Ukraine Expects Putin to Tighten the Screws

By Oleg Gorbunov

On May 7th the Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin shall become the President of our country for the third time already. This fact concerns many people in Russia as well as abroad. Ukraine, with which Russia has plenty economic contacts and which shares non-understanding of political and business elites, expect nothing absolutely new from Russian leader. However they guess there whether Putin shall tighten the screws openly or choose to compromise. What is the future of Russian-Ukrainian relations after the appointment of Putin? Ukrainian experts answer this question for Politcom.ru.

Vasilij Stoyakin, Director of the Political Marketing Center (Kiev):

Everything shall remain the same. I don’t see any reasons to consider that policy of Putin won’t be the same in this direction. Russian duumvirate clearly underlined that Ukraine is of interest for Russia just as the Customs Union partner, and later on in the prospect as the Eurasian Union partner.

If Ukraine doesn’t observe itself as the partner of Russia, the attitude towards it shall be as towards a “non-partner”, as unnecessary detail of foreign political environment of Russia.

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At the same time Putin probably shall be more active in Ukrainian domestic policy, but which shall be exactly the participation at this stage – is only the matter of guessing. At the moment there are no political forces in Ukraine that would orient at modern Russian authorities: ex-head of the Administration of Ukrainian President Viktor Medvedchuk has no power in public policy, ex Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko is in jail (and her attitude towards Russia is even more controversial than of Viktor Yanukovych), and communists are targeted at cooperation with Russia itself but not its leaders.
Denis Denisov, Deputy Director of Ukrainian office of the CIS States Institute (Kiev):

After the election of V. Putin to be the President of the Russian Federation the subject of bilateral relations has intensified among Ukrainian politicians and politologists. We can state that now there is no single opinion regarding further development of Russian-Ukrainian relations. Thus one part of politicians and politologists consider that after inauguration of the President of the Russian Federation V. Putin relations between Ukraine and Russia shall improve significantly, another part of experts suggest that interstate relations may get worse.

This is primarily related with the readiness of the both sides to solve the troubles existing within bilateral relation during a pretty extended period.

Now we can assume that a number of problems, which by President D. Medvedev were significantly deactualized within Russian-Ukrainian relations, shall gain impulse and the future of bilateral relations greatly depends from solution or non-solution of those.

Pretty often in expert circles V. Putin is characterized as one of the main upholders of economy-centrism in foreign policy of Russia, and grounding on this we may suggest that first of all they shall actualize economic troubles in interstate relations of Ukraine and Russia. And this means that V. Yanukovych shall receive new signals regarding joining the integrational projects within post-Soviet space. Here we talk about joining the Customs Union and Common Economic Space. In case if Ukrainian authorities don’t present definite suggestions on interactions with the given structures (naturally the case here is not about the formula “3+1”, the sense of which remained to be the secret) it is very likely that the member-states of these unions shall significantly limit export of Ukrainian goods into their territories. Respectfully this shall result into worsening of economic situation in Ukraine, and shall negatively affect bilateral relations with Russia. Also the agenda of the Presidents of Russian and Ukraine shall include the issue on signing of Free Trade Area Agreement of Ukraine with the European Union. As in case of this Agreement signing Ukraine shall not be able to integrate fully in neither of economic projects, being developed within post-Soviet area.

According to significant part of experts, after inauguration of V. Putin Ukraine shouldn’t count on review of gas contracts independently from sufficient concessions within establishment of gas transporting consortium or assurance of the ability of privatization of big Ukrainian enterprises by Russia business. And after Ukraine opens the access to its gas transporting system and underground stocks, private business, implementing in Ukraine of European legislative norm on equal access, a question occurs, is Russia at all now interested in the establishment of gas transporting consortium?

An individual issue of Russian-Ukrainian agenda shall be the problem of locating of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation in Sevastopol. At the moment there are also certain prerequisites for that V. Putin in bilateral contacts with V. Yanukovych shall set a number of issues related with humanitarian sphere existing within Russian-Ukrainian relations.

Here we can outline the problems related to interpretation of common history, in particular, extending process of heroization of collaborationists in West Ukraine and initiatives on elimination of memorials and the Red Army soldiers’ mass graves.

Also, most likely, the issues shall be raised related to the state of Russian compatriots in Ukraine and Human rights and freedom observance, in the sphere of native language usage, education in Russian language, etc.

At the same time it’s urgent to say that the citizens of Ukraine in general during all period of public activity of V. Putin as the President and Prime Minister of the Russian Federation have pretty positively estimated his personality. Multiple public opinion polls, held in Ukraine in course of last decade, showed that V. Putin gains sympathy of more Ukrainian people than any other politician from Ukraine itself. And at the moment people of Ukraine in majority suggest that after the return of Putin as the President of the Russian Federation  Ukrainian-Russian relations shall not get worse.
Alexander Dudchak, the economist, politologists (Kiev):

The regime of Yanukovych doesn’t left space for an emotional and historic compound within Russian-Ukrainian relations, which frequently allowed Ukraine to bargain preferences which were not economically grounded rather were given “due to common old memory”.  The policy of Russia after the inauguration of Putin evidently shall become more pragmatic than the current one. Integrational processes within the frameworks of EurAsEc develops stably and already demonstrate significant positive results for all member-states. The policy of import substitution held by the government of Russia and absolutely unreasoned non-willingness of the grouping at power in Ukraine to take part within integrational processes within post-Soviet space, may lead to significant reduction of the urgency of Ukrainian issue in foreign economic policy of the Russian Federation.

Nevertheless, due to pragmatism in Putin’s policy and his intention to rehabilitate former mightiness of Russia, any initiatives from Ukraine directed at approach of the two states shall be appreciated in Russia.

With no outlet markets for its science-intensive goods, having no order on manufacturing, inability at the moment to produce the technological products that Ukraine did yet in late 80-s early 90-s of last century – all this steadily pushes the country towards disaster. Having refused today from participation in integrational processes within post-Soviet space as a full-right member, Ukraine, rescuer from collapse, shall get back there but already as a begger. And in this case the authorities of Russia by the new President shall rationally without emotions use the situation by harmonious barking with blames of “Imperial ambitions” from the international Mass Media.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from politcom.ru