NEW ROUND OF RUSSIAN-UKRAINIAN MILITARY COOPERATION

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The visit of Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev to Kiev confirms the recent conclusion of observers that Russia and Ukraine have started a new round of military cooperation. Discussion of the Black Sea Fleet problems, as well as joint efforts in production of new kinds of armament and combat materiel (air defense systems, missiles, military transport airplanes, and so on) indicates that the countries with similar ethnic composition and national psychology also have common strategic interests.

Such cooperation is inevitable due to a number of reasons. First, joint production of armament and combat materiel enables the countries to use high-tech production facilities, including the missile and aircraft building enterprises, remaining after breakup of the USSR more efficiently, and to convert them for manufacture of civil and dual-purpose goods.

Second, Ukraine depends on Russian energy resources supply. Having a big debt for these resources, Kiev is trying not to quarrel with Moscow, and Moscow in turn is trying to use this circumstance for its own interests, such as strengthening of its influence in the Crimea, division of the Azov Sea, and so on.

Third, Russia and Ukraine have geopolitical goals which are common to some extent. Turkey, which supports ethnic opposition movement of Crimean Tatars, and is actively promoting its interests in the North Caucasus (in Georgia and Azerbaijan), is the main strategic rival of Moscow and Kiev in the struggle for influence in the former Soviet republics, as well as in the Black ad Mediterranean seas.

However, the West does not like the warming up of relations between Russia and Ukraine. According to some observers, this very circumstance is the reason of the attempts to kindle the scandal surrounding President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine, and to dismiss him. In addition to opposition leaders in emigration, like former Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko staying in the US, this process also involves government officials like Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, and some parliament members. According to Ukrainian parliament members, Kuchma received “fees” from former Prime Minister Lazarenko, who is currently kept in American jail for alleged money laundering. Lazarenko allegedly transferred big sums to the personal overseas accounts of the President. Lazarenko himself confirms these allegations. Meanwhile, Russian players are getting increasingly involved into these intrigues, because dismissal of Kuchma is not beneficial for them. Preparation of Ukrainian parliamentary resolution on beginning of Kuchma’s impeachment has coincided with the new accusations against General Georgy Oleinik, chief military financier of Russian Defense Ministry.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Defense Ministry analysts, acquainted with reliable information about financial relations between Russian Defense Ministry and Ukraine in 1996, say that launching of legal proceedings against dismissed Colonel General Oleinik, director of the main military budget and financing department of the Defense Ministry, is a bluff. In reality the lawsuit is associated with the game of the Kremlin in support of Kuchma’s image, which has recently been spoiled.

It is known that former activist of the Gromada party and incumbent Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko is one of the main leaders of opposition to the President. Observers call Timoshenko an ally of former Prime Minister Lazarenko, who, like we have said, is struggling against Kuchma, and currently remains in American prison. In 1996, Timoshenko became the CEO of UES Ukrainy. According to military prosecutor’s offices of Russia and Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry struck an illegal construction materials purchase deal with this company. According to Nikolai Obikhoda, Deputy General Prosecutor of Ukraine, executives of UES Ukrainy probably bribed officials of Russian Defense Ministry. Prosecutor’s offices name the sum of $3 million. This is possible, But who was bribed? At present it is Oleinik who is charged with bribery, and the Kremlin supports this version. However, is this version objective? It is known that negotiations about this deal were held when Pavel Grachev was the Defense Minister. It was he who signed and approved offsetting of debts between Russian Defense Ministry and UES Ukrainy. New Defense Minister Igor Rodionov succeeded Grachev and continued these negotiations. However, the chief military financier has to sign orders of payment according to his service duties. Hence, Oleinik signed the order when he had been in his capacity for slightly more than a month. When Russian Defense Ministry and Ukraine negotiated about the deal, Oleinik was the dean of the military faculty in the Financial Academy, and evidently did not even plan to become the chief military financier.

Meanwhile, it is not very appropriate for the Kremlin to arrest Grachev, who currently remains off staff of the disbanded state-run company Rosvooruzhenie, or Rodionov who enjoys immunity of a Duma deputy. Arresting of a person who controls one fifth of the country’s budget obviously has to be a sensation. Mass media present the situation exactly like this. However, a game is a game. According to some sources, dismissed Oleinik remains in his office, but documents are submitted for signing to his deputies. Neither Oleinik himself nor other senior Defense Ministry officials feel any guilt.

Incidentally, mass media do not say anything about other eleven corruption cases involving top ranking generals, although they have dedicated a whole press conference to Oleinik. The noise surrounding the deals of Russian Defense Ministry with UES Ukrainy, the lawsuit against Oleinik, and the campaign against Timoshenko have begun at the peak of the scandal surrounding Kuchma himself. This is not up to us to decide whether Kuchma is right or not, but the play against Timoshenko and Prime Minister Victor Yushchenko supported by the West is beneficial for Russia. Moscow needs Kuchma. At present relations between Moscow and Kiev are probably the warmest and friendliest during the entire post-Soviet epoch. Kuchma and Putin have understood that they have to cooperate. Russia forgives gas debts to Ukraine, and the countries are preparing to guard and defend the Black Sea in collaboration. They are also preparing military and technological cooperation development projects, and projects for joint production of the An-70 airplane. The need to secure strategic security also pushes Russia to maintain friendly relations with Ukraine.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Kuchma is negotiating with Moscow about joint production of intercontinental ballistic missiles, which is very beneficial for Russia. At this point the US developing a new national missile defense program badly needs the “Kuchmagate”, writes Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Thus, concludes the newspaper, General Oleinik charged with corruption is a hostage of big policy of Moscow and Kiev, to be more precise, the Kremlin and Kuchma.

Corruption scandals divert public opinion from the figure of the Ukrainian President. Along with this, Russian Prosecutor’s Office is included into the struggle against Ukrainian opposition to Kuchma. A Russian military investigator will arrive in Kiev soon to interrogate Timoshenko about illegal deals for sale of construction materials by UES Ukrainy (which she managed in 1996) to Russian Defense Ministry.

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