American specialists on Ukrainian affairs are often confronted, when in Ukraine, with the contradictions of great power policy toward Ukraine. Why, we are asked, is Ukraine not treated equally to Russia? Why, for example, does the US ignore massive human rights abuses by the Russian government in Chechnya, while at the same time putting pressure on Ukraine over minor issue such as the pirating of compact discs? Western scholars are also often asked to explain the hypocrisies in certain aspects of western governments' policies. Why, for example, do the US and European Union preach the virtues of the free market, while closing off important sectors of their markets to Ukrainian exports? Many Ukrainians seem to conclude that if the US and European Union, who are supposed to be symbols of justice in the world, cannot behave more fairly toward Ukraine, then Ukraine should not bother doing what these states ask. That would probably be a dangerous conclusion.
This article will first address the sources of US and EU policy toward Ukraine. A brief examination will help explain why policies are not always consistent, and not always "fair" in some abstract sense. The short answer is that, despite all the rhetoric about democracy, freedom, and the free market, most countries policies are motivated by self-interest, and there are important factors that prevent them from deviating too far from that line. However, even if we conclude that western policies toward Ukraine are self-interested, and hence often "unfair" to Ukraine, we cannot conclude that Ukraine
should turn away. Rather, we must conclude that Ukraine too should base its policies on its interests. Turning away from the west would mean either complete isolation, or else turning toward other actors, such as Russia, that are no less self-interested than the US, and have considerably less to offer Ukraine in the long run.
The Sources of US Policy Toward Ukraine
From the Ukrainian perspective, it often seems that the United States has treated Ukraine unfairly in a number of ways. Several complaints are worth noting, so that we can then examine the sources of these policies.
First, in the early 1990s, US commitment to Ukrainian independence was weak. President George Bush's 1991 "Chicken Kyiv" speech indicated that stability of the Soviet Union under Gorbachev was more important to the US than was Ukraine's right to self-determination. Similarly, after independence, the United States implied that Ukraine's sovereignty was conditional upon its willingness to surrender its nuclear weapons. This policy seemed to contradict the policy toward other former communist states, whose sovereignty was never questioned.
Second, the US has consistently held Ukraine and Russia to different standards. The question of nuclear weapons provides one example. The US refused to deal seriously with Ukraine until it agreed to surrender nuclear weapons, while making no such demands on Russia. Nor, for that matter, has the US put as much pressure on other "new" nuclear states, such as Pakistan, Israel, or North Korea. Only Ukraine, along with Belarus and Kazakhstan, has been willing to surrender its nuclear weapons, but the reward for this have been meager. Russia has been admitted as nearly a full member to the G-8, and now has a status in NATO above that of Ukraine. All these rewards have been given to Russia despite the fact that throughout most of the post- Soviet period, its reform has not moved any faster than Ukraine's. Not only does Ukraine have a lower priority in the west than Russia, it also seems to get less attention than much smaller and weaker states such as the Baltic states.
Third, western economic policy toward Ukraine seems inconsistent. The west preaches to Ukraine the importance of developing a free market, of ending government subsidies and of allowing exports into the country. Yet, in the industries where Ukraine is most successful, such as steel and agriculture, the west discriminates against Ukrainian goods. Both the EU and the US massively subsidize their agricultural sectors, making it nearly impossible for Ukraine to export to these markets. In steel, direct and indirect subsidies are also present, as is protectionism, most notably the "anti-dumping" actions used to prevent increased exports of Ukrainian steel.
How can we account for these seeming inconsistencies? While not all countries are as cynical as others, foreign policy is essentially driven by perceived national interest, and when this clashes with abstract principles, the material interest (security or economic) usually prevails. Justice is not completely irrelevant, and it is often invoked to justify certain policies, but we know of no country that has consistently made promoting international justice the basis of its foreign policy. It is crucial, then, to separate the rhetorical justification of policies from the real interests behind them. The goal in doing so is not to be able to criticize one government or another for hypocrisy, but rather, by understanding what is driving other countries, to be able to formulate a more effective foreign policy.
To return to the problems discussed above, the US and EU put more emphasis
on Russia than on Ukraine because Russia is much more powerful than Ukraine. Thus for Ukraine, its relations with the west as well as those with Russia are characterized by the problem of asymmetric interdependence. 1 It can create bigger problems if it wants to, and it can solve bigger problems (and create bigger opportunities) if it wants to. Because of the size of its military, the size of its nuclear arsenal, the size of its economy and its status in international organizations such as the United Nations Security Council, Russia has been able to maintain at least some of the status of the Soviet Union. In looking at Russia, the west has seen a country with which it must bargain, and with which it must reach agreement. In contrast, when western leaders look at Ukraine, they see a country that must conform to the expectations of the west, or be coerced into doing so.
It might be especially frustrating to Ukrainians that Russia is given higher status because of its nuclear weapons, while Ukraine was forced to get rid of its nuclear weapons rather than gain that status. Why did this happen? Because the west could do it. The west was powerful enough, and Ukraine weak enough, that Ukraine could be pressured to surrender its nuclear weapons. If Russia could have been similarly, pressured, there can be little doubt the west would have done the same thing. In Russia's case, the resistance would have been higher, and the means to resist clearly existed. Russia has indeed been pressured to accept several rather one-sided changes in the distribution of strategic arms, including the START-II agreement and the abrogation of the ABM Treaty.
Moreover, one should not overestimate the differences between western policy toward Ukraine and Russia. Both were given special status at NATO in 1997. Both were subject to relatively similar aid programs from the IMF and the World Bank. And Russia, like Ukraine, has found itself on several occasions to have no influence over western policy, and to be compelled to accept what the west decided. Three instances stand out, all in the security realm. In 1999, NATO expansion proceeded without Russia having any influence in the process. While Russia finally "agreed" to NATO expansion, it did so more to avoid the humiliation of being ignored, than in response to any real agreement. Similarly, in 2001, Russia was forced to acquiesce in the unilateral abrogation by the US of the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty. Third, and perhaps most important, Russia found itself completely unable to influence NATO (and especially US) policy over Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1999. The US and its allies bombed Yugoslavia over Russia's clear objections, and by ignoring the UN Security Council, the one place in which Russia still seemed to have equal status with the world's other "great powers. "
Moreover, in two important categories, Ukraine has received more favorable treatment than Russia. First, in terms of acceptance into genuine cooperation with NATO, Ukraine has gained much more attention than Russia. There has been a steady stream of military contacts and training exercises, both between Ukraine and NATO and bilaterally between NATO and the United States. These programs have not only helped substantially in reforming Ukraine's military, but also have provided important symbolic political support that the west is concerned with Ukraine's security and regards Ukraine as an important partner. Second, Ukraine has received more direct US aid than Russia. For several years in the late 1990s, Ukraine was the third largest recipient of US bilateral aid, behind only Israel and Egypt. The difference between Ukraine and Russia in this area is even greater when one considers that Russia's population is nearly three times as great.
How can we understand this seeming contradiction-that the US and the west seem to privilege Russia over Ukraine in almost every way, but give Ukraine priority in these limited areas? Both of these policies are driven by the same factor: western understandings of its geopolitical interests. Russia must be treated differently in two respects. It cannot be coerced the way that weaker states can, and its power in the economic and military realm, and now in the realm of anti-terrorism, mean that it cannot be ignored. Because Russia is powerful and unstable, however, measures need to be taken to protect against instability or a resurgence of hostility there. So while western leaders often feel that they can ignore Ukraine, they have also come to see Ukraine as an important geopolitical actor on the region. 2 The west needs Russia for a variety of strategic reasons, and it needs Ukraine to guard against instability or in Russia.
In other words, and this is the crucial point, Ukraine is important in western strategy not by itself, but for the role it plays in western policy toward Russia. In the early 1990s, when relations between the west and Russia were good, there was little need in western policy for cooperation with Ukraine. Later, when relations with Russia soured, Ukraine became a useful tool. But it has never been an important priority for its own sake, the way that Russia or Poland have been for the west.
Why is western trade policy toward Ukraine so inconsistent with the ideals of free trade? Again the answer is self-interest. The west can adopt a protectionist trade stance against Ukraine because there is little Ukraine can do about it. It cannot threaten counter-measures, because any Ukrainian barriers to exports from the EU or US would hurt Ukraine much more than their partner. In this sense, Ukraine is in the same position as developing countries around the world-they are told to develop their export sectors as the keys to growth-but the more competitive their exports become, the more protectionism they encounter. 3 It is especially important to recognize that in the areas of steel and agricultural protectionism, Ukraine is engaging not simply the foreign policies of the EU and US, but the core of their domestic politics. European Union agricultural tariffs are so high because powerful domestic constituencies in countries such as France have been able to maintain pressure on governments to maintain them. There has recently been a good deal of talk about reforming the Common Agricultural Policy, but this has come to little, because of the power of the agricultural lobbies in the various countries. Even if foreign policy makers seek to change that policy, they find themselves unable to do so.
The domestic importance of tariffs can be seen clearly in recent policies in the US as well. In 2002, the US drastically increased subsidies to farmers, which makes it harder for foreign producers to compete, as well as spurring overproduction, which depresses world prices. Similarly, the Bush administration approved substantial new tariff increases on steel, despite the traditional commitment of the Republican Party to free trade. American observers noted that these tariff increases would be important in gaining future support for the Republicans in key industrial states that were closely contested in 2000. This policy, in eyes of its framers, was about domestic, not foreign policy, and yet is an important foreign policy at the same time.
What Can Ukraine Do?
Many Ukrainians seem rather disaffected with the contrast between the ideals expressed in the rhetoric of the leading western states and the interest-based reality
of their policies. If this is how the west is going to treat Ukraine, many wonder, why should Ukraine play according to their rules? This question should be answered indirectly, by first asking what Ukraine's interests are and what its alternatives are to collaboration with the west as an unequal partner. Obviously, a detailed discussion of these issues would take up a great deal of space, but so much has been written on the question that some general points can be made. For the purposes of this analysis, it is enough to agree simply that Ukraine seeks to continue its recent economic growth and that it seeks to maintain its political independence.
If Ukraine seeks increased prosperity, it will have to trade. The gains from trade are well established by economists as well as by experience. Even if those gains are unevenly divided, trade provides an important boost to both production and consumption. If that is the case, than Ukraine cannot prosper in economic isolation. Therefore the question for Ukraine is not whether the west is providing a "fair" deal economically, but whether there are any good alternatives. The only alternative in the short to medium term is Russia. Do Ukrainian leaders believe that trade with Russia will be more fair, and offer more economic benefits than trade with the US and the EU? Will Russia, in pursuit of Russian interests, be able to offer more to Ukraine than the west does in pursuit of western interests? That is the key question, and only if the answer is affirmative would it make sense to turn Ukraine's back on the west. 4
Similarly in the security sphere, it may be disappointing to acknowledge honestly that the west sees Ukraine more as a tool in pursuing its Russia policy than as a goal in itself. Nonetheless, the more relevant question is what are the alternatives, and are they better? Again, the primary alternative is some sort of arrangement with Russia. Ukrainian leaders must ask themselves whether Russia, in pursuit of Russia's perceived self-interests, would provide better options for Ukraine than does the west.
Policies for Ukraine in Dealing with the West
Obviously, an American author cannot be unbiased in evaluating the options, but it seems clear that in both the economic and security and economic spheres, the western option is better for Ukraine, even if it is not as good as Ukraine would like. Ukraine cannot fight the west and win-the west has much that Ukraine needs. Ukraine's only alternatives-turn to Russia and isolation are untenable. Russia is an important alternative trade partner, but it will treat Ukraine no better than the west does. And it has a lot less to offer. As a relatively poor country, traditionally not taken seriously by the world's powers, Ukraine must make the best of bad options, even if it is not happy with these options. It is crucial to be realistic. The question for Ukraine is not what the world should be like, or what Ukraine would hope for, but what the world is like, and how Ukraine can best prosper. Ukraine cannot change its circumstances by pointing out the hypocrisy that characterizes international politics.
If Ukraine seeks prosperity and security, it has to make the best of its strengths. What are these strengths, and how can they be used? Above all, Ukraine has to recognize the nature of the west's interest in Ukraine. This is primarily in the geopolitical sphere, and only secondly in the economic sphere. As emphasized above, in the economic sphere Ukraine is both a competitor and a partner. Therefore Ukraine cannot expect concessions on trading affairs. Rather, it will have to earn these through bargaining.
There has been a lot of talk in recent
months about Ukraine's desire to join the European Union, following President Kuchma's address on the subject in May 2002. EU membership is very important, but everyone recognizes that this is a very long way off, and may turn out to be impossible. So it would be unwise to base Ukraine's strategy only on this goal. Moreover, the EU has demonstrated all of its power in its relationship with Ukraine, demanding that Ukraine make a whole series of major domestic transformations, with no promises of anything in return. Does that mean that these reforms should not be undertaken? No. Almost all of the suggestions made by the EU are not concessions to the EU, but changes that would benefit Ukraine domestically regardless of the results of EU accession. Therefore they should be undertaken regardless of the prospects for EU membership.
In the short term, the more realistic potential for Ukraine is membership in the WTO. As discussed above, Ukraine has been subject to all sorts of anti-dumping actions that limit its exports. Once inside the WTO, however, Ukraine will have much more significant protection. While the WTO is not necessarily neutral in terms of the interests of large and small powers, it does work according to a set of well-established rules and procedures that can be-and have been-used by small states to force compliance by powerful ones. It is therefore very much in Ukraine's interest to make the concessions needed to get inside this organization, and gain the legal protections it affords. In the absence of rules, the powerful have all the advantages. Therefore it is in the interest of the weak to gain the protection of rules, even if they are not perfect.
As negotiations for Ukraine to enter the WTO progress, it may well become the case that Russia finds it easier to join than does Ukraine. Just as the leading trading states were willing to make concessions to get China in, they may do the same for Russia. Again, this will strike Ukrainians as unfair. However true that may be, it is not relevant to Ukraine's pursuit of its interests. If Ukraine has to work harder than Russia to gain WTO admission, than that is what it must do.
More broadly, Ukraine will likely find what many other non-great power states have found: that they have to work much harder and to behave much better in order to get the same advantages as the powerful and wealthy states. This is indeed the challenge for Ukraine. To get the same treatment as Russia, Ukraine will have to more democratic, more market-oriented, and more stable-or else it must hope that relations between Russia and the west deteriorate and make the west much more interested in helping Ukraine for geopolitical reasons.
Taking seriously the suggestions of the EU and the US would help Ukraine take advantage of its second major strength: the incredible potential of its economy. With its large domestic market, highly educated population, and significant economic base, Ukraine has always been regarded as one of the most promising economies of the post-communist world. Yet that potential has never been met, largely due to Ukraine's failure to reform domestically in a way that makes it an attractive place to invest, for both foreigners and Ukrainians. In this way, Ukraine's most important foreign policy goal is the further reform of its domestic economy and the improvement of the domestic business climate. This will help Ukraine move closer to western integration, and will strengthen Ukraine's position regardless of how far integration into Europe (or Russia) proceeds. Much of what happens in Ukraine is in the hands of Ukraine, not the west.
The goal of this article has been to stress the need for a realistic view of Ukraine's position in the world. Much of this article
has focused on Ukraine's need to recognize its weaknesses, and to build a strategy that takes those weaknesses into account. But Ukraine also has considerable strengths that have not been sufficiently utilized. The famous Deutsche Bank study of 1990 that found Ukraine's economic potential to be highest of the post-Soviet states was not wrong. That economic potential could still be realized, but it is up to Ukrainian policies to make this happen. In security terms, Ukraine's geography, its size, and its ongoing military partnership with NATO give it much to offer NATO that countries in less important positions cannot do. While Ukraine gets less attention than Russia, it gets much more than many other states in the region, let alone those in other parts of the world. If Ukraine focuses on eliminating its weaknesses and playing to its strengths, it can achieve many of its goals, even in a world that is not often fair.
1 Hryhoriy Perepelytsia, "Living Different But in Harmon: Theoretical Aspects of Intergovernmental Relations, " Politics and the Times #2 (2002): 58-72.
2 On Ukraine's geostrategic importance, see Zbigniew Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives (New York: Basic Books, 1997), pp. 46-7. Ukraine's centrality to European security is stressed also in Taras Kuzio, "Ukraine: The Linchpin of Eastern Stability, " The Wall Street Journal (European Edition) May 11, 1994, and in Sherman Garnett, Keystone in the Arch: Ukraine in the Emerging Security Environment of Central and Eastern Europe (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1997).
3 This problem is emphasized in Anders Aslund, "Problem is Pricing, Not Dumping, " (letter to the editor) Financial Times, 1 May 1997, p. 10.
4 See Paul D'Anieri, Economic Interdependence in Ukrainian-Russian Relations, (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999).
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