Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 20

The Russian-Ukrainian treaty’s setback in Russia’s Federation Council (see the Monitor, January 27, 28). signifies a defeat for Russia’s foreign policy, not only toward Ukraine but toward CIS countries in general. The Russian executive branch undertook an all-out effort to secure ratification. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, CIS Affairs Minister Boris Pastukhov and First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov spoke to the Federation Council and to the public at large, urging ratification of the existing text of the treaty. Their thesis–not unlike that of Russia’s “mainstream” communists–holds that Russia will serve its strategic interests best by cooperating with Ukraine, rather than battling it; that Russia’s failure to ratify the treaty would trigger Ukraine to refuse to ratify the signed agreements on basing the Russian fleet in Crimea; and that a ratified interstate treaty could create a legal basis for supporting grievances of Russians in Ukraine on language and cultural issues. These arguments failed to carry the day.

Under CIS Executive Secretary Boris Berezovsky’s influence, “Nezavisimaya gazeta” continued what had almost become a campaign against the treaty. On the day of the vote, the paper printed an editorial by its chief editor, Vitaly Tretyakov, portraying Ukraine as a state hostile to Russia and Russian interests (Nezavisimaya gazeta, January 27).

Following the Federation Council’s vote, President Leonid Kuchma paid tribute to both Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and those members of his government who had sought to secure passage of the treaty (UNIAN, January 28).

The outlook for the treaty does not look bright. Ratification–with conditions along the lines which Russian nationalist critics suggest–would be unacceptable in Ukraine, and would virtually nullify the treaty’s value. Such a development would probably also raise international concern. The United States embassy in Kyiv lost no time voicing such concern yesterday (UNIAN, January 28). Unless Russia’s executive branch and moderate members of the Federation Council secure ratification of an unamended document next month, the prospect for ratification will recede rapidly. Russia is embarking on its parliamentary election campaign, Ukraine is holding a presidential election this year, and Russia’s presidential election is scheduled to follow the year after that. These successive contests will probably politicize the debates on the treaty to an even greater degree than they already have. If Moscow fails to ratify the treaty next month, the issue may well be postponed for two years, adding to the many uncertainties which now beset Russian-Ukrainian relations.–VS

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