Friday, July 2, 2010

Hillary Clinton’s Ukraine trip to balance tilt to Moscow

July , 2010 KIEV (Reuters)Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may initiate renewed U.S. interest in Ukraine after a flurry of pro-Russian moves by its new leadership when she visits the ex-Soviet republic on Friday, analysts said. Clinton’s stop in Kiev, at the start of a five-country regional trip, is the first to Ukraine by a top U.S. official since President Viktor Yanukovich was elected in February, ousting pro-Western leaders and tilting policy toward Moscow. Unlike ex-Soviet Georgia, which Clinton will also visit, the Yanukovich leadership sees little danger in U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to “reset” relations with Russia. Since taking over from the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko, Yanukovich has abandoned the aim of joining NATO, extended the stay of the Russian navy in a Ukrainian Black Sea port and stepped up commercial contacts with Russia. But he would like Washington’s blessing for what he says is a pragmatic policy that looks both to Russia and the West, and for Ukraine’s efforts to stabilize its economy with help from global financial lenders. An IMF mission is currently in Kiev for what the government hopes will be conclusive talks on a multi-billion-dollar loan to boost Ukraine’s economic recovery. Washington applauded in April Yanukovich’s move to get rid of highly-enriched uranium and has reacted publicly with some indifference to his downgrading of relations with NATO. Clinton herself has recognized Ukraine’s need to manage a “balancing act” between Russia and the West.
U.S. officials, ahead of Clinton’s trip, said improved U.S.-Russian relations are good for Russia’s neighbors and countries should not have to choose between one or the other — comments that should hearten the Yanukovich leadership.