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Strategic partner lost

By Messenger Staff
Friday, March 19
Since the Ukrainian Presidential elections different opinions have arisen on the prospects of further cooperation between Ukraine and Georgia. For the last few years Ukraine has been Georgia’s very important strategic partner. It has partially replaced the Russian agricultural products market which Georgia lost when Russia imposed its embargo. Ukraine has also been one of Georgia's main suppliers of arms and ammunition to build up its defence system.

So the question of what will happen now is vitally important for Georgia. The media is already saying that most probably Ukraine will follow the Russian diktat and suspend military cooperation with Georgia, Russia having called for an international arms embargo against Georgia after the August 2008 war. Most probably Ukraine’s new President will try to please the Russian President, and thus Georgia will be left in a difficult military situation. There are also some other spheres where the countries presently cooperate which could be affected by a change in Ukrainian policy. Ukraine has been vitally interested in energy supply projects until now, primarily White Stream, which would supply Ukraine with Caspian gas, and the revival of the Odessa-Brody oil pipeline which would supply not only Ukraine but also the Baltic States. These routes bypass Russia and implementing these projects would make Ukraine more independent of Moscow. But the new Ukrainian administration may be less interested in them than the previous one, and this will have consequences for Georgia, which is also a partner in these pipeline projects.

Ukraine is a very important trading partner of Georgia. In terms of annual turnover Ukraine is our third biggest partner after Turkey and Azerbaijan. Therefore analysts suggest that it is unlikely that Ukraine will cut all trade links with Georgia as it is in Kiev's own interest to maintain these. There is also some Ukrainian direct investment in Georgia as well. Of course any investment, however insignificant, is very important for Georgia, so if this declines it will be painful for Tbilisi.

The most important issue in relations between Georgia and Ukraine is of course non-recognition. So far Ukraine has resisted Russian pressure and continued to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia by refusing to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. In this it concurs with the position of international organisations such as the UN and EU. But nobody knows how thing will develop if Ukraine is faced with a choice of being part of the Russian or the international loop, given that President Yanukovich owes his position to Russian-speaking Ukrainians whose demands he must satisfy to ensure he can gain a majority next time.