The renewed cohabitation between Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko has quickly begun to show stress. Will they repeat the 2005 experience, when Tymoshenko was sacked, and how do these tensions complicate Ukraine's current domestic and foreign policy challenges?
Ambassador Pifer begins his talk by recapping the past relationship between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko. Mr. Pifer then proceeds to analyze the general political situation between the two at this early stage in their coalition. He explains that Yushchenko’s camp is seriously worried about the votes Tymoshenko could take away from him in the 2009 presidential election. Mr. Pifer also reveals that many businesses that work closely with Yushchenko’s administration are more politically aligned with the opposing Party of Regions rather than Tymoshenko’s bloc. In addition, Mr. Pifer discusses the concerns with the maneuvers of the head of the presidential administration who is perhaps working for his own agenda in links with the opposing Party of Regions.
Mr. Pifer briefly analyzes the political situations for the nation’s major party leaders as well. He explains that Yushchenko is losing support as he seems more focused on the 2009 elections and has failed to advance on forming and implementing a policy agenda. Similarly, Viktor Yanukovych, head of the opposing Party of Regions, is also losing support primarily due to poor political tactics such as physically blocking the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament from entering the parliament to speak. Mr. Pifer explains that there are also rumors of internal divisions within the party. However, Mr. Pifer argues Tymoshenko seems to be staying on top and maintaining support. This is arguably due to the achievements she already has to her name with her new cabinet.
Although, it seems that this coalition arrangement is detrimental to Yushchenko politically, Mr Pifer argues that there is little alternative. He explains that it is very difficult to break a coalition and such a move could split Yushchenko’s party. At the same time, Mr. Pifer believes it is clear that Yushchenko and Tymoskenko’s relationship is costing Ukraine. Mr. Pifer feels there is too much infighting and not enough governance, and this is illustrated by the lack of much shared domestic policy. Mr. Pifer also cites the two’s competing trips to negotiate with Gazprom and disputes over the NATO membership action plan as evidence for their disagreements and inefficiency.
Mr. Pifer concludes by arguing that while this coalition is fragile, he feels it may last longer than many believe as there is very little alternative. However, although this coalition will probably not be effective in policy-making, the fact that the economy is sound and both candidates are playing by democratic rules should be taken as a good sign.
about the speaker
Steven Pifer is a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. A retired Foreign Service officer, his more than 25 years with the State Department focused on U.S. relations with the former Soviet Union and Europe, as well as on arms control and security issues. His assignments included deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (2001-2004), ambassador to Ukraine (1998-2000), and special assistant to the president and National Security Council senior director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia (1996-1997). He also served at the U.S. embassies in Warsaw, Moscow and London, as well as with the U.S. delegation to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces negotiations in Geneva. He holds a B.A. in economics from Stanford University, where he later spent a year as a visiting scholar at Stanford's Institute for International Studies. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.