Since 1992, conventional Ukrainian forces have been reduced exponentially, from more than 600,000 to less than 130,000 troops. Nonetheless, the Ukrainian army is the largest of the European non-member countries of the N ato. Military spending now stands at 3.15% of GDP, recording a slight decline compared to the second half of the 1990s. Ukraine has been part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program since 1994 and contributes to the KFOR mission in Kosovo, the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, the anti-terrorist maritime operations in the Mediterranean and has contributed to the mission in Iraq. For Ukraine defense and foreign policy, please check relationshipsplus.com.
The Juščenko presidency aspired to a closer rapprochement with Europe and NATO, with which he initiated in 2005 an intensified Dialogue on Accession that should have preceded the Accession Action Plan (MAP). In June 2010, under the Janukovyč presidency, a constitutional law was adopted under which the country cannot join military alliances, sanctioning the distance from NATO. This provision is a clause on Ukraine’s neutrality status. Indeed, Moscow has always looked at NATO enlargement with distrusttowards its borders and, if it could not avoid the entry of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the three Baltic countries into the Atlantic Alliance, it considered the neutrality of Ukraine as the minimum condition for its strategic security. The annexation of Crimea to Russia and more generally the recent developments in the south-eastern part of the country linked to the Ukrainian crisis must be inserted in this political framework which explains, only in part, the diplomatic distance that has arisen in relations between Russia and N ato, and more generally with the West.
Ukraine is part of the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development (G uam) with the other former Soviet republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Moldova. The Guam was established in 1996 as an alliance of political, economic and strategic to strengthen the independence of members and has become a forum for security cooperation. Also due to the crisis in the country, Kiev is no longer a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) since March 19, 2014. Defense
Mikheil Saakašvili, new Governor of Odessa
In May 2015, former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili was appointed by Ukrainian President Poroshenko as the new governor of the Odessa region. The administrative center of the territory is the homonymous and famous port city on the Black Sea, populated by a million residents with an important Russian-speaking community. Officially, Saakašvili’s choice is in line with the strategy launched by the post-Maidan government to combat rampant corruption in the country. Indeed, in the absence of a real purge and replacement of the previous elite – of which Poroshenko himself is proof of all – the government has assigned important political positions to foreigners known for their specific expertise: in addition to Saakashvili, Natalie Jaresko (of Ukrainian origin but born in the United States and graduated from Harvard before working in Kiev) was appointed finance minister; Aivaras Abromavicius, Lithuanian, became minister of economic development and trade; Aleksander Kvitašvili, a Georgian, is now the Ukrainian minister of health. If all the appointments were criticized by those who saw them as an inability of the country to govern ‘by itself’ – the case of Saakašvili is undoubtedly the one that has aroused the most heated reactions. Michail Saakašvili led Georgia from 2004 to 2013, characterized by the effectiveness of his radical anti-corruption policies in the country, his pro-Westernism and his strong anti-Russian nationalism. In 2014, after the opposition party came to the government in 2012, the Georgian prosecutor’s office opened a criminal trial against him for abuse of power and embezzlement of state funds, and Saakašvili renounced his citizenship. He therefore accepted the Ukrainian one, which, under the Constitution, prohibits extradition. Therefore, if there are also personal reasons – to which is added the friendship with the Ukrainian president – the choice of Odessa, an economically very important region and one of the most corrupt in the country, is not accidental. Saakašvili’s charisma and decision-making are among the reasons why the president decided to appoint him. Politically, in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, the region experienced moments of great instability due to violent episodes that broke out between the security forces and pro-Russian forces. Precisely the presence of a strong community of pro-Russian, as well as Russian-speaking,
The geopolitical relevance of Crimea
The Crimean peninsula is located in a strategic position between the Black Sea and the Azov Sea and is fundamental in the balance of the region. Historically, Crimea has had great importance for Russia, having been part of the Russian Empire and then of the Soviet Union (until 1954 part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and, from that year, transferred to the Ukrainian one). The naval military base of Sevastopol was fundamental for the Russian fleet and the control of commercial traffic: the permanence of the Russian fleet in the base was the subject of a further agreement in 2010, in which this right was guaranteed in Moscow until 2042. In addition, the peninsula was the site of important battles: already in the nineteenth century, during the Crimean War (1853-56), the Russian Empire fought against the Ottoman Empire for control of the Balkans and the Mediterranean. During the Second World War the Red Army clashed with the Germans who had occupied the Crimea. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of Ukraine, the peninsula came under Ukrainian sovereignty. However, Russian influence is still sensitive, given that the majority of the population is Russian, politically close to Moscow and partly supporters of separatist tendencies. In addition, Sevastopol will continue to host the Russian Black Sea fleet, already deployed in Soviet times, for the next thirty years. Crimea is today an autonomous republic, in which Russians represent 60% of the population (about one million), followed by Ukrainians (about 600,000) and Crimean Tatars (about 250,000). The latter are a Turkish-speaking and predominantly Muslim minority that was deported to Central Asia in the time of Stalin. The Tatars, however, began to return to their homeland in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They continue to increase, although they are victims of ethnic discrimination. The stability of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea – annexed to the Russian Federation on 21 March 2014 when the Duma approved a bill for the accession of the peninsula after its unilateral declaration of independence from Ukraine in the referendum of 11 March of the same year – therefore largely depends on relations between Russia and Ukraine and, indirectly, on relations between Western Europe and Ukraine which influence the progress of relations between Kiev and Moscow.