Yushchenko Warns Obama of Russia’s Post-Georgia Security Threat
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko will seek to warn Barack Obama this week that Russia’s attack against Georgia in 2008 poses a threat that European leaders still haven’t addressed, according to Bloomberg.
Yushchenko, who may meet President Obama in New York this week, said any revision of borders increases instability in eastern Europe and jeopardizes global security. He called for a demarcation of borders between Russia and Ukraine, which has been delayed by Russia since Ukraine won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
“What happened in Georgia is not a problem of Georgia, it is a problem of the European Union,” Yushchenko said in an interview in Kiev on Sept. 17. “Georgia’s loss of border integrity means the same may happen in Europe. We all became more vulnerable.”
Russia sent tanks, troops and warplanes into Georgia, a former Soviet Republic seeking membership of NATO, and recognized the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign countries in the face of Western condemnation. Russia has deployed thousands of troops in the regions.
Ukraine should join NATO to protect its own borders, Yushchenko said.
“I often get silence as an answer when there is talk in Europe about Ukraine’s bid to join NATO,” the president said. “Europe should learn to speak in one voice. It’s not just Ukraine that would benefit from that - it’s Europe that would benefit the most.”
Yushchenko was swept to power in 2004 when millions joined street protests to help overturn a rigged election victory declared by then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by Russia. The president will seek re-election in January, when he’ll again face Yanukovych as well as Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last month he won’t send a new ambassador to Kiev until relations between the two countries improve and doesn’t see that happening while Yushchenko is in power.
Dealings with Ukraine have “radically worsened” under Yushchenko, Medvedev said on Aug. 14 at a news conference in Sochi.
Russia will have less influence than at the time of the Orange Revolution, Yushchenko said, as Ukraine has changed.
“The main thing is that Ukraine got used to democracy,” Yushchenko said. “This is a different country from what it was. Freedom is now a natural thing for our people and an election is a natural thing.”
While Yushchenko is running fourth in opinion polls, he said he’s confident of winning because he fulfilled promises to secured freedom of speech and didn’t balk at unpopular decisions.
“A high rating is easy to get -- you just play populism games and it’s there,” Yushchenko said. “That is not my way. I don’t think about elections, I’m thinking about my kids - - what country I am going to leave them?”