The messenger logo

Georgia-Ukraine: new prospects for relations

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, June 16
Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze recently visited Ukraine. This was the first high level visit of a Georgian official to Ukraine since the change of administration there. When Yanukovich replaced Youshchenko he reoriented Kiev’s foreign relations from the West to the North, which automatically meant that Georgia-Ukraine relations would have to develop differently. Ukraine is no longer Georgia’s strategic ally, seeking the same goals, but neither will it confront Georgia.

Before he came to power Yanukovich stated that he might recognise the separatist regions of Georgia as independent states and also wanted to review Georgia-Ukraine military cooperation. Of course these statements, and others like his professed desire to withdraw Ukraine's NATO application, made Yanukovich totally unacceptable to the Georgian administration, which supported Youshchenko. It subsequently supported Yanukovich’s leading rival Yulia Tymoshenko when it became clear that Youshchenko would fail. After Yanukovich won there was a certain pause in relations but after Yanukovich stated that Kiev would not recognise the separatist regions this melted the ice. During his visit Vashadze extended gratitude to the Ukrainian President and Foreign Minister for their position on Georgia’s territorial integrity. Significantly enough, Yanukovich also said that he would not recognise Kosovo.

It is interesting how Ukraine’s position on GUAM is developing. Yanukovich initially talked about the possible withdraw of Ukraine from GUAM, now he is not so categorical. His Foreign Minister Konstantin Grishchenko has stated that GUAM should not have politics as a domineering component in GUAM and Ukraine is not interested in GUAM itself but in the transport links and tourism it can help develop. Vashadze added that GUAM is a young organisation and has yet to determine its priorities.

Georgia was concerned that if Yanukovich became President he could join the Russian embargo on Georgian agricultural products, but today Yanukovich wants to reorient bilateral relations towards economic cooperation. However this was bound to happen anyway. Statistics show that Ukraine is among Georgia’s leading trade partners. At the beginning of the 2010 trade turnover between the two countries was around USD 127 million. In 2009 it was over half a billion and in 2008 around 800 million. Ukraine is not going to cut itself off from the Georgian market, and positive economic cooperation is a good way to ultimately engender political cooperation between regimes of contrary views, the principle on which the European Community was founded.

Georgia and Ukraine have also cooperated in the military sphere, as Ukraine has supplied arms to Georgia. It was suspected that Ukraine might cut these relations to please Russia, but Kiev has taken a pragmatic position, treating its arms sales as an aspect of general trade. Furthermore, as Ukrainian political scientist Viktor Nebozhenko has stated, no matter how much military equipment Tbilisi buys from Ukraine it will not be a threat to Russia. Similarly, it is very important for Ukraine to be able to get energy resources from Azerbaijan via Georgia.

Bilateral relations between Tbilisi and Kiev no longer depend on the personal relations between the two Presidents and have become less ideological and more pragmatic. This is beneficial for both countries, as a country should always be bigger than the whims of the individual who runs it.