That was quick: Russia makes nice with Ukraine

Just two days after President Viktor Yushchenko was ignominiously defeated in the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election, Moscow has decided to send an ambassador to Kiev for the first time in five months. Yushchenko has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side ever since coming to power in the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution promising to ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images
ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images

Just two days after President Viktor Yushchenko was ignominiously defeated in the first round of Ukraine's presidential election, Moscow has decided to send an ambassador to Kiev for the first time in five months. Yushchenko has been a thorn in the Kremlin's side ever since coming to power in the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution promising to limit Russian influence and establish closer ties with Europe. President Dmitry Medvedev, told the new ambassador Mikhail Zurabov, "I hope that when the final results are compiled in Ukraine, a workable, effective leadership will appear disposed to the development of constructive, friendly and comprehensive relations with the Russian Federation."

In a new piece for Foreign Policy, Samuel Charap of the Center for American Progress explains why the West shouldn't be too worried about a more Russia-friendly government in Kiev:

Yanukovych and Tymoshenko will prioritize repairing Ukraine's relationship with Moscow, but largely because its current state of disrepair is untenable, not in order to cede sovereignty to the Kremlin. Yanukovych is no pro-Russian stooge, and during his brief tenure as prime minister in 2006 and 2007 he did little to act on Moscow's policy wish list. Indeed, the economic interest groups that back him would never allow him to sour relations with the West, where they send the majority of their exports, or open Ukraine's markets to Russian oligarchs.

Just two days after President Viktor Yushchenko was ignominiously defeated in the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election, Moscow has decided to send an ambassador to Kiev for the first time in five months. Yushchenko has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side ever since coming to power in the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution promising to limit Russian influence and establish closer ties with Europe. President Dmitry Medvedev, told the new ambassador Mikhail Zurabov, "I hope that when the final results are compiled in Ukraine, a workable, effective leadership will appear disposed to the development of constructive, friendly and comprehensive relations with the Russian Federation."

In a new piece for Foreign Policy, Samuel Charap of the Center for American Progress explains why the West shouldn’t be too worried about a more Russia-friendly government in Kiev:

Yanukovych and Tymoshenko will prioritize repairing Ukraine’s relationship with Moscow, but largely because its current state of disrepair is untenable, not in order to cede sovereignty to the Kremlin. Yanukovych is no pro-Russian stooge, and during his brief tenure as prime minister in 2006 and 2007 he did little to act on Moscow’s policy wish list. Indeed, the economic interest groups that back him would never allow him to sour relations with the West, where they send the majority of their exports, or open Ukraine’s markets to Russian oligarchs.

So despite what’s been claimed, this election will not mark a major geopolitical departure for Ukraine. There may no longer be an idealistic pro-Western dreamer at the helm in Kyiv, but a foreign policy pragmatist who moderates divisive rhetoric while continuing practical cooperation might well prove preferable.

 

Ultimately, Charap feels that the advantages for Europe and the United States in dealing with a Ukrainian state that could actually govern, would outweigh the damage done to narrowly-defined western interests.’

Anders Aslund took a much darker view of the potential for Russian meddling in the most recent print edition. Also of interest, Federico Fubini’s profile of the always-intriguing Yulia Tymoshenko from last April and Julia Ioffe’s report on how the Tymoshenko campaign created a public panic over swine flu to scare up votes. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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