Date: 20 April 2018
Where is the strategy for ukrainian foreign policy?
The Annual Report of Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism” (ukr. Рада зовнішньої політики „Українська призма”), has been published. The non-governmental organization which was set up in 2015 deals with the analysis of Ukrainian foreign policy. “Ukrainian Prism” is created by dozens of independent analyst, who work for academic centers in Kiev (ukr. Київ), Oddesa (ukr. Одеса), Kharkov (ukr. Харків), Chernihiv (ukr. Чернігів) and Chernivtsi (ukr. Чернівці).
In 2017 the realization of Ukrainian foreign policy received a “B-” score. It was mostly for the President’s activity in the international area, the government and the Parliament, and for the institutions responsible for planning and realizing foreign policy. According to the experts, the level of strategic analysis and strategic planning in basically every course of Ukrainian activity remained at its traditional level – low, and hence such a low grade, only B-.
In 2017 Ukraine’s foreign policy focused on three priorities which had been set down in the years 2015-2016:
• Firstly, security of territorial integrity of Ukraine;
• Secondly, Ukraine’s European integrity and affiliation with euroatlantic civilizational area;
• Thirdly, building international coalition against Russian aggression.
European activity in the analyzed year had certain tasks which required constant political support. The implementation of European Union Association Agreement and introduction of visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens were on the first place. The introduction of visa-free regime would make it easier for Ukrainians to travel to the Member States of the European Union. The implementation of Association Agreement still requires the application of new forms of strategic and long-term cooperation between Ukraine and the EU.
In accordance with a concept of the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (ukr. Петро Порошенко), Ukrainian future membership in NATO should be accepted by the citizens in referendum. Nowadays Ukraine’s foreign policy in euroatlantic zone is not only a priority for the President, but introduction of civilian control over the army and NATO standards – an everyday task. Most of the political actors creating foreign policy in 2017, like in the previous years, defined the USA as a key partner and Ukraine’s ally in political, safety, economic and energy security zone. The intensification of cooperation with Japan and Canada, strategic relations with Turkey and Azerbaijan were also emphasized especially in the activity of the President’s administration. The President also expressed his interest in improving bilateral relations with Middle East and Latin America countries.
The government adopted a middle-term plan for foreign policy up to 2020. The plan demonstrates a need for bringing the state legislation closer to the EU norms and a need for functioning a deep and complex free trade zone between Ukraine and the EU as well as increasing international trade and investors attractiveness. At a parliamentary level, it was possible to adopt number of agreed political documents concerning international affairs and bilateral relations.
In the opinion of the “Ukrainian Prism” experts the most important areas for realization of priorities of foreign policy in 2017 were: relations with NATO member states, the USA, Canada, the EU and its members, Turkey and also international organizations like the UN and Council of Europe, especially in issues relating to the defense of human rights.
The Ukraine’s cooperation with the USA was the most effective: it was awarded the highest grade from the analysts – A-. The Ukrainian diplomacy was the most active in this area: “To prevent “the Ukrainian question” from being moved to the back burner of the new US administration, Ukraine has enhanced institutional cooperation and intensified activities in relations with the USA. As a result, 2017 became a year of an active dialogue between the countries. The Ukrainian diplomats’ efforts were primarily directed at the extension of sanctions against the Russian Federation, maintaining security guarantees and providing defense weapons. Support of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine remained the central topic of high profile discussions”.
How does the assessment of Ukraine-Russia relation present in this situation? Russians are two levels below. Political relations were awarded C+, and economic ones- C-: “2017 did not bring about any fundamental changes in the Ukraine-Russia political relations, hybrid aggression of the RF against Ukraine transformed into one of the dimensions of the Russian policy. Having found no influential political force in the Ukrainian politics, which would be capable of performing the political partnership function, the Russian authorities tried to apply delegitimation strategies to the Ukrainian state via support of ‘pro-Russian’ politicians in Western countries-partners of Ukraine. Bilateral interstate relations will remain at a critically low level, with no prospective changes at least over the medium term”.
Economic relations (C-): “Foreign policy related to economic cooperation with the RF in 2017 remains ambivalent. Ukraine’s actions, same as before, mainly responsive to financial and economic levers of influence by the RF. Despite of intensified confrontation, discriminatory policy and its negative effects, the RF remains the largest trade partner and keeps on playing an important role for Ukraine’s economy”.
And where is Poland? High with B-, but Lithuania is higher with a B+ grade, just like Canada: “In 2017 the relations between Ukraine and Poland were determined by an essential dichotomy: increase of the speed and scope of cooperation on all levels (security cooperation, support at international forums, energy industry, support for reforms and humanitarian aid), immense number of contacts in different formats and at the same time continued aggregation of conflict concerning historical policy”.
Poland’s political ally – Hungary, is significantly lower – at C-, as Russia (C-): “2017 demonstrated how the lack of Ukraine’s attention towards the cooperation with Hungary, could led to a serious crisis in their relations. Hungary continued its policy towards Ukraine, focusing on the Hungarian minority interests’ uphold in the Transcarpathian region. In their turn, the Ukrainian officials failed to prevent and had to react to the crisis consequences. The main achievement of the Ukraine – Hungary relations was Hungary maintaining its official position regarding the preservation of sanctions against the Russian Federation, as well as facilitation of a visa-free regime launch between Ukraine and the EU. ”
The authors of the report call for introduction of strategic component to a foreign policy thinking. In their opinion, Ukraine lacks a strategy in this area. Perhaps, but here the experts finish without giving any good advice. Probably it is hard to get good advice in the modern world.
The presentation of the whole range of Ukraine’s foreign relations in one place is an important trait of the Report – we all remember the recent times, where Russia-Ukraine relations were dominating. All the evidence indicates that the years 2015-2017 were a renaissance of Ukrainian diplomacy and foreign policy. It is worth studying this document in this context. This document is available at the following address: http://prismua.org/ukrainian-prism-foreign-policy-2017/. All quotations are also taken from there.
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