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From irksome to interesting – Ukrainian foreign policy

November 26, 2010

Well dear readers, whilst sat sucking a Strepsil……oh yes, that steadfast foundation of British sore throat remedies is indeed easily found in Ukraine, and watching yet another day of tax demonstrations of the television in Kyiv, an issue far from being resolved regardless of the protests, as I fully anticipate the President to send it back to the parliament with “recommendations” anyway.  My thoughts drifted towards how remarkabely peaceful the protests generally are in Kyiv as opposed to recent events in France and the UK which have been much more violent over far less major reform and changes.

This led my currently rather fogged mind onto Ukrainian policy and to recent foreign policy with regards to Ukraine, as the tax protests have drowned out the rather more favourable news of the EU/Ukrainian summit.

I think it is reasonably fair to say that under the last administration Ukraine was seen as “irksome” by most nations and specifically by the EU and NATO, who saw no rush to engage Ukraine as the leaders squabbled endlessly whilst trying to push NATO membership against the country’s will and push EU idealism without any real effort to make any legislative changes to back up the words.

At a time of financial crisis and over expansion, this was a marvellous scenario for the EU and NATO in some ways, although somewhat irksome to continue to hear nothing but well meaning rhetoric from the then leaders of Ukraine.  Nonetheless that well meaning rhetoric and instability meant no rush to engage Ukraine other than when the gas was turned off due exceptionally poor relations and exceptionally poor negotiations with Russia…….rather bizarrely at a time the EU and certainly “Old Europe” was warming to Russia.

All now history of course.

Then enter Yanukovych, a rather swift installation of linear power, a very swift declaration that Ukraine was kicking NATO membership into the very long grass (which to be fair was an election platform), the extention of the Russian Black Sea Fleet lease in Crimea and a rapid warming of relations with Moscow……although not as warm as Russia may have thought it would be…….but certainly warm enough to make them happy.

This of course is a position also welcomed by the “Old Europe” EU members who had been warming ties with Russia anyway and also a number of Polish politicians whose nation is rapidly becoming a very influential voice within the EU.   The Weimar Triangle’s interaction with Russia plus Ukrainian long historical ties with both Poland and Russia is a good position for Ukraine to sit within geographically, politically and economically, if a non-aligned state can be maintained……and very quickly came the announcement of Ukraine remaining non-aligned but rather more pragmatic with its relations with all concerned.

There is of course an inherent risk, certainly militarily, to being non-aligend when sat between NATO and Russia geographically but there is the life-line thrown out by all nations, Russia. 

Russia decides to float the idea (general and non-specific as it was) of the European security in a collective way including Russia, something which Ukraine quite rightly sees as a possible safety net holding non-aligned status.  Whether the idea will ever become more than an idea remains to be seen, but, as can be seen by NATO’s warming to Russia and Russian participation in many things NATO , it is not necessarily an impossible concept.

It has also made it very easy for Ukraine to play war games with both NATO and the CIS nations without suspicion from either side.  More to the point however, war games aside, it puts Ukraine in a position to actively participate in the security issues of both the EU and Russia with equal importants when it comes to terrorism, smuggling, drugs, asylm energy and financial security.

What will be very interesting to watch is how China and Ukraine will interact, as whilst the diaspora bemoan the warmer ties between Russia and Ukraine as Ukraine’s surrender of soveriengty, watch closely at where Chinese investment in Ukraine is placed.  My money is on coal mines, metal producers, ore mines, oil and gas exploration (or financing thereof) space cooperation and R&D over the next 5 – 10 years in a fairly significant way.

However, the affect of the current administration’s foreign policy moves has garnered a much more active and noticeable EU interest than the previous administration ever managed.  There can be no denying a much more interested and engaged EU with Ukraine and likewise Russia.

So that is it then?

Not by a long shot.  Ukrainian relations with Turkey, with whom it already does a reasonable amount of bi-lateral trade, are likely to warm as the EU deals with numerous internal issues that are rocking it to the core.  Ukraine needs a relationship with another important regional player as a backup to the possibility of EU implosion.

Who better than the obviously hugely important nation of Turkey, who just so happen to also be a NATO member.  Turkey is strategically important not just for Ukraine but also for Russia, the EU, and NATO, so it pays to be on good terms.

Good relations with Turkey also open up relations with the Islamic nations of the Middle East and North Africa.  Nations such as Libya, a nation that has consistantly expressed economic interest in Ukraine.  This is over and above the Muslim connection through the Tartars of Crimea and the historical links between the USSR and the Asian continent.

In short, and it seems this is a currently active contingency plan by Ukraine, trade and economic ties are being prepared for a scenario that does not overly involve “The West” should the EU implode.  Recent agreements between Egypt, Libya, Isreal, Turkey etc., all point this direction as the contigency plan for Ukrainian economic and trade growth and cooperation.

On top of all this, Ukraine as a founding member of the UN and despite requiring IMF help, paying its membership fees before most nations have got around to it has been  priority.  Ukraine is also to hold the Presidency of the Council of Europe in 2011 and has recently been unannimously voted as President of OSCE for 2013.

Is that it?

Well yes and no, but it is as far as I will go with this post, other than to say I did not overlook the 2012 football tournament and the possibilities it also presents Ukraine if it goes well……but being English, I am sure England will under-perform as normal, so I don’t want to draw too much attention to it……I know you understand.

Anyway, suffice to say, the rather tedious and irksome foreign policy I have associated with Ukraine for the last 6 years and more has suddenly become very interesting!

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