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Ukraine - Foreign Relations

The much advertised “multivector” foreign political course proved by 2012 to be very much like a man driving under the influence, with the car swerving, skidding, in this case every such jerky movement caused by whomever the President spoke with last. In other words, here everything is determined by whose interests are uppermost in the Chief Executive’s mind at a given time. Ukraine’s many “strategic partners,” both the Big Brother up north and those across the seas, demanded that Kyiv explain exactly where all those “vectors” were pointed.

The government has stated that it intends to pursue European integration, while also improving relations with Russia and strengthening its strategic partnership with the United States. Ukraine's relations with the EU have been guided by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) since 1998. At the December 2009 EU-Ukraine Summit then-President Yushchenko reiterated his desire to conclude an association agreement with the EU, but the negotiations that began in 2008 are still ongoing. In March 2009, the European Council endorsed the Eastern Partnership (EaP) initiative to help the EU's Eastern neighbors (Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia) undertake political and economic reforms and to bring them closer to the EU. The EaP was launched in May 2009.

On January 31, 1992, Ukraine joined the then-Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (now the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe--OSCE), and on March 10, 1992, it became a member of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Ukraine signed a Charter Agreement with NATO in 1997, sent troops to Kosovo in close cooperation with NATO countries, and signed an agreement for NATO use of Ukrainian strategic airlift assets. It is one of the most active members of the Partnership for Peace (PfP), participating in all but one PfP operation.

In April 2005, NATO offered an "Intensified Dialogue on Membership Issues" to Ukraine, and in January 2008 Ukraine requested a NATO Membership Action Plan. At the April 2008 summit in Bucharest, NATO allies decided to review Ukraine's MAP request at a future date and affirmed that it would eventually become a member of the alliance. Following President Yanukovych's election, Deputy Foreign Minister Yeliseyev stated that Ukraine intends to defer efforts to accelerate NATO membership. President Yanukovych emphasized, however, that he intended to pursue practical cooperation with the alliance.

The West became gradually outspoken as Yanukovych moved to consolidate his power and tighten control over the political landscape. The criticism came to a head in late 2011, when a Kiev court imprisoned Yulia Tymoshenko on charges that the United States and the European Union openly said were politically motivated and designed to sideline a key political rival. The EU resorted to tough tactics in punishing Yanukovych. It rescinded its offer of an Association Agreement, which would offer Ukraine tariff-free trade with the EU and other financial benefits, after Tymoshenko’s jailing.

Since the election of President Yanukovych, Ukraine pursued improved relations with Russia. Ukraine's relations with Russia focused on several bilateral issues including energy security, natural gas prices, and issues related to the stationing of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.

In January 2009 Gazprom, the Russian natural gas producer, cut supplies to Ukraine. The cutoff developed into a crisis as both the gas supplies intended for consumption in Ukraine and those in transit to the rest of Europe were cut off for nearly a month. Ukraine was able to meet most of its domestic demand with reserves, but consumers in other European countries were left without gas for nearly three weeks. A hastily-negotiated agreement was signed with Russia on January 19, 2009, which called for market pricing for gas and transit and the elimination of intermediaries.

On 25 February 2010, five years after the Orange Revolution ousted him from power, Ukraine's pro-Moscow opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych was sworn in as president. Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych's central foreign policy tenets are non-bloc status for Ukraine and a reset in Ukraine's relations with Russia. Election of Yanukovych would mark a fundamental shift away from Yushchenko's advocacy of Euroatlantic integration as the best way for Ukraine to anchor its sovereignty. Instead, the emphasis will be on lowering the temperature with Russia, multi-vectoralism (tilting to Russia), and economic matters. A Yanukovych foreign policy would defer to Russia on many key foreign policy issues, but could be expected to stand up for the business interests of the party's Donbass/Donetsk core.

After Yanukovych's public statements calling for a "just price" for Russian gas imports, the Azarov government signed a sweeping 10-year agreement with Russia on April 21, 2010 to exchange a 25-year extension of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's basing lease in Sevastopol for a discounted price on Russian gas imports (which, Ukraine claims, could result in net annual budget savings of $3 billion or more).

Ukraine maintains peaceful and constructive relations with all its neighbors, though there are some unresolved maritime issues along the Danube and in the Black Sea with Romania; it has especially close ties with Poland and Russia. Ukraine co-founded the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on December 8, 1991, but in January 1993 it refused to endorse a draft charter strengthening political, economic, and defense ties among CIS members.

Ukraine was a founding member of GUAM (Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova) and has taken the lead with Georgia to promote cooperation among emerging democracies in the Community for Democratic Choice, which held its first summit meeting December 1-2, 2005 in Kyiv. In February 2009, the office of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development GUAM was opened in Kyiv. In 1999-2001, Ukraine served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Soviet Ukraine joined the United Nations in 1945 as one of the original members following a Western compromise with the Soviet Union, which had asked for seats for all 15 of its union republics. Ukraine has consistently supported peaceful, negotiated settlements to disputes. It has participated in the five-sided (now "5+2") talks on the conflict in Moldova. Ukraine has also advocated a return to democracy in neighboring Belarus. Ukraine has made a substantial contribution to UN peacekeeping operations since 1992.

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Page last modified: 30-03-2022 19:36:04 ZULU