Kuchma has already begun paying the price for Russia’s political support. But since that support stems from the Kremlin’s own interest, Kuchma should be able to avoid any significant damage to Ukraine in the course of reciprocating for Yeltsin’s favors. At the Moscow meeting, Kuchma agreed to release the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s flagship–the missile cruiser Moskva–from the Ukrainian shipyard Mykolaiv, foregoing payment for the extensive overhaul of the ship. The Moskva will join the Russian fleet in Sevastopol by Navy Day in early August. Lost in the celebratory TV coverage will be the detail that the cost of the overhaul is deductible from Ukraine’s debts to Russia for gas.
In further concessions to Russia, Kyiv announced on July 6 that it has scaled back the NATO-sponsored, U.S.-led Sea Breeze exercise. Held in Ukraine annually since 1996 in late summer-early fall, those large-scale exercises have irritated Russia and triggered communist protests in the Crimea and in Kyiv. This year’s exercise is, however, being rescheduled for December–that is, after Ukraine’s presidential election–and only as a computer game. Kyiv, furthermore, signaled yesterday that it may decline to place its peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo under NATO command, opting instead for an arrangement similar to that between NATO and the Russian contingent. Kuchma and his pro-Western ministers in any case have little latitude in the matter since the dispatch of the Ukrainian contingent is subject to approval by the leftist-dominated Rada. Christopher Donnelly, special adviser for Central and Eastern Europe to NATO’s secretary general, indicated yesterday in Kyiv that such an arrangement for Ukraine would be acceptable to the alliance.
Kyiv also seems prepared to add some economic incentives to Russian oligarchic groups which influence Russian policies. The Ukrainian government has recently opened the door for Russian capital to participate in the privatization of some oil refineries, and for a group associated with Boris Berezovsky to take over control of the Mykolaiv Alumina Plant (see item below).
Such quid pro quos do not damage the major national interests of Ukraine, and seem for the most part reversible after the presidential election is over–provided that the Reds do not win it (UNIAN, Eastern Economist Daily (Kyiv), Ukrainian TV, ORT, Itar-Tass, July 5-8).
ALUMINA PLANT AS BONE OF CONTENTION.