In this video blog, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev laments the deteriorating relations between Moscow and Kiev, and explains his decision to recall Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine for an indefinite period.
In a letter to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Medvedev listed a range of grievances including Ukraine’s support for Georgia in last year’s Russia-Georgia war, it’s efforts to join NATO, and its energy policy.
Clearly President Medvedev is making a concerted effort to raise the stakes and perhaps to influence the internal dynamics within Ukraine.
It will be interesting to see how the Obama administration responds to all of this. As Vice President Biden’s trips to Georgia and Ukraine last month demonstrated, it is difficult to improve the climate of U.S.-Russian relations without abandoning westward-oriented governments in Eastern Europe.
While the conflict between Moscow and Kiev may seem like a simple case of Russia bullying a weaker neighbor, American policy makers should note this Gallup poll. Here is what the poll found
Eighty-five percent of Ukrainians in May told Gallup they disapprove of the job performance of their country’s leadership, up from 75% in 2008 and 73% in 2007. The 4% of Ukrainians who approve is not only the lowest rating Gallup has ever measured in former Soviet countries, but also the lowest in the world.
That’s right. The Ukrainian leadership enjoys the lowest popular support in the world.
That discontent stems in part from a deep divide in Ukrainian society as to whether Ukraine should ally itself with the West or with Russia. As this article explains, the regime supports NATO membership, but a majority of Ukrainians are opposed.
Before the Obama administration embarks on a path of steadfast support for Ukraine’s integration into NATO, as Vice President Biden did last month, the United States would be wise to consider encouraging Ukraine to develop an internal consensus on the issue first.
A patient posture is not acquiescence to Russian demands. It is sensible policy.
— Ben Katcher