Ukraine Is Not Yet 'Lost'

KIEV, Ukraine -- Doomsayers have been lamenting the West’s imminent “loss” of Ukraine for years, and the trend has only picked up since Viktor Yanukovich was elected president in February.


In the recent signing of an agreement prolonging the lease of a Russian naval base in Crimea, they see proof of the new president’s desire to cement his country’s status as a Russian satellite.

They’re wrong. Sort of.

True, it’s a bad deal. In exchange for rebates on natural gas until 2019, President Yanukovich has allowed Moscow to station its Black Sea Fleet in the port of Sevastopol until 2042.

In doing so, he has allowed Russia to maintain a foothold in a particularly unstable part of Ukraine — Crimea — and to continue to project its military power in the volatile Black Sea region — not a minor development, especially after Russia and neighbor Georgia came to blows in August 2008.

Just as worrying, the rebates will allow the president to postpone reform of Ukraine’s famously corrupt and inefficient energy sector. They are life support for a fossilized system that should long have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Putting off reform is politically profitable for Mr. Yanukovich, who depends on the support of industrial and energy barons who made their fortunes thanks to corruption and artificially cheap gas. But it comes at a high political cost to Ukraine, which now essentially depends on Russian subsidies to pay for the energy it consumes.

In other words, the deal bolsters Russia’s influence in Ukraine and its claim to a sphere of influence in the region.

But those who see it as evidence of Mr. Yanukovich’s determination to steer his country back into Russia’s orbit are not looking at the right things.

The agreement is less evidence of Mr. Yanukovich’s geopolitical inclinations than proof of his country’s weakness. Ukraine’s economy shrank by one seventh in 2009, and with it the government’s ability to pay its energy bills.

Even Yulia Tymoshenko, a leader of the Orange Revolution who as recently as 2008 had called for Ukraine to join NATO, as prime minister found herself compelled in 2009 to make important concessions to Moscow — including a gas accord so one-sided it had to be revised only a few months after its signing.

Nor, for all its repercussions, does the deal spell the end of European integration in the broader sense. While NATO membership is clearly off the table in the short and probably medium terms, that was evident already before Mr. Yanukovich came to power.

The new president has resisted attempts by Moscow to get Ukraine to join a Russia-led customs union, preferring instead to continue negotiations on a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the European Union.

He has described European integration as his “key priority,” symbolically making his first visit as president to Brussels — much to Moscow’s ire. Mr. Yanukovich is less Western-oriented than his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko, but he is not a Kremlin stooge.

Despite his reputation for incompetence, Yanukovich can be a smooth operator. The gas agreement may undermine Ukraine’s position vis-à-vis Russia, but it is popular with industry and many households, whom it saves from higher gas bills (for this year at least).

It also paves the way for a national budget acceptable to the I.M.F., whose deficit-reduction demands have been a major stumbling block in negotiations on the release of further tranches of its emergency loan. Even U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called it evidence of Ukraine’s new “balanced approach” to foreign policy.

More worrying than the agreement’s content is the deeply flawed way in which it was concluded — and what this says about Mr. Yanukovich’s attitude toward the rule of law in Ukraine.

The Constitution prohibits the basing of foreign military installations on Ukrainian territory, albeit in unclear terms. What’s more, the deal was never submitted to Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, as it should have been, and the normal parliamentary ratification procedure was not respected.

This, combined with the constitutionally dubious way in which Mr. Yanukovich recently pieced together his parliamentary majority, raises serious questions about his willingness to play by the rules.

It is too early to say that President Yanukovich is intentionally helping Russia “steal” Ukraine from the West. He is more positively inclined toward Moscow than his predecessor, but the truth is that he has been pushed into a corner by a combination of geopolitical ineptness, special interests and pre-existing problems.

The real question is whether he takes his obligations (constitutional and otherwise) seriously. If he doesn’t, both the West and Russia are in for unpleasant surprises.

Source: The New York Times

Comments

wesley rodgers said…
UKRAINE CHANGES......

EXPECT MORE REACTIONS!!


YANUKOVICH MUST WORK

WITH OTHER COUNTRIES ALSO....
___________________________________

THE NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE HAS SOME VERY GOOD POINTS.


TO BE DIRECT TO THE POINT DESPITE
THE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES OF THE
UKRAINE PRESIDENTS DECISION HE
START WORKING WITH OTHER CCUNTRIES
ALSO.


REASONS---OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES IN PARTICULAR DO HAVE MUCH TO OFFER UKRAINE IN TRADE
DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS AND ALSO AS
A MILITARY ALLY.
ALSO, SOME ARE NOT STRONG FRIENDS WITH RUSSIA AND UKRAINE MUST REMEMBER THAT DESPITE YEARS OF ASSOCIATION, THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT HAS NOT ALWAYS BEEN
LOYAL TO UKRAINE PEOPLE.

GOOD EXAMPLE-- WHEN RUSSIAN FEDERATION WAS AIMING LIVE ARMED ICBM MISSLES AT UKRAINE
BECAUSE IT WANTED TO JOIN NATO.

EXAMPLES LIKE THIS SHOULD MAKE
PRESIDNET YANUKOVICH REALIZE THAT EVEN HE MAY BE MORE
VULNERABLE TO THE PERSUASION OF
THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION THAN HE
CARES TO THINK.
HE GOT MUCH BACKING FROM RUSSIA
IN THE LAST TWO PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTIONS AND MOST LEARNED
POLITICAL LEADERS,ANALYSTS AND
NEWS MEDIA MEMBERS ARE WELL OF
WELL AWARE OF THIS.!!!


THE POINT BEING MADE HERE IS THAT "YES" IT IS VERY GOOD TO
HAVE STRONG RELATIONS WITH
RUSSIA BUT UKRAINE CAN ALSO HAVE STRONG RELATIONS WITH SOME OTHER
EUROPEAN COUNTRIES.
OTHERWISE THEY WILL VIEW
DECISIONS BY YANUKOVICH AS BEING ONE SIDED AND NOT OPEN AND THEY
WILL BE QUITE CAREFUL TO WORK
WITH UKRAINE AS IN RECENT YEARS.

SO, IN THE NEAR AND INTERMEDIATE
FUTURE UKRAINE CAN BE HURT IF
IT SIDES TO MUCH WITH ITS
GOOD NEIGHBOR RUSSIA.

RUSSIA IS A GOOD NEIGHBOR TO HAVE
FOR SURE BUT THERE ARE OTHER
EUROEPAN COUNTRIES AND EVEN
THE U.S. WHO WANT TO WORK WITH
AND CAN BE OF GREAT HELP TO PRESIDENT YANUKOVICH AND THE
UKRAINE PEOPLE.

OTHERWISE AS TIME GOES BY SOME
OF HIS DECIIONS MAY BE PERCEIED
AS UNFRIENDLY TO GOOD EUROPEAN
NEIGHBORS.
AND LET US REMEMBER RUSSIA WORKS WITH OTHERR EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
BIG TIME AND IT ATTENDS MOST NATO CONFERENCES ALTHOUGH NEVER
JOINS.
SO,IF RUSSIA THINKS IT IS BAD FOR UKRAINE TO JOIN NATO THEN WHY
DOES RUSSIA SPEND SO MUC TIME TALKING WITH THE U.S. AND OTHER NATO MEMBERS.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION LEADERS AND
VLADIMIR PUTIN ARE VERY KEEN AND
NEVER CUT THEMSELVES SHORT ON
REALTIONS FOR THE GOOD OF RUSSIA
FIRST.
SO,THE MAIN CONCERN IS THAT
PRESIDENT YANUKOVICH SIT DOWN
AND THINK HIS DECISIONS OUT
IN ALL WAYS VERY THOROUGHLY AND
FOR THE GOOD OF UKRAINE NOT JUST
PRESENT TENSE BUT IN YEARS TO
COME WHEN ANOTHER PERSON
WILL HOLD THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT
AND HE WIL BE GONE.
UKRAINE MUST BALANCE ITS
DECISIONS FOR UNITY AND
FUTURE OF UKRAINE.
BECAUSE SOME DAY PUTIN AND
MEDVEDEV WILL BE GONE AND STATE
OF AFFAIRS IN RUSSIA CAN ALSO CHANGE QUICKLY IN THIS EVER
CHANGING GEO POLITICAL WORLD.

LONG LIVE UKRAINE INDEPENDENCE.
WES RODGERS-newsman007
PATRIOTSTV.COM
west-patriot@msn.com