UKRAINE-RUSSIA RELATIONS. Will obviously be “better” as neither winner is running on an overtly anti-Russia platform. That having been said, a better word would be “rational relations”. The NATO obsession was a disaster for relations (and extremely divisive inside Ukraine, where an overwhelming majority want good relations with Russia) and that is now over. There will, however, still be disagreements but, with luck, they can be settled outside of an apocalyptic framework.
INTERNET. The latest numbers suggest about a fifth of Russian adults (24 million) use the Internet daily. This figure is said to be up about 20% since last year. (JRL/2010/11/5). As I have said many times before, the standard scare pieces about government control of Russian media omit to mention Internet access (probably because they are mostly written by Old Media types). The New Media is replacing the Old all over the world.
NORTH CAUCASUS. Medvedev’s latest idea is to create a new North Caucasus federal district, appointing Aleksandr Khloponin presidential envoy. What is interesting about the appointment is that he is not a security man but someone evidently intended to improve the desperate economic situation.
DWELLINGS. Many Russians privatised their dwellings for modest sums (about 80% in Moscow, for example), but many still have not. The Duma has extended the deadline for another 3 years.
CHICKEN WARS. In the 1990s chicken legs were an important US export to Russia – Americans apparently prefer white meat and Russians were then happy to eat any meat. But Russia has just, to quote Putin, adopted EU standards: “We simply took them for use in our own country”. This really has nothing to do with Russia: the Europeans also reject US imports for convincing reasons. Negotiations continue (and with Europe too).
Nukes. Medvedev has said that negotiations are progressing. The target seems to be 1500-1675 warheads and 500-1,000 delivery vehicles each. This would seem to leave each with an admirable sufficiency of destruction.
INTERIOR MINISTRY. The police force scores high in public perception of corruption and there is supposed to be a reform going on. Meanwhile, the policeman who blew the whistle about police corruption in Krasnodar has been charged by his former colleagues; make of that what you will. There’s supposed to be an investigation there too. Heads of Russia’s media outlets have sent a letter to the Minister requesting police protection for reporters; this after a reporter was arrested and fined for covering an unauthorised protest. The Public Chamber will take up the reporter’s case, so this may result in a precedent the police will be inclined to follow.
UKRAINE ELECTION. Two good things. Turnout was about two-thirds which shows that, however disgusted they may be with the “Orange stagnation”, Ukrainians have not lost faith in the process. And the election was reported by all foreign observers as being to an acceptable standard. The bad news is that the country’s division remains. Outsiders have – or should have – only one interest in the outcome of Ukrainian elections and that is security; the last being greatly affected by stability. Ukraine is much divided by its history and east and west have quite different interests on many subjects. The NATO membership question, injected by the “Orange Revolution”, is the single-most divisive issue that I can image: nothing could be better calculated to remind Ukrainians, every moment, of what divides them. The NATO obsession helped paralyse politics, turning every question into one between treason and patriotism. Ukraine’s genuine problems are the common post-communist ones greatly intensified by the financial crisis: for this Ukraine needs a government of national unity, or if that is not possible, a president who can claim to be president of all Ukraine and not just half of it. In this respect, a better result would have been to have had the winner of the first round score in the forties and cruise to a convincing victory in the sixties or seventies. Instead, the results follow what opinion polls have shown for years: Yanukovych’s support in the mid-thirties is based on the east and south; Tymoshenko, about ten points behind, has her support in the west and centre. Thus the expectation is that winner will only score in the low fifties and will, therefore, be president of half of Ukraine. Pundits are punditting away, but there are questions we simply do not know the answers to. Conventional wisdom seems to be developing that Yanukovych has never been able to score more than the low forties; this is true, but neither has Tymoshenko. Can losers move their votes to one or the other? (In any case, Tyhypko (13%) and Yaysenyuk (7%) are reported as saying they will support neither). Results here.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)