Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine Andrii Parubii said late on March 19 that Ukraine was beginning the process of withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). At his press briefing at the Verkhovna Rada, Parubii also reported that the NSDC had instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to introduce a visa regime with Russia. Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Ukraine Arsenii Yatseniuk noted on March 20 that for the time being, we should not rush to the introduction of a visa regime with Russia.
The Day asked Ukrainian and Russian experts to comment on consequences of Ukraine’s withdrawal from the CIS and introduction of visas with Russia.
Volodymyr HORBACH, a political analyst at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation:
“Decision of the NSDC to withdraw from the CIS came as Ukraine was compelled to do so, since it cannot found protection, response and understanding within this organization. What else could we do when a part of our territory is occupied by the leading power of the CIS [Russia. – Ed.], while other members do not condemn this intervention, and sometimes even approve of it? Georgia took similar action after the Russian intervention in 2008. Of course, withdrawal from the CIS will hit the economy of Ukraine, but it has already suffered huge losses due to the Russian intervention.
“The introduction of the visa regime, in my opinion, is necessary. It is a defensive action on Ukraine’s part as it confronts external aggression, especially as the aggressor employs ‘civil’ saboteurs who infiltrate the territory of Ukraine and engage in subversive activities, riots, and provocations.
“Yatseniuk’s statement shows lack of coordination within the Ukrainian government. I hear that Yatseniuk referred to the fact that he had not been present at the NSDC meeting and had no chance to express his arguments. All this fits well with the utmost caution demonstrated by him recently in word and action alike.
“Yatseniuk’s objective is appeasing the Russians, who are aggressors and occupiers, with the hope that they will stop and refrain from going further. This mistaken strategy will bring no good to Yatseniuk as well as the government and Ukraine itself.
“What is more important: additional effort getting visa and temporary inconvenience to the public, or transformation of Ukraine into a totally unsafe country? Yatseniuk is ostensibly worried about the public’s convenience, but does not realize that the other side of the coin is risk for the continued existence of the Ukrainian statehood itself...”
Semen NOVOPRUDSKY, an independent Moscow journalist:
“I do not think that Ukraine’s withdrawal from the CIS will cause any really drastic reaction. Russia has already lost interest in the CIS as a political project. It will rather try to annex some territory or see whether it will be possible to split Georgia or grab Transnistria.
“Under these conditions, the Russian authorities are unlikely to be actively using the CIS topic. Vladimir Putin’s much more important tasks include keeping Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Armenia in Russia’s sphere, with Armenia standing to join the Customs Union soon. It can still happen, but numbers of opponents of such a decision will definitely grow after that event [The Russian invasion of Crimea. – Ed.].
“Regarding the introduction of visas, I think that Russia will reciprocate Ukraine’s step. Moreover, it may be that only Russia will introduce them. The lack of visa requirements and personal relationships is the main mitigating factor, however weak, in the current situation. The Russian political leadership has become completely deranged and disconnected from the real world, and therefore only personal relationships are still giving us some hope.”