Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 103

On a two-day visit to Kyiv, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov reviewed with President Leonid Kuchma, Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk and other Ukrainian leaders the full range of unresolved bilateral problems.

— Unratified interstate treaty and Black Sea Fleet agreements. At Primakov’s insistence, Kuchma agreed to seek parliamentary ratification of the agreements on how Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine is stationed. The Russian government would, in return, seek the Duma’s ratification of the “basic” political treaty. The political treaty and the Black Sea Fleet agreements were signed in May 1997 after five years of difficult negotiations. The Ukrainian parliament has ratified the treaty, but Russia’s Duma has stonewalled for two main reasons: first, because the treaty recognizes Ukraine’s territorial integrity, that is, its possession of Crimea; and, second, because Moscow wants to pressure Kyiv into ratifying the Black Sea Fleet agreements as a quid-pro-quo for Moscow’s ratification of the political treaty. The Russian government shares the Duma’s position on the second point. Moscow, in effect, offers a tradeoff: recognition of Ukraine’s territorial integrity in return for Russian naval basing rights. Kuchma’s acceptance of this “package” approach represents a concession to Moscow. However, the new Ukrainian parliament will probably renew the preceding parliament’s objections to the Black Sea Fleet agreements, which are seen as guaranteeing a long-term presence of Russian forces on Ukrainian territory. –Border delimitation on land. The sides agreed to delimit the mutual land border on maps by January 1, 1999. This, however, remains contingent on Russian ratification of the interstate political treaty.

— Azov Sea and Kerch Strait. Disagreement continued on the legal status of, and state borders in, these two bodies of water. Moscow wants to treat the Azov Sea as a lake under common Russian-Ukrainian jurisdiction, while Kyiv proposes to divide it into national sectors along the median line. Russia also opposes median-line delimitation in the Kerch Strait, because in that case Ukraine would control the navigable channel. Ukraine insists on the application of international law in both cases.

–NATO. The sides openly disagreed on security in Europe and NATO’s role in it. Primakov portrayed NATO as a “cold-war institution” and claimed that its enlargement would “lead to a political crisis.” By contrast, Tarasyuk restated Ukraine’s position–also citing Kuchma to this effect–that NATO is a major factor of security in Europe, threatening no one, and that Ukraine aspires to “integration in Euroatlantic institutions.” Russia’s Duma last week cited Tarasyuk’s alleged “intention to join NATO” as a pretext for postponing consideration of the Russian-Ukrainian political treaty. This stance by the Duma certainly strengthened Primakov’s bargaining position in Kyiv. Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council chief Volodymyr Horbulin reported after the talks that the sides “continue to differ with regard to European security: Ukraine has its own interests and Russia its own.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Viktor Nahaychuk sounded Baltic in saying that “Russia is obligated to respect every country’s right to determine its own security arrangements. Any exceptions from this principle would produce new dividing lines in Europe.” Kuchma, for his part, welcomed as a “good sign” Russia’s token participation in this year’s Sea Breeze exercise of NATO member and partner countries in Ukraine.

–Ex-USSR assets. Primakov agreed to commence expert-level talks about ex-Soviet diplomatic buildings abroad that Russia might hand over to Ukraine, as stipulated in an earlier bilateral protocol. However, he made implementation conditional on Ukrainian parliamentary ratification of the 1994 “zero solution” agreement, whereby Ukraine renounces its share of the ex-USSR’s assets and debts. Ukraine in turn makes ratification conditional on the receipt of Russian information about the USSR’s assets in general. But Moscow continues withholding that information. It would seem, then, that no agreement is in sight on these thorny issues.

–Caspian oil and gas. The Ukrainian side raised the issue of unimpeded transit, presumably of Turkmen gas in the first place. No agreement was reached. More than a year ago, Russia in effect blocked the transit of Turkmen gas through its territory to Ukraine.

Primakov described the talks in Kyiv as “businesslike, comradely, and warm.” Businesslike and comradely are classical Soviet diplomatic terms implying difficulties and disagreements. Kuchma and Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed by telephone yesterday to meet next month in Crimea for informal, “no-necktie” discussions, at which these issues will presumably be taken up. (UNIAN and other Ukrainian agencies, Eastern Economist Daily (Kyiv), May 26 through 28).