of a comprehensible alternative to its introduction into NATO. At the current time, Moscow treats EU positions on its the near-abroad with great suspicion.

In view of its interests, the EU will aspire to maintain relationships with Ukraine. Brussels should already start considering in its actions the conditions of a new political reality in the country. It is impossible to leave the following two key problems unattended: first, the EU promised to Ukraine solid financial help with the reconstruction of out-of-date systems of gas pipelines in Ukraine. Russia will also probably not manage to completely do without Ukraine as a gas transit country. Therefore the European Union should invite Russia to take part in modernising the pipeline system as confidence-building measures between Brussels, Kiev and Moscow within the limits of contracts signed between the EU and the Russian Federation about power safety in Europe.

Secondly, it is necessary for the European Union to pay great attention to the situation of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, because this issue in the long term becomes a basic foreign policy problem. The Russian navy may give up its base in Crimea in 2017. Nevertheless, Russians will probably express the desire to remain there, and this could cause both a deterioration in good neighbourly relations between the two countries and split the country between right (independent from Russia) and left (considers relations with the Russian Federation in the spirit of a brotherhood).

The EU should look attentively at the development of the situation in Crimea to be on call if there is a necessity to give a hand with settling newly-arising divergences. It should in no way allow an escalation of Turkey’s aggressive policy in the Crimean Tatars to other regions.

Vyacheslav Samoshkin

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