President Leonid Kuchma and his team–proven supporters of cooperation with NATO–attended the Washington summit despite heavy political pressure from leftist forces at home. The approaching presidential election compels Kuchma to take that factor into account and attempt an unprecedented balancing act in foreign policy. Kuchma’s peace plan for Kosovo, seeking to reconcile NATO’s position with that of Russia and of Ukraine’s Reds, constitutes a symbolic concession. It is designed to blunt the leftist opposition’s assault on Ukraine’s foreign policy and to protect the core of that policy, including its achievements in terms of cooperation with NATO.
Predictably, the NATO summit brushed aside Kuchma’s plan for Kosovo. The most objectionable point in Kyiv’s plan turned out to be the exclusion of NATO troops from the future peacekeeping force, which–in Kyiv’s stated view–should consist of troops from Russia, Ukraine and West European neutral countries, operating under the aegis of the UN or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Behind that tactical appeasement of the opposition at home, the Ukrainian delegation in Washington took small steps to expand cooperation with NATO. It agreed with NATO leaders on arrangements to turn the Yavoriv military training range into a site for regular exercises of Ukrainian and NATO troops, either in the framework of the Partnership for Peace program or on a bilateral basis. Yavoriv, in the Lviv region, is ranked as the largest training site in Europe west of the Urals, and the arrangement agreed upon in Washington is the first of its type in any CIS country. The Ukrainians and the alliance agreed, furthermore, on the opening of a NATO military liaison office in Kyiv (UNIAN, AP, Reuters, UPI, April 24-25). Both steps had been planned for some time, but the Ukrainian leaders’ decision to go ahead with these measures now entails political risks at home–just as lip service to non-NATO peacekeeping in the Balkans represents a low-cost method to offset those risks.
KREMLIN AND PRIMAKOV GO ON SPIN PATROL.