Against the background of political contradictions existing in the Ukraine, Kiev attempts to normalize its relations with Russia. This step has a simple explanation: “the party of power” is going to attract the electorate that is oriented at Moscow. In this context, it is necessary to view the results of work of the second meeting of the subcommittee for security issues of the Ukrainian-Russian interstate commission held on July 6 in Moscow. Observers pointed at the constructive dialogue between defense ministers of the Ukraine and Russia, Anatoly Gritsenko and Anatoly Serdyukov. Meanwhile, many problems remain in relations between Moscow and Kiev still and they deal chiefly with the Black Sea Fleet deployed in Crimea.
At their meeting, Gritsenko and Serdyukov discussed a broad range of problems of mutual interest. Among them were counteraction in military education and the training of personnel, draft intergovernmental agreement on amendments and supplements to the agreement on use of the ground aviation training range NITKA. It is planned that representatives of partner countries having aircraft-carriers will be trained at NITKA with the assistance of Russian and Ukrainian specialists. For example, these may be maritime pilots from India. According to the Ukrainian Defense Minister, Russia is signing a contract with India now and the matter is about landing airplanes of both Sukhoi and Mikoyan (MiG-29) companies at this training range. Gritsenko added, “We are currently working to broaden these opportunities and to give the right to train crews from partner countries there. This is beneficial for Russia, for our partner countries and for the Ukraine. This means that prospects are positive in this aspect.”
In Moscow, Gritsenko and Serdyukov also discussed the scrapping of armament, military hardware, ammunition and rocket fuel components, a draft document on the procedure of functioning of the 31st training center and a draft intergovernmental agreement on the exchange of information about portable air defense missile systems of Igla and Strela. The parties also discussed activities of the joint working group for the regulation of legal, financial, organizational and technical issues connected with development and creation of the An-70 airplane. Russia has refused to participate in this project, although Kiev hopes that military transport airplanes An-70 will be supplied to Ukrainian armed forces and will be purchased by partner countries.
Meanwhile, it seems that the An-70 airplane is not the only stepping stone in relations between Russia and the Ukraine. Problems connected with the Black Sea Fleet remain too. Thus, recently Moscow and Kiev had a verbal battle again about the fate of the Black Sea Fleet after 2017, that is, the time of expiry of the period of rent of the infrastructure on the part of Russia. Senior Deputy Foreign Minister of the Ukraine, Vladimir Ogryzko, announced that already “in May of 2017, the Black Sea Fleet should be removed from the territory of the Ukraine.” These words were said in connection with the comments of former Commander of the Black Sea Fleet of Russia (1991-1992), Admiral Igor Kasatonov.
Kasatonov announced, “I think that Sevastopol will remain the main base of the Black Sea Fleet even after 2017. In my opinion, this is indisputable, although the agreement on rent of Sevastopol expires in that year. This agreement will be prolonged or resigned for a new longer period. The Black Sea Fleet will remain in Sevastopol as long as it is necessary for Russia.”
Various Russian politicians release such unofficial statements regularly. However, Kiev reacts to them always on the official diplomatic level of the Foreign Ministry. Kiev’s painful attitude to issues of the presence of the Black Sea Fleet on the territory of Crimea is understandable. The entourage of the President of the Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko, the major part of which has influence on the Foreign Ministry, is striving for entrance into NATO. Of course, for them the Black Sea Fleet is a bone in their throat. At any rate, at least ten years remain until the expiry of the rent agreement of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. We think that many events will happen during this time. Many things may change and it is not clear why Kiev reacts to this problem so nervously. The young reformers from Yushchenko’s team evidently feel a lack of assurance. The majority of residents of the Crimea and the southern regions of the Ukraine approve of the Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. Besides, the topic of basing the Russian fleet in the Black Sea is a cornerstone of Russian policy in the southern direction. Due to a possible withdrawal of Russia from the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, the presence of the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea will serve as an additional guarantee of Russia’s security in this region. Of course, Moscow will try to remain in the Crimea as long as possible, informally supporting separatist attitudes and the wish of the residents of the south of the Ukraine to enter into Russia. That is why Yushchenko, who is oriented at the West, has a reason for concern.