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PUTIN MOVES TO SOCHI TO PREPARE FOR SUMMIT WITH BUSH. Presidential Press Secretary Aleksei Gromov told journalists that President Vladimir Putin left Moscow on 15 May for his summer residence in the resort city of Sochi, where he will stay until the start of his summit with U.S. President George W. Bush on 24 May, ORT television reported on 15 May. In Sochi, Putin will meet with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma on 17 May and will receive the editors in chief of major mass-media outlets on 18 and 19 May. The rest of the time, Putin will focus on preparations for the summit, Gromov said. VY


BELARUSIAN WRITERS PROTEST GOVERNMENT'S 'ANTINATIONAL POLICY.' The Council of the Union of Belarusian Writers (SBP) has issued a statement protesting the authorities' "antinational policy," Belapan reported on 16 May. The statement cited last month's creation of the media holding that subordinated several Belarusian literary periodicals to rigorous state control (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 30 April 2002) and accused the authorities of nominating loyalist editors to run those publications. The SBP council also accused the government of illegally depriving the union of its press organ, the weekly "Litaratura i mastatstva" (Literature and Art). The statement concluded that the government is destroying the indigenous national culture and is curbing the use of the Belarusian language in Belarus in order to "surrender the sovereignty of our country." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT FAILS TO ELECT LEADERSHIP. The Verkhovna Rada on 15 May voted on three leadership "packages" -- the sets of candidates for speaker and two deputy speakers -- but failed to muster the 226 votes necessary to approve any one of those three, UNIAN reported. The Communist Party's proposal for Adam Martynyuk (Communist) as speaker and Viktor Musiyaka (Our Ukraine) and Petro Tolochko (Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc) as deputy speakers obtained 172 votes in support. Our Ukraine's proposal for Ivan Plyushch (independent) as speaker and Adam Martynyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov (Tymoshenko Bloc) as deputy speakers was backed by 140 deputies. The Social Democratic Party's choice of Volodymyr Lytvyn (United Ukraine) for speaker and Adam Martynyuk and Oleksandr Zinchenko (Social Democrat) for deputy speakers was supported by 209 votes. JM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT MEETS WITH EUROPEAN COMMISSION HEAD... Leonid Kuchma flew to Brussels on 15 May for an unofficial meeting with European Commission President Roman Prodi, UNIAN reported. Prodi told journalists after the meeting that "specific steps" in mutual cooperation will be reviewed at an EU-Ukraine summit in Copenhagen in July. Prodi added that he and Kuchma discussed the possibility of the European Union granting Ukraine the "status of neighbor." The introduction of such status with regard to Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova was endorsed by the EU foreign ministers last month. Kuchma commented that Kyiv will not push for its membership in the European Union as long as Ukraine has not achieved "European standards." (See also "End Note.") JM

...AND OUR UKRAINE LEADER. The same day Kuchma also met with Our Ukraine leader Viktor Yushchenko, who told journalists that he asked Kuchma to take measures to prevent some Our Ukraine lawmakers from being pressured into joining the United Ukraine parliamentary caucus. UNIAN reported that one Our Ukraine deputy left his caucus on 15 May and joined United Ukraine. Yushchenko added, however, that the main topic of his conversation with the president was the future opening of the Polish military cemetery in Lviv (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 May 2002). The ceremonial opening, which is to be attended by the Polish and Ukrainian presidents, is still in doubt because of objections from Lviv city authorities. JM

GERMANY THANKS UKRAINE FOR RETURN OF BACH ARCHIVE. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer thanked Ukraine on 15 May for returning one of German music's most valuable treasures -- an archive of music by Johann Sebastian Bach and his children that was lost during World War II, AP reported. Last November, Kiev returned the collection of about 5,000 documents -- including signatures and scores by Bach and his children -- to Berlin, where it was originally housed as part of the Berlin Sing Academy. Fischer praised the Ukrainian government for taking a leading role in the "sensitive and difficult process of restoring misplaced cultural artifacts," and expressed confidence that other German treasures still in Ukraine will also be returned soon. JM


In the same year that NATO is expected to offer invitations to five-seven countries to join the defense alliance at its summit in Prague this November, Ukraine's foreign policy is hostage to President Leonid Kuchma's isolation in the West and his lack of clear policies and vision. Ukraine is not a member of the group of Baltic, and Central and Southeastern European countries that are openly seeking NATO membership.

Under Foreign Ministers Hennadiy Udovenko and Borys Tarasyuk from 1994-2000, Ukraine's foreign policy was unambiguously in favor of integration into trans-Atlantic and European structures (i.e., NATO and the European Union). Udovenko and Tarasyuk are, not surprisingly, members of former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine bloc, the only political force in the Ukrainian parliament that supports Ukraine applying now for membership of NATO. Other pro-presidential or oligarchic forces do not oppose NATO membership per se, but see it as a future possibility. Only the Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) opposes NATO membership outright.

Since October 2000, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko has dropped any reference to integration into "trans-Atlantic" structures. According to him, Ukraine's goal is only to become an Associate Member of the European Union, a task far harder than joining NATO. However, to join NATO would be easier for Ukraine's executive and oligarchs, as NATO membership does not require the degree of democratization as the EU.

Ukraine's foreign policy increasingly lacks any clear vision, and its continual vacillation between East and West means it is not taken seriously at a time of likely NATO and EU expansion to the East. According to the respected weekly "Zerkalo nedeli/Dzerkalo tyzhnya," an unambiguous statement by Ukraine this year in support of membership of NATO would be therefore welcomed in Western Europe and the United States as a "bold move." If, as it seems likely, the executive blocks such a move, both Brussels and Washington will continue to be "skeptical about Ukrainian initiatives, as Kyiv cannot seem to make up its mind," the paper concluded.

Ukraine's foreign policy contradicts its stated goal of integration with Europe in four areas.

First, since the "Kuchmagate" scandal in the winter of 2000, the executive and its oligarchic allies have periodically launched anti-American and anti-Western campaigns. These have subsided since the parliamentary election campaign ended, but could be unleashed again at any time. One wonders how anti-American campaigns can be reconciled with the United States being a "strategic partner" of Ukraine? The Ukrainian elites have yet to understand that following 11 September 2001, Ukraine is no longer a central strategic element of U.S. policy in Europe.

Second, at a trilateral meeting of the Russian, Moldovan, and Ukrainian presidents in Odesa in March, President Kuchma suggested that Ukraine might consider joining the Russian-led alternative to the European Union, the Eurasian Economic Community (EES). This has since been corrected by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, which ruled in favor of the European Union, not the EES, much to the chagrin of Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin who is still under the mistaken impression that one should assume that President Kuchma always means and acts upon what he says. Kuchma has now decided that Ukraine will join the EES as an Associate Member.

Third, since 1999-2000 Ukraine's centrist oligarchs and executive have increasingly adopted the slogan "To Europe with Russia." Volodymyr Lytvyn, head of the presidential administration and the For a United Ukraine election bloc, said in February that, "For a united Ukraine in a united Europe, including Russia, is not only our electoral slogan -- this is our deep conviction." The only problem is that since 11 September, Russia is no longer waiting for Ukraine to catch up as it rushes ahead to Europe and NATO.

Fourth, Ukraine is not a signatory of the CIS Collective Security Treaty, although it did join the CIS Antiterrorism Center and is an Associate Member of the CIS Air-Defense Agreement. In May, Ukraine attended CIS Collective Security Treaty military exercises only as an observer. Nevertheless, Ukrainian security forces did actually take part in the "South-Antiterror 2002" exercises of the CIS Collective Rapid-Reaction Forces under the aegis of the CIS Antiterrorism Center, which is based in Moscow and headed by Lieutenant General Boris Mylnikov. The blurring of the exercises conducted by the members of the Collective Security Treaty and the Antiterrorism Center is a useful ploy by Russia to involve those states which are not signatories of the Collective Security Treaty, such as Ukraine, in military exercises within the CIS under its control. British expert James Sherr noted that the Security Service and Internal Affairs Ministry (MVS), two institutions that were implicated in a variety of malpractices in the "Kuchmagate" scandal, are not oriented toward the West (unlike the Defense Ministry). Former MVS head Yuriy Kravchenko, who was sacked during "Kuchmagate," is the leading candidate to become the new head of the presidential administration.

At a NATO conference this month in Warsaw, former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Tarasyuk called upon Ukraine to apply for NATO membership at this year's summit. This week, former President Leonid Kravchuk, a member of the oligarchic Social Democratic Party of Ukraine-united, also argued in favor of Ukraine applying. Instead, it will probably be content to merely upgrade its 1997 Charter with NATO so that relations "will become even closer," Zlenko said. This disinterest in membership contradicts favorable international trends since 11 September that have reduced opposition to NATO expansion. National Security and Defense Council Secretary Yevhen Marchuk warned in a recent interview in "Den" that after 11 September many West European and North American countries have revised their security policy strategies. "It is precisely for this reason that the 'Euro-Atlantic integration' formula has reappeared: the term has long existed in Ukraine, but Kyiv distanced itself from it then and has now returned to it again. So Ukraine has had to invigorate cooperation with NATO," Marchuk warned.

Support for NATO membership and ending Ukraine's self-declared, and internationally recognized, "non-bloc" status is higher in the current parliament than in any previous legislature. Since 11 September, the number of Ukrainians who see NATO as an aggressive alliance has declined and more people see it positively than negatively. There has also been a convergence in attitudes to NATO between eastern and western Ukraine. In a February poll the Ukrainian Center for Economic and Political Studies found that 51 percent of Ukrainians support membership now or in the future while 30 percent oppose it. More Ukrainians support joining NATO than signing on to the Collective Security Treaty, which only the KPU in parliament and 15 percent of Ukrainians support.

The international and domestic climate in the Ukrainian parliament, National Security and Defense Council, and the public at large are favorably inclined to Ukraine applying for NATO membership this year. Why then will Ukraine not apply? Because the executive is opposed to such a move, as Kuchma believes that he would lose his only remaining international ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition, Ukraine's foreign policy is reactive and not proactive in defense of its national interests. During Kuchma's visit to Poland this April, he was asked if Ukraine would apply to join NATO this year. His answer was typical of his unwillingness to take the initiative: "Invite us in and we'll apply." Kuchma is apparently unaware that it usually works the other way around.