Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Expectations for Ukraine Excessive, Likely to Be Dashed, Kremlin Expert Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 23 – Russian commentaries on the consequences of Viktor Yanukovich’s election as president of Ukraine have raised expectations in Moscow to such an unrealistically high point that some or all of them almost certainly are going to be dashed in the months ahead, according to a Kremlin expert on national security.
In a comment posted online this week, Aleksandr Mikhaylenko, a professor of national security at the Russian Academy of Government Service in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation, says “the idealization of the post-election situation in Ukraine” is not in Russia’s interest (www.eurasianhome.org/xml/t/expert.xml?lang=ru&nic=expert&pid=2344).
Since the Ukrainian presidential elections, the national security specialist says, the Russian media have been filled with materials which “excessively idealize the situation in Ukraine,” thus creating among Russians and the Russian political class “heightened expectations” about where Kyiv will go with respect to Moscow.
But, he continues, “an analysis shows that the elections just past were yet another testimonial of the fact that [Ukraine] remains split in half.” That provides the explanation for the “transparency and democracy” of the elections: “the forces of the competing sides [were and remain] approximately equal.”
Indeed, Mikhaylenko continues, Yanukovich won “to a significant degree” thanks to the actions of his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko, who behaved in such a way that he guaranteed he would lose. As a result, the Moscow writer say, many in Ukraine and in Russia are ready to award Yushchenko the title of Hero of Russia for opening the way for Yanukovich.
And that even division explains both why there was not an echo of the Orange Revolution this time around and why Yanukovich almost certainly will behave very differently now that he is Ukrainian president than he said he would while he was engaged in a campaign to gain that office.
Yulia Timoshenko, whom Yanukovich defeated, clearly was thinking about a repetition of the earlier events, pointedly declaring after the vote that “Yanukovich is not our president,” but the new incumbent countered by bringing in his supporters in the force structures into the Ukrainian capital in a show of force.
That prevented an Orange Revolution II, Mikhaylenko says, but adds that “it is not difficult [for him] to imagine that the next time [there is a political crisis in Ukraine] the opposition will call people to come out into the streets,” something that makes predicting the future of Kyiv’s policies extremely difficult.
And Yanukovich clearly is aware that governing is different than campaigning. By making his first foreign visit to Brussels rather than to Moscow and by declaring that Ukrainian will remain “the single state language,” the new president has shown that he is not going to change direction too far or too quickly lest he exacerbate tensions inside Ukraine.
There has not been and will not be a “180 degree” change of direction under Yanukovich. “No one needs” what that would entail, the Moscow analyst continues, recalling that one of Yushchenko’s first mistake in 2005 was to replace some 18,000 government employees, insisting on loyalty and getting “absolute incompetence.” No one wants a repetition.
For all these reasons, the Moscow advisor concludes, no one in the Russian capital should assume that there now exists, after Yanukovich’s rise to office, “a single scenario for the development of the political situation in Ukraine” and that that scenario points to a complete rapprochement between Kyiv and Moscow.
“Alongside these excessively optimistic prognostications,” Mikhaylenko argues, “one must keep in mind other possible variants as well.” It could be that Ukraine will not turn toward Russia as many in Russia expect, not only because of its internal divisions but because of Russian and Western actions.
And at the very least, the Kremlin advisor says, there is going to be in the Ukrainian capital “a lengthy struggle” among the various contenders none of whom has left the scene. Moscow, Mikhaylenko says, must “construct its policy” toward Kyiv not only reflecting Russia’s interests but also Ukraine’s real situation.

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