After the election of Viktor Yanukovich as the new Ukrainian president, we have recently witnessed profound changes in the relations between Kiev and Moscow. Russia fixes the shaking ties with its western neighbor. An official agreement has been reached about the stay of Russian marine fleet in the Crimea, in the Black Sea in period until 2014. How do you assess the fact that Ukraine is gradually passing under Russia’s movement in full?
Everything that is now going on in the post-Soviet area was predicted because except for Baltic states whose occupation was not recognized by the West, the remaining part has been considered to be the Russian empire. It can be blamed of bad conditions and so on, but this was an empire, while the empire is a new type of a more effective structure of statehoods at any stage. This state has proved effective for a long term-the 18-19th centuries were the centuries of Russia. Russia has been strengthening and accumulating everything which is called Eurasia. Meanwhile, Ukraine was part of this formation. Along with language and other similarities, these were kindred peoples and those who are familiar with the history of these peoples and these states should remember that there have once been other tendencies, other views about rapprochement with Russia but integration won in the end.
However, the disintegration tendencies in the Ukrainian political thought have again dominated. But you see different situation has added to this situation. The expectations that connected new political elites growing on the wave of perestroika, on the wave of the USSR collapse, expectations connected with European integration, with NATO, with new socioeconomic situation turned out to be exaggerated and disappointing which strengthened due to the global crisis that pushed the mutual integration strives for an indefinitely long time. In the result, the old opinion on the way of life and coexistence within the framework of the Eurasian areal has prevailed. Such well known facts that Ukraine is mostly Russian speaking, these peoples have been mixed, and there are other factors including Crimean should also be added here especially because these tendencies have strengthened since the so-called new elites personifying Yushchenko and Timoshenko showed their inconsistency in terms of statehood and political pragmatism. They even failed to agree with each other. That’s all.
In the result, the return into a usual geopolitical state has become an issue of time. But here I would like to draw your attention to the change of powers in Ukraine. Ukraine, unlike for example the South Caucasus countries, not speaking of Middle Asia, has managed to sustain this transitive period from one state into another within the framework of democratic reforms and painlessly. There was much noise around it but the losing president calmly quitted the presidential facet and the concealed transfer of powers to the successor has not taken place. New people backed by the majority have come to power. Yanukovich embodies the electorate which is quite strong and influential and currently substitutes the majority. And I think that the things he has done are caused by economic and purely pragmatic rather than political solutions. In the result of all its political scuffles the country is at the verge of default and bankruptcy. Ukraine needs to settle a series of financial , economic and producing problems by means of which it can feed people, give them work, take measures to ensure social stabilization. In this sense, the promises and oil dollar injections of Russia are most welcome. This is what Europe which is filled with discrepancies not speaking of America that exports only ideas of orange revolutions have failed to do.
It is clear that Russia has officially fixed the location of its marine fleet in the Black Sea in the Crimea. In addition, the well known events connected with overthrow of President Bakiyev have occurred in Kyrgyzstan. Some intensification is observed around Belarus. In addition, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili is on a three-day working visit in the United States. Does it mean that Russia is striving to restore its previous influence in the indicated countries?
I would not bind all these factors together: Kyrgyzstan with the Black Sea fleet, Saakashvili’s departure and so on. These all are different geopolitical factors of influence though all of them have been caused by the objective facts I have mentioned before. The matter is that the settlement of the issue of the Black Sea fleet, Russia has got a card blanche. It has strengthened its traditional geopolitical tasks related to the access to southern seas.
By the way, if not for Yushchenko’s silliness, if not for the pressure he put in the issue with Crimea and so on, that is if he held a more elegant and delicate policy, there would have not been the independent Abkhazia and Abkhaz problem. But this is already in the past. Therefore, I would not link all this together. Saakashvili is in the United States for the mere reason of being stuck in the political deadlock.
The events are different in Kyrgyzstan… The importance of Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Belarus are quite difference. The matter is that in fact this issue is backed by some purely political factor that we have forgotten. We have forgotten Gobachev’s betrayal when the issue of the Communist party and the USSR collapse and so on. When there were backdoor maneuvers, beginning with Gorbachev and to Yelzin, the Soviet and then the Russian side stated the need to preserve the area of influence. This means that at that time our readiness to cooperate with NATO, accept all provisions of cooperation provided that NATO does not come close to our borders was on the agenda, plus all their agreements on nuclear arsenals. This was a stiff demand of Russia, which was rudely ignored by the United States under Clinton due to the state of euphoria. Meanwhile, under Bush this has acquired a nature of confrontation but Obama managed to reach some mutual understanding in the relations with Russia. And Obama’s decision about the dislocation of medium range missiles in the European countries is known along with the agreements on the Iranian issue, US conduct in the issue with Georgia and so on.
Meanwhile, the events in Kyrgyzstan showed that in coordination of interests and their definite harmonization Russia and the United States have raised to a high level, because they have managed to persuade Bakiyev to quit Kyrgyzstan in order to remove the threat of civil war. As you see, this mission later included Kazakhstan and so on. That is for a number of circumstances not depending on these two superpowers America and Russia have managed to reach a real political parity where their interests can clash, especially in the area of traditional influence of Russia.
But its importance should not be exaggerated because Moscow is well aware of the weight categories of Russia and the United States. The difference between them is approximately the same as between the weightlifters of heavy and light weight category. But despite this, Russia as a geopolitical factor separating Europe from China, and as a superpower, which has its interests cannot practically surrender this is taken into account by Washington. But this cannot be ignored at least for those stiff economic conditions of the western world. It can continue for 5 or 10 years but I think that Europe, Russia and the United States are taking a definite timeout to pass this confrontation line, especially because this meets the interests of the European Union which is interested in Russian hydrocarbons and not only in this. All these circumstances have promoted changes in the situation around Russia. The same refers to Belarus, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, in this sense Armenia benefited more because it skillfully working on two areas.
And here we come to an important political factor connected with the fact that the post-Soviet states that have gained independence started to hold a balanced policy in an attempt to feed on two sinecures- both American and Russian. But these turned ineffective in the new conditions. The situation directly tied to the financial and economic opportunities of Russia which lags behind Americans in this issue. Therefore, we may witness some steps backwards, some crisis in Russia’s relations with some of the mentioned states. But the common tendencies on the current stage are those which I have already described and I think that the appearance of the Chinese factor on the definite stage can bring new tendencies in the relations, for example, of Russia with the Central Asian states. On the other hand, we see the expectations binding Moscow in the relations with Turkey whose cooperation expands. Russia is flexible in the relations with Tehran, which allows it controlling its hydrocarbon flows, because Iran is a serious player and thanks to this line the Iranian leadership usually manages to hold its stiff policy in relation to Israel and the United States.
Saakashvili’s unhealthy policy has, in fact, driven him to a deadlock. He cannot change even if he wants. Why? Because, on the whole, the overall economy and the military mechanism of Georgia and its political ideology is directly tied to the United States and it behaves defiantly and these relations are hostile. On the whole, I think by the fault of the Georgian side.
Washington cannot provide this support Georgia expects from the United States. Saakashvili cannot change the situation while Russia renewing its relations with a number of countries should not hurry with these issues. In Georgia it was interested in the Black Sea ports due to the Sevastopol issue and communications. Today, the issue of Georgian Black Sea ports has ceased to be urgent while communications will not disappear anywhere. Therefore, I think Georgia suffers more due to the worsening ties and Russia, as a superpower, can not hurry in this issue.
Russia holds the policy on Azerbaijan that was worked out under Heydar Aliyev. Official Baku avoids any hostile actions. To oppose this policy in Azerbaijan, there is an opposition which is dealing with anti-Russian declarations that are ignored by everything considering the fact that the situation is controlled by the working powers and good and loyal relations guarantee the continuation of this policy. I think if this continues, Baku may benefit from the economic cooperation with Russia because if there is an internal development of Azerbaijan, I mean economic issues and so on, Azerbaijan’s market is not in France or even Turkey, it is in Russia where Azerbaijan can sell its goods. In addition, Azerbaijan has a good hydrocarbon area, where cooperation with Russia can be mutually profitable. In this case, the main task of Azerbaijan is to preserve the western trends of its policy which are threatened by the Armenian challenge. That is the case.
In this case Moscow does not demand anything more from Azerbaijan or set any other provisions. Russia is satisfied with it and on the whole, it manages to conduct such a mutually profitable policy so far. On this stage this is profitable for Moscow and Baku. I do not see the provisions that would promote changes in Russia’s parity agreement with Azerbaijan.