Russia needs a new strategy in relations with Ukraine
The long-standing idea of the sovereignization of Russia and the formation of a Russian national state on the territory of the Russian Federation is heard in discussions of relations between Russia and Ukraine increasingly often. Now, 15 years after breakup of the USSR, this concept sounds different: “Russia first and integration afterwards.”
The long-standing idea of the sovereignization of Russia and the formation of a Russian national state on the territory of the Russian Federation is heard in discussions of relations between Russia and Ukraine increasingly often. Now, 15 years after breakup of the USSR, this concept sounds different: “Russia first and integration afterwards.” If we bear in mind the existing experience of ousting of Russia by efforts of the US from the post-Soviet space this concept carries an evil meaning. In 1991, many people considered sovereignization of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic as a precondition for new unity of the Slavic peoples of the USSR. Now the slogan “Russia first and integration afterwards,” and the assertion that Ukraine is of interest to Russia only as a region for gas transit, is an outright concession to Russia’s rivals.
The “gas war” was provoked by the unfriendly policy of Viktor Yushchenko and by the wish to quickly bring Ukraine to NATO. Russia sponsoring anti-Russian policy is absurd. Gas prices were used as a tool to impact the political situation in Ukraine. We had to contribute to sobering up of the electorate that had voted for Yushchenko (it owes even its current fragile well-being to Russia) and to show to political elite of Ukraine that we were not interested in victory of the Yushchenko’s party at elections in March and in victory of the course at entrance into NATO. In the last few months, the “gas war” and the entire policy towards Ukraine were aimed at prevention of consolidation of political elite on the anti-Russian basis and at splitting of the Maidan unity. It was necessary to show to population of Ukraine that Yushchenko sacrificed its interests to personal prestige of the “father of Ukrainian democracy.” In any case, it was necessary to pursue this policy in a subtler way with emphasized respect to dignity of the population of Ukraine, which Russian mass media obviously lacked. Nonetheless, we did our best to strengthen positions of the pro-Russian forces on the eve of the elections.
Suddenly we hear from the experts perceived as a “megaphone of the Kremlin” that for “national Russia” it is not important who wins in Ukraine, stability in the territory through which gas flows to Europe is above all, “national” Russia should treat Ukraine without “humanist” emotions, take it as a competitor and do its best for its “letting down.” However, attitude to Ukraine only as to a “gas corridor” will damage our national security. Implementation of the concept of “letting down” will create a hostile state with population of 50 million people on the southern borders. The economic “letting down” will give very little too. For instance, if we stop cooperation with Ukrainian military industrial complex United Europe will come to occupy our place.
Which “national” Russia can we speak about if we abandon tens of millions of residents of Ukraine who voted at the latest elections for preservation of common cultural, political and defense space? Russia should do its best to preserve the friendliness of this fragmented Russian world.
I am not a revanchist, let alone a romantic. New independent Ukraine is a reality like a common Ukrainian nation. Separation of historical Lesser Russia from the integrated body of the state will cause a surge of anti-Russian attitude in independent Ukraine. A great deal will depend on the wisdom of Russians and responsibility of Ukraine elite. Yushchenko frankly sacrifices development of economy for the sake of strengthening of the sovereignty of Ukraine. We should take this into account in development of a strategy for relations with Ukraine. However, I do not see any reasons today, when the problem of power in Ukraine is being solved and when it is decided if Ukraine will be anti-Russian or friendly, to give the heart of the Russian world deliberately to the power of anti-Russian Galitsian forces.
Of course, it is important to have a successful period chairing th G8 in 2006, but do we need to subordinate our foreign policy to this task? I do not think that the processes happening in Ukraine are “secondary.” If we quit Ukraine now we will quit it forever with all historic circumstances. Russia as the legal successor of the USSR did not receive anything for voluntary giving up of the military bases in Eastern Europe. Nobody thanked us despite that we ourselves liberated the world from communism and from the threat of nuclear war. Moreover, nobody will thank us that we have contributed to entrance of Ukraine into NATO. I don’t believe that Russia can be a “superpower” when we have US Air Force aircraft flying just past Bryansk. All this new talk of Russia’s “energy superpower” status – a status we’ll allegedly receive in exchange for abandoning any active policy in the former Soviet Union – is meant for simpletons.