Policy Memos

The Paradoxes of Kuchma's Russian Policy

Policy Memo:


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Since 1991, Kyiv has followed what has been termed a multi-vector approach in its foreign policy by trying to play a delicate balancing act between the United States and the European Union, on the one hand, and Russia on the other hand. In turn, all three have recognized Kyiv as a strategic partner. The “tapegate scandal” in the fall of 2000, however, shook President Leonid Kuchma’s position, both internally and externally, and his support eroded dramatically in the West. Despite concerns of subordination, Kuchma looked to Russia to bolster his position and the Putin administration was eager to welcome Kuchma in such circumstances. Russian influence in Ukraine, however, could limit the power of the Ukrainian elite, so the elite resisted any scenarios that would strengthen supranational institutions—controlled largely by Russia—in post-Soviet space. By summer 2001 Ukrainian diplomacy had done away with the term ‘multi-vector policy’ and Ukraine’s top priority became full-scale participation in the process of European integration.
Given Russian-Western rapprochement after September 11, Kuchma took measures to prevent Ukraine from being overshadowed, or even ignored, as the West’s relations with Russia became increasingly important. In February 2002, he presented a schedule for Kyiv to meet the EU accession criteria by 2011, and on May 23, the Security and Defense Council of Ukraine noted the necessity for Ukraine to “start practical implementation of the course to join NATO,” although an official application has not been submitted. [...]

About the author

Professor, Founding Director of the Kyiv Mohyla University School of Policy Analysis
National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy