ISSUE 4-2012
Ростислав Павленко Oleksandra Betliy  & Vitaliy Kravchuk
Шухрат Ганиев
Петр Вагнер
Павел Витек
Pavel Venzera Виталий Суддя

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the articles and/or discussions are those of the respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views or positions of the publisher.

By Pavel Venzera | Researcher in Politics, the Czech Republic | Issue 4, 2012

Once upon a time, somebody stated that Russia would have been a sad country somewhere in the North without Ukraine. Observing behaviour of Russian President, one could say that Vladimir Putin is deeply confirmed that this witticism has been extremely valid for Russia until today. Ukraine has been gradually becoming an importunate obsession for him. There is almost not any speech where he did not mention Ukraine. His neediness permanently to tackle Ukraine became very evident after the Orange revolution which scared Russian autocrat very strongly.

He understood well if the Revolution had not failed that such an example on the Russian border would have been very dangerous for his regime. Although, President Victor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko did not manage to use a promising potential Putin has not probably been able to forget his fear yet. Therefore, he would like to have Ukraine under control for any case.

We can find several reasons for it. If Putin said that the collapse of the Soviet Union had been the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century we could assume that he, like an omnipotent gas tsar, would like to right the  collapse occurred and to establish something like Soyuz nerushimyi again. Of course, without Ukraine such a project would not look too sexy.
In the frame of some Soyuz Putin could have Ukraine, sitting on the gas injection, under his personal control. There is a question whether it is possible to get under control the nation so loving its Cossack’s tradition but Kremlin is in resistible temptation to try it. What does it mean to have Ukraine under control in Putin’s understanding?  It means to prevent other possible movement of Ukraine towards democracy, a real market economy as well as modernization thus toward the European Union.

If Ukrainian President prefers short-term advantages to the strategic development of the country and he would succumb to the lure of his Russian colleague Ukraine could become an example for other former Soviet Republics. The building of some analogy of former U.S.S.R might, in this case, be more realistic.  

There is not any doubt that Russia also follows its economic interests. Ukraine represents a space where Moscow could use its economic supremacy and to install its rules. Russia, after swallowing of Belarus, does not have too many other opportunities like this therefore it tries to do its best to reach a desirable goal. Ukraine is worth it.

Entering a sphere of science fiction we could also consider a variant that Vladimir Vladimirovich only wants to help his neighbour live better. Maybe somebody in Ukraine could believe it but an existing experience suggests something different.
All these more or less realistic reasons are expressed in the Putin´s effort to involved Ukraine in the Custom Union. If he reached this goal he would solve most of his problems with Ukraine.

Russian position is evident but what about Ukraine?

Today’s Ukraine reminds us a hero from legendary tales “byliny” standing on a crossroad and facing a fatal choice. Three paths were proposed to him but which of them is appropriate? You will get rich the first woos, the second threatens you will be killed and finally the third proposes him a wedding.

Mr. Yanukovych would like to be richer and at the same time he also would like to be a head of a prosperous country. He knows very well that only the improvement of the condition of his country will provide him with a chance to defend his presidency in 2015.  It could seem that Putin´s allurement proposes him an appropriate way: cheaper gas and maybe also credit could be granted. At the same time he could save one way because to follow Putin’s proposal it does mean to marry Ukraine to the Custom Union. So, three birds by one stone?

Maybe yes, but Ukraine could perish in the embrace of Russian bear, particularly, if bear´s recent behaviour does not exclude such a possibility in any case. But does Mr. Yanukovych other choice? When we exclude rather ephemeral the third vector (Azerbaijan, China) the only one has left. No wedding but engagement with the European Union. A dowry would not be too rich–cheaper gas is excluded (by the way, when Ukraine finally realizes that the gas price is its independence price?) and grant of credit is conditioned–but there is not any threat to become too dependent on the partner. Whether it is much or little Yanukovych has to solve.  

The President knows very well that EU is much less dangerous than Russia but even this potential partner has some conditions: rule of law, development of democratization process, freedom of speech, free and fair election etc. As he can see in Belarusian case Kremlin does not need maintenance of these principles. Belarusian example also demonstrates him that Moscow would not have any serious problem with a prospective falsification of presidential election in 2015 whereas the EU would have as in the case of last parliamentary election showed.

If Yanukovych chose Russian vector he will have to face some very serious problems: a partial loss of state sovereignty; establishment of his personal dependence on Kremlin; a serious danger for oligarchs supporting his rule as well as the strengthening of the opposition standing decisively against joining the Custom Union and having support of a substantial part of Ukrainian society in this case. He should also consider his position in Kremlin. There is not any secret that he does not definitely belong to Kremlin’s favourites.

However, tertium non datur. Ukraine has to follow one of two proposed ways and it does not have too much time. Some Ukrainian representatives possibly think or hope that it could be possible to play again Kuchma´s multi-vector game but this possibility almost does not exist. There is not a player having former Ukrainian President quality but first of all in Kremlin President Yeltsin does not already sit.

Postponing of the planned visit of Yanukovych in Moscow (18 December 2012) as well as very contradictory signals sent by Ukrainian representatives evidently demonstrate that establishment hesitates. If they want to rescue the economy now, Moscow offers faster solution but from long-term perspective it is better to be closer the European Union.  

Sister Ukraine is wooed in the Custom Union also by Belarusian President Lukashenka. His allurement can remind us old fable about two dogs. One is sitting on his mister’s yard and is groomed and in good shape. Second one is passing around and it is emaciated and dirty.It is listening to an ode of affluent life with the master but after a while it asks its happier fellow why his neck is scratched…   

Question whether Ukraine turns Russia into a sad country in the North has stayed open. Yanukovych should consider not only his personal interests but first of all interests of his country. In this case his choice should be clear. But shall it be?      



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Павел Витек
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