August 12 marked two years since the collapse of the Georgian adventure in South Ossetia. And two years from the day when then President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko flew to Tbilisi to openly support Mikhail Saakashvili.
At that time Ukraine was among the major allies of Georgia. Yushchenko has made every effort to make the aggression against South Ossetia happen. Georgia has received hundreds of modernized Ukrainian T-72 tanks. Its air defense system was based on the air defense systems delivered by the Ukrainian side, and maintained by Ukrainian officers. And this is not counting hundreds of contractors who came from Ukraine to fight against Russia and South Ossetia.
As a result, the relations between the two brotherly countries, Russia and Ukraine, have deteriorated to unprecedented levels. Some political scientists then began to seriously consider a prospect of a possible Russian-Ukrainian armed clash.
However, today the government in Kiev is quite different. What has changed since that time in the triangle of Russia-Ukraine-Georgia? Vladimir Skachko, independent Ukrainian political analyst, editor in chief of Kiev Telegraph, answered this and other questions in an interview with Pravda.ru.
“As you know, foreign policy of any state is usually based on the development of equal relations with its neighbors. However, the then leader of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko almost openly supported the aggressive actions of his godfather, Mikhail Saakashvili. Are family ties the only thing that explains sharp turn in anti-Russian policy of Ukraine?”
“Frankly stupid policy of Viktor Yushchenko against Russia can be explained by several factors. First, he was manipulated by the representatives of those political forces that believed that support of Saakashvili is a good moment to attract the attention of the West. Two years ago, opposition of Tymoshenko and Yushchenko reached its peak. And the latter showed its full disability as the head of state.
"In comparison, the position of Tymoshenko looked more stable. The then Ukrainian president was afraid that the Western political elite will bet on her. And Yushchenko decided that support of Georgia in a war against Russia and South Ossetia was clearly an anti-Russian gesture that would bring him the approval of the West and help him stay in power. And here the interests of Yushchenko coincided with the interests of Saakashvili. But as we can see, their hopes fell threw.
"Secondly, Yushchenko’s material interest in supporting Saakashvili should also be considered. The Verkhovna Rada formed a special investigative commission on the fact of military supplies to Georgia. It concluded that the supply of military equipment to Tbilisi was carried out bypassing the treasury. In other words, “someone” pocketed the money."
“Nevertheless, the parliamentary commission has never named the main culprit in this case.”
“This is surprising, given the scope of operation. Previously, under Yushchenko, the investigation was impeded, but now, under Yanukovych, it is difficult to suspect the government in this. Yet, there is no final verdict, and the perpetrators are not named. The prosecutor's office is silent. In fact, the investigation ended in nothing.
“It appears that Yanukovych just decided to put aside the data obtained during the instigation for better days. Perhaps, more details will become apparent this fall. The fact is that by the end of this year Ukraine can fully feel the economic crisis. Its situation is very tough. It is no accident that recently Kiev was forced to take loans, including two billion dollars from the IMF under rather unfavorable terms. Another two billion dollars were borrowed from Russia.
"But I do not rule out that this will not save the situation, because the money can be just spent on food. And then, to distract public attention, Yanukovych may make public the details of the scandalous Georgian case.”
“Many were surprised that Yulia Tymoshenko at the time of the conflict did not support any of the parties to the conflict.”
“Unlike Yushchenko, she acted more sensibly and waited, not willing to get herself into a messy situation. It is no accident that after the collapse of Saakashvili's adventure, Tymoshenko still let a few poisoned arrows in the direction of then-President.
"She hoped that as a result of the events “two lost political corpses will be carried past her windows,” Yushchenko and Yanukovych. However, although this has enabled her to eventually gain support of 10 percent of Ukrainians sympathetic to Russia, it has not helped her to become the president. The pro-Russian position of Yanukovych proved to be much more advantageous. In the end, 90 percent of pro-Russian Ukrainians voted for him that in many respects led to his victory.”
“How do you think was the sympathy of the Ukrainians distributed in the August war?”
“The number of votes of Russophiles amounted to 40 percent of the Ukrainian population, and those who were against accounted for no more than 15 percent. Others were more or less indifferent. A clear geographical division was distinct. The opponents of Russia were concentrated in five western regions of Ukraine - in Galicia, and also partially in Volyn and Rivne regions. In many respects, this attitude was determined by the fact that these territories had long been under the control of Poland and Austria-Hungary. Crimea, east and south were for Russia."
“What is the position of the Ukrainian leadership in relation to Abkhazia and South Ossetia now?”
“If in the August days of 2008 Yanukovych almost unequivocally supported Russia, now the situation is somewhat different. He openly declared that Ukraine was not going to recognize independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This statement should not be regarded as a turn towards the West. This means that Yanukovych, in contrast to Yushchenko, has decided to build a uniform relationship with all parties. When Yanukovych celebrated his 60-year anniversary, Mikhail Saakashvili came personally to congratulate him. I, among other political analysts and journalists, was invited to Georgia."
“What about the fact that recently the Georgian side detained a Ukrainian ship on its way to Abkhazia?”
“It is not surprising. After all, Ukraine does not intend to abandon the development of economic ties with the “territories of frozen conflicts,” public entities like Abkhazia and Transdniestria, where it has its own interests."
“Is there any hope that Yanukovych's position on Abkhazia and South Ossetia will dramatically change?”
“No, he does not need drastic steps. He will not do it unless he is forced by the deteriorating economic situation in the country. Only in this case and for a lot of money he would recognize their independence. And so, most likely, he will be like Lukashenko. The fact is that despite the presence of prominent pro-Russian layer among Ukrainians, even here Russophile has its limits. In general, there is no more than fifteen percent of the total Ukrainian population who wished to be reunited with Russia. And most of the pro-Russian Ukrainians like Russia “through an intermediary” - the Party of Regions, whose leaders tend to make sweeping statements, but not always inclined to make equivalent actions."