Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 125

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has endorsed Leonid Kuchma for reelection as president of Ukraine during Kuchma’s June 23-25 official visit to Poland. Kwasniewski referred to “great achievements” of both the post-1991 Ukrainian leadership and Kuchma personally in “developing an independent state, opening Ukraine to the world, entering into active relations with NATO and the United States while maintaining peaceful relations with all the neighboring countries…. These achievements of Kuchma and the Ukrainian leadership are written into the contemporary history of Europe. I wish that Ukraine continue that policy”–a wish reflecting a measure of uneasiness in the run-up to Ukraine’s presidential election. Kwasniewski’s endorsement stems from the realization that Kuchma’s real opponents in that contest are the Moscow-oriented red forces in Ukraine, not the weak and fractious national-democrats.

Kuchma in turn underscored the common Ukrainian-Polish goal of “preventing another division of Europe” or a “Yalta-Two” along the Ukrainian-Polish border. In remarks meant, above all, to be heard in Brussels and Strasbourg, the president remarked that the Polish-Ukrainian relationship serves “not only the interests of the two nations, but the general interests of Europe and the world.”

The sides discussed ways of keeping the common border “open and friendly” to two-way travel and trade even after Poland joins the European Union (EU) and, thus, the EU’s stringent system of border controls. Poland is prepared to introduce those controls on its borders with Russia and Belarus, but seeks special facilities for Ukraine in order to anchor that country to Western Europe. Jointly attending a forum of Polish regional leaders in Kielce and an economic forum in Rzeszow, the two presidents called for the establishment of direct business and other types of relations among Ukrainian and Polish regions and cities as well as people-to-people contacts.

For both economic and political reasons, Kyiv and Warsaw are also promoting with joint efforts the plan to transport Caspian oil to Central Europe via Poland and Ukraine along the Odessa-Gdansk route (see the Monitor, June 24). At their meeting last week, the presidents decided to set up a joint commission which would work out technical, commercial and financial details of the plan, to be discussed next month at a conference in Kyiv of ten oil producing, consumer and transit countries.

The Ukrainian-Polish Consultative Committee held a session during the summit. Co-chaired–on the two presidents’ behalf–by Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin and by his Polish counterpart Marek Siewec, the Consultative Committee represents an institutional expression of the Ukrainian-Polish special relationship. The committee discussed the possible participation of the joint Ukrainian-Polish battalion, or elements thereof, in the international peacekeeping operation in Kosovo. Since Poland is now a member of NATO, a joint Ukrainian-Polish role in that operation would serve to strengthen Ukraine’s own cooperation with the Atlantic Alliance. The Ukrainian government has actively engaged in such cooperation in recent years, but it would be politically risky for Kuchma to pursue it as actively and openly in the run-up to the presidential election (UNIAN, Eastern Economist Daily (Kyiv), DINAU, PAP, June 23-26).–VS