Ukrainian Vector of Vladimir Putin

By Alexey Makarkin

In Russia foreign policy course is defined by the President – that is why a political decision that Putin returns to this post in spring 2012 has become a significant event affecting the development of Russian-Ukrainian relations. At first sight these relations should get worse considering traditionally more rigid foreign political line of Putin and political stakes of Yanukovych to establish contacts first of all with Medvedev, who becomes Prime-Minister in the new system of power.  “Yanukovych, who is evidently more prone to communicate with liberal Medvedev, was made clear that now he’ll have to deal with rough Putin. If someone had illusions, that one can come to an agreement with one of the Kremlin leaders individually, playing on contradictions, then now there are no such”, - considers political analyst Vladimir Fesenko.

Influence of Medvedev on current policy on a new post shall be minimal, although Ukrainian political analyst, Director of Kiev Institute for Conflictology and Political Studies Mikhail Pogrebenski assumes that the Prime Minister shall participate actively in the talks with Ukraine: “Medvedev’s team once it comes into the government shall have the chance to influence real policy. Influence of gas and oil lobby shall be reduced. This shall be beneficial for Ukrainian negotiators”.

However this point of view is disputable. Economic policy in gas sphere traditionally is considered to be the sphere of Putin’s interests, even if Medvedev participated in its accomplishment. The post of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of “Gazprom” at the moment is held by Putin’s protégé, the first Vice Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov – and most likely he’ll preserve this appointment also after the elections. That is why the main “negotiators” with Ukraine, obviously, as earlier shall be the people of Putin.

Ukrainian political analysts treat moderately the options of development of bilateral relations during the Presidency of Putin.  This way, the Director of the International Institute of Democracy Sergey Taran considers that appointment of Vladimir Putin for the post of the President of Russia shall complicate relations of Ukraine and Russia at the level of the leaders of states, however it can promise unexpected foreign political prospects for Kiev. He thinks that mentalities of Yanukovych and Putin are too diverse. Taran considers this factor to be significant, but not a decisive one. “One should understand that the logic of Ukrainian-Russian relations is defined by not the relations of two people, but the logic of foreign policy which is led now by Russia and Ukraine. And the logic of Russian foreign policy is to reinforce at maximum its influence within post-soviet area and slow down the promotion of states, especially those situated in West closer to Europe. And no matter who it is, Putin, Medvedev or someone else this logic shall prevail”, - he states.

“The same logic Ukraine has, independently of who is in the office – Yushchenko or Yanukovych. The logic of europeization of Ukraine is irreversible due to one simple reason, that this is the only chance of Ukraine to be an entity of international policy balancing between the power centers - the Kremlin and Brussels”, - suggests Taran, considering that independently of who heads Russia “the logic of foreign policy of Russia shall be the same as it was by Putin or without him”. Taran concedes that returning of Putin to the main post in Russia shall help Ukraine to get closer to the European Union. “Revival of authoritarian trends in Russia shall also stimulate European politicians to search more compromises with Ukraine, consequently, for Yanukovych the return of Putin to power shall open new possibilities in the EU” – he thinks.

Mikhail Pogrebenski also considers that there shall be no significant changes within bilateral relations: “the policy of the Kremlin towards Ukraine won’t change. Putin and Medvedev had the same approaches towards our state. Their line has always been coordinated”. And to the mind of Vladimir Fesenko, there shall be no significant changes in interstate policy, as everybody realizes that the key element in the tandem ruling for the last four years was Vladimir Putin: “There will be the change of style, but not the change of the essence of foreign policy”.

The Director of the Global Strategies Institute Vadim Karasiov predicts that the return of Putin into Presidential chair may have negative results for Ukraine. According to him the “mission, tasks or the super-task of Putin in his second Presidential advent is to finalize the reintegration of post-soviet area”, - considers the expert. “This shall be a new Putin already. And remaining between the European Union and its demands towards Ukraine from the point of view of preservation of democratic rights and freedoms, and on the other hand, Russia which shall demand from Ukraine integrational answer - Ukraine shall have this hard, Ukrainian elite shall have to chose”. And this reply, evidently, shall decide which Ukraine shall be in the XXI century. Either it shall join this new union under the omophorion of Putin with the stake at Military Industrial Complex, or it shall still move to Europe with its other priorities – economic, moral-political, cultural”, - assumes Karasiov.

Political analyst of the Institute of Euroatlantic Cooperation Vladimir Gorbach considers that the future presidency of the old President Putin shall become another challenge for Ukraine, as the style of his command is pretty rough. “Putin’s Russia ego-trips on the benefit of those who are close, and first of all of neighbors. That is why Ukraine will be one of the most significant objects of foreign policy of future president Putin. And we may expect only complications and pressure on Ukrainian authorities – with force and will”, - suggests Gorbach.

Thus a “moderate” approach of Ukrainian politologists has its differences. They assume that the policy of Russia shall possess the character of succession (with some stylistic alterations), others thinks that relations shall worsen seriously. Putin himself is in a clearly careful mind. In his article, published in October 4th in “Izvestija” newspaper he supported transformation of the Customs Union into the Eurasian union and criticized slightly the line of Ukraine (without naming this country directly):

“Some neighbors of the Russian Federation explain the unwillingness to participate in an advanced integrational project within post-soviet area as if it contradicts their European choice. I think that this is a false choice. We are not going to fence ourselves or confront anyone. The Eurasian Union shall be developed on universal integrational principles as an integral part of the Great Europe united with common values of freedom, democracy and market laws”.

As Putin states the future Eurasian Union may become a step on the way to European integration of its participants – although one can express reasonable doubts. The leaders of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan can’t be perceived as the upholders of modern European democracy. At the same time his initiative incites quite careful attitude also among the partners of Russia at the Customs Union – for example, the Councilor of the President of Kazakhstan on Policy Ermukhamet Ertysbayev declared: “Millions of people in Russia and Kazakhstan wish integration. But entrance into the Eurasian Union should proceed in a natural way and if Russia refuses of nostalgia over soviet greatness and is ready for equal rights cooperation, it shall become more attractive for new states”. It’s understood that in Ukraine elites take significantly more skeptic line towards Putin’s project.

It is considered that there are two scenarios of relations of Ukraine and Russia during the Presidency of Putin. The first one is “conflict” one – anticipates the growth of tension, based on geopolitical contradictions, active aspiration of Moscow to achieve integration of Ukraine into the Eurasian Union. In the frameworks of this variant possible are new “gas wars”, enhancement of contradictions over Black Sea fleet., the attempts of Russia to make a political stake on the competitors of Yanukovych within the struggle for voters of South-East part of the country. “Trade wars” carry female character, Russian investments into Ukrainian economy are hindered. This scenario assumes also grave worsening of interpersonal relations between the Presidents of the both states, which shall be revealed in public.

The second scenario is “inertial” which now looks more probable. It means preservation of complicated bilateral relations, but with significant reduction of the number of negative manifestations in comparison with the previous variant.

Possible are compromises on gas issues, up to the establishment of consortium to control of Ukrainian GTS. Although, also in the frameworks of this scenario pretty probable is the growth of contradictions in the sphere of economic cooperation related to the refusal of Ukraine from entering into the Customs Union. The character of Russian investments into the country shall depend on improvement of relations with definite representatives of Ukrainian business, tightly connected with the current power.


Translated by EuroDialogueXXI


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