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THE UNITED STATES WILL COORDINATE ITS UKRAINIAN POLICY WITH RUSSIA

The impression is that the new US Administration will at least try to coordinate its Ukrainian policy with Russia.


The US Administration is readjusting its policy with regard to Ukraine. Everything will become more or less clear with appointment of the new US ambassador to Ukraine in late April. Russia is taking measures too. Andrei Goncharuk of the Ukrainian president’s secretariat said a meeting between Victor Yuschenko and Dmitry Medvedev would take place in March. Moscow wouldn’t confirm this information.

Commenting on the situation, political scientists reckon that Moscow and Washington are bent on rapprochement over Ukraine. Two statements made recently seem to confirm validity of this assumption. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed the hope a short while ago that the new US Administration would abstain from forcing Ukraine’s immediate membership in NATO. “Expansion for the sake of expansion and new geopolitical territory? Expansion for the sake of proving something to someone?” Lavrov shrugged. “I hope that the US Administration will adjust its priorities and objectives to its abilities.” Washington responded the other day when William Burns of the US Department of State told INTERFAX-Ukraine that the United States did not regard immediate Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine as a high priority. “Every state aspiring to become a NATO member must be up to its standards,” Burns said. “Neither Ukraine nor Georgia is ready for membership.” The American diplomat added that the process of preparations usually took time.

Two other issues the previous US Administration made an emphasis on to the Kremlin’s immense vexation concern the Ukrainian energy market and the Crimea. Appointed three years ago, incumbent US Ambassador William Taylor was initially tasked to try and lessen Ukraine’s energy dependance on Russia. Taylor offered official Kiev services of American consultants more than once. Asked why nothing had ever come out of it, Ukrainian state officials ascribed Taylor’s failure to the position of the European Union. “Old Europe is more pro-Russian than it is pro-American nowadays. The new US Administration will have to face it,” Gorshenin Center Director Konstantin Bondarenko said. “Washington will probably retain its strategy but change the tactic. Barack Obama’s Administration will try to find common language with the European Union. To accomplish that, however, it will need a more pliant policy with regard to Russia,” Penta Center President Vladimir Fesenko agreed.

Experts suspect that official Washington will table for the time being all issues of its Ukrainian policy that may peeve Russia. The Crimean problem is probably going to be the only exception. Considering the US-Ukrainian Partnership and Cooperation Charter signed last December, the United States is clearly out to solidify its positions on the peninsula. Opening of the US mission in Simferopol was Taylor’s last task in Ukraine. The task was not easy, considering protestations from the population and local authorities. Taylor explained that the diplomatic mission was needed for humanitarian programs only. Local pro-Russian forces and organizations meanwhile believe that the matter concerns preparations for establishment of an American bridgehead that will eventually secure access to the Sea of Azov for the US Navy. “I said that we should postpone the opening of missions due to the negative attitude toward the initiative in the Crimea,” Crimean Rada Chairman Anatoly Gritsenko said. “Some serious indoctrination is needed first.” Taylor’s time in Ukraine expires soon (on April 20), but no exact agreements concerning the mission have been reached at.

Political scientists say that a great deal will depend on the meeting between Yuschenko and Medvedev – as long as it takes place in the first place, of course. Determination of state borders in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov will be on the agenda, and this one is a problem whose solution will take off lots of heat from both the Russian-Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American relations. Board of the Russian Defense Ministry met in the Crimea last week. Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov refused to meet with reporters afterwards but local experts took his blitz-visit to the Black Sea Fleet base for part of preparations for the new US policy with regard to Ukraine and the Crimea.

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