Saturday, August 27, 2016


What Yanukovych's Victory Means For Georgia

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (right) greets his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili in Kyiv last November. Will Viktor Yanukovuych greet him so warmly?
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko (right) greets his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili in Kyiv last November. Will Viktor Yanukovuych greet him so warmly?
By Ghia Nodia
Viktor Yanukovych's victory in Ukraine's presidential election is an unpleasant result for Georgia.

The country's bond with Ukraine, growing out of the "colored revolutions" of 2003-04 and the personal friendship between President Viktor Yushchenko and Mikheil Saakashvili had not merely symbolic, but real significance. During the halcyon days after the revolutions, people here joked that Saakashvili's presidential plane was set to autopilot and always headed of its own accord to Kyiv.

But that joke was forgotten long ago. After the Orange coalition collapsed and its two leaders came into open conflict, it was unclear whom one would fly to visit in Kyiv and what could be accomplished there. But a victory for Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko would have allowed us to say that, despite difficulties and certain failures experienced by both countries, as a whole progress continues in the chosen direction, and Georgia and Ukraine remain strategic allies. Now it is clear that this is not the case.

In recent years, Ukraine served as Georgia's bridge to the West -- not the only one, but an important one. Ukraine has considerably more geopolitical and economic weight than Georgia and is geographically much closer to the heart of Europe. It is much harder for European countries to ignore Ukraine's ambitions of membership in NATO and the European Union than it is to brush Georgia off.

After the colored revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia, despite all their differences, the two countries came to be viewed together as two countries that had made a distinct choice in favor of Western values. In both cases, this choice had to be viewed in the context of the open enmity of Russia, which actively tried to influence both countries and force them to change their political course. Now it is clear that this connection has been broken.

The loss is obvious. But exactly how significant, how dramatic, and how irrevocable it is remains to be seen. The scandalous trip of the extraordinarily large number of Georgian election monitors who were sent to Yanukovych's heartland during the first round of voting in order to prevent ballot-box stuffing in his favor turned out to be a last -- and very awkward -- manifestation of revolutionary solidarity with the Orange forces.

Pro-Russian, Or Pro-European?

But even before the second round of voting the lesson had been learned that we need to accept our losses and build relations with a Ukraine headed by President Viktor Yanukovych. Georgia is not in a position to just ignore Ukraine simply because we don't like its president.

Better relations with the EU will likely be a priority for President Yanukovych.
It would appear that Yanukovych's political orientation gives Georgia little cause for optimism. But maybe things aren't so simple. As a candidate, Yanukovych relied on the pro-Russian part of the electorate, but as president he cannot continue in the same spirit. Any president of Ukraine must strike some balance between the different parts of the country and the society. Tymoshenko would have faced the same task.

In addition, the Ukrainian president does not enjoy the kind of concentrated power that his colleagues in Russia and Georgia enjoy. Under Yushchenko, the Ukrainian model of divided executive power brought the state to the verge of paralysis more than once. Yanukovych will have to maneuver, make compromises, and cut deals. If he doesn't, he won't make it until the end of his term.

And, finally, Russia's rulers have a remarkable ability to alienate their allies -- take, for instance, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka or former Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin. Any president of Ukraine is going to develop ambitions to act like the head of not merely a formally sovereign state, but of a very influential country. And that almost inevitably means conflicts with Russia.

Unfortunately for Georgia, Yanukovych is unlikely to pursue closer relations with NATO, but conflicts with Moscow may well result from that fact that better ties with the European Union will likely be a priority for him.

The election in Ukraine has revealed a paradox: a pro-Russian candidate won, but he won as a result of genuine, competitive, democratic elections -- something that draws Ukraine toward Europe and away from Russia. In addition, the business community will push Kyiv toward a European direction (despite its not-very-European character). In this light, Ukraine has more common interests with Georgia than with Russia.

The feeling of solidarity between Georgia and Ukraine did not begin with the colored revolutions and the personal ties between Yushchenko and Saakashvili. And it will not disappear under President Yanukovych. The postrevolutionary period was a peak in relations between the two countries and that peak is undoubtedly behind us.

Georgia will have to assess its geopolitical losses, but it must also not fail to consider the opportunities for continuing to develop bilateral cooperation, even if it must be pursued in less glamorous forums.

Ghia Nodia is professor of politics at Ilia Chavchavadze State University. The views expressed in this commentary are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL
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Comments page of 2
February 10, 2010 12:08
ETERNAL AND FRATERNAL FRIENDSHIP BETWEEN RUSSIAN-kohols[endearing term for those sweet dniester mother-fu#@ers kozaks [russians just adore ukranians; they are after all one people...300-400 years of shared history is not something that can be ignored]
one can not forget the welocme for GW BUSH...

so SHAKAVILLE is willing to do same for MEDVEDAV AND have a real BALL for his earstwhile and eternal buddy



by: Babeouf from: Ireland
February 10, 2010 12:13
The same forces that are pushing Ukriane towards the EU are working on Russia. The French governments decision to sell war ships to Russia is just one indicator of the changes yet to come. One primary reason for the the foundation of the EU was to bind politically and economically the European protagonists of two world wars. This process will only be completed when Russia finally joins the EU. And from any European (historical ) perspective relations with Russia are of paramount importance. The government of Georgia should adjust its policies to match this reality.

by: sephia karta from:
February 10, 2010 13:54
I think the greatest problem for Georgia is that under Yanukovych, Ukraine may very well be the next country to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and due to its international weight, induce a number of other countries in the former Soviet Union to follow (Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan - who knows, Belarus).

Yanukovych will not follow Russia slavishly, but in the past he has spoken out in favour of recognition, and Russia will make it a priority. I've written about this here:

by: Rasto
February 10, 2010 21:00
to sephia karta.
I have also read that the recognition of So and Abkhazia may be on teh programme of the new Ukrainian president

by: Zoltan from: Hungary
February 10, 2010 21:22
Babeouf, I 100% share your views.

Russia's place is in the EU.

As Russia is one of the cornerstone nations of Europe. Russia is not something else outside Europe but the unseperatable part of it. It is and ever was since especially Peter the Great.

Anyway I am disappointed about the fail of Yulia Timoshenko. But in other ways it is good even for Russia and the Russian democrats that a true democracy have took root in their neighbour.

If democracy can work in Ukraine then why not in Russia? One they Russians will ask this question. "If our Ukrainian friends can choose between competing political foprces then why can not we do the same?"

Moreover if Eastern-Ukrainian Russian oligarchs are heading towards the EU then maybe one day their Russian mates will follow their course and begin to pursue a pro-European path.

by: HS from: Seattle, WA
February 10, 2010 21:44
sephia karta, I doubt that Ukraine will recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Doing so would weaken Ukraine's territorial integrity, since such recognition could be cast as showing that Ukraine is not opposed to regions breaking away from countries. This in turn could be used as precedent to further promote the separation of Crimea or even Eastern Ukraine from Ukraine.

by: Mamuka
February 10, 2010 22:16
In one small way, Yanukovych's victory is good news for the Caucasus: Tbilisi bought a lot of weapons from Kyiv, and this led to a unrealistic assessment of their own military capability.

But what of the people in Ukraina who made so much money off such deals? Will they still have the "for sale" sign in the window?

by: sephia karta from:
February 11, 2010 12:43
HS, that is indeed one reason why Yushchenko and Tymochenko are very much opposed to recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and why the Ukraine was an ally of Georgia on this issue. But Yanukovych represents Eastern Ukraine and Crimea - what's good for them is more or less also what is good for him. As long as he remains in power, these regions won't have any reason to seccede, and if he loses power to someone whom they don't like and they threaten secession, then that is actually something Yanukovych won't mind very much.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 11, 2010 20:57
To Russian outlet "What can one say?":
You named respectfully Putin's middle name,
While calling Saakashvili a "Shaka-Zulu-Village",
Are the for-fathers of Caucasian race that being pillaged
Some craizy Africans? Are Papua-Russia playing Whity game?

No more value has your versus of Ukraine milleniums history.
Ukraine "Kosaks" aren't Cossaks Sam or Gad of Russia
That were coarsed by Jakob as breed of treachery.
Drevliane teared apart "Variag" - greedy Igory.
Centuries slaving and dying at parasha?


by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
February 12, 2010 00:02
To Russian outlet from Ireland that call himself Babeo-uf:
Are you son of ethnic Russian of Boldyrev that "hate Gurdz-uf"?
You right, thought, that there are same forces, treasonous pact,
Which Germans of Russia made in 1954 - at present is sad fact!

The "protagonists of two world wars" can't be all in the same EU!
Peacefull co-existance and preventing World War Three is right,
But without competition as checks and ballances it will not do!
Russia is "paramount important" for nazi "How Do You Do?",
Establishing World Evil against Civilization - gates to hell!

Comments page of 2