Today is a momentous day in the history of Russian-Ukrainian relations. The deadline for refusing to renew the 10-year agreement on friendship passed on Oct. 1. What exactly does it mean when we say the friendly relations between Russia and Ukraine will be automatically renewed for 10 years, as noted in the agreement?
This is an apt time to recall the partnership that former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and ex-Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma forged 10 years ago. Did Russia do the right thing by renewing the agreement? KP spoke with two political scientists to find the answers to these questions, Director of the Kiev Center of Political Research and Conflict Studies Mikhail Pogrebinskiy, and deputy head of the Ukrainian Department at the CIS Studies Institute in Moscow Kirill Frolov.
1. What does Russia get from the agreement?
“The agreement was ratified in a legislative packet, together with an agreement that based the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol until 2017. In other words, basing Russia's fleet in Sevastopol was a condition of the agreement. However, Yushchenko's orders against the Russian Fleet infringe the agreement.”
2. ...And Ukraine?
“The agreement on friendship is the primary judicial basis for Ukraine's borders. And the claims of some Russian politicians that the status of Sevastopol and Crimea can be placed under scrutiny hinge on this document.”
3. What if Kiev steers toward NATO?
“Russia made a compromise when signing the agreement on Ukraine's behalf. We recognized Ukraine's state borders. As a reminder, I should mention that as soon as the agreement was ratified, former President Leonid Kuchma announced Ukraine's course to join NATO and began driving the Ukrainian Orthodox Church away from the Russian church. In other words, Ukraine began burning all its bridges with Russia.”
“Today, the issue of Ukraine becoming a member of NATO in 2009 is no longer actual. However, no official obstacles stand in Ukraine's way. The agreement says the parties won't take any actions against each other. As a note, NATO isn't Russia's enemy. This isn't written in any public documents in Russia.”
4. Can the agreement be broken?
“Today, everyone knows the agreement isn't being fulfilled, and doesn't guarantee friendly relations between the two countries at all. At the same time, neither Russia nor Ukraine wants to be the first to break the agreement. It's counterproductive for Russia to play the role of the gravedigger. And Ukraine doesn't have anything to say to anyone in this regard. It's still unclear what route the country will take. Yushchenko is taking a Russophobic course, while other politicians are trying to maintain their positions, but can't agree on Ukraine's national interests.”
“In order to break the agreement, it's enough for either of the two countries to demonstratively infringe its conditions. This is exactly what Ukraine is doing. Article 6 of the agreement says: 'The parties are obligated not to sign agreements with third countries aimed against the other party.' Ukraine's joining NATO is a clear and obvious threat against Russia. When Yushchenko places Ukraine on NATO's Membership Action Plan this December – if he is still in power – the country will no longer be party to the agreement.”
5. Is it really possible to return Crimea?
“Russia may have its eye on Sevastopol and Crimea, but there is an entirely separate agreement on Ukraine's borders. That agreement would also have to be rescinded. I don't think this will happen. The problems that Russia would face after acquiring the territories would by far exceed what Russia would gain. In the 21st Century, it's not important who owns a territory. What's much more important is who controls the business. Territorial claims to Ukraine would lead to ruined relations with Europe.”
“Relations between the two countries won't end if the agreement is broken. This would mean an end to the Yeltsin political era. There would be a clean slate in Russia's relations with Ukraine. Our former brotherly republic is among Russia's privileged national interests. In other words, Russia wants to know the potential fate of Ukraine's Russian-speaking population, the Ukrainian church and the Black Sea Fleet.”
The most important clauses in the agreement on friendship, cooperation and partnership between Russia and Ukraine are:
1. Respecting each other's territorial integrity;
2. No nation will allow its territory to jeopardize the safety of the other country;
3. Each nation guarantees the other country's citizens the rights and freedoms of its own citizens;
4. The nations will provide for the safety of ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious minorities;
5. The nations will grant equal opportunities and conditions for studying Russian in Russia and Ukrainian in Ukraine.
Читать русскую версию: Россия и Украина продлили «дружбу» автоматом