Ariel Cohen in Washington -
President Victor Yushchenko told a breakfast meeting of the US-Ukraine Business Council in Washington on September 29 that he doesn't believe a "reheated" coalition between his Our Ukraine party and the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko is possible, nor that a Tymoshenko tie-up with the opposition Regions of Ukraine party and the Communists is capable of creating a stable coalition.
On September 26, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko told reporters she is in negotiations to reform the previous coalition that collapsed two weeks ago with the addition of the Volodymyr Lytvyn Bloc. However, Yushchenko said that in his opinion, fresh elections wouldn't be a political tragedy, and sought to reassure President George Bush at an earlier meeting about the political turmoil in Ukraine, which has caused the ruling pro-Western alliance to collapse and some officials predicting that any snap elections could result in a victory for pro-Moscow forces.
Sources in the Ukrainian delegation told bne that these elections are likely to be held in December, after which Tymoshenko would be fired as prime minister and the defence minister and former PM Yuri Yakhanurov will be appointed to head up the cabinet. This will buy Yushchenko a year to prepare for presidential elections, scheduled for next year, the sources said.
The ruling coalition in Ukraine officially collapsed on September 16 after Tymoshenko sparked the most recent in a string of political crises on the very first day of the autumn session of parliament on September 2 by joining forces with her nemesis of the Orange Revolution, Viktor Yanukovych, and his Regions of Ukraine party. Her gambit was an attempt to wrest more power from Yushchenko, who at the meeting attacked her policies of "limitless populism." He accused the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko of duplicity and betrayal. "There are two coalitions", he said. One is for the people, he said, while the other, between the Tymoshenko bloc, the Party of Regions and the Communists, has another partner - Moscow.
President Yushchenko called the recent events in the Ukrainian parliament "Georgia II," the aim of which were to destabilize the situation in the country. "Leaders of all parties ran to the north to negotiate the borders of Ukraine - for me, these borders are not negotiable," Yushchenko said.
Yushchenko said that Ukraine has a choice: to be stuck in its current position between East and West, or proceed on the course of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. He stated once again that Ukraine should become a member of Nato and that the crisis in Georgia proved that Nato should expand to the east. The president noted that a referendum would be held on Nato accession as the most democratic way of solving such a difficult issue.
No one has invited Ukraine to join Nato so far, he said, but Ukraine should use this time to work on receiving such an invitation in the form of a Membership Action Plan (MAP) - the first step to joining the alliance. In President Yushchenko's opinion, there is no other alternative for Ukraine than entering a system of collective security.
He said that the Ukrainian constitution declares that no foreign bases should be present on Ukrainian territory. That means that Nato countries will not have such bases if Ukraine joins the alliance, but it also means, he told his Russian counterparts, that the Black Sea Fleet must leave Sevastopol - something that Moscow strongly resists. The Black Sea region has become an area of instability, Yushchenko added.
Yush and Bush
In an earlier meeting with President Bush, Yushchenko said that Ukraine has enough democratic resources and tools to provide a sufficient response to any crisis that might occur in the Ukrainian parliament, and this is probably where Ukraine's strength and optimism lies. The situation, "in my opinion, is far away from being tragic, and not dramatic," he said.
President Bush evoked US support for Kyiv's accession to Nato over vehement objections from Russia, which has also denounced Washington's backing of alliance membership for Georgia. "We discussed the Nato and membership application process. We discussed energy independence. We discussed ways that we can work together to bring stability and peace to parts of the world," said Bush.
Yushchenko also addressed the main political and economic issues facing Ukraine at the breakfast meeting in Washington, which was attended by senior representatives of major US corporations and special guests.
Yushchenko shared his optimism regarding the economic situation in Ukraine, promising an Associate Membership agreement with the EU in 8-10 months.
Yushchenko expressed satisfaction that Ukraine had entered the World Trade Organization this year. He highlighted the last three years of 7-7.5% economic growth, including the 7.1% rise in the first six months of this year; industrial production growth of 10%; agricultural growth of 7-8%; and the record 7m-tonne wheat harvest.
He praised Ukraine's performance as the "breadbasket of Europe," with the first place of sunflower production; second place of barley; and fifth of wheat production in the world.
Yushchenko said he's also satisfied with the level of international investment in the Ukrainian economy, which stands at a cumulative $36bn, with 75% of it invested in the last three years. He added that over $7bn was invested in the first six months of 2008 and is running at $1bn-1.5bn a month.
Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and Senior Advisor, U.S.-Ukraine Business Council. He participated in the breakfast with President Yushchenko.
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