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2 Jun, 2010 12:18

ROAR: Ukraine chooses strategic “partnership” with Russia, “relations” with US

ROAR: Ukraine chooses strategic “partnership” with Russia, “relations” with US

Ukraine becomes a non-bloc country as the president submits a new foreign and home policy bill to the parliament.

The Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, is expected to approve “the foundations of the country’s foreign and domestic policy” to replace the obsolete previous document on national security policy adopted in 2003.

Since then, neither former President Viktor Yushchenko, nor former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko managed to gain the majority in the parliament to replace the old “foundations” of Ukraine’s policy with their own versions, the media say.

New Ukrainian leader Viktor Yanukovich, who enjoys the support of the parliament’s coalition, discussed the draft law on foundations of domestic and foreign policy with National Security and Defense Council on June 1.

The bill regulates “policy of the state regardless of the internal political situation,” the president stressed. According to Yanukovich, it should become “the first and vital step towards systemic reforms” in all areas of life.

A strategic European integration course has become the highest priority of Kiev’s foreign policy, the president noted. This “primary vector” of development will determine the content of social transformation and basic orientation of Ukraine’s foreign and domestic policy, he added.

Two other most important directions of Ukraine’s foreign policy are “strategic partnership with Russia” and “strategic relations” with the United States. Kiev is also interested in developing relations with “new global centers of growth.”

In the defense and security sector, the country must “provide adequate defense capability and the possibility of co-operation in this field with European and Atlantic structures,” Yanukovich said.

However, the clause about Ukraine’s integration into NATO structures has been excluded from the draft bill, the media say. In April, Yanukovich, who defends closer ties with Russia, said that a non-bloc status best serves his country’s interests.

He pledged to continue co-operation with NATO, but said that joining the alliance was “unrealistic” because the majority of population would not support the move.

If the bill is adopted in the parliament, Ukraine will seek full-fledged participation in European and regional systems of collective security and membership in the EU, with the maintenance of “good-neighborly relations and strategic partnership with Russia.”

Observers believe the new bill will not only promote closer ties with Russia, but will guarantee stability for the Ukrainian president’s position. Full realization of recent agreements between the Russian and Ukrainian leadership has secured a long tenure for Yanukovich, believes Aleksandr Karavaev, deputy director of the information and analytical center of Moscow State University.

The agreements themselves require long period of Yanukovich’s rule, the analyst wrote in Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. Despite Ukraine has formed its own political mentality “with views different from those in Moscow,” Yanukovich has a chance to cement his rule, Karavaev said.

Now the Ukrainian president has become a guarantor of the agreements reached in Kharkov in May, the analyst said. “The words ‘stability’ and ‘Yanukovich’ will be synonyms and taken together they will mark the success of the Kremlin’s policy in Ukraine,” he noted.

According to Karavaev, many Ukrainian politicians not even from Yanukovich’s camp are ready to support his course. “Paradoxically, bureaucratic consolidation is taking place in Ukraine famous for its ideological diversity,” he noted.

However, Yanukovich is a pragmatic politician rather than ideologue, the analyst said. “This is probably why he is not aspiring to become the president of all Ukraine, although it seems to be the most logical means to make opposition his ally.”

The experience of Yushchenko “who escaped from ‘Soviet’ Ukraine to an abstract European one with only [the western] part of the country” should not be forgotten, Karavaev said. The result of this policy is known, he said. “And it may be the same for Yanukovich with his drift towards Russia.”

Possible amendments to the constitution introducing majority system of parliamentary elections may be put on agenda as steps aimed at strengthening “long stability” and weakening opposition, Karavaev said.

The next polls are being planned for October this year, he added. If the new election law is adopted, it will be more difficult “for really opposition parties to make it to the parliament,” he said.

However, Yanukovich is still busy formulating the foundations of its policies. The new bill submitted to the parliament will make the country “more predictable for other countries and for its own citizens,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov said on June 2.

“Foreign and domestic policies will be based on law rather than on political expediency and personal preferences, which we observed during recent years,” Azarov was quoted by media as saying. “Ukraine has become a more predictable state,” he added.

On the home front, the foundations concern the status of non-state languages in Ukraine. The Russian language may become more influential in the country, Izvestia daily said. Russian will return to schools and there will be more Russian-speaking papers in Ukraine, it added.

Some opposition politicians described the bill as “anti-Ukrainian and scandalous,” the daily said. But it does not contradict the constitution, which defends not only Ukrainian as the state language, but also regional languages, Rada deputy Elena Bondarenko told the paper.

At the same time, the presidential proposals do not justify the “radical expectations” of those defending Russian, Gazeta.ru online newspaper said.

According to the document, the state will guarantee “free development, use and defense of the Russian language and other languages of national minorities, the paper said, adding that the same phrase already exists in the country’s constitution.

“We had a goal – this law should in no circumstances deepen a split between western and eastern Ukraine,” a source in the presidential administration explained the move to the paper.

Some observers and politicians describe the presidential bill as moderate enough. “We are certain that this entire big and nice document has been written to make Yanukovich’s refusal to integrate into NATO look not so confrontational, Ukrainian opposition deputy Andrey Paruby told the paper.

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review