Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 64

Ukraine, which rejected most "integrationist" proposals at the summit (see Monitor, March 31), valued the event mainly as the occasion for a bilateral meeting between Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Boris Yeltsin. The Russian president surprised and delighted Kuchma by promising to decouple the deadlocked issue of the Black Sea Fleet from the negotiations on a good-neighborly relations treaty and to visit Kiev in late May or early June to sign that treaty. Kiev had for the last few years sought that decoupling and visit against Moscow’s resistance.

There was no immediate explanation for Yeltsin’s volte-face, which may yet turn out to be one of the Russian president’s impromptu and spectacular gestures subject later to revision and reversal by himself or the ministries responsible. Yeltsin called the Black Sea Fleet problem "a misunderstanding, not a conflict," and disavowed unnamed Russian politicians who make "irresponsible statements" about Ukraine. In a vehement aside to television cameras, Yeltsin exclaimed that "Ukraine and Russia have good relations" even as "the whole world is speculating on our relations" Only two days earlier Chernomyrdin had renewed his refusal to visit Kiev until a Black Sea Fleet agreement is ready for signing. He also turned down the latest in a series of Ukrainian proposals to hold an overdue session of the intergovernmental cooperation commission. Yeltsin’s shift has caused the commission’s session to be put on track.

In a further gesture to Kiev, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced during the summit that it would support Ukrainian foreign minister Hennady Udovenko’s candidacy to the chairmanship of the UN General Assembly’s 1997-98 session. Moscow will move that candidacy on behalf of the CIS as a "regional organization" — a status Russia has long lobbied for at the UN. (Interfax-Ukraine, UNIAN, March 28-31)

An elated Kuchma and Udovenko ascribed Moscow’s new attitude to Yeltsin’s full-time return to the Kremlin. They both opined that Moscow "turns up the pressure on Ukraine when Yeltsin is absent," and Kuchma stated that he had "found a new Yeltsin, completely different from what he used to be." According to one Ukrainian analyst, "since all of Kuchma’s previous comments about Yeltsin were exclusively positive, one may wonder what his words meant." (UCIPR Research Update, March 31)

Georgia Sees CIS Risks as Exceeding Benefits.