11.02.2007
Historical Struggle for the Black Sea Fleet
№1 2007 January/March
Yuri Dubinin

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation. In 1994-1999, he was Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation.

Following the
breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia and Ukraine were confronted
with the pressing problem of what to do with the Black Sea Fleet;
the issue took eight long years to resolve. Finally, it seemed that
the crisis was confined to the pages of history. However, some
forces in Kiev, under various pretexts, are again calling into
question the agreement that settled the conflict between the two
states.

Given this latest
turn of events, it would be helpful to recollect exactly how the
unprecedented diplomatic marathon, which was full of dramatic
twists and turns, helped to untie one of the most complicated knots
that Russia and Ukraine inherited from the Soviet
period.

BOLD MOVE BY
KIEV

On April 5, 1992,
Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk signed a decree entitled,
On Urgent Measures to Build the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The decree placed the Black Sea Fleet of the former Soviet Union
under Kiev’s jurisdiction and ordered that a Ukrainian Navy be
immediately built on the basis of the fleet’s forces deployed on
the Ukrainian territory (this actually meant the entire Black Sea
Fleet). However, Kiev had no grounds to make such a move. Moreover,
at that time, the Black Sea Fleet was part of the United Armed
Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and part of
the CIS Navy, commanded by Admiral Vladimir Chernavin.

Moscow’s reaction
was immediate: on April 7, the president of the Russian Federation,
Boris Yeltsin, issued a decree that placed the Black Sea Fleet
under Russia’s jurisdiction. To resolve the crisis, the Kremlin
proposed holding negotiations and suspending the two conflicting
decrees for the period of the negotiations.

FIRST
CONTACT

On April 16,
first deputy commander-in-chief of the CIS Navy, Felix Gromov, and
I traveled to Kiev to make preparations for the negotiations.
Yeltsin’s instructions were very short and concise: “The final
agreement with Ukraine must include, on an interrelated basis,
principles and specific parameters for the handover of part of the
Black Sea Fleet to Ukraine, as well as accords on terms for the
basing of, and support for, the Black Sea Fleet of the United Armed
Forces of the Commonwealth of Independent States.” In short, the
solution of the Black Sea Fleet problem was to include the solution
of the problem of its basing.

My Ukrainian
counterpart was Anton Buteiko, adviser to the president of Ukraine
and head of the presidential International Affairs Service. The
essence of his demand was very simple: the Black Sea Fleet must be
Ukrainian. This demand, however, was not backed by any serious
arguments. In response, we proposed relying on several earlier
concluded CIS agreements, in particular the Minsk and Alma-Ata
accords, which had a direct bearing on the Black Sea Fleet. I
attached particular importance to the protocol of a working meeting
of the CIS heads of state on naval symbols, which was signed in
Moscow at the summit level on January 16, 1992. The protocol stated
that the Navy of the former Soviet Union was part of the CIS
Strategic Armed Forces; also it included a specification that was
very important for the solution of the fleet problem. It stated, in
part: “… except for the part of the Black Sea Fleet which will join
the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk
wrote down this phrase in the document with his own hand. Then
followed a provision stating that the handover of part of the Black
Sea Fleet to Ukraine must be resolved on the basis of an agreement
between Russia and Ukraine. So the discrepancy between the claim to
the whole of the Black Sea Fleet, and what the Ukrainian president
had written in the protocol, was striking.

We continued to
raise the issue of the basing of the Black Sea Fleet, but the
Ukrainian officials avoided discussing it. The issue remained
unresolved even after I referred to the Agreement on the
Establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States of December
8, 1991, which was signed by the president of Ukraine. The
agreement said: “The member states of the Commonwealth… shall
jointly guarantee necessary conditions for the deployment,
functioning, and material and social support of the Strategic Armed
Forces.” This had a direct bearing on the Black Sea Fleet. However,
references to the CIS documents only drew a negative reaction from
our partners.

Finally it was
agreed to hold negotiations on the Black Sea Fleet and set the
starting date of the talks. The first meetings showed, however,
that Moscow and Kiev approached the negotiations from directly
opposite positions.

In the meantime,
the situation in the Black Sea Fleet became increasingly aggravated
due to the unilateral actions of Kiev, which exerted pressure on
the fleet personnel in a bid to cause the sailors to take the
Ukrainian military oath and thus de facto “Ukrainianize” the fleet.
The fleet, commanded at the time by Admiral Igor Kasatonov, did not
yield to the pressure; nevertheless, the political problem remained
very acute.

On April 29-30,
state delegations from Russia and Ukraine met in Odessa for their
first official meeting on the Black Sea Fleet. The delegations were
headed by vice chairmen of the two countries’ Supreme Soviets
(parliaments) – Yuri Yarov of Russia and Vassily Durdinets of
Ukraine. The parties agreed only on the introduction of a
moratorium on unilateral actions with regard to the Black Sea
Fleet, which Ukraine did not observe. The meeting failed to
introduce any prospects for solving the issue, while the Ukrainian
side displayed no interest in a settlement on mutually acceptable
terms.

THE CONCEPT OF A
POLITICAL TREATY

The aggravation
of the entire range of Russian-Ukrainian relations necessitated
their discussion at summit level. On Russia’s initiative, the
leaders of the two countries met in Dagomys, a suburb of the
Russian city of Sochi, in June 1992. I was instructed to prepare
proposals on the political concept of the negotiations.

I proceeded from
the following premise. The liquidation of the Soviet Union brought
about many moot points and even conflicts between Russia and
Ukraine. Progress in resolving them was slow or failed to make any
headway at all. This created the impression that relations between
the two countries were troubled and had no future. I was confident
that such a dire situation did not meet the vital interests either
of Russia, or Ukraine.

The Black Sea
Fleet problem was particularly acute. The obvious differences in
the countries’ approaches to its solution were augmented, while
extreme nationalist forces in Ukraine aggravated and even stirred
up problems. These forces would have gladly reduced relations
between the two countries to those difficulties, thereby making
them hostages to the conflict over the Black Sea Fleet. Of course,
such a scenario would have had serious international
consequences.

Kiev was
reluctant to solve the fleet problem on a mutually acceptable
basis, apparently in the belief that time was on its side. At the
same time, Moscow, despite its legally correct position during the
Black Sea Fleet negotiations, and its readiness for a balanced
decision, did not have a negotiating resource that could interest
Kiev.

Moscow needed to
unite all of the main problems into one package, formulate the
concept of its relations with Ukraine, determine a vector for their
development, and enter the Black Sea Fleet problem into this
context. I turned to Russia’s diplomatic experience of the past
when this country invigorated relations with major states. Those
efforts were based on the interplay of the following key elements:
the broadening of contacts at all levels, together with regular
summit meetings; the extension of the contractual basis of
bilateral relations and the creation of necessary negotiating
mechanisms to this end; combination of efforts in various fields of
interstate relations; etc.

The conclusion of
a general political treaty was set as the main goal of the initial
stage for building Russian-Ukrainian relations. This goal, quite
natural for building relations with any other state, in this case
acquired special meaning. This was because historically Ukraine did
not have formal borders, and the need to formalize them was obvious
and pressing. This factor inspired hope for Kiev’s special interest
in concluding a political treaty with Russia as an important step
in fixing Ukraine’s territorial status internationally.

Naturally, Russia
was interested in normalizing relations with its largest neighbor
in Europe, as well as determining the nature of those relations.
More importantly was that the preparation of a general political
treaty could be combined with negotiations on the Black Sea Fleet.
Then Russia would possess the diplomatic resource to find a
solution to the Black Sea Fleet problem. I believed this to be the
only hope for a mutually acceptable settlement, and the Russian
leadership eventually approved these considerations.

On June 23, the
presidents of Russia and Ukraine, together with parliament
chairmen, heads of government, and ministers, met in Dagomys. The
main results of the negotiations were fixed in an agreement on the
further development of Russian-Ukrainian relations.

President Yeltsin
proposed to the Ukrainian party a plan to work out a full-scale
political treaty that would reflect the new quality of relations
between Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainian guests accepted the
proposal. The very first provision of the agreement signed in
Dagomys was to immediately begin preparations for such a
document.

The agreement
contained the following phrase: “In view of the creation of their
own Armed Forces, the Parties have reiterated the importance for
continuing the negotiations on the creation… of the Navy of Russia
and the Navy of Ukraine on the basis of the Black Sea Fleet.” And
further on: “They [Russia and Ukraine – Yu.D.] have agreed to use
the existing system of the basing and material and technical
support on a contractual basis.” After Dagomys, this accord became
fundamental in other negotiations on the Black Sea
Fleet.

However, even
after the Dagomys summit, it proved impossible to speed up the
solution of the Black Sea Fleet problem. So, the presidents of
Russia and Ukraine, at their meeting in Yalta on August 3, 1992,
agreed to postpone the settlement until the end of 1995. Meanwhile,
the Black Sea Fleet was withdrawn from the structure of the CIS
United Armed Forces and subordinated directly to the heads of both
states. A year later, on June 17, 1993, at a meeting in Zavidovo,
near Moscow, the two presidents agreed to accelerate the division
of the naval fleet on a fifty-fifty basis. Yet the agreement signed
in Zavidovo was never ratified.

In September
1993, yet another Russian-Ukrainian summit took place in Massandra,
in the Crimea. There, the presidents signed a protocol on the
settlement of the Black Sea Fleet issue, which stated that “the
state delegations of the Russian Federation and Ukraine shall
within a month work over all the issues pertaining to the drafting
of the Agreement, according to which the whole of the Black Sea
Fleet with all its infrastructure in the Crimea will be used by
Russia and will bear Russia’s symbols on the understanding that the
Russian party will make corresponding payment for the half of the
Black Sea Fleet, including infrastructure, which was to become
Ukrainian under the previous accords.”

I was appointed
to head the state delegation of the Russian Federation at the
negotiations on the Black Sea Fleet problem. Boris Tarasyuk headed
the Ukrainian delegation.

The difficult
negotiating process was complicated still further by a hostile act
on the part of Ukraine. On April 8, 1994, the Ukrainian military
made a bold attempt in the port of Odessa to detain the Cheleken
hydrographic vessel, which was conducting routine assignment to
service navigational equipment. On the night from April 10 to April
11, about 120 Ukrainian troops seized the 318th battalion of the
Black Sea Fleet reserve ships, together with a coastal base, a
communication center, property and armaments. The coastal base
personnel were taken to the village of Chebanka, 10 kilometers from
Odessa. The move sparked a crisis situation. I was sent on urgent
orders to Kiev to discuss the situation with the president of
Ukraine, and we were able to reach a verbal understanding
concerning the basing of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in
Sevastopol.

AMBAGES

On April 15,
1994, the presidents of Russia and Ukraine met in Moscow and signed
an agreement on a stage-by-stage settlement of the Black Sea Fleet
imbroglio. The agreement provided, in particular, that Ukraine
would have 15 to 20 percent of the fleet’s ships and that the
Russian and Ukrainian fleets would be based separately.

The defense
ministers of Russia and Ukraine, Pavel Grachev and Vitaly Radetsky,
met in Sevastopol on April 21 to discuss mechanisms for fulfilling
the agreement. There, the ministers were able to reach a mutual
consensus with regard to the division of Black Sea Fleet ships
between Russia and Ukraine. However, Radetsky, breaching the verbal
understanding that had been previously reached with then President
of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk, disrupted the question over basing
rights of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

By July 1994,
when the presidency in Ukraine passed to Leonid Kuchma, a solution
to the fleet problem had still not been found. It became
increasingly obvious that this lingering question needed to be
linked to the conclusion of a political treaty between Russia and
Ukraine. However, Ukraine sought to avoid such a bilateral
declaration and conclude a political treaty, while leaving the
Black Sea Fleet problem hanging in midair. Kiev made every effort
to have Yeltsin pay an official visit to Ukraine, but Moscow
insisted that such a visit should take place only after the
preparation of a political treaty was completed and the Black Sea
Fleet problem was solved.

On August 11,
1994, preparations began on the draft of a general political treaty
between Russia and Ukraine. I headed the Russian delegation, and
Alexander Chaly was the head of the Ukrainian delegation. By the
end of autumn, the delegations had three meetings and there was
general agreement on the text of the document, which was entitled,
Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership Between the
Russian Federation and Ukraine
. On Russia’s initiative, the
draft treaty was supplemented with a provision that both countries,
as friendly powers, would base their mutual relations on strategic
partnership and cooperation. Both sides pledged to refrain from any
actions that were harmful to the interests of the other side, nor
to use their territories in such a way that could be detrimental to
each other’s security. The document emphasized the need for a
common economic space between the two countries. On the whole, the
draft treaty laid the legal groundwork for developing friendly
relations between Russia and Ukraine, provided both nations showed
respect for each other’s territorial integrity and reiterated the
inviolability of the borders that existed between them.

The work on the
draft treaty proceeded very rapidly; yet, it was far from complete
when Leonid Kuchma essentially raised the status of the Ukrainian
delegation: Chaly, as the head of the delegation, was replaced by
Vice Premier Yevgeny Marchuk, one of the most influential and
rising Ukrainian statesmen at the time, who would later become
prime minister. I, in turn, was appointed deputy foreign
minister.

When Marchuk
arrived in Moscow for the negotiations, he conveyed to me President
Kuchma’s wish that the draft treaty be initialed. Obviously, Kiev
wanted the initialing procedure to be followed by Yeltsin’s
official visit to Ukraine and the signing of the treaty. I replied
that we could not do that until work on the draft treaty was
complete and the Black Sea Fleet problem was solved. Kiev was not
happy with that response.

On January 24,
1995, Kuchma arrived in Moscow and asked Yeltsin to appoint Oleg
Soskovets, Russia’s first deputy prime minister who was quickly
gaining prestige in federal and political life, as the head of the
Russian negotiating delegation. Soskovets was immediately summoned
to the Kremlin where he was given corresponding instructions in
Kuchma’s presence. Simultaneously, it was decided that I would be
his deputy at the negotiations.

The newly
composed delegations met in Kiev where the negotiations began with
opening statements by Marchuk and Soskovets. The latter concluded
his speech on a bit of a strange note: “Diplomats are accustomed to
conduct negotiations for the sake of negotiations; the very process
is the most important thing to them. We have arrived to achieve
solutions,” he said with emphasis, half turning to me and smiling.
Later, our delegation had a meeting with President Kuchma;
negotiations were held on the text of the treaty, which we failed
to fully agree on; and, finally, a conversation on the Black Sea
Fleet took place, which showed the total unwillingness of the
Ukrainian party to move forward. Then Marchuk and Soskovets met
tête-à-tête, after which Soskovets summoned the
delegation and declared that he was prepared to immediately initial
the political treaty.

That news came as
a bolt from the blue. Russia’s strategic line at the negotiations
with Ukraine could be ruined since the linkage of the two issues –
the political treaty and the Black Sea Fleet – would be disrupted,
and the future of the Black Sea Fleet and chances for its basing in
Sevastopol would remain obscure. That was unacceptable to
Moscow.

 “If we
initial the treaty now,” I exclaimed, “the Ukrainians will not care
a damn about the negotiations on the Black Sea Fleet!”

That was a
genuine cry from the heart. But it was all in vain. An hour later,
the initialing ceremony took place – and with much pomp.

The Ukrainian
delegation was in a state of euphoria: the treaty had been
initialed, the Black Sea Fleet question remained hanging in midair,
while Russia now depended on Kiev’s will. The Ukrainians believed
the way to President Yeltsin’s visit to Kiev was now open. Kuchma
hurried to declare that the visit would take place in early March
1995.

Meanwhile, the
media both in Russia and Ukraine flew into a rage. Russia’s
Segodnya newspaper of February 18 carried an article under the
bitter headline: “Sailors Believe They Were Sold for a Song.” The
description of the events, provided by the article, was very close
to the original: “On the eve of the latest round of negotiations on
the Black Sea Fleet, recently held in Kiev, the composition of the
Russian delegation was essentially changed. The group of diplomats,
who had for several years been working under the direction of
ambassador at large Yuri Dubinin, received a new head – Deputy
Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, whose scope had never included naval
affairs. Rumor has it that it was the head of the Ukrainian
delegation, Vice Premier and influential policymaker Yevgeny
Marchuk, who insisted on this replacement in Moscow. Marchuk wanted
to negotiate with his peer. The subsequent events showed that Mr.
Marchuk made the right choice: he received from the hands of Mr.
Soskovets what he had been unable to get from Moscow for three
years. ‘Unlike Dubinin, Soskovets is a man one can do business
with,’ Mr. Marchuk said in a brief comment on his achievement.
‘This is a victory of Ukrainian diplomacy!’ Ukrainian Foreign
Minister Mr. Gennady Udovenko said with pleasure.”

In an open letter
to President Yeltsin, the officers of the Black Sea Fleet expressed
their discontent. The commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Admiral
Eduard Baltin, issued a harshly critical statement. Meanwhile,
Russia’s Foreign Ministry was in a state of bewilderment: How could
the treaty be initialed without its corresponding
approval?

On February 24,
the Embassy of Ukraine in Moscow conveyed to Russia’s Foreign
Ministry a letter from Leonid Kuchma to the Russian president. The
letter, full of flagrant contradictions, made no mention of the
Black Sea Fleet – despite the numerous negotiations! At the same
time, it said: “Let me express once again my satisfaction with the
results of the Kiev round of negotiations between the state
delegations of Ukraine and Russia, whose major result was the
initialing of the text of a major Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation
and Partnership. In this connection, I have the pleasure to invite
you, Mr. President, to pay a state visit to our country at any time
that is convenient for you.” Further on, Kuchma expressed his wish
that the visit take place before March 12, that is, as soon as
possible.

On February 28,
Yeltsin sent a brief yet succinct reply: “Thank you for your letter
of February 17, 1995, and for the reiterated invitation to pay an
official visit to Ukraine, to which I assign exceptional
importance… In our view, the draft of the political treaty should
be further worked on in strict compliance with the Memorandum on
Guarantees of the Security of Ukraine, which we together signed in
Budapest late last year. The Declaration on the Black Sea Fleet
problem, which we are going to sign, must ensure, immediately after
the visit, implementation of all measures to be taken during the
first stage of this problem’s settlement without any additional
negotiations. It is also important to prepare by the time of my
visit an agreement on the rescheduling of Ukraine’s state debt on
loans provided by Russia. I am confident that there will be no
difficulties in setting a specific date for the visit.” Of course,
Kiev had expected a different answer.

On April 18,
President Yeltsin received Marchuk, who by that time had become
Ukraine’s prime minister, in Moscow. As Yeltsin aide Dmitry
Ryurikov said in an interview with the ITAR-TASS news agency, the
conversation proceeded in an atmosphere of “utter frankness.” In
the language of diplomacy this means that the conversation was far
from smooth.

According to
Ryurikov, Yeltsin was straightforward about the Ukrainian side’s
approaches to the Black Sea Fleet issue: “Because of your position,
we now agree, now disagree; now make a decision, now go back on it.
Friends and neighbors do not behave like that; one must respect
one’s partner.” Yeltsin described the situation when Kiev, having
signed an agreement on the rescheduling of Ukraine’s debts, refused
to take a constructive approach to Russia’s proposals concerning
the Black Sea Fleet, as “an attempt to outwit Russia.” Yeltsin
remained unsatisfied with the proposals on the Black Sea Fleet,
which Marchuk brought to Moscow, and said, “Russia’s position,
fixed in the previous accords on the Black Sea Fleet, is fair,
objective and moral. Russia will not depart from those accords.
There have been concluded enough agreements on the fleet; there
have been numerous meetings of experts; yet no progress has been
made.” Yeltsin suggested that the Ukrainian side draw its
conclusions.

Marchuk was
taught an object lesson: sophisticated ruses and empty promises are
not the best way to conduct serious negotiations. Such methods can
only complicate relations between states, not to mention with one’s
negotiating partner, whose confidence has been
undermined.

On May 22, Kuchma
sent a letter to Yeltsin, which was fully devoted to the Black Sea
Fleet problem; a draft agreement was enclosed with it. As the
documents came from the president of Ukraine himself, the Russian
leader ordered that they be scrupulously analyzed. Upon analysis,
all interested ministries and government agencies drew a unanimous
conclusion: the proposals not only failed to settle the problem,
but they also negated many of the previous accords. Yeltsin decided
to respond to the Ukrainian president’s proposals during their
private meeting on May 26 in Minsk where both leaders were
scheduled to meet for a CIS summit. At this point, tensions over
the Black Sea Fleet problem had come to a head.

TURNING
POINT

In Minsk, Yeltsin
and Kuchma agreed to hold a special meeting on June 9 in Sochi and
devote it largely to the Black Sea Fleet issue. On June 6, the
Ukrainians handed over to us their draft of a final document – a
joint statement, whose subtitle specified that it was only a
communiqué. Kiev sought to attach a less binding agreement to
the results of the Sochi meeting, compared with the earlier
approved Russian-Ukrainian documents on the Black Sea Fleet.
Actually, the draft reflected the content of Kuchma’s May 22 letter
to Yeltsin.

In the opinion of
the Russian experts, approval of Kiev’s approach would mean the
termination of any legal basis for Russia’s naval presence in
Ukraine. The Ukrainian proposals did not even mention that the
headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet must be based in
Sevastopol. I proposed presenting the main results of the
negotiations in Sochi as an agreement between the Russian
Federation and Ukraine on the Black Sea Fleet, making the document
as binding as possible. Moscow agreed with this
proposal.

The negotiations
in Sochi began with a private conversation between the two
presidents. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Gennady Udovenko
and I were responsible for coordinating the text of the draft
agreement. The instructions given to me were brief: do not insist
that Russia would use all naval facilities in Sevastopol, and that
the agreement shall specify the location of the Ukrainian Navy
headquarters, leaving this issue to Kiev’s discretion. There was
also a strong request to prepare the text as quickly as possible.
Udovenko and I worked very hard and finally the document was ready.
The presidents approved it unamended and immediately signed
it.

The agreement,
the result of years of intensive joint research, produced a
mutually acceptable balance of interests for both countries. In
particular, the agreement specified that “the Black Sea Fleet of
the Russian Federation and its headquarters shall be based in
Sevastopol.” Further on it stated: “The Black Sea Fleet of the
Russian Federation shall use facilities of the Black Sea Fleet in
Sevastopol and other basing facilities and home stations of ships,
aircraft and coastal defense troops, and facilities of operational,
combat, technical and logistic support in the Crimea.”

Yeltsin was very
pleased. At a specially convened press conference, the Russian
president described the signing of the agreement as a “historic
event” which opened the way to further development of relations
between Russia and Ukraine on the basis of a strategic partnership,
mutual respect and trust. Yeltsin said that he and Kuchma had
settled all the issues concerning the Black Sea Fleet that had
hampered relations between the two countries, and solved the fleet
problem “once and for all.”

Kuchma, who spoke
next, was more reserved in assessing the accords, saying: “We have
made one more step forward” and: “We have untied the knot.” Also,
he did not fail to mention problems that remained
unresolved.

The presidents
not only commented on the agreement, but also spoke about their
plans for the future. Undoubtedly, there was still much work to be
done, and Kuchma’s views seemed to be more realistic than
Yeltsin’s. Yet, generally speaking, it was the president of Russia
who was right after all: the Sochi Agreement solved the Black Sea
Fleet problem, and on May 28, 1997, the process was completed with
the signing of three more major agreements on the fleet: on the
status of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation and terms
for its stay on the territory of Ukraine; on parameters involving
the division of the fleet; and on mutual settlements with regard to
the division of the Russian fleet, together with the basing of the
Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.

Making the
settlement more binding required ratification of the agreements by
the legislatures of Russia and Ukraine. Passions over the future of
the Black Sea Fleet were still running high in Russia, and
ratification of the agreements was necessary to achieve accord
throughout society. It was also necessary to avoid pitfalls posed
by the parliament of Ukraine. The ratification process could
continue indefinitely and, most importantly, it could fail to
produce a positive result, as had already happened to the agreement
signed in Zavidovo. Under such a scenario, the situation in the
Black Sea Fleet would continue hanging in midair as
before.

To avoid such a
threat, I proposed using a provision of the Vienna Convention on
the Law of Treaties, signed in 1969, according to which a treaty
subject to ratification can be applied provisionally upon signing
if the negotiating states have so agreed. It was implied that the
ratification process would take place at a later date. The proposal
was accepted.

Our draft
agreements were handed over personally to Kuchma, whereupon the
experts began to ponder over them. However, Kiev still wanted
Yeltsin to visit Ukraine where they would conclude a general
political treaty, without signing basic agreements on the Black Sea
Fleet. There were several such attempts, and one of them had good
chances for success.

It happened in
1997. At that time, I was Russia’s ambassador to Ukraine in the
rank of deputy foreign minister. Kuchma met with Yeltsin in Moscow,
and upon his return home announced sensational news: the presidents
had agreed that Boris Yeltsin would come to Kiev to sign a general
political treaty, while the work on the Black Sea Fleet problem
would continue. The Russian president had proclaimed a similar
statement.

Udovenko and
other Ukrainian officials triumphed: the connection between
Yeltsin’s visit and the signing of agreements on the Black Sea
Fleet was finally broken.

Since I was
staying in Kiev, I did not know what exactly was happening in the
Russian capital. Soon I was summoned to Moscow where Prime Minister
Victor Chernomyrdin convened a special meeting to discuss the
situation. We met in the Russian White House where there were
assembled the top executives of all interested ministries and
government agencies of Russia. The Foreign Ministry officials
present at the meeting included First Deputy Minister Boris
Pastukhov and myself.

Chernomyrdin
announced that he had invited us together in order to discuss our
thoughts about a presidential visit to Kiev for the signing of a
major treaty with Ukraine at a time when agreements on the Black
Sea Fleet were still not ready.

The assembled
officials were unanimous in the conviction that before the
president pays a visit to Kiev, the two countries must complete an
agreement on the Black Sea Fleet and sign it simultaneously with
the major treaty – or even earlier. Russia’s top leadership agreed
with this position.

Chernomyrdin’s
deputy, Valery Serov, a prominent politician who in Soviet times
headed the State Construction Committee, was the head of Russia’s
delegation at the final stage of the negotiations on the Black Sea
Fleet. It was Serov who conveyed our position to Leonid
Kuchma.

Later, Serov said
his conversation with Kuchma was not smooth, as the Ukrainian
president continued to make references to previous statements on
the issue. However, Serov explained how things stood at the moment
and emphasized the need to expedite negotiations on still
unresolved problems. And so this was done. The new commander of the
Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Victor Kravchenko, played a major role at
that stage.

Finally, on May
28, 1997, Victor Chernomyrdin arrived in Kiev. He and the prime
minister of Ukraine signed the three basic agreements on the Black
Sea Fleet, which immediately went into effect. Thus, the
prerequisites for a state visit by President Yeltsin to Ukraine
were achieved. During that visit, on May 31, the heads of both
states signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership
between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

THE LAST
ROUND

Thus, the basic
agreements on the Black Sea Fleet came into effect. Did this mean
that the problem was finally solved? Not at all, since the
agreements were applied on a provisional basis. At the same time,
however, many high-ranking officials in Moscow believed that status
to be quite sufficient. But to hold such an opinion proved to be a
big mistake: before documents are ratified and instruments of
ratification are exchanged, agreements are not considered to be in
effect – with all of the ensuing consequences.

The political
forces in Ukraine that had failed to thwart the accords understood
the situation very well. Now they decided to wage a new, no less
important battle – this time against the ratification of the Black
Sea Fleet agreements. Their plan was the same as before: to ratify
the major treaty separately from the ratification of the accords on
the Black Sea Fleet.

There was also a
group of deputies in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) who were
opposed to ratification of the major treaty. They did not
understand the importance of good relations with Russia, or even
the state interests of their own country. But that group was small
and did not have much influence.

The Verkhovna
Rada ratified the treaty by an overwhelming majority of votes.
Meanwhile, the accords on the Black Sea Fleet were rather
forgotten, although they had been signed even earlier than the
treaty. When we asked Kiev why it did not ratify the accords, we
were told that the accords needed to be studied by commissions,
that Kiev wanted to ratify the accords at the “right” time so as
not to agitate public opinion, and so on and so forth.

In the meantime,
the process of ratifying the major treaty began in Russia, too.
These deliberations triggered heated debates – perhaps, even more
heated than in Ukraine. Representatives of the executive made great
efforts to win the deputies’ support, above all, in the State Duma
(the lower house). Then suddenly the government submitted for
ratification only the major treaty. Just like in Kiev.

“What about the
Black Sea Fleet accords?” many deputies asked.

“Why, the Black
Sea Fleet has already been settled; there are no problems there,”
high-ranking representatives of the executive answered.

What exactly was
behind those answers? Negligence, ignorance, or perhaps delusions –
it was not clear. Yet, on December 25, 1998, the State Duma voted
for the Law On the Ratification of the Treaty of Friendship,
Cooperation and Partnership Between the Russian Federation and
Ukraine
without linking it with Ukraine’s ratification of the
Black Sea Fleet accords. A paradoxical situation!

Anti-Russian
forces in Ukraine applauded such a turn of events. Now they were
absolutely sure that they would be able to avoid ratifying the
accords on the Black Sea Fleet, which would thus never enter into
force. Boris Kozhin, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian
Navy and now a deputy, told me this triumphantly when he met me in
the Verkhovna Rada.

Such a state of
affairs alarmed me. I took note of a public statement by President
Kuchma that stated, in effect, that Russia could find a way to link
its ratification of the major treaty to ratification by Ukraine of
the agreements on the Black Sea Fleet. I immediately sent a
telegram to Moscow in the hope that it would think of a way to do
exactly that.

The next stage in
the ratification of the major treaty was its  consideration by
the Federal Council (the upper house). The treaty provoked even
more questions in the upper house than it did in the State Duma.
Senators also heatedly debated the Black Sea Fleet issue, and
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov played an active role in the
discussions.

Staying in Kiev,
I did not rule out the possibility that, considering the critical
situation that had taken shape in Moscow, a proposal by the
executive branch to ratify the major treaty could be rejected.
Obviously, the consequences of such a turn of events would be
extremely negative for the general state of Russian-Ukrainian
relations.

In the heat of
the debates in the Federation Council, Russian Prime Minister
Yevgeny Primakov took the floor. He said that the Treaty of
Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership should be ratified; yet,
the completion of the ratification process must be conditioned on
ratification by Ukraine of the agreements on the Black Sea
Fleet.

Primakov proposed
the following. The Law On the Ratification of the Treaty of
Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership Between the Russian
Federation and Ukraine
must be approved and submitted to the
president for signature. At the same time, the Federation Council’s
resolution must include the following provision: “The instruments
of ratification of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and
Partnership Between the Russian Federation and Ukraine shall be
exchanged after ratification by Ukraine of the agreements between
the Russian Federation and Ukraine on the status of the Black Sea
Fleet of the Russian Federation and terms for its stay on the
territory of Ukraine; on parameters of the division of the Black
Sea Fleet; and on mutual settlements with regard to the division of
the Black Sea Fleet and the stay of the Black Sea Fleet of the
Russian Federation in Ukraine, signed on May 28, 1997.”

An exquisite
move, and it changed the mood of the senators. The Federation
Council accepted Primakov’s proposal. On February 17, 1999, the
Council approved the law on ratification and submitted it to the
president for signature. On March 2, the head of state put his
signature on the law and thus completed the ratification of the
treaty. Simultaneously, he told the Foreign Ministry to prepare an
instrument of ratification of the treaty “after the Ukrainian party
ratifies the Russian-Ukrainian agreements on the Black Sea
Fleet.”

Thus, Russia
showed maximum good will, displaying its aspiration for friendship
and cooperation with Ukraine. Now the ball was in Kiev’s
court.

In my comments
from Kiev on what had happened, I wrote with great satisfaction
that an international problem had moved from the plane of
intra-Russian debates into a natural plane of interstate
dialog.

Aside from the
outcries of spiteful critics, the reaction of the Verkhovna Rada
proved to be realistic and reasonable. The Ukrainian deputies, in a
businesslike manner, at once set to work and soon completed the
process of ratifying the agreements on the Black Sea Fleet. The
agreements will remain in effect until 2017 and can be
automatically extended. On April 1, 1999, the presidents of Russia
and Ukraine met in Moscow to exchange instruments of ratification
of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership, and on
that very day the treaty entered into force.

The ceremony
concluded years of strenuous efforts made by both countries. Sergei
Usov, an outstanding researcher of the Black Sea Fleet issues,
wrote: “The solution of the Black Sea Fleet problem became possible
only simultaneously with the settlement of interstate relations
between the Russian Federation and Ukraine through the conclusion
of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership in a
‘package’ with the basic agreements on the Black Sea
Fleet.”

The coming into
effect of the Treaty of Friendship and the agreements on the Black
Sea Fleet marked the end of the first, very important period in
building relations between Russia and Ukraine as sovereign,
independent states. These accords, together with Ukraine’s
accession to the Nonproliferation Treaty, helped to prevent crisis
situations breaking out into open clashes between the two largest
countries in the post-Soviet space. The possible consequences of
such clashes would have been difficult to predict not only for the
two states but also for the entire geopolitical region.

But the main
result was that the accords helped to build a legal basis for the
future of Russian-Ukrainian relations – a platform on which these
relations could develop for the benefit of the two nations. It also
marked a new chapter for peace, stability and cooperation in
Europe. Thus, a new stage of bilateral interaction began between
Russia and Ukraine.

This historic
landmark was not easy to achieve. The success of the difficult
negotiations, which was full of emotional outbursts, unexpected
turns and slumps, was due to the fact that the leaders of Russia
and Ukraine, together with their negotiating teams, paid heed to
the respective will of their people who demanded friendship and
cooperation.