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Message to Ukraine targets everybody

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, August 18
Recently the international media has been speculating about the letter from Dmitry Medvedev, President of Russia to his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko. The world’s attention has been drawn to it because Medvedev’s comments therein are not only aimed at the Ukrainian President personally but the existing world order and international law. Some analysts think that Medvedev’s statements are just rhetoric and not much attention should be paid to them, but this is a superficial understanding. Most see the letter in the context of the global geopolitical context and the conclusions they draw about it are quite alarming.

It has looked recently as if Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev have been competing against each other to make the most arrogant and aggressive statements about Russia’s immediate neighbours, statements designed to target the rest of the countries around Russia or maybe further afield. Both these guys are attempting to prove to the world and the people of Russia who the boss in international affairs is and who the boss of Russia is. Russian analyst Yuri Baranchik suggests that Medvedev’s letter should be regarded not as a set of suggestions for resolving Russian-Ukrainian problems but a very serious foreign policy statement, which will influence geopolitical developments in the post-Soviet space maybe no less seriously than the August 2008 war did.

All commentators have noted that President Medvedev’s general tone and manner of speech were much more confident and aggressive than they were a year ago. Imperialistic rhetoric is becoming a more significant part of the vocabulary of senior Russian statesmen. There were many hints in his statement and lots of things could be read between the lines. The general claim of the Russian President was that official Kiev has adopted an anti-Russian position. However he gave no explanation as to why a sovereign state conducting an independent internal or foreign policy is a threat to anybody, much less a power the size of Russia..

One of Medvedev’s objections to Ukraine was that it has sold arms to Georgia. He also asks why Ukraine wants to join NATO and remove the Russian Navy from its territory. Yet another issue for him is why Ukraine has reopened discussion of the “golodomor” (the forced famine in the early 30s of the last century, when several million Ukrainians died as a result of forced collectivisation and the national famine this created, an occurrence recently assessed by some Ukrainian historians as a Soviet genocide of the Ukrainian people). Furthermore Medvedev is not happy that the Ukrainian language is being promoted more than Russian in Ukraine, whose national language is Ukrainian. Moscow is also “concerned” about certain religious claims made by Kiev.

Overall Medvedev expressed his indirect but clear support for Ukraine’s future leadership. Next year Presidential elections will be held there and Viktor Yushchenko is very unlikely to win them, according to all polls. However he is still the President of Ukraine right now and has responded to Medvedev’s letter in due form. He has called the letter an unfriendly act and stated that Ukrainian policy towards Georgia is based on recognising its territorial integrity and sovereignty, as it is with any other country. There is no international ban on selling arms to Georgia, therefore Ukraine’s conduct in this regard is absolutely legal. Ukraine is a sovereign state, like Georgia and Russia, and it is its prerogative to decide whether or not to enter NATO, not Russia’s. Ukraine is complying with a previous agreement that the Russian Navy will be stationed in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol until 2017 only, Yushchenko said, adding that the “golodomor” is a great pain for the whole state and needs to be officially analysed. He also suggested that religious issues are being fully addressed by the Churches of the two countries and the Russian Patriarch has made no claims against Ukraine’s political leadership, thereby wondering why Russia’s political leadership is trying to use the Church in this way.

Generally while listening to the two sides you gain the impression that Moscow is attacking and Kiev is trying to justify itself. There is an opinion among Russian commentators that Moscow is opposed to any state in its vicinity being anti-Russian. Georgia and Ukraine are considered anti-Russian countries, and Medvedev’s letter to Ukraine was supposed primarily to be read as a warning by other post-Soviet states.

Political analysts also mention that in Medvedev’s letter there is an almost clear indication that Moscow is ready to back certain opposition forces in Ukraine which could eventually become pro-Russian. Furthermore Russia is carrying out very intensive subversive activities in Russian-populated areas of Ukraine. Some analysts maintain that Moscow will try to aggravate the situation in different regions of Ukraine, particularly in the Crimea, to create a dangerous situation there it can use as an excuse to take some sort of sanction, but most probably Russia is betting on a change of President and the election of a pro-Russian leadership, which will abandon Kiev’s pro-Western and NATO position and drag it back into the Kremlin’s orbit.

In conclusion we can suggest that NATO made a bad mistake in Bucharest last year when it refused to grant MAP to Ukraine and Georgia. Today the accession of these countries to the alliance has become very problematic and almost impossible, not something NATO itself wished to see.