In the situation where the Russian Foreign Ministry supports the State Duma proposal that Russia should pull out of the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership with Ukraine and Premier Vladimir Putin heads the United Russia ruling party, it is reasonable to suggest that not only the Russian legislators but also the key policymakers support this line. But so far we should not say this is the Kremlin’s initiative.
In addition, the statement made by the State Duma on the Treaty will have no legal consequences for Ukraine or Russia.
That’s why the opinions in Ukraine were divided. Some policymakers and experts believe that there is a need to sharply react to this statement and position of the State Duma. The others including Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko take the statement half-jokingly. They think that the current relations between the two countries cannot be called in question because of such initiatives.
So, in my opinion, the Ukrainian authorities will not make tough decisions. Ukraine is aware of Russia’s position. But the society has a negative attitude towards it for two reasons.
Firstly, the Ukrainian society does not allow foreign countries to cast doubt on its right to be the arbiter of its own destiny. It is also difficult to show understanding when foreign countries try to unilaterally resolve some of Ukraine’s problems. This is the policy followed by Russia towards its compatriots. As is known, Russia considers all the people, who were born in the USSR, to be its compatriots. I was born in the Soviet Union, but I have no threats Russia should protect me from.
And the second point, which is of the greatest importance. The Russian people are fed on inadequate information about Ukraine. This is the problem to be resolved. There are the following examples. Premier Vladimir Putin said that 17 million ethnic Russians lived in Ukraine. But, as a matter of fact, 17%, or about 8 million ethnic Russians live there. It is constantly said that in Ukraine there are 70% of the opponents of Ukraine’s joining NATO. But this figure includes both the opponents and those who have not decided if they are for or against Ukraine’s joining NATO, and other groups. But the number of genuine opponents is much lower.
What is the reason for such misrepresentations? I tried to pass the information to Russia’s agencies. But since the data continue to be misrepresented, one can think that the facts are being juggled.
In short, there are unresolved problems between our countries. But this does not mean that the interaction should be less intense. We should step up the cooperation at the inter-Parliamentary level, among NGOs, experts, etc.
It is intolerable that, according to public opinion polls in Russia, Ukraine ranks third among the unfriendly states. In Ukraine Russia ranks first as a friendly one. Probably, this indicates that the information policies in Ukraine and Russia are different.
By Valeriy Chaly, Deputy General Director of Ukrainian Razumkov Center for Economic and Political Studies, Kyiv