Ukraine Election Could Give Russia Edge In ‘START’ Ratification

PHILADELPHIA, USA -- The upcoming Ukraine presidential election, to be held Jan. 17, is more than just another election. Anyone who has followed Ukraine elections, especially since the runoff Orange Revolution election in 2004 knows that presidential elections in Ukraine are anything close to what one would consider normal.

Russian Federation Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, confers with Ukraine presidential frontrunner Victor Yanukovich.

The Orange Revolution was won by pro-Western candidate Victor Yushchenko in a run-off election against pro-Russian backed candidate Victor Yanukovich.

So, why are these elections so important other than to just Ukraine voters?

This time, President Yushchenko has very little chance of winning and his former opponent, Mr. Yanukovich, who is totally backed by the president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, is the front-runner. Mr. Yushchenko was given a mandate by the people to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

However, Mr. Putin convinced many members of Ukraine parliament that it was in their best interests to maintain their allegiance to Russia, with many of them being Russian planted agents.

So, if Mr. Yanukovich wins, it means that Ukraine will not seek NATO membership or even strong ties with the European Union but, instead, will develop stronger ties with Russia. This comes at a very critical time when the United States is engaged in intense nuclear arms agreement negotiations because the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) ceased to exist, technically, at midnight on Dec. 5.

Although there have been changes in the arms-reduction treaty, it must be ratified and new precepts must be put into place between the Russian Federation and the United States. Talks resume again this month in Geneva.

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin had accomplished very little to move Russia forward economically, diplomatically or militarily until Mr. Putin entered and took over as president.

In recent years, Mr. Putin has taken a strong stand with other European countries and the United States. One of his goals is to regain most, if not all, of the 15 breakaway republics which were part of the old Soviet Union.

Ukraine is special because it is the largest, strongest and most prolific in terms of production and economy and is situated in the most key location along the Black Sea. It is the bridge between the East and West militarily, diplomatically and economically.

It is also significant that Ukraine is the best missile manufacturer in Europe, which could be intimidating, especially during this time of such critical negotiations and the strong possibility of Ukraine voting on a pro-Russian candidate.

There are three main candidates in the January Ukrainian election: President Yushchenko, current Ukraine Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko, and Mr. Yanukovich.

PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE CONGRESS COMMITTEE SPEAKS OUT IN PHILADELPHIA

The president of the local branch of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) Ihor Kusznir says it is imperative for Ukrainian citizens living in the Philadelphia area to vote in the upcoming elections in Ukraine. Mr. Kusznir said the UCCA, which is in Jenkintown, has taken an active role in preparing the local Ukrainian community for taking an active role in all upcoming elections.

Andrea Zharovsky, a spokesperson for Ukraine cultural and educational center, told The Bulletin the elections are critical, especially since the Orange Revolution.

Ms. Zharovsky added that the UCCA would like to see Ukraine be able to pursue the path of the Orange Revolution — as critical elements inside of Ukraine pose real danger to continued integration with the European Union and NATO and proceed out of the sphere of influence of the Russian Federation.

Also, the Ukrainian people are proud of their independence and its breakaway from the Soviet Union in 1991 and have not forgotten the days of systematic starvation by Joseph Stalin and they revere their religious freedom from Russia.

The fact is that with George Bush Sr., the Clinton administration and even under George W. Bush, the U.S. has done well in negotiations with Russia and has fully supported Ukraine. But diplomatic and military experts are well aware that Mr. Putin is indeed a very intelligent, calculating, unrelenting and tough leader who is also the former head of Russia’s famous KGB and Federal Security Service (FSB) intelligence agencies and stands down to no one.

UKRAINE MISSILE PRODUCTION KEY FACTOR FOR RUSSIA

Ukraine is the second largest producer of missiles in Europe, specializing in Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM). It still has many missile locations remaining from the former Soviet Union era despite the fact it acceded to START I, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Despite dismantling most of the Soviet arsenal, Ukraine still has the Tochka tactical ballistic missiles and the S-200 long-range anti-ballistic missiles. Ukraine inherited a number of the Scud B tactical ballistic missiles, but it is not clear whether they are operational.

This missile presence and Ukraine’s ICBM production capabilities and the fact that Mr. Yanukovitch is ever so close to becoming the next Ukraine president gives Mr. Putin strong bargaining power in the ongoing negotiations to ratify the START Treaty.

And, Mr. Putin knows he is negotiating with the newly installed and less-experienced Obama administration officials and not Mr. Bush Sr. and company, who negotiated the original START Treaty just before the Soviet Union breakup.

So, Mr. Putin now is ready for his next major move and the election of a pro-Russian president in Ukraine gives him the opportunity in the talks. The Russian Prime Minister recently stated while in Vladivostok, during a key meeting in the far eastern Russian city, that the United States must present further data relevant on its planned missile defense system to be placed in eastern Europe so Russia could then develop its own offensive missile system as a deterrent.

After all, says Mr. Putin, it is the U.S. and some of its NATO allies that have planned to install a special missile defense system in Russia’s sphere of influence, making Ukraine the wild card in the negotiations.

Mr. Putin’s timing could not be better for gaining an edge in the new START Treaty ratification.

And while the U.S. says it is concerned about Iran, Russia is closer and, therefore, there should be more attention placed there.

Both U.S. and Russia must come to an agreement with consideration of the upcoming Nuclear Non-ProliferationTreaty meeting in May.

When the treaty was first signed, there were only five powers with nuclear arms — the United Kingdom, France, the U.S., Russia and China.

Now, India and Pakistan, Israel, Iran and North Korea need to be evaluated about every five years to determine any threatening danger or hostile intent.

The U.S and Russia have both agreed now to about 1,600 ICMBd or less and the main concern is verification and mobility or capability of deployment. U.S. State Department spokesperson has informed The Bulletin negotiations should resume later this months in Geneva and Moscow and an agreement should be met.

Source: The Bulletin

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