Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Developments in Ukraine/Medvedev in France

A bookend to the mid-February presentation on Ukraine at the Nixon Center: Speaker of the Rada Lytvyn has confirmed that the government of prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko no longer commands a majority as the "Orange coalition" has dissolved. My comments back in February suggested that a new coalition would form that would probably consist of Lytvyn's bloc joining with Yanukovych's Party of Regions and elements of the former president's "Our Ukraine" bloc in an anti-crisis coalition government.

On his first foreign visit--to Brussels to meet with the EU BEFORE he goes to Moscow--president Yanukovych re-iterated his agenda of balancing Ukraine between Russia and the West. He is making the pitch for an association agreement between Ukraine and the EU that will provide for free trade and visa-free travel, and pitched his idea for a joint EU-Russia-Ukraine consortium to handle natural gas transit.

Meanwhile, how will Nicolas Sarkozy's strategy of engagement with Russia--based on offering concrete incentives to Moscow--work in engendering Russian support for stronger sanctions on Iran? If Sarkozy can deliver where Obama did not, what does this say about the future of the reset? As Judah Grunstein has observed: What's interesting is the way in which Sarkozy reversed the poles of the engagement-reset approach that the Obama administration pursued: While President Barack Obama was trying to engage with Iran and reset with Russia, Sarkozy was trying to engage with Russia and reset with Iran (the fuel swap deal).

Sarko really one-ups Obama with Russia, because he offers actual benefits that the GoR is interested in.


Actually, it makes sense, because the French have a historical understanding of the Good Things that come from good relations with Russia, and the Bad Things that come from a bad relationship with Russia. For instance, they would have been much better off in the 1930s if they had told the Brits to p*ss off and developed their alliances with the USSR and Czechoslovakia, instead of ditching them as the Brits continually demanded as the price of British support.

The Germans are the same way. They remember what Bismark said: "The secret to success in politics is a good treaty with Russia." They also remember how catastrophic it was to let that treaty lapse. The point is, the French and Germans have good relations with Russia because they know it is extremely beneficial for their countries, so they ignore whiny Balts, Georgians, and Poles, as well as all our blather about Russia's "backsliding on Democracy".

Obama's "reset" with Russia is so half-hearted, contradictory, and crippled by by his fear of criticism from blind US Russophobes that there is nothing of substance for Russia in it. No wonder it just lies there and flops aimlessly.
Thank you, rkka. You right on the target, as always.
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