Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Ukraine Even Under Yanukovich Shifting Its Focus from Russia to Europe, Kremlin Advisors Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 16 – A close analysis by a group of Kremlin advisors of a message to the Verkhovna Rada by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in whom Moscow has placed so much hope shows that Kyiv no longer views itself as part of the Russian cultural world, defines itself in European terms, and cooperates with Moscow only when and because it has to.

            Tamara Guzenkova, the deputy director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Research which often provides studies for the Kremlin, says that Yanukovich’s 576-page message released a month ago (for its full text, see president.gov.ua/docs/poslannia2013.pdf) represents the triumph of the pro-Europe party in Ukraine (riss.ru/index.php/analitika/1890-o-vneshnepoliticheskikh-prioritetakh-i-tsennostyakh-ukrainy-v-ezhegodnom-poslanii-v-yanukovicha-verkhovnoj-rade#.UeUcFW00EUN).
            The RISI analyst says that even in the foreign policy segment of the report which she analyzes, Yakukovich’s message represents “a still careful attempt at formulating a symbolic and value-oriented basis for the European choice of Ukraine,” something that reflects Kyiv’s desire to distance itself from Moscow and integrate Ukraine into Europe.

            “Thus,” she writes, in its discussion of the 1025th anniversary of the baptism of Kievan Rus, the Presidential Message says that “’the Christianization (in the text there is not a word about Orthodoxy —T.G.) of Rus-Ukraine became a new stage in national history’ because it underscored ‘the European membership of the Ukrainian state.’”

            Further, the Message says, Guzenkova writes, that “the demand of the present-day stage is the integration of Ukraine in world-wide and above all European structures,” something that will allow “the preservation of the cultural and historical heritage of the Ukrainian people” and will be facilitated by “restricting” the influx of Russian media into the country.

            Thus, the RISI analyst argues, “for the first time at a doctrinal level” Ukraine has shifted its “ideological orientation … from the common cultural-historical Orthodox, linguistic heritage and civilizational community with Russia” and declared its intention for Ukraine to accept “West European values” instead.

            This “’European choice’ is declared to be the defining factor which will allow Ukraine to absorb the European experience and realize the necessary economic and political reforms,” while any “cooperation with Russia is explained largely by the [country’s] critical dependence on Russian energy supplies and so on.”

            According to Guzenkova, Yanukovich’s Message is “an ideological and political victory of the pro-European lobby” with a conscious lowering of the importance of that country’s Eurasian ties to a matter of secondary importance.  That in turn means that Russian-Ukrainian relations are going to be “fraught with conflicts, alienation and mutual disappointment.”

            The RISI analyst backs up these sweeping ideological and even historiosophic conclusions by examining the specific meaning of Ukraine’s “European choice” for Russia, including a diminished role for Moscow in Ukrainian affairs unless radical changes occur sometime soon.

              But the central concern of Guzenkova’s report is less about Ukraine choosing Europe than about its not choosing Russia.  As she points out repeatedly, Ukraine wants to be part of Europe and will cooperate with Russia only because of Kyiv’s “critical dependence” on Russian energy supplies.

            And to lessen that dependence, she says, Ukraine will continue to work to expand its access to the energy resources of the Caspian basin and to expand ties with the United States in order to gain greater “energy security” and thus the ability to act internationally without reference to Russia.

            In her analysis, Guzenkova likely overstates the extent of the victory of the pro-European party in Kyiv, but her essay is nonetheless important. On the one hand, she correctly distinguishes between what Ukrainians would like to do and what they are forced to do. And on the other, she shows that at least for now, Moscow is on the losing side in Kyiv.

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