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RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report Vol. 3, No. 32, 28 August 2001

A Survey of Developments in Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team


KUCHMA SPEAKS ABOUT ACHIEVEMENTS OF INDEPENDENCE. "Independent Ukraine came into being ultimately and irrevocably," Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma said in Kyiv on 23 August, at a gala meeting to mark the 10th anniversary of the country's independence.

Kuchma said some 17 million young people have been educated in schools and education institutions of independent Ukraine. "We have a potentially powerful human resource, not burdened with canons of the past, which is capable of taking responsibility for the future," Interfax quoted the Ukrainian president as saying.

Kuchma stressed that the nation's main achievement in the past 10 years is the peaceful way in which Ukraine's independence has been established.

"One thing is beyond doubt: the Ukrainian state has never taken up arms against its citizens, and its soldiers have not fought against other countries," Kuchma said.

Kuchma noted, however, that this peaceful way of building Ukraine's independence has had its price too. "We were forced to make grave compromises with enemies of democracy, private ownership, free entrepreneurship, [as well as] of the very independence and statehood," he said.

The Ukrainian leader admitted that "the results of the decade [of independence] are not such as we would like to see them or such as they could be." But he added that "great deeds are [usually] accompanied by great difficulties."

Kuchma took advantage of the solemn occasion to stress his own role in Ukraine's transformation: "As the head of state, I have demonstrated to Ukrainian society and the entire world my dedication to the lawful, generally accepted democratic principles of resolving the problems [that surfaced during Ukraine's transformation]," he said.

"The Ukrainian Weekly," a respected publication of the Ukrainian diaspora in the U.S., interviewed a number of Ukrainian politicians "from different points on the Ukrainian political horizon" on what they think is the greatest achievement of Ukraine's 10 years of independence. An evidently baffled correspondent of the weekly reported in its 26 August issue: "The politicians that were approached gave answers that were uncannily similar, giving us pause to wonder at times during our interviews whether some giant prank was not being played and whether we were not the butt of the joke.... The response, although less than enthusiastic and optimistic, nonetheless succinctly explains an incontrovertible fact: State independence is in and of itself by far the most important achievement for a Ukrainian nation that suffered over 300 years of imperial hegemony, according to the politicians we queried. Everything else is secondary and simply follows logically from that which happened first."

From 25 July to 5 August, the GfK-USM polling center conducted a survey among 1,000 Ukrainians on their assessment of the first decade of independent Ukraine. Of those polled, 32.2 percent said "not everything took place [in independent Ukraine] as it should have," while 51.5 percent said "everything took place in the way it should not have." Only 6.6 percent declared that "everything took place as it should have," while 9.7 percent were unable to answer the question.

In a poll conducted by the Oleksandr Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies among 2,007 adult Ukrainians from 14- 23 August, 80.5 percent of respondents said they would participate in a referendum on Ukraine's independence if such a referendum were organized today -- 67.9 percent of them declared they would back Ukraine's independence. In the December 1991 referendum, Ukraine's independence was supported by some 91 percent of voters. The same poll found that 51.1 percent of Ukrainians believe that Ukraine has failed to become an independent state in the past 10 years following the declaration of its independence; only 36.6 percent said Ukraine is an actually independent state.

UKRAINE, BELARUS ARE AMONG LEADERS OF ARMS EXPORTS. A U.S. analysis of international arms sales says the United States, Russia, and France are the three leading exporters of military hardware to developing countries. It also ranks Belarus and Ukraine within the top 10.

Experts say this is not surprising because Belarus and Ukraine still have the factories used to make the arms and other military equipment that were the hallmark of the Soviet economy before the breakup of the USSR.

The 83-page report is titled "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1993 to 2000." It is prepared and updated each year by the U.S. Congressional Research Service. Like its other studies, the service distributes its documents only to members of Congress, who often share them with the news media.

The report focuses on the world's top three arms exporters. The U.S., it says, ranked first in agreements to sell arms during 2000. These contracts totaled $12.6 billion, or nearly 50 percent of all international arms contracts throughout the year. Russia was the second-leading nation in this category, agreeing to sell $7.4 billion worth of arms, or just over 29 percent of the value of all such contracts. France was third, contracting to sell $2.1 million worth of military hardware, or a bit more than 8 percent of the total.

Often, the report cites exports by only the leading seven countries: the U.S., Russia, France, Britain, China, Germany, and Italy. But more detailed tables deep within the report rank Belarus No. 8 in arms deliveries to developing nations in 2000, and Ukraine at No. 10. Both delivered to their clients military hardware valued at $200 million.

For the period from 1997 through 2000, Ukraine ranked eighth in such deliveries, with a total of $1.5 billion, and Belarus ranked ninth, with a total of $1.1 billion. The two former Soviet republics were not ranked for the period from 1993 through 1996 because their sales volumes were so low at that time.

Aside from the ethical questions of weapons proliferation, such international sales can be important to a nation's economy. But analysts interviewed by RFE/RL say their dependence on arms exports can be an indication that the economies of Belarus and Ukraine may be stagnating.

Richard Thornton is a professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University in Washington. He told RFE/RL that the amount of military hardware that both Belarus and Ukraine delivered to foreign customers last year shows that their economies have not evolved properly from the Soviet era.

"Their economies remain very narrowly focused in the way that they were before communism collapsed. All of these were part of the Soviet economy then, and one of the fundamental reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union was the fact that they could not expand their domestic economic base in a way sufficient to account for consumer needs," Thornton noted.

Thornton says the blame lies squarely with the leadership in both countries. He was reminded that after World War II, U.S. companies quickly shifted production from military hardware to consumer goods. Thornton says this refitting or "retooling" of factories has not happened yet in the manufacturing sectors of the Belarusian and Ukrainian economies.

"They've had a decade to undertake a retooling process, and I don't see it happening," he said.

According to Thornton, this stagnation is particularly puzzling given the amount of money that the International Monetary Fund and private Western industries have invested in the countries to help them broaden their economies. Now, he says, private investment has fallen off because Belarus and Ukraine have also failed to modernize their legal systems to ensure that investments are safeguarded and that contracts are upheld.

Anders Aslund is an economic analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a private Washington policy center. He agrees that Belarus and Ukraine have until recently been slow to expand their economies. He says the government of Belarus has shed so little of its Soviet past that it is shunned by many other countries. In fact, in terms of arms sales, Aslund told RFE/RL that the Belarusian government has no scruples about who its customers are for military hardware.

"Belarus is prepared to sell to whomever, and since that is almost an outcast state, they [Belarus] are probably the most dangerous ones from a U.S. foreign policy perspective," Aslund noted.

Aslund says the same was true for Ukraine until last year, when economic reforms were instituted by Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine's prime minister at the time, and Yuliya Tymoshenko, who controlled the country's energy sector.

Yushchenko's government has since lost a vote of confidence in parliament, but Aslund says President Leonid Kuchma appears not to be abandoning Yushchenko's economic reforms. And he says these reforms are likely to produce economic growth of at least 10 percent this year. He cited aggressive economic growth in such sectors as agriculture, land ownership, and light industry, to name just three.

"There has been a massive structural change in the last 1 1/2 years. Before that, it [Ukraine's economy] was extremely stagnant for a long time," Aslund said.

As for Belarus, Aslund says the only hope is that the people vote President Lukashenka out of office in the 9 September elections. He says he is slightly optimistic about the future of the country's economy, but only because Lukashenka's re-election is not assured.

"We do not need to go to the West -- we are already there. We do not need to strive for the benevolence of the West -- we are part of it." -- President Leonid Kuchma, speaking to a solemn gathering in Kyiv on 23 August to mark Ukraine's 10th anniversary of independence; quoted by Interfax.

RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.

BELARUSIAN POLICE UNIT ACCUSED OF KILLING TWO OPPOSITION FIGURES... A number of Belarusian and Russian media outlets on 27 August received a videotape on which two men accuse the Interior Ministry's special task force (SOBR) of killing opposition leader Viktar Hanchar and his friend Anatol Krasouski in September 1999. One of the men identified himself as Henadz Uhlyanitsa, a KGB officer from Minsk, while the other named himself as Andrey Zharnasek. The two men said Hanchar and Krasouski were kidnapped and subsequently killed by people from the SOBR unit, which is located near Byahoml (northern Belarus). The men added that Hanchar and Krasouski were buried along with their jeep near the site of the SOBR deployment. The alleged burial place was shown on the videotape. The videotaped allegations follow last week's statements by former prison warden Aleh Alkayeu that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka sanctioned and covered up the murders of opposition figures (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 28 August 2001). JM

UKRAINIAN TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION JOINS OPPOSITION. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine on 27 August decided to join the antipresidential National Salvation Forum, an electoral bloc of the democratic opposition led by former Deputy Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko, UNIAN reported. The confederation's leader, Mykhaylo Volynets, recently appealed to Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko, Interior Minister Yuriy Smirnov, and legislator Hryhoriy Omelchenko to immediately investigate the shadowing of him and his family. Volynets said he and his son have been shadowed since May. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT APPOINTS OFFICIALS FOR EUROPEAN INTEGRATION. Leonid Kuchma has appointed Deputy Prime Minister Vasyl Rohovyy as Ukraine's authorized representative for European integration and Deputy Foreign Minister Oleksandr Chalyy as state secretary of the Foreign Ministry in charge of European integration. Last week Kuchma issued an edict renaming the Economy Ministry as the Ministry of Economy and European Integration Issues. JM

MOLDOVA MARKS INDEPENDENCE DAY IN GLOOMY MOOD. Moldova marked the 10th anniversary of its independence on 27 August with a military parade in Chisinau, but in his message to the nation President Vladimir Voronin said there is not much that Moldovans can cheer about, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau and international agencies reported. Voronin said that Moldova's achievements since its declaration of independence are "an illusion" and "there are few reasons to celebrate." He said real independence "requires above all the well-being of citizens" and the identification of citizens with their state. He said it is "no secret" that in recent years not only national minorities such as Ukrainians, Russians, Gagauz, or Bulgarians have felt "aliens in their own state," but so have Moldovans themselves. He said the "primary task" of the government is to "regain our motherland," as "no state can be fully sovereign if a large part of its population lives under the rule of some self-proclaimed independent authority." He also said the authorities must offer society "a realistic and long-term development program" that leaves "room for all citizens," and to intensify efforts to eradicate corruption and poverty. MS