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Dmitro Dzhangirov, a Russia and East Europe expert, in a recent article has stated that further bilateral relations between Russia and the Ukraine will benefit from Vladimir Putin’s 12 years of experience. Mr Putin is expected to return to the Presidency later this week following the election on March 4.
Dzhangirov said: “From point of view of the Ukrainian elite Vladimir Putin is a difficult and hard person and thus an unpleasant negotiator. What is considered to be “pragmatism” in Moscow is often perceived as “dictatorship” in Kiev. Strictly speaking, the style of Vladimir Putin’s Ukrainian policy can be described as “pragmatism of the strong towards the weak”, but that’s no help for the Ukrainian leadership.
“However, if you remember the last years of Leonid Kuchma’s presidency, within the “multi-vector” framework he was able to have a dialogue with his Russian counterpart on almost equal terms. And the current problems are consequences of mistakes and miscalculations in 2005-2009. Today Vladimir Putin meets on the Bankova Street a person who does not allow Kiev fix easily mistakes and miscalculations of the previous and disloyal to the Kremlin power.
“On the other hand, if Vladimir Putin’s return is expected with fear, the hypothetical variant of the revolutionary “Arabic-like” chaos causes well-founded fear. For the West such fear is caused, first of all, by the presence of second nuclear power in Russia. For Ukraine interruptions in delivery of energy sources and a sharp decline of exports in the east direction may become a real disaster.
“However, the apocalyptic scenario of the immediate future is rather a warning to most fervent “democrats” than a real prediction. But apart from the “stability or chaos” alternative given by the vote on March 4, the question “What is the real alternative to Vladimir Putin in Russia’s Ukrainian policy?” seems quite correct.
“Let’s start with the fact that only “parties of power” tried to build inter-party contacts with colleagues, except for the Ukrainian and the Russian communists, at the moment they are Party of Regions and United Russia. The Ukrainian National-Democratic parties, traditionally citing Lenin’s phrase that “the Russian democracy ends when it comes to the Ukrainian question”, did not even try to find partners in Russia.
The exception was Reforms and Order Party that had more or less regular contacts and even documents signed with the Russian party Union of Right Forces.
“After the “Orange Revolution” the URF party leader Boris Nemtsov was a temporary advisor to the Ukrainian President, but his active participation in the confrontation Viktor Yushchenko – Yulia Tymoshenko had nothing to do with strengthening Russian-Ukrainian inter-party relations.
One can also remember a very short “flirt” between the block of Ukrainian socialists and Motherland block in 2005, which also didn’t get further development. “In this connection a reasonable question appears. What kind of relationship are the relative “Ukrainian democrats” looking for with hypothetical “non-Putin Russia”?
“The relationship can’t be built from scratch – the Russians have the January 2009 “gas contract” and the April 2010 “Kharkov agreements”. There is also Gazprom’s system of treaties and agreements with European partners both on the gas supply and the construction of gas pipelines.
“And all these are trumps in the hands of the President of Russia, regardless of his name and political views. Could another president of the Russian Federation take a softer position towards Kiev? Yes, he can but only after he at full scale performs all techniques of hard negotiating, starting with the simplest formula of international relations: “Pacta sunt servanda” (“agreements must be kept”).
“The fact is that for any “non Putin” the mentioned documents are a starting point for a dialogue, while for Vladimir Putin they are an intermediate result of a long 12-year negotiating process with all its uneasy and obscure moments and nuances.
“As for the potential of Ukrainian-Russian relations, it is best characterized by the following public inquiry. 64% of Russians have a “very good” and “mostly good” attitude towards Ukraine (Levada Center, the end of January 2012), and this factor should be taken into account by any Russian president.”
Dmitro Dzhangirov is a journalist and Russia – East Europe expert
Source: Russia Insights www.russia-insights.com