Ukraine's New President Charts His Course

KIEV, Ukraine -- Victor Yanukovych, to be anointed president of Ukraine on Thursday, is promising to change the country by creating a new effective coalition in Parliament and then make a range of global staffing changes.

Businessman Sergei Tigipko

However, there's an area where change may be more of a challenge—Ukraine’s foreign policy—despite the calls of the opposition and Western countries.

“With the coming of a new president, in Ukraine’s foreign policy there is almost a blank sheet. For six months, our country will be watched by Europe and the U.S., and we are expected to take action,” said Sergei Tigipko, head of the Strong Ukraine Party and former presidential candidate who finished third and was thus eliminated in the first round of the elections.

“If after six months there are not any reforms, any real modernization of the country, Brussels and Washington will not be interested enough in us.”

There are fears that Yanukovych will not bring the much needed political reforms that would qualify Ukraine for EU or NATO admission, a reality the new president appears to be aware of.

“If we listen to the new president’s program and his public messages, he clearly and repeatedly said that the ultimate goal of his foreign policy was obtaining full membership in the European Union,” said Oleg Rybachuk, head of the Ukraine-European Union expert council and former deputy prime minister.

“He emphasized a willingness to cooperate with the NATO. He also said that due to domestic politics, it would be impossible to join NATO, something all Ukrainians are aware of," said Rybachuk.

Neither the EU nor NATO is ready to accept Ukraine into their community, principally because of the lack of agreement between different branches of power in the country.

“We need a stable Ukraine with a working government that has a good relationship with the president,” said French Ambassador to Ukraine Jacques Faure. “And, of course, we are not very interested in seeing the continuation of a situation where the government says A, the president says B, and Parliament may say a third version. It does not give anyone results.”

Last year, Ukraine did not manage to sign an association agreement with the E.U. because of a failure to implement promised economic and legal reforms—a necessary step toward EU membership.

This situation is due to the current political crisis that has seen constant accusations fly between the president and the government, and between the government and the opposition party. This split has continued for the past two years.

With the arrival of a new president, Brussels and the West have expressed full readiness to cooperate with him.

A former country of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has had difficulty in making progress toward more westernized norms of governance, in comparison with its western neighbors, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary.

In addition to strengthening cooperation with NATO and the EU, political observers forecast a deepening cooperation with Russia. Moscow is satisfied with the change of power in Ukraine.

Last year, the Kremlin was unhappy to deal with the policy of departing President Yushchenko who, among other issues of contention, wanted the Russian Navy to leave the Crimea, an autonomous Ukrainian Republic where Russia still has naval bases.

Source: Epoch Times