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November 6, 2001

Borys Tarasyuk Delivers Inaugural Bohdan Bociurkiw Memorial Lecture on Ten Years of Ukraine's Foreign Policy

In the ten years since independence, Ukraine's successes in achieving foreign-policy goals have contrasted sharply with its difficulties in effecting internal transformations, such as building a civil society and a law-based state, or in adopting economic reforms resulting in sustained economic growth. Credit for this success is due in no small measure to the efforts of Borys Tarasyuk, who held senior posts in Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs following independence, and headed it from April 1998 to October 2000. On Friday, November 2, at the invitation of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS), Mr. Tarasyuk delivered a lecture on "Ukraine's Foreign Policy Ten Years after Independence," in which he recounted the major obstacles and challenges faced by Ukraine at independence, summarized its accomplishments and touched on unresolved foreign-policy issues facing Ukraine in the future.

Mr. Tarasyuk emphasized that in the period leading up to independence and immediately following it, Ukraine’s small foreign ministry faced several serious challenges and had to resolve potentially dangerous security-related issues, almost simultaneously. These included territorial claims from Russia and Romania; the non-acceptance of Ukraine's independence by Russia's political elite and disbelief on the part of the West; the fate of nuclear weapons and that of the million-man army and huge military arsenal inherited from the Soviet armed forces; the fate of the Black Sea fleet; Crimean separatism; and choosing a model of national security. Mr. Tarasyuk concluded that major foreign-policy challenges to Ukraine were met and resolved successfully. This conclusion is supported by public opinion polls in Ukraine, in which foreign-policy successes were chosen as among the country's greatest achievements in the first decade following independence.

In considering Ukraine’s relations with the West, Mr. Tarasyuk reminded the audience that the reemergence of an independent Ukraine at first "caused surprise and confusion, if not irritation" among Western governments. However, if the West’s diplomatic and scholarly communities were not prepared for this new geopolitical reality in 1991, fundamental changes in the perception of Ukraine and polices toward it have ensued in the interim. If in early August 1991 US president George Bush warned Ukraine's political leaders not to seek independence, today Ukraine has achieved a special relationship or strategic partnership with the U.S.

Despite the difficult challenges faced by Ukraine and the misconceptions it had to overcome, Mr. Tarasyuk stressed that his country is now seen as a "linchpin of stability in Europe" and a "contributor and producer, not only a consumer, of security in Europe." Ukraine, he continued, has proved to the international community that it is "a reliable partner which is adhering to its international commitments." These have included following through on agreements on closing the Chornobyl nuclear power stations, ridding Ukraine of nuclear weapons, adhering to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, signing the conventional weapons treaty, and articulating a clear and consistent policy on borders.

Mr. Tarasyuk pointed out that Ukraine’s international standing and consistent policies have transformed it into a regional leader. Today, Ukraine is a "natural leader" of the GUUAM grouping (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Moldova). It has forged "crystal clear" and "distinctive" policies toward the CIS, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization, the Baltic and Black Sea countries, and its partners in GUUAM. It has also established special relations, or strategic partnerships, with five countries: the US, Poland, Uzbekistan, Russia and Azerbaijan.

Mr. Tarasyuk also noted Ukraine's importance in international affairs. It is, for instance, a leading participant in peacemaking operations, such as in Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, and other countries. Ukraine is no longer a "messenger of someone's will" in the United Nations, the former foreign minister said, but a "leading member of this organization," as indicated by its current membership in the UN Security Council.

Despite these considerable accomplishments, Mr. Tarasyuk pointed out that some major foreign-policy directions and decisions remain to be taken. Ukraine, for instance, still has not defined its model of national security. In this regard, he noted three options: acting as a buffer state between East and West, a bridge between the two, or a member of a security institution (NATO or a Russian-led grouping). Mr. Tarasyuk concluded that efforts to balance between East and West were no longer viable, and strongly supported Ukraine's European integration and accession to NATO.

In the last several years, Ukraine has been very active in NATO's Partnership for Peace Program, and relations between Ukraine and NATO became closer when the two sides signed a "distinctive partnership" treaty in July 1997. Despite the "decades-long hostile, anti-NATO brainwashing campaign from Soviet times," Mr. Tarasyuk noted that Ukrainian public opinion is shifting in favour of NATO membership, and that NATO itself is open to considering Ukraine's membership. Unfortunately, Ukraine's leadership is not yet ready to apply.

In contrast to Ukraine's vagueness about NATO membership, there is a strong consensus in the country--both among political leaders as well as among the general populace--in favour of Ukraine's accession to the European Union (EU). Unfortunately, according to Borys Tarasyuk, the EU has not developed a "coherent policy toward Ukraine." He also noted that Ukraine still has much to do to prepare the economy, society, and legislation for EU membership.

In his presentation Mr. Tarasyuk also commented on how responses to terrorism could affect Russian-US relations and, more broadly, on relations between Russia and the West. In his view, while the rapprochement between Russia and the West could lead to generally positive developments, Ukraine's sovereignty might be compromised if Western governments agreed to Russian control or domination of the newly independent states in exchange for closer cooperation.

Mr. Tarasyuk's presentation was followed by a question-and-answer period. ?fterwards, the Bohdan Bociurkiw Memorial Library at CIUS was officially opened. Dr. Bohdan Bociurkiw (1925-1998) was an outstanding political scientist and church studies scholar at Carleton University in Ottawa. The generous donation of his library and archives laid the foundations for the CIUS Church Studies Programme. Mr. Tarasyuk's address, which inaugurated the Bohdan Bociurkiw Memorial Lecture series at CIUS, was one of the special events organized and sponsored by CIUS to celebrate ten years of Ukrainian independence and the 25th anniversary of the institute.

Borys Tarasyuk became Ukraine's foreign minister in April 1998. Ukraine's president, Leonid Kuchma, dismissed him in late September 2000 at the urging of Russia, which had become furious about the independent foreign-policy course charted by Mr. Tarasyuk. Today, he heads the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Co-operation, a Kyiv-based research and policy-studies centre. He is also director of the Institute of Social Sciences and International Relations at the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management in Kyiv. Mr. Tarasyuk has been in the United States since October at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute as a Petro Jacyk Distinguished Fellow.




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