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Why the 1997 Russia-Ukraine Friendship Treaty was a mistake

The so-called Ukrainian Friendship treaty put unilateral responsibility on Moscow, mocking Russia’s generosity, better described as her nativity.

Recently Valery Rashkin, Communist member of the Russian State Duma, wrote to the Foreign Ministry requesting that they consider nullifying the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation of 1997.

This is somewhat ironic given the support that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation threw at the treaty in the 1990s. Not only should treaty be withdrawn, it should have never been signed in the first place.

Here’s why:

Like many internal and external documents signed by Russia in the 1990s, the so-called Ukrainian Friendship treaty put unilateral responsibility on Moscow, mocking Russia’s generosity, better described as her nativity.

The treaty was signed in the spirit of Alexander Yakovlev who instead of delivering serious economic reforms, went around the world apologising for Soviet patriotism, thus demoralising and confusing proud Soviet citizens. It was this same self-hating spirit that Lenin embodied when he called Russia ‘a prison of nations’ and when derided patriotism as ‘Russian chauvinism’.

Worst of all, it was Lenin’s pathological hatred of Russian traditions and history that allowed him to draw the idiotic map of Soviet republics which has created a trail of blood and injustice in its wake.

The treaty was a one way street whereby Russia granted privileges to Kiev, without requiring any responsibility let alone loyalty in return. The genesis of the treaty was not necessarily ill intentioned. When in 1991, Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk and Stanislav Shushkevich illegally and undemocratically dissolved the Soviet Union in Belavezha forest, millions of people found themselves outside of their homeland.

I have written previously about how this created the largest and still unsolved refugee crisis in contemporary history. Specifically turning to what became the Republic of Ukraine, millions of Russian’s found themselves governed by a state they did not recognise, by a government in Kiev increasingly unresponsive to their needs and dismissive of their heritage.

When Leonid Kuchma replaced Kravchuk as Ukrainian President in 1994, he promised to be more responsive to these problems. The result was the Friendship-Treaty signed by Kuchma and Yeltsin in 1997.

The treaty allowed for free movement between the two countries, allowed for mutual cooperation over security and trade and set the tone for Ukraine being able to receive essential Russian goods such as gas and other natural resource, medicine and military hardware at a rate far below market value.

Russia received little in return. The treaty affirmed the ‘territorial integrity’ of Lenin’s borders of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in spite of the fact that these borders lumped together regions with very different histories and demographic makeup.

The people were given no choice. The mantra read: Lenin’s’ borders were sacred and to hell with democracy. This was reality under Yeltsin’s presidency. The treaty also put in question the value of the Helsinki Agreement of 1975, wherein the west at long last agreed to respect the borders of the Soviet Union under the ancient principle of uti possidetis (as you possess).

By 1991 borders of the Soviet Union were allowed to be dissolved extra-judicially but Lenin’s internal borders would form the basis of new states. The injustice was surreal. Russia gave up more in this instance, due to internal treachery, than even the most pugnacious western opponent could dream of.

So whilst Russia continued to feed gas and medicine to ‘fraternal Ukraine’, successive governments in Kiev, beginning with Kuchma’s started to grant observer status to western organisations and import American advisors into government. Russian schools were closed, the Russian language was increasingly spat on in Kiev, Russian churches were closed and Russian clergy left out in the lurch. Kiev was allowed to be courted by an EU which never seriously wanted or needed an association agreement with Ukraine.

This eventually led to the election of the openly anti-Russian Victor Yushchenko in 2005 and eventually to the Maidan coup in 2014. Moreover it has led to the slaughter, rape and torture of civilians in Donbass and the treat of terror against Crimea. This is the result of a one sided friendship. Some friendship indeed!

The treaty was a mistake in the first place. It set the stage for Kiev to abuse Russia’s good will, deprive self-identified Russian’s of liberty and self-determination and emboldened rightist forces in Kiev to gradually and later violently take power, whilst the country continued to receive the privilege of Russian material generosity.
Due to the ongoing war in Donbass, most parts of the treaty are no longer being implemented anyway. Yet Russia still refuses to formally suspend, renounce or disown the treaty. I do understand that the Russian government are looking to the long term, when hopefully the fascist forces will fall from power in Kiev and be brought to justice in a court of law for their crimes against humanity.

Once this happens perhaps the mistakes of history can be corrected and genuine friendship and fraternal relations can be re-established. But it cannot be done on the basis of a treaty which self-evidently puts Russian in a position to give everything and receive nothing.

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