Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Alarm Bells in the Single Space

Vladimir Socor, writing about Russian reaction to President Yushchenko's address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg yesterday:
Although Yushchenko reiterated in his reply (as he had on the preceding day in Moscow), "Russia is a permanent strategic partner of Ukraine," this was far from sufficient for Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, also present. In a Russian media interview, Kosachev faulted Yushchenko for "never mentioning Russia in his [prepared] speech, while mentioning Europe and the EU in every other sentence of that speech. This rings an alarm bell." Kosachev complained that Ukraine's new leadership "does not regard cooperation with Russia as a goal in itself, but only as a factor that may or may not harm Ukraine's integration with Europe."

Kosachev went on to characterize Yushchenko's nomination (subject to parliamentary confirmation) of Yulia Tymoshenko for prime minister of Ukraine as "effrontery, a move unfriendly to Russia . . . an openly provocative step." Such inflammatory wording appears designed to fuel opposition to Yushchenko in the Ukrainian parliament, a cross-party delegation of which sits in the Strasbourg forum. Kosachev approved of just one step taken by Yushchenko thus far: the stated intention to withdraw Ukrainian troops from the American-led coalition in Iraq. "This shows that the new Ukrainian leadership can conduct an independent foreign policy, not one based on some notions of Euro-Atlantic solidarity" (Interfax, January 25).

And Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, commenting approvingly on Yushchenko's decision to visit Moscow first as president "in the interest of close and tranquil relations with Moscow,"
recalled that he had tried the same approach immediately after being elected president last year, but it did not bring the desired improvement in relations. On the contrary, Russia's behavior toward Georgia "changed in the last year and the last few months in ways that arouse indignation. Hopefully, this will not happen with Ukraine".

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