The excitement over 1025th anniversary of baptism of Kyivan Rus has died down. A lot of Ukrainian analysts have already expressed their opinion on Putin's visit to Ukraine related to this event. However, I'd like to express my point of view on current state of Russian-Ukrainian relations.
In the context of 1025th anniversary of baptism of Kyivan Rus, Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin had a meeting which lasted around 15 minutes. Instead, Putin preferred to attend the conference of Viktor Medvedchuk's Kremlin backed “Ukrainian Choice” organization aimed at destabilization of Ukrainian internal affairs by promoting “federalization”, joining the Customs Union and the use of Russian language in Ukraine.
Russia is also worried about the rapprochement between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate). Ecumenical Patriarch of Orthodox Church Patriach Bartholomew I of Constantinople in his message to Ukrainians, urged Ukrainians to avoid division and said that the united Orthodoxy should shine brightly. Quote below.
The light of Christ has enlightened you. Stay in the light. Avoid divisions. Pursue unity in truth, which is Christ. And in His light, you shall see light, just as the countenance of Ukraine is bright and a united Orthodoxy must shine brightly “for all in its house to see.”
Some other developments took place recently. Russia forbade import of Ukrainian chocolate “Roshen” saying that this chocolate does not comply with standards of Russia/Customs Union. After Russia, Kazakhstan informed that they will also conduct their own research, and I'm sure, that Russia has already given the order to Kazakh Government to impose embargo on Ukrainian “Roshen” chocolate. Just after these developments, Belarus forbade imports of Ukrainian wine “Inkerman”. In Russo-Ukrainian relations it is a trend to forbid the imports of Ukrainian goods and/or increase price for Russian natural gas if Ukraine doesn't want to do what Russia says. Since Russia has created the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan), two more countries have to behave in the same way against Ukraine.
However, Petro Poroshenko, owner of “Roshen” business in Ukraine started to increase the sales of its chocolate in the European Union under the Trade Mark “Bonbonetti Choco” while also increasing the production of his candies at his factory in the Russian city of Lipetsk.
Another sticking point of Russian-Ukrainian relations became Moldovan breakaway region of Transnistria. Russia wanted to reinforce its peacekeeping contingent in TTransnistriaransnistria without approval from Moldovan side. In order to do that, Russian military helicopters have to fly over Ukraine and carry out refueling in Ukrainian territory. Ukraine neutralized this attempt by closing its sky for Russia.
Russia pledged to reinforce its peacekeeping contingent in Transnistria (Moldova), however, Moscow's first attempt to relocate 7 military helicopters failed. Chisinau said “no” and Kyiv closed its territory and sky for Russian military transit.
This event took place one year ago, but now the situation repeats itself. Russia didn't inform Moldovan side about its plans on reinforcement of its peacekeeping contingent, and Ukraine repeated the same: “We will open our territory for Russian military cargo if Moscow and Chisinau reach the agreement”. This way Ukraine showed its strong position in supporting Moldova.
Everybody knows that Russia uses its peacekeepers in order to escalate tensions in breakaway regions in the ex-USSR territory. Such escalation even resulted in a Russian-Georgian war in August 2008 when Russia violated all possible agreements and invaded Georgia. As a result Russia cut off two Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and recognized their “independence”. Nobody wants the same scenario in Moldova. However, unlike Georgia, Moldova has no border with Russia, which will make the realization of the same scenario impossible since Russia will have to request Ukraine for military transit and Ukraine will never agree on that.
Another problem which bothers Russians is the Russian Black Sea fleet temporarily based in Crimea (Ukraine). Russia intends to reinforce and modernize its fleet in Ukraine, but Kremlin faces another problem, in the agreement regulating the stay of Russian Black Sea fleet in Ukraine there is no provisions regulating the modernization of fleet. Therefore Russia has to negotiate it with Ukraine but until now Ukraine didn't show the political will to let Russia modernize its fleet based in Ukrainian city of Sevastopol.
What Russia will propose to Ukraine? Intimidation is not really working. Economic pressure is not working. So, maybe discount for Russian gas? We will see, but Ukrainian President became smarter while dealing with Russians and will request a high price which Russians are not likely to pay.
Concluding this article I'd like to say that Russia is constantly trying to engage Ukraine in its geopolitical orbit but until now Putin didn't have much success. Since 2010 Yanukovych became smarter. Ukraine started to develop its shale gas deposits, signed an agreement with Germany for reverse gas supply, concluded negotiations and initialed the Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union and awaits for its official signature during the Eastern Partnership Summit this November in Vilnius (Lithuania).
Russia tries and will definitely try to sabotage the signature of the Association. Meanwhile Russia is losing its influence in Ukraine and Moldova. Should Ukraine wait for some “surprise” from Russians? I think we should. Ukrainian society and Government have to expect the escalation of tensions in Russo-Ukrainian relations and to be ready for countering all Russian anti-Ukrainian efforts.
My own questions by TheRealist:
1. Will Ukraine's actions threaten the Russian Black Sea Fleet's position and modernization?
2. Will Russian interest in Moldova be jeopardize?
3. Will this threaten Russian military technical cooperation, like the An-70 and sub-components supplies?
4. Is the Eurasian Union project going to be limited by this?
5. What could happen to the Pro-Russian region of Crimea?
This is very troubling in my opinion. I hope for further and deeper insights for this issue.