The Vice Premier and the Defence Minister of
Russia, Sergei Ivanov had an official meeting with his Ukrainian
colleague Anatoly Gritsenko yesterday. Observers predicted that
the talks between the two top officials would be rather complicated
for the ministers, expected to pay first priority to the problems
of the Russian Black Sea Navy in Ukraine, and to defence cooperation
between the two countries.
The questions connected with Russia's military
presence in Ukraine were solved very quickly during the meeting.
However, Russia's views on the strategic cooperation with Ukraine
was put forward in the form of an ultimatum to the latter.
It is an open secret that the Ukrainian administration
has repeatedly expressed its concerns regarding the presence of
the Russian Black Sea Navy on its territory (Russia's military
presence in Ukraine was automatically established after the break-up
of the Soviet Union). Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Boris Tarasyuk has recently stated: "This is absolutely abnormal
that Russia illegally holds 148 hectares of land in Ukraine's
Sevastopol." According to Tarasyuk, Russia uses real estate
facilities on the above-mentioned land inappropriately: "They
derive commercial profit from the objects, which were supposed
to be used with a different purpose, in the interests of the Black
Sea Navy," the Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs said.
On the whole, the question of Russia's military
presence in Ukraine's Crimea has turned into a political tool,
which Kiev uses to put pressure on Moscow when needed. The problem
became much more important, though, when Ukraine announced its
intention to join NATO as soon as possible. Russia's naval base
became quite an obstacle for Ukraine to accomplish this goal,
although Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko stated before that
Russia's military presence in Ukraine would not put obstacles
on the nation's way to the European Union and NATO.
In April NATO members offered Ukraine a start
an active dialogue regarding its membership in the alliance: this
is actually the first step that a candidate country takes to prepare
for its membership. Yushchenko has officially retrieved records
in Ukraine's military doctrine pertaining to its intention to
join NATO and the EU (the adequate paragraphs were excluded from
the document in 2004, during Leonid Kuchma's presidency).
Russia's Defence Minister Ivanov said yesterday
that all questions connected with inappropriate usage of real
estate objects on the naval base in Sevaspotol would be settled
before March 1, 2006. The minister added that Russia was not going
to revise the price for the Black Sea Navy to stay in Ukraine.
"The price of the rent for the Black Sea Navy to stay on
the territory of Ukraine was agreed in 1997 for a long-term period,"
Russia's Black Sea Navy was stationed in Ukraine's
Sevastopol on the base of a special agreement between Russia and
Ukraine (signed in 1997). The document expires in 2017. The perspective
of NATO bases in Ukraine casts doubts on further existence of
the Russian naval base in Ukraine and interferes in the military
cooperation between the two countries.
Some experts believe that Russia's defence production
will be considerably reduced without Ukraine's participation in
it. Others say, though, that Russia would do well without Ukraine
at this point. "Russia is self-sufficient on the majority
of defence technologies. It can do without other countries' support,"
a member of the State Duma Committee for Defense, Major General
Nikolai Bezborodov said. The former commander of the Russian Air
Force, Anatoly Kornukov, is certain that the Russian defence complex
would be able to handle the entire range of defence products for
the needs of the Russian Armed Forces in the event Russia cuts
its military ties with Ukraine.
Russian Defence Minister Ivanov told his Ukrainian
counterpart during yesterday's official meeting that Russia was
not dependant on Ukraine in terms of military and technical cooperation.
This subject was touched upon during the discussion of oil and
gas prices, which is also another reason for Ukraine and Russia
to argue. Russia is not going to trade its gas for Ukrainian arms,
Ivanov said. "The time of exchange deals is in the past.
As for ready-made weapons, Russia has not been purchasing them
from Ukraine since the past century," the minister said.
Ivanov added that there were business links between Russia and
Ukraine in terms of spare parts production for certain kinds of
As for Ukraine's intention to join NATO, the
military and technical cooperation between Russia and Ukraine
is likely to be stopped in this case, Sergei Ivanov said. The
Russian administration believes that it is a sovereign right of
each and every country to join a particular international organization
or a bloc. "However, it is up to another country to choose
a partner in the defence field," Ivanov said. The minister
also said that the cessation of military cooperation would not
be the worst aspect of Ukraine's membership in NATO. "Other
consequences may follow as well, but they are outside my authority,"
the Russian minister stated.