“What kind of friendship can be there? – the reader may be surprised because the fact that Russia is conducting a hybrid war against Ukraine for the fifth year is known to everyone, who is not zombified. In our realities, the antonyms “to fight” and “to make friends” may get along in relation to an external enemy, who annexed a piece of our territory and conducts a bloody massacre on a part of the territory. Moreover, there is no certainty that this friendship will not be extended to another 10 years.

It can(not) be continued

We are jealous of the relations of the whole world with the Russian Federation. We wanted a boycott of the World Cup, expected a clear position from Donald Trump on Ukrainian issues at the Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin, did not expect from such a sweet Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic the invitation of the same Putin to pay an official visit to Zagreb. We demand from the West strict sanctions against Russian firms and officials, we aspire to the total isolation of the aggressor by the world community and at the same time we ourselves trade with the enemy, and visits of Ukraine by Russian citizens were not restricted even by the visa regime.

The Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation deserves special attention. Despite the war, nobody canceled this document. It is possible that soon it will be extended to another decade. Ukraine should say a word about it until October 1, 2018, because, according to the Article 40 of this document, if neither side declares another in writing about the desire to terminate this Treaty six months before the expiry of the ten-year period, it will be automatically prolonged.


The international treaty was signed in Kyiv on May 31, 1997 by the Presidents of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma and the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin. The document establishes the principles of strategic partnership, recognition of the inviolability of existing borders, respect for territorial integrity and mutual obligations not to use its territory to the detriment of each other’s security. The treaty is effective, although the annexation of the Crimea and the military intervention in the Donbas are questioning its implementation by Russia.

April 12 this year, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko at the XI Kyiv Forum announced that he will submit to the Verkhovna Rada a bill on the termination of certain provisions of this document. However, the content of the Treaty contains 41 Articles, it is perceived holistically, and it will obviously not be easy to remove individual articles.

This is not the first attempt to change the document. In 2015, a number of people’s deputies submitted to the Verkhovna Rada the Bill number 0005 which provided for the termination of certain provisions of the Treaty of Friendship on the basis of Article 18 of The Law of Ukraine “On International Treaties of Ukraine” and Article 60 of “The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties”. However, experts criticized this draft law, they say, it proposes to leave in force those provisions that most flagrantly violate the Russian Federation.

“There should not be any questions, we must break this agreement,” Volodymyr Kryzhanovskyi, the first Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Russian Federation (1992-1994), said. “The Verkhovna Rada cannot enter into a treaty, but it can denounce it. Denunciation must occur with the submission of people’s deputies, but I do not yet see any categorical steps on their part”.

According to Mr. Kryzhanovskyi, Russia behaves like a bandit on a big road. And according to Volodymyr Ogryzko, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (2007-2009), the Head of the Center for Russian Studies, the Treaty contradicts the very essence of Ukrainian-Russian relations.

“Undoubtedly, I am for it to be denounced and terminated,” Mr. Ogryzko assured Opinion. “To pretend that nothing has happened and continue to assume that we are strategic partners is absolute nonsense. This cannot be explained in any way. And the fears of those, who say, there is fixed the principle of inviolability of borders, Russia trampled it back in 2014. Therefore, for the RF, this option is not a deterrent”.

Hazing of reality

So you can now characterize the content of the document in question. Already from his first articles, which say that the “High Contracting Parties”, that is, Ukraine and the Russian Federation, “base their relations on mutual respect and trust, strategic partnership and cooperation”, “respect each other’s territorial integrity and affirm the inviolability of the borders, existing between them”. It is also about “the non-use of force or the threat of force, including economic and other means of pressure”.

And the “management” of Russians in the Azov and partially Black Seas, and not the possibility of Ukrainian ships to get to the ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol through the Kerch bridge, crosses out the 29th article of the Treaty. It states that Ukraine and Russia “are ready to further develop all-round cooperation in saving and preserving the natural environment of the Azov-Black Sea basin, conducting marine and climatological research, using the recreational opportunities and natural resources of the Black and Azov Seas, developing shipping and operation of sea communications, ports and structures”.

“The delay with the final decision on this issue is similar to the theater of the absurd,” political scientist Viktor Kaspruk said. “For the fifth year now there has been a war between Russia and Ukraine, thousands of dead and wounded, and the top does not decide, to continue to be friends with the invaders and to trade with them, or may withdraw certain items from the Treaty. The position of Ukraine on this issue looks rather strange”.

The discussion of this problem, according to Mr. Kaspruk, is similar to the discussion of whether the USSR should break the treaty of friendship with fascist Germany after the German army occupied part of the Soviet Union. And the fact that de jure there is no visa regime and the closed border with the occupants, prompts to think that someone in Ukraine is interested in that the Treaty was automatically prolonged for 10 years.

“The fact of a possible extension of this Treaty by Ukraine is quite absurd,” Fedir Klymenko said to Opinion, the Editor in chief of the Russian Monitor website. “Russia has been officially declared an aggressor state, and, perhaps, it is strange to extend the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the aggressor. This is nonsense. On the other hand, this Treaty is a simple piece of paper that does not affect anything”.

However, what now looks absurd, twenty years ago was perceived as a completely progressive and positive step. According to the democrat Yeltsin, Russia officially recognized Ukraine as a separate state with its borders. This was not easy, because many of the imperial-minded Russians were categorically against the interpretation of certain articles of the Treaty, which provided for the equality of relations between two independent states.

“For the first time in the history of Russian-Ukrainian relations, the Treaty clearly stated that Ukraine and Russia are independent states, recognize the boundaries in which they exist, and these boundaries are unshakable, and relations develop on an equal footing,” Volodymyr Ogryzko recalled. “This was not the case in modern history, so this Treaty was extremely important. It fixed things that we could only dream of earlier because the Russian side constantly raised questions about the armed forces, joint foreign policy, and economic space. And here everything was clear and understandable – two independent states. That’s all.”

To be kind of friends, to wage kind of war?

Some experts criticize the Treaty, appealing with the phrase “How can you be friends with the aggressor?”, others are trying not to mention it in vain. But how to close your eyes at the problem, and another “ten-year” partnership with the northern neighbor is rapidly passing by, and if you do not want, you still have to look for some solution. The report must first be kept by people’s deputies.

“The termination or preservation of the Treaty of Friendship with Russia is not an easy matter,” Oksana Yurynets, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Regional and Cross-border Cooperation between Ukraine and the EU countries of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on European Integration, assured Opinion. “The Verkhovna Rada of this convocation has already tried to express its positions on the document, having tried at the beginning of the cadence to pass a bill on its denunciation. Unfortunately, it had no result. Although then, obviously, was the most suitable moment.

On the one hand, the Treaty regulates the obligations of the Russian Federation to Ukraine, for example, about the inviolability of borders or the recognition of the Crimea as Ukrainian territory, and therefore, if we tear up the document, we ostensibly have nothing to complain about Russia in the courts and on the international arena. On the other hand, Russia has violated everything it could, and if the Treaty is terminated, this is not a reason not to consider the violation of its provisions. Perhaps, the best way out would still be a partial withdrawal, as the President suggests”.

Do not cut from the shoulder, do not succumb to emotions – the position of those, who suggest a balanced approach to the future of the Treaty. After all, we run the risk of harming ourselves. A comprehensive analysis of the situation resembles a chalice of weights that stagger one way, then another: “do harm” – “do no harm”.

“The Vienna Convention provides for partial withdrawal from treaties, not breaking them completely,”  Olesya Yakhno, a political expert, explained to Opinion. “We must be cautious about such documents. Ukraine is in the stage of suits with the Russian Federation, in particular, materials on the essence of the two conventions – racial discrimination and the fight against terrorism – have recently been handed over. Since in this Treaty, the borders of Ukraine are defined, and the Russian Federation recognizes them, the question arises: is it advisable to break it completely, so as not to harm ourselves?

There are risks here. While the position of partial withdrawal from individual articles, but not the full break of the Treaty or its continuation, dominates. The logic is: any step politically can look attractive and popular to society when the society says: “Why do we need these contracts, diplomatic relations if Russia violates them?” But in fact, we should be guided by the fact that the solution should not bear other risks and threats for Ukraine itself”.

So, the idea of a partial cancellation of the Treaty was announced by the Head of state, the deputies, and the experts. But does this not remind us of “being a little pregnant”?

“Breaking the territorial integrity of Ukraine, having occupied the Crimea, a third of Donbas, Russia violated the article of the Treaty on mutual recognition and respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Viktor Kaspruk said. “Therefore, the cancellation of only certain items of the treaty cannot change the situation, in which the aggressor makes any concessions from the Ukrainian side (and the prolongation of the document during the war with the Russian Federation is a big concession) to perceive as a weakness of Ukraine. This is only capable of provoking Moscow to a new aggression”.

In the “Military Doctrine”, Russia is an aggressor

When reading the “Military Doctrine of Ukraine”, approved by Presidential Decree No. 555/2015 from September 24, 2015, it seems that there is legislative chaos in the country – the highest state documents contradict one another.

“We always say that we have a certain legislative chaos,” Olesya Yakhno agrees. “There is a hybrid war, and it cannot be stopped very quickly. We can completely break diplomatic relations, introduce visas, but this does not mean that we will strengthen our positions. In this document, Russia recognizes our borders since 1991, and it violates them. This is one of the arguments and evidence of our appeals to the international courts. I think Russia does not care, and it would be glad if we ourselves left this Treaty. Everyone, I think, understands that there is a legislative inconsistency, but all the same, the steps should be careful, weighed taking into account not to do much harm to ourselves”.

“I think the official opinion of the Russian government is also quite indifferent to this Treaty,” Fedir Klymenko said. “Anyway, they will try to somehow react in the press. If Ukraine does not extend the Treaty – will they withdraw troops from Donbas and return the Crimea? No. If Ukraine continues the Treaty – will they withdraw troops from Donbas and return the Crimea? No. So what will it affect?”


“Actual military threats for Ukraine are: armed aggression and violation of the territorial integrity of Ukraine (temporary occupation of Sevastopol, the Crimea, by the Russian Federation, and military aggression of the Russian Federation in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions), the buildup of military power in close proximity to the state border of Ukraine, including the potential for the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea; the militarization of the RF the temporarily occupied territory by forming new military units, as well as the supply of militants, military equipment and logistics”. (“Military Doctrine of Ukraine”, from Part II)

If the Treaty is canceled, how will the events develop? To predict the future is not easy in any case.

“The denunciation of the Treaty between Ukraine and the Russian Federation will not release Moscow from its responsibility for violating the state borders of Ukraine,” Viktor Kaspruk said. “Despite the fact that Kyiv took a wait-and-see attitude and is delaying with the final decision on this Treaty, the Russian Federation must withdraw its troops from the territory of Ukraine, restore the destroyed Donbas, and pay all compensation (moral and material). Publicly apologize to Ukraine and Ukrainians for invading, aggression, dead, mutilated, war. And only after that, it will be possible to talk about the continuation of the Treaty with Russia”.

“There is still time for the truth to be born in the discussion,” Oksana Yurynets is convinced. “The ten-year validity of the document expires on April 1, 2019. It was on this day 10 years ago that it came into force. So, six months before this date, that is, before October 1, we must clearly state our intentions”.

By Viktor Tsvilikhovsky

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