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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 49,537 41,380 37,600 55
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 970 770 720 137
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 365 - (26/05/11)

A delicate balancing act
President Viktor Yanukovych is in a predicament. He is a Russian Ukrainian, who speaks fluent Russian and gets on well with Russia's top man Putin. The Russians of course have never accepted the independence of Ukraine, whose capital, Kiev, was as Rus the very first capital of Russia. They would dearly love to see Ukraine integrated with Russia once again.

But the Ukrainians have always felt the allure of the West. They actually broke off from Russia in 1654 and definitely conceive themselves as a different people, with their own tongue and individual traditions. They are, however, fellow Orthodox Christians. Tsarist Russia brought them within the fold again, as did of course the Soviet Union under another creed!

In 1954, the 300th anniversary of their initial independence, Nikita Khrushchev, a former First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine and contender for power in Moscow, thought of a bright idea to consolidate his bid for the mastership of the USSR. He arranged for the transfer of Crimea from the Russian Republic of the Ukrainian Republic. This of course meant little at the time, although it gave him the backing of the Ukrainian communists. Moscow remained firmly in charge, and so of its outlets on the Black Sea and to the world's oceans.

But thirty-seven years later came events that would have astounded the simple-minded son of the soil, Khrushchev, the collapse of communism and the USSR and the independence of Ukraine. The Crimean ports were forever lost.

What of Crimea?
Yanukovich is well aware of these subtleties. He knows how vital it is for Ukraine to be on good terms with Russia, which provides it with most of its energy and raw materials.

He thinks that the signed treaty on extension of deployment of Russia's Black Sea fleet in Crimea, that is Ukraine, until 2042 has made it possible to preserve the Ukrainian economy, he announced in the course of a conversation with veterans while visiting the Ukrainian State Medical and Social Centre in the village of Tsybli, Kyiv region. "I reply to this question to those wire-pullers who circumambulate this matter. I reply to those so-called 'patriots' that I did this knowingly in order to save the country, raise the level of the economy," said the president.

The head of state says that in fact after the signing of the treaty extending deployment of the Black Sea fleet, Russia has begun paying some $ 4 billion a year for its stationing. This is no small sum of money, thanks to Khrushchev's power games all those years ago.

As Ukrainian News earlier reported, the Verkhovna Rada on April 27, 2010 ratified the extension of deployment of Russia's Black Sea fleet in Ukraine and pegging the lease rate to the price of Russian gas supplied to Ukraine, which is on moderate terms.

Between East and West
In a memorable enunciation of his political credo Yanukovych wrote on February 19th 2010, just after his election to the top job, in the Wall Street Journal “Ukraine Will Be a Bridge Between East and West”:

"Let me say here, a Yanukovych presidency is committed to the integration of European values in Ukraine. Ukraine should make use of its geopolitical advantages and become a bridge between Russia and the West. Developing a good relationship with the West and bridging the gap to Russia will help Ukraine.

"We should not be forced to make the false choice between the benefits of the East and those of the West. As president I will endeavour to build a bridge between both, not a one-way street in either direction. We are a nation with a European identity, but we have historic cultural and economic ties to Russia as well. The re-establishment of relations with the Russian Federation is consistent with our European ambitions. We will rebuild relations with Moscow as a strategic economic partner. There is no reason that good relations with all of our neighbours cannot be achieved."

Yet, can Yanukovych bridge the gap between East and West? Will he even try, or is this article simply political posturing to console those concerned about his pro-Russia stance?

Yanukovych was the most pro-Russia candidate, and has quickly sought to improve ties with Russia; he already suggested the Russian Black Sea Fleet may stay in Ukrainian waters and made clear Ukraine will not seek NATO membership. Ukraine will however continue moving toward EU membership.

With Yanukovych ditching NATO and seeking to improve ties to Russia and EU membership, the United States is the biggest loser from Yanukovych’s election. This outcome should not come as a surprise however: popular support in Ukraine for NATO membership has been consistently at or below 30 per cent over the past few years, making NATO membership never really likely anyhow.

With this the case, perhaps the US has not lost much. In fact, Ukraine's relationship with the West under Yanukovych may not be much different than it has been under the Orange Revolution leadership for a few reasons:

* Ukraine will likely continue to develop a partnership with NATO, though not membership;

* Ukraine will want pragmatic and productive relations with the United States, and still seeks EU membership;

* The acceptance by international observers of Yanukovych's election and his intent to pursue EU membership both support the fact that while the Orange Revolution leadership has been voted out, the Western values it represented - a democratic and free society - are now embedded into Ukraine.

Whether or not Yanukovich can balance between the West and Russia is tough to predict. However, Yanukovich's intent to pursue this balance is likely a genuine aspiration.


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