Ukraine Steps Up
By Sergey Markdonov
Reviewed by John Handley, Vice President American Diplomacy
Sergey Markedonov, a visiting fellow in the Russian and Eurasia Program of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, introduces his article by noting that the Ukraine will soon take the leadership role of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and, as such, will become responsible for setting the agenda for a region still involved in long-standing conflicts. He also observes that Ukraine is geographically the second largest country in Europe and the fifth largest in population, with enough industrial assets and natural resources to become an important regional power.
Ukraine, writes the author, “sits like a keystone between the European Union, Russia, and volatile hotspots around the Black Sea:” the conflicts in the South Caucasus and Moldova; the peace-building process on the Dniester; and Russian efforts to transit Ukraine to provide energy to European markets. Adversely affecting Ukraine's OSCE chairmanship is the relationship of Kiev to Western capitals that perceive a decline in Ukraine's democracy and democratic institutions.
Complicating the role Ukraine may play is the realization that the OSCE itself is under scrutiny for its failure to prevent the 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict. Although progress to date on the Moldova-Transnistrian settlement remains minimal, Ukraine has identified the peaceful settlement of the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict as a key priority for its chairmanship. Of major importance, but not addressed, is the OSCE mission in Georgia where Russia insists on a separate but equal mission in South Ossetia, concerning which Ukraine has little leverage.
Sergey concludes his article with the observation that the end of the Cold War removed global risks and relatively high stability but replaced both with local risks and low security. Even so, the international community needs to create a more efficient system of interstate relations between Europe and Asia. Returning to the OSCE under Ukrainian leadership, Sergey asks what is the best way for Ukraine to assist in the creation of such a system before opining that no state seems to have the answer.
Although the author is, in all probability, an expert on former USSR republics, readers will learn little more from this article than can be found in the annual, and unclassified, CIA Fact Book.