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...REJECTS PRECONDITIONS FOR CLOSER DIALOGUE WITH EU... President Lukashenka said on April 12 that Belarus will not tolerate dictation and pressure exerted by the EU, Belapan reported. "The EU sets us a list of conditions that the so-called Belarusian opposition writes for it," Lukashenka said, adding that "this is not a normal basis for dialogue." "If we detained some people," Lukashenka said, commenting on the EU's dissatisfaction with the Belarusian authorities' treatment of demonstrators on March 25, "those were provocateurs who worked for money. There were one and a half thousand slobs and some 400 rebels [participating in the demonstration]." Lukashenka said that the authorities will not let those people "foul our streets." Lukashenka announced that Belarus is ready for the dialogue with the EU, but "if you want to take us by the scruff of the neck like a naughty kitten, then don't bother us." Lukashenka admitted that Belarus's foreign policy is "multivectoral," but the country has not managed to establish the same relations with the West as with Russia and Ukraine. AM
UKRAINIAN GOVERNMENT CALLS ON PRESIDENT TO SUSPEND DECREE DISSOLVING PARLIAMENT. Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers has called on President Viktor Yushchenko to suspend his decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada until the Constitutional Court rules on its compliance with the constitution, Interfax reported on April 12. "We believe that this is the only right way at this stage," Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said. Yanukovych also said that the current political crisis will not influence Ukraine's foreign policy and economic stability. "The situation in Ukraine will develop within democratic guidelines and will not affect the country's foreign-economic or foreign-policy priorities. We firmly guarantee foreign investors' rights," Yanukovych said. Yushchenko, however, said on April 12 he will not suspend his decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada, Interfax reported. "Presidential decrees must be implemented. Those who fail to obey them will be brought to account," Yushchenko said, adding that the political crisis should be resolved through political means. Yushchenko said he sees a possible solution to the crisis in proposals he submitted earlier to Prime Minister Yanukovych. According to Yushchenko, the crisis has raised questions about amendments to the constitution, the law forbidding deputies from leaving their caucuses, and the law on the Cabinet of Ministers. Yushchenko believes that the crisis has forced Ukrainian politicians "to make decisions, which we would never make in other circumstances." AM
BELARUS RESUMES WINE TRADE WITH MOLDOVA. Moldova's Food and Agriculture Ministry announced on April 12 that Moldova has resumed exports of wine to Belarus, ITAR-TASS reported on April 12, corroborating earlier unconfirmed reports in the Moldovan media. Moldova stopped exporting unbottled wine to Belarus in January as part of a broader effort to raise quality standards. Belarus responded by halting imports of bottled wine. Both bottled and unbottled Moldovan wine is now being sold in Belarus, following changes in Moldova's policy and the establishment of a joint venture to manage the trade. Belarus is Moldova's third-largest wine market, behind Russia and Ukraine, bringing in revenues of $36 million in 2006, according to figures from the news agencies Basa and ITAR-TASS. Moldova's wine industry says it is in a state of crisis, with Russia proving slow to restore the free flow of wine after lifting, in November, a ban imposed in March 2006 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," November 30, 2006, and March 20, 2007). On a related note, Russia said that it is now importing fruit and vegetables from Moldova, one month after Moldova said Russia lifted a ban (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 13, 2007). AG
DID WEST PULL UP STAKES IN UKRAINE TOO SOON?
Two years ago, Viktor Yushchenko was hailed as a conquering hero in many Western capitals. The U.S. Congress, hosting the newly anointed Ukrainian president in April 2005, welcomed his arrival with boisterous enthusiasm, chanting his name and cheering as he thanked "the entire American nation" for its support.
That speech, and one in Germany's Bundestag a month earlier, were part of a postrevolutionary victory lap after the massive public protests of the Orange Revolution propelled Yushchenko into the Ukrainian presidency -- and reduced his Moscow-backed rival, Viktor Yanukovych, to political ignominy.
Now Yushchenko and Yanukovych are once again locking horns. This time, however, Yanukovych is prime minister and head of the lynchpin party in parliament's ruling coalition. And the cheers of Western support for Yushchenko? Nowhere to be heard.
"Any political questions in Ukraine need to be resolved by the Ukraine government," said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, responding to Yushchenko's dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada following the defection of opposition lawmakers to the coalition. And in Brussels, Adrian Severin, a member of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, said this time around, Europe is putting its support behind "values," rather than "people."
Yushchenko himself appears to acknowledge he cannot turn to the West for support on this battle. In an interview with RFE/RL on April 11, he said Ukrainians must solve the current crisis "by themselves."
Some observers say that many in the West have been disappointed by the inability of the Orange Revolution leaders to capitalize on their powerful public mandate and effectively lead the country down a new progressive path. "The lethargy that you see, the hesitancy, or even the frustration on the part of Brussels and Washington has to do with the degree to which the Orange Revolution itself collapsed or disintegrated or eroded," says Robert Legvold, a professor at New York's Columbia University who specializes in post-Soviet politics.
Just months after the Orange Revolution, Yushchenko and his charismatic political ally, Yuliya Tymoshenko, were reduced to constant bickering. By September 2005, Yushchenko removed Tymoshenko from her prime ministerial post. That move split the pro-Western Orange forces and opened the door for Yanukovych's political comeback and the victory of his Party of Regions in March 2006 parliamentary elections.
After months of haggling, Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, and Socialist Party leader Oleksandr Moroz appeared to revive the Orange forces and form a ruling coalition that would have returned Tymoshenko to the prime ministerial post. But in the end, Moroz defected and instead formed a coalition with Party of Regions and the Communists. By August 2006, it was Yanukovych, and not Tymoshenko, who was confirmed as prime minister.
"The Orange Revolution alliance quarreled so much, it didn't have the sort of inner dynamism to create a government of its own," says Eugeniusz Smolar of the Warsaw-based Center for International Relations, who says he watched the months of haggling with a mixture of "sympathy and horror." The fighting, he says, "destroyed, on the one hand, the cohesion -- and, on the other hand, some of the support -- of the population toward the government."
Some analysts and politicians suggest the West could have done more to support pro-European forces in Ukraine by expediting the country's bid to join Western institutions like the World Trade Organization, the European Union, and NATO.
Brussels, which acknowledges expansion fatigue, has been firm in its refusal to bolster Ukraine's hopes of membership. But U.S. President George W. Bush on April 10 signed legislation backing NATO membership for five countries, including Ukraine.
The fact remains, however, that Ukraine's eastern regions remain largely loyal to Russia, which adamantly opposes NATO expansion. As a result, Ukraine itself is deeply divided over whether it wants to join either the EU or NATO. Some polls have indicated that most Ukrainians would reject membership in either if the issue was put to a referendum. "There is a quite a large group of public opinion in Ukraine that is not terribly interested in joining the European Union, understanding that it has an important economic, social, and cultural interest in staying close to Russia," says Smolar.
So did the West fail, or Ukraine? "It's a complex situation," Smolar says. "I believe that the Ukrainian public and the Ukrainian elite didn't do enough. Whether the West could do more.... I believe it could do more, but I am not sure it could do much more."
Ukraine's inconstancy regarding the West may prove an inconvenience elsewhere in the former Soviet Union -- particularly in Georgia, whose NATO bid also got Bush's blessing this week.
Georgia kicked off the wave of colored revolutions with its 2003 Rose Revolution, and President Mikheil Saakashvili has traditionally kept close ties with Yushchenko. But Legvold at Columbia University says Georgia's own Western ambitions may be hampered by the ongoing Ukrainian stalemate. "I don't see any prospect that Georgia can be considered for NATO membership -- even if it seems in some fashion more qualified -- until the Ukrainian issue is settled," he says. "You can't jump over Ukraine and address the Georgian question separately."
Ultimately, U.S. and EU support for Yushchenko and Ukraine's pro-Western forces may also be muted because the current composition of the Ukrainian government is the product of elections that were universally judged to be among the fairest and cleanest in post-Soviet Ukraine. The Orange Revolution had a clear villain in Yanukovych, whose backers blatantly falsified election results. This time around, he is the legitimate head of government and leads the most popular party in the country.
Marek Siwiec, deputy chairman of the European Parliament, said on April 11 that Yushchenko can no longer expect the unequivocal Western support he enjoyed in 2004. "All parties have a legal democratic mandate now," Siwiec said. And that makes a "huge difference."