President Leonid Kuchma looked good to Madeleine Albright and not so good to Vladimir Putin when they came calling in Kyiv. The American secretary of state showed up first, praising Kuchma as a democrat and reformer. She brought a commitment to raise U.S. assistance levels from $195 million in 1999 to $220 million in 2000. She promised to use U.S. influence to encourage renewed IMF lending and early acceptance of Ukraine’s bid for membership in the World Trade Organization. She also offered to lean on the Europeans and Japanese to finance the decommissioning of the Chernobyl reactor, as they (and the United States) had pledged to do five years ago. President Kuchma appealed for U.S. backing for a pipeline that would bring Caspian oil via Ukraine to Western Europe and to Poland’s Baltic coast. Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko will follow up with a visit to Washington in May.
While Albright toured Kyiv, Russian state television called Ukraine’s government and its “pro-Western prime minister … more to Washington’s liking than to Moscow’s.” Replacing the government, the commentator mused, “would be disadvantageous to Washington” and would help Ukraine “escape from the strong influence of the United States.” That attitude carried over into President Putin’s visit April 17, where talks on gas supplies failed to narrow the gap between the $2.1 billion Russia says is due for deliveries already made, and the $1.4 million (yes, million) Ukraine admits to owing. On a tour of the Black Sea fleet, Putin did go out of his way to acknowledge Ukraine’s title to Sevastopol and the Crimea, which many Russian politicians–notably Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov–claim as Russian.