Saturday, December 11, 2004

Ukraine, NATO and the EU

Eurosavant reckons that Ukrainian NATO membership is simply not on the cards, while Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliament’s foreign policy committee, has said explicitly that "Ukraine belongs to Europe... Over the last few years we have given the impression that we would never open negotiations with Ukraine. That’s sending the wrong signals about whose zone of influence we believe the Ukraine belongs."

So, whither Ukraine? The foreign policy of the Ukraine is characterized by ambiguity. In some ways, Ukraine’s relations with NATO are the most advanced of any of the international organisations that it co-operates with, and a year ago Ukraine was pushing for both NATO and EU membership - even while the supposedly pro-Russian Kuchma was in charge (he later dropped the bid, having got concessions from Moscow).

But many Ukrainians have less and less confidence in NATO, and many of the reforms desired by NATO have been delayed. So, could it be the case that the Ukrainian leadership, including Yuschenko, are simply planning to use NATO and the EU to give itself added leverage when dealing with its more powerful Russian neighbour?

Is the whole East-West thing little more than for show, a cunning use of realpolitik? Or is Yuschenko's apparent desire for closer relations with Europe thanks to a genuine feeling that it must be now or never, that there is a danger that "if Ukraine relies exclusively on Russia’s support, it may well become a part of Russia’s foreign policy project"?

The West has woken up to the problems of Ukraine and its region, and is beginning to feel that "to make NATO effective in counter-terrorist operations... in addition to new members that will strengthen us, we have got to have new relationships with the countries to the East of NATO that are singularly important for stability and security in Europe. Russia, and the Ukraine, and the states of the Caucuses in Central Asia."

Actions speak louder than words - and we have yet to see any real action from Ukraine, no matter who is in charge. Will this change should Yushchenko be named president? During his term as prime minister between 1999 and 2001, Yushchenko also cultivated close economic ties with Russia - would a Yuschenko presidency actually be better for Russia?

One thing does seem certain - although the orange-covered protestors may well bring in a change of leadership, a new course for Ukraine will be shaped not by Ukraine's leaders alone but by Ukraine's external needs.

Ukrainian politicians - even before Yushchenko's latest resurgence - have certainly delivered on the rhetoric, but can they deliver anything of real substance to keep the EU and NATO happy? Might a Yuschenko presidency be the first step, or will the need to keep in with Russia ensure that, once again, nothing changes?

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, could it be the case that the Ukrainian leadership, including Yuschenko, are simply planning to use NATO and the EU to give itself added leverage when dealing with its more powerful Russian neighbour?I don't think so.

This tactic would only work if Russia believed it was genuine. But Russia would only believe this if the Ukrainian political process made it seem genuine.

In a democratic country, the government cannot ignore the will of the people, and must bend to it top some extent. This makes it difficult for countries to have dishonest foreign policies, because they need to be discussed openly with the people. (For this reason, democratic countries can have some faith that treaties they make with each other will not ne broken).

So if the Ukrainian govmt did this as a tactic, they would have to keep that knowledge from their own people -- possible, but difficult. And Ukraine can only go through the motions of moving closer to Europe if that's what the Ukrainian people want -- and if they want that, won't the govmt be tempted to give it to them?

Furthermore, Ukraine can get much more economiclly from Europe than from Russia, so the choice really makes itself.

-- Phil Hunt

12/12/2004 01:52:00 pm  

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