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Russia without Ukraine is a country;
Russia with Ukraine is an empire.

Ukraine-Russian Relations - 2010-2014 - Yanukovych

In the 2010 Ukrainian presidential elections Russia played a smarter game than in 2004-5 by not throwing its support behind one candidate. All the serious candidates campaigned in favor of improving relations with Russia, and either denounced or soft-pedaled the notion of NATO membership for Ukraine. Moscow's chief Ukrainian nemesis, incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko, was not only eliminated but abjectly humiliated in the first-round vote. either of the runoff contenders, PM Yulia Tymoshenko or former PM Viktor Yanukovych, would be seen as a good interlocutor by Moscow, and expect that Russian-Ukrainian relations would improve no matter which candidate wins. One observer noted, "Putin likes Tymoshenko but doesn't trust her; the Russians trust Yanukovych more, but they don't especially like him."

The 2010 election of President Viktor Yanukovych ushered in a change in direction and tone in Ukrainian policy toward Russia. Dmitriy Medvedev, who refused all contact with Yushchenko since at least August 2009, invited Yanukovych to visit Moscow in March 2010. Yanukovych's team sought to renegotiate the January 2009 gas deal that Tymoshenko worked out with Putin, saying, in effect, that Putin took Tymoshenko to the cleaners. They wanted to examine the relationship in its entirety and were willing to make concessions in return for concessions.

NATO membership was not on the agenda, securing one of Moscow's primary goals. However, Yanukovych emphasized he wanted to maintain contact with NATO including through training and exercises. The Party of Regions invited NATO SYG Rasmussen to the inauguration (although NATO wasrepresented at a lower level).

Yanukovych announced he was open to renegotiate the lease for the Russian Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol, which expires in 2017. Yanukovych would seek substantially higher rent. Regions leaders appear to see this issue as a bargaining chip to get concessions in other areas, such as the gas deal.

Yanukovych would seek to make Russian language official for education and other purposes in areas where Russian speakers are a majority. Regions claims that this is consistent with European norms. Yanukovych had campaigned on a pledge to make Russian a second state language, but he does not have the votes in the Rada to change the constitution to make this happen.

Yanukovych talked favorably about increasing trade and economic ties with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and flirted rhetorically with the idea of joining the Customs Union; however, his advisors recognized that joining a Customs Union would be incompatible with both WTO and an EU Free Trade Agreement, so he is unlikely to go that far.

In November 2011, the Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh presidents signed a declaration on Eurasian economic integration, a roadmap of integration processes aimed at creating the Eurasian Economic Union, which will be based on the Customs Union and common economic space among the three countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin on 12 July 2012 promised not to force Ukraine into the Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. “Russia and its partners will never force any country into the union, that’s a counterproductive move,” Putin said at a press conference after talks with Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych. Putin emphasized that Ukrainians should make the choice themselves. In his turn, Yanukovych thanked Putin for his invitation to join the Customs union. “We do not say no, we are now closely studying this processes. We should decide on our future soon.”

At a meeting in Crimea on 12 July 2012 the Ukrainian and Russian presidents signed a declaration of strategic partnership, which is meant to serve as a fundamental document defining the main objectives and mechanisms of that partnership. These objectives include deepening bilateral cooperation, economic modernization, mutual support for socio-economic reforms, strengthening the state and civil society, and developing friendship and cooperation among the two countries’ peoples. Mechanisms for this partnership will be regular meetings at the highest level and the active use of the Ukrainian-Russian Interstate Commission and its working groups. The declaration defines a broad scope of cooperation, including political, economic, environmental, scientific, technical, educational, cultural, humanitarian, information, sports, tourism, youth policy, and cooperation in selected industries.

Military-technical cooperation was among topics discussed during the 12 July meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents. Russian President Putin underlined the importance of Russia as an export market for Ukrainian defense enterprises, as well as the reliance of some Russian enterprises on Ukrainian partners. Putin indicated that the discussions would include issues related to high-tech sectors like aviation, space exploration and ship-building. He also indicated that issues related to the Russian Federation Black Sea Fleet’s presence in Crimea would also be addressed, albeit separately.

Also on 12 July, the Ukrainian and Russian Defense Ministers held meetings in Yalta, which resulted in the decision to sign a bilateral agreement in the nearest future on partnership in combating piracy and joint interaction in the area of communications. The sides are also drafting an agreement to amend plans for use of Ukraine’s NITKA aviation training complex and the bilateral military-technical cooperation plan for 2012-2017. They also took a decision to use Ukrainian defense industrial enterprises to repair armored vehicles and ships for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

By 2012 Russia was growing increasingly impatient with the Yanukovych administration. It had ardently criticized Yulia Tymoshenko’s imprisonment, especially since the firebrand populist was jailed for abusing office in negotiating an allegedly unfavorable 2009 gas contract with Russia. Yanukovych had also played hardball with Moscow, fending off the Kremlin’s advances to buy up Ukraine’s energy transportation infrastructure and to pull Ukraine into the Russian-led customs union.

By the end of 2013 Ukraine and neighboring Moldova were at a historic crossroads: join a free trade pact with the European Union or join President Putin’s Moscow-based Eurasian Union. Moscow gave Ukraine a taste of the penalties it faces for moving westward. The Kremlin tightened customs controls, threatened higher gas prices, and warned that Russian-speaking areas of Ukraine could secede and join Russia. President Yankovych decided in November 2013 to back out of an agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

Two years after its ex-pro-Russian president reneged on a landmark deal to draw closer to Europe, Ukraine’s much-ballyhooed free-trade agreement with the European Union was set to come into force 01 January 2016. And Vladimir Putin was none too happy about it.

Moscow’s food fight with the West finally landed in Ukraine’s plate. After slapping a ban on a range of agricultural products from Europe, the US, Canada and beyond, Putin was poised to extend those punitive measures, starting January 1, to the southern neighbor with which he had been waging a not-so-shadow war of influence for the past couple of years. The Kremlin insisted the looming sanctions against Kiev – which include a smorgasbord of meat, fish, dairy products, fruits and vegetables – were purely a defensive action.

They were aimed, he says, at protecting Russia’s domestic market from a flood of European goods entering illegally via Ukraine. "We'll have to protect our market on a unilateral basis from unattended access of goods through Ukraine's customs territory, those being goods from third countries, first of all from the states of the European Union,” Russia’s Economic Development Minister, Alexei Ulyukayev, told the Rossiya-24 TV news channel.

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Page last modified: 21-12-2015 19:19:24 ZULU