Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 172

Presidents Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine held on September 18-19 near Moscow an informal, “no-necktie” meeting which was intended to energize the lagging economic relations. Departing for Moscow, Kuchma identified his two “top priorities” at these talks: first, devising a joint approach to overcoming the financial crisis, and, second, creating a “free trade zone… removing all obstacles to trade and rejecting the populist CIS Customs Union which has done nothing to benefit any country.” The meeting produced lukewarm atmospherics and few tangible results. The leaders used the usual vague phrases about “friendly countries,” “strategic partnership” and “improving coordination.” They were unable, however, to cite any specific agreements which would lend such a partnership substance.

–Anticrisis Group. The presidents agreed to create a bilateral “anticrisis group” in order to contain the effects of the financial crisis and to stop the decline in bilateral trade. The two governments are to conclude relevant agreements “if necessary”–an unexplained qualification.

–Free Trade Zone. Kuchma reported back in Kyiv that Yeltsin’s reaction was “positive in principle,” but that further talks are required at experts’ level to flesh out the idea. The formula presages another indefinite postponement of this long-pending Ukrainian proposal. Moreover, Kuchma remarked that Russia has yet to ratify the bilateral free trade agreement.

–Intergovernmental Commission and “Strategic Group.” The leaders took note of the fact that these bodies have yet to begin functioning in practice. They agreed that it is necessary to appoint Russian representatives to these bodies in the persons of Yeltsin’s foreign policy aide Sergey Prikhodko and a Russian first deputy prime minister, respectively. Ukraine’s chief delegates are Deputy Prime Minister Serhy Tyhypko and the deputy head of the National Security and Defense Council, Aleksandr Razumkov, respectively. As Kuchma concluded, “we usually make good decisions but then…everything gets bogged down and it becomes almost impossible to get anything positive out of it.”

–Ukrainian nuclear energy program. The Russian side offered technical and financial assistance for the completion of Ukraine’s Rivne and Khmelnitskaya nuclear power plants. Should this materialize, it would be one of the very few tangible and significant results from this meeting. Such a prospect should serve as a warning to the G-7 and European Union countries, whose prevarications on that issue undermine their own stated goal of supporting Ukraine’s political and energy independence (Eastern Economist Daily (Kyiv), Ukrainian agencies, Ukrainian and Russian TVs, September 19 through 21; Russian agencies, September 21).