All of the global media rushed
to comment on the statement by Ukraine's new President during his first visit
to Brussels. "Ukraine's relations with NATO will remain unchanged," President
Viktor Yanukovych said on March 1.
This will likely be followed
by predictions about Ukraine's further progress toward NATO membership. And
this has revived supporters of Ukrainian accession to the European Union, a
prospect that was allegedly brought closer after the European Parliament adopted
a resolution on the subject on the day Yanukovych was
In fact, the new president of
Ukraine said nothing new while in Brussels. The drift toward NATO was declared the
official strategic course of the country by ex-President Leonid Kuchma.
True, it wasn't approved by the people in a national referendum, but by the Rada [Ukrainian parliament], which as always, was engaged
in the process of creating all sorts of bind-boggling coalitions. Back then
[2001-2005], the "Donetsk" faction decided to support "Westerners."
Later, after the "Orange
Revolution," the same Donetsk faction made the battle to keep NATO
ships out of the Crimea the basis of its entire political campaign. This is the
whole dynamic, which resembles a weather vane that pivots into the political
wind. This doesn't involve a change in the dynamic itself, since pivoting is
part of its very nature.
But while the political wind
may have changed, there are some facts that can't be. For example, Sevastopol as
NATO's Black Sea base: this is an absurd and dangerous idea, fraught with potential
conflict, misunderstandings and grudges. Sevastopol wouldn't fit into the
structure of NATO any more than the Antonov Aircraft Design Bureau, which was set up in Moscow
during the 1930s as a service center for training gliders. These are facts that
cannot be changed by Leonid
Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma
nor Viktor Yushchenko - and there's no reason to think they will under
Ukraine's integration into
the E.U. is more complicated. All previous Ukrainian governments considered
integration with the E.U. to be far more important that integration with the post-Soviet
republics. That's why Ukrainian authorities established the post of Minister
for European Integration, but no parallel post for developing a common economic
space with Russia and the other CIS
countries (primarily Belarus and Kazakhstan).
Regardless of the frequency
and destinations of their foreign visits, the policy of putting Brussels ahead
of Moscow has been unfailingly pursued by every Ukrainian president. Which is
why Yanukovych's scheduling of a visit to Brussels before
one to Moscow shouldn't hold any symbolic meaning. When former President Yushchenko took office in 2005, he went to Moscow first. But
it was during his presidency that pro-Western policies in the country reached such
politicians often disguise their pro-Western sentiments behind the rhetoric of friendship
for Russia, talking eloquently about common bonds and historic destinies.
Russia paid a very high price
for taking Leonid Kuchma's rhetoric too seriously. And
it's not just about providing Ukraine with cheap energy from Siberia. A whole
range of important CIS initiatives, including the establishment of Economic
Union, the Common Economic Space and others, were sabotaged by Ukrainian
politicians who at first led Moscow to believe that Ukraine would join these
alliances and then disrupted integration plans, citing either votes in the Rada, the sanctity of Ukraine's sovereignty, or other
The fact that Yanukovych hasn't made a secret of prioritizing European
integration may be for the better. We'll have no more false hopes. As for
Ukraine's actual entry into the E.U., this is an issue for the very distant future.
Lidia Kosikova, an expert on Ukraine at the Russian Academy
of Sciences' Institute of Economy, believes that even Belarusia's
economy is better prepared for a hypothetical entry into the E.U. than Ukraine.
Objective Western analysts without "orange" illusions confirm her views.
By the way, Russia has never opposed
the Ukraine's integration into the E.U. In fact it was the E.U. that seemed
jealous when it demanded Ukraine leave the Eurasian Economic Community if
it wanted to integrate into Europe. However, the prohibitions and promises of European
officials have rarely been backed up with money.
Now European Commission
President Jose Manuel Barroso has offered Ukraine a
loan of no more than €500 million for "good behavior." Meanwhile, Ukraine's
2010 state budget, if it's ever adopted, will run a deficit of at least €10
billion. Manufacturing in the country shrank by 21 percent last year, and the social
obligations made the government in the heat of an election race will be
virtually impossible to meet.
Only Russia can help Ukraine
out of this situation. So we must be ready for more friendship talk from Yanukovych. In fact, he may do no worse with us than he did
in Brussels with Western politicians and journalists, who only recently
referred to him as the "Kremlin's puppet," the "kidnapper-in-chief
of ballots" and a "twice-convicted violent felon."