UKRAINIAN PREMIER CALLS FOR INCREASED TRADE WITH CHINA. Pavlo Lazarenko told Chinese Defense Minister Chi Haotian during a meeting in Kyiv on 11 June that Ukraine and China are capable of increasing trade turnover to $1 billion a year, Interfax reported. Turnover was $846 million in 1996 and $347 million in the first four months of 1997. Lazarenko said Ukraine is prepared to cooperate with China in all areas where it is "on the cutting edge," including aircraft, ship and tank building, missile and space technology, and joint research into and utilization of outer space. The two leaders called for the expansion of military and military technological cooperation.

Growing links between countries on either side of what was once the border of the Soviet Union are the latest evidence of a trend that expands Eastern Europe, reduces the likelihood of conflicts among countries there, and improves the chances that those countries will gradually be absorbed into Western institutions.

The most dramatic and potentially the most important of those new linkages are between the two largest countries in the region, Poland and Ukraine. Last month, Polish President Aleksandr Kwasniewski and his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma, signed a joint declaration intended to overcome the often difficult past relationships of their peoples and lay the foundation for the development of closer economic, political, and security ties.

The product of intensive diplomatic efforts by both sides, this document is one of a series of agreements between Poland and other traditionally East European states, on the one hand, and the Baltic countries and former Soviet republics, on the other. Also likely to have an impact on future developments across this region are the recent rapprochement between Poland and Lithuania and, to an even greater degree, the agreement between Ukraine and Romania defining their common border.

Speaking before the signing of the Polish-Ukrainian declaration, Kwasniewski said that he and his fellow leaders in the area want agreements like the one he and Kuchma signed to have an "effect on the region and on Europe as a whole." Those hopes may well be justified. Accords of precisely the kind signed by Kuchma and Kwasniewski may come to play a larger role in the transformation of both Europe and international relations than even the well-publicized NATO-Russia Founding Act.

There are three reasons for this. First, agreements across what was the border between Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union further reduce the importance of that frontier in the thinking of leaders on either side of that line and in the calculations of leaders in countries further afield. Ukrainian, Moldovan, and Baltic leaders increasingly see themselves as part of Eastern Europe, thus expanding the boundaries of that concept. Moreover, leaders of countries beyond this region increasingly view those countries in that way, thereby reducing the relevance of the boundaries of the former USSR for any current or future purpose--regardless of what some Russian nationalists may say.

Second, such agreements also reduce the possibility of new conflicts between countries and peoples that have frequently been at odds in the past. Poles and Ukrainians, for instance, have often been locked in conflict; their leaders have now pledged that they never will be again. To the extent that they are adhered to, such pledges not only integrate Eastern Europe as an entity in its own right but also transform the meaning of that region for Europe as a whole and the rest of the world. For many people in Western Europe and even further afield, Eastern Europe has been almost a synonym for internal divisions and conflict--except when it has been occupied or dominated by some outside power. With accords like the ones signed between Poland and Ukraine and between Ukraine and Romania, East Europeans are demonstrating that these are misconceptions and that Eastern Europe is ready to take its place in a truly united Europe.

Third, the willingness and ability of countries such as Poland and Ukraine to cooperate sends a strong signal to NATO and the European Union that they are now able to engage in precisely the kind of integrative activities that lie at the basis of both those Western institutions. As a result, those countries who reach such agreements may make themselves stronger candidates for inclusion in those Western bodies.

The U.S. and many European countries have made such cooperation among the countries in the region a test and precondition for their inclusion in Western institutions. On occasion, Eastern Europeans have chafed at those requirements, but the leaders who have sought to meet them are likely to be the beneficiaries