Letter: How Russia preaches peace while threatening its small neighbour states

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The Independent Online
Sir: Andrew Higgins's article about Ukraine ('Sweet wrappers litter black earth', 18 June) quotes the head of the Ukrainian information service claiming that the West views 'things Ukrainian' through a Russian prism. Ironically, the article is subtitled 'Out of Russia'.

Similarly, the subtitle to the same author's article 'Zealot for the bomb defends Ukraine' (19 June) proclaims: 'A post-Soviet era 'Dr Strangelove' is passionate about maintaining his country's status as a nuclear power'. This is emotive journalism which ignores several important facts as to why Ukrainians, in spite of having suffered the consequences of the Chernobyl tragedy, may wish to retain nuclear weapons.

These facts include western acquiescence to Russia unilaterally seizing all of the former USSR's foreign property and financial accounts. There was no compensation from Russia, or praise from the West, when Ukraine ahead of schedule handed over to Russia all of its short-range tactical nuclear missiles; but there was only condemnation when the Ukrainian parliament did not automatically rubber-stamp the Start 1 agreement. Nearly dollars 40bn has been promised to Russia to help implement economic reform, but only dollars 175m promised to Ukraine by the West to cover the cost of dismantling its inherited nuclear arsenal.

Signs of increasing revanchism and imperial thinking in the Russian leadership (which include energy blackmail, demands on Ukrainian territory, and demands to police the 'near abroad' of the former Soviet Union) do not make Ukrainians sleep soundly in their beds. Neither does the historical precedent of relations between the two peoples give any comfort. The last two attempts at Ukrainian statehood, in the 17th and early 20th centuries, were foiled because Ukrainians allowed a militarily dominant Russia to subjugate a weaker Ukraine.

Worthless western security guarantees to Czechoslovakia in 1938, and ineffectual UN action and abandonment of the Vance-Owen plan in 1993 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, leave Ukrainians with the opinion that only they can look after their own security interests.

Yours faithfully,

O. SZMELSKYI

Chairman

Ukrainian Professionals and Business-Persons Association

Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire

20 June

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