Eurosavant reckons that Ukrainian NATO membership is simply not on the cards, while Elmar Brok, chairman of the European Parliamentï¿½s foreign policy committee, has said explicitly that “Ukraine belongs to Europe… Over the last few years we have given the impression that we would never open negotiations with Ukraine. Thatï¿½s sending the wrong signals about whose zone of influence we believe the Ukraine belongs.”
So, whither Ukraine? The foreign policy of the Ukraine is characterized by ambiguity. In some ways, Ukraineï¿½s relations with NATO are the most advanced of any of the international organisations that it co-operates with, and a year ago Ukraine was pushing for both NATO and EU membership – even while the supposedly pro-Russian Kuchma was in charge (he later dropped the bid, having got concessions from Moscow).
But many Ukrainians have less and less confidence in NATO, and many of the reforms desired by NATO have been delayed. So, could it be the case that the Ukrainian leadership, including Yuschenko, are simply planning to use NATO and the EU to give itself added leverage when dealing with its more powerful Russian neighbour?
Is the whole East-West thing little more than for show, a cunning use of realpolitik? Or is Yuschenko’s apparent desire for closer relations with Europe thanks to a genuine feeling that it must be now or never, that there is a danger that “if Ukraine relies exclusively on Russiaï¿½s support, it may well become a part of Russiaï¿½s foreign policy project”?
The West has woken up to the problems of Ukraine and its region, and is beginning to feel that “to make NATO effective in counter-terrorist operations… in addition to new members that will strengthen us, we have got to have new relationships with the countries to the East of NATO that are singularly important for stability and security in Europe. Russia, and the Ukraine, and the states of the Caucuses in Central Asia.”
Actions speak louder than words – and we have yet to see any real action from Ukraine, no matter who is in charge. Will this change should Yushchenko be named president? During his term as prime minister between 1999 and 2001, Yushchenko also cultivated close economic ties with Russia – would a Yuschenko presidency actually be better for Russia?
One thing does seem certain – although the orange-covered protestors may well bring in a change of leadership, a new course for Ukraine will be shaped not by Ukraine’s leaders alone but by Ukraine’s external needs.
Ukrainian politicians – even before Yushchenko’s latest resurgence – have certainly delivered on the rhetoric, but can they deliver anything of real substance to keep the EU and NATO happy? Might a Yuschenko presidency be the first step, or will the need to keep in with Russia ensure that, once again, nothing changes?