A RUSSIAN COUP IN KIEV? A LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE
"With respect to the Ukrainian decision, I think it’s clear – and the foreign minister and I discussed this upstairs – that Ukraine is trying to have a balanced approach to its foreign policy. It’s first – the president – the new president’s first visit was to Brussels, evidencing a real interest in moving toward Europe and even EU membership eventually. The president has told President Obama that he very much wants to improve and deepen relations with the United States. But at the same time, he has made it clear that he’s going to continue to work with Russia. I think, given Ukraine’s history and Ukraine’s geographic position, that balancing act is a hard one but it makes sense to us that’s what he’s trying to do and to keep a foot, if you will, in both sides of his country.
I think your underlying question is our view about Russia’s actions toward its neighbors. And we’ve been very clear that we believe that there is no sphere of influence, that there is no veto power that Russia or any country has over any country in Europe or in this region concerning membership in organizations like NATO or the EU. I’m heartened to see Europe moving more to take steps that will empower it in its dealings with Russia, including moving toward more energy security, another issue that the foreign minister and I discussed.
Look, this is a balancing act. And even as young as the foreign minister is with his recent birthday, he’s old enough to remember Soviet occupation. This is a very live sense of the historical reality in the hearts and minds of the people of Estonia, so we are very conscious of that and we recognize the need to build up our relationships and support actions of independence such as moving toward energy security as a way of sending a very clear message that we want to live in a peaceful, stable world with our Russian friends but we’re going to be committed to the defense of our NATO allies".
American Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Remarks with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet After Their Meeting," 22 April 2010 in www.state.gov
"As far as Russia is concerned, it is not only a question of the redeployment of the Black Sea Fleet or the construction of new coastal infrastructure, but also a broad array of issues related to understanding how friendly our neighbor is....We do not want to find ourselves in a situation of such high uncertainty and I don't think our Ukrainian colleagues want that either."
Russian Ambassador Mikhail Zurabov quoted in "Russian Envoy to Ukraine Hails Naval Base Deal," 23 April 2010, in www.en.rian.ru/russia
From the way that some commentators in the West are arguing, as well as opposition politicians in Kiev, it would appear that the new Ukrainian President Yanukovich has in effect sold-out Ukrainian independence to Moskva in the recently concluded and now ratified agreement between Russia and Ukraine over the former's naval bases in Crimea and the concomitant quid pro quo for which being the steep reduction in gas imports from Russia(for the arguments in the Ukrainian Parliament, see: "Protest as Ukraine backs Russian base extension," 27 April 2010 in www.reuters.com; for arguments by commentators in the West see: Tomas Valasek "A bad deal for Ukraine and Yanukovich," 28 April 2010, in www.ft.com). Is this correct or accurate? Has Russia stolen a march on the West over this deal? And, finally has there been a shift in the Central / Eastern European balance of power? Concerning the first, Grazdanin Yanukovich has not 'sold-out' anything or anyone which was not already up for grabs already. From his (perhaps blinkered) perspective, the trade-off was quite acceptable, inasmuch as there was and is no absolute assurance that even sans a treaty legalizing their presence, Russia would necessarily evacuate its naval bases in Sevastopol in the Crimea post-2017. Per se, there is no one and nothing which would necessarily force Russia, to withdraw in that circumstance. Certainly, neither the European Union nor NATO (AKA the USA) would actively assist Kiev to evict Matushka Russia from Crimea in such circumstances. It was precisely to avoid involvement in such messy and possibly confrontational circumstances, which made most members of NATO reluctant to award Kiev back in 2007 and 2008, membership track status in the organization. And, nothing would have changed by 2017 to have caused anyone in NATO, to have reconsidered that decision. Indeed, as one can see from the balanced and (dare one say it?) realistic comments by the American Secretary of State, on the subject in Tallin the other day. A veritable sea change indeed from the days of the Bush regime idiocy on the subject.
Concerning the second point, the true answer is that Grazdanin Putin, et. al., was willing to put his (or should one say Matushka Russia's) money where is mouth was (to use a demotic but in this instance ultra-apt expression). According to a report in Agence France-Presse today, Russian Premier Putin, admitted to the Russian Duma that the concessions on the gas pricing made to Kiev as part of the agreement, will cost upwards of Forty-five Billion dollars over the next ten years("Russia digs deep in battle for Ukraine supremacy," 28 April 2010 in www.afp.com). A sum of money which it is quite inconceivable that the European Union, much less NATO and or the USA, would be willing to spend. Indeed, it is inconceivable that either party would spend half that much. Added to Putin's offer made this week, to establish a joint stock combine for both countries nuclear industries, and, one can see that for Moskva, re-establishing it's predominance in Ukraine is a worthwhile endeavor indeed. In view of the unwillingness of both NATO and the EU to enter the lists in the first place, it was not really much of a competition. And, lastly does the agreements and their short and medium implications mean that there has been a change in the balance of power in Central and Eastern Europe? Only, and, I repeat only, if one judges that by closing the door to the possibility of Ukraine 'joining' the West, Moskva has in effect shored-up, its position in that area of the world. It does not however, convert Kiev into a client state, or even an active ally. And, it could very well be that in years to come, Putin, et. al., will find that they did indeed pay too much in order re-establish Russia's primacy in neighbor to the west. And, that in point of fact, from a strategic perspective, Kiev, with its declining and or stagnate, heavy industrial make-up, is more of a dead weight, rather than an real asset. However, this is only something that time & history will tell us.