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Time of great disappointment

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MOSCOW. (Vitaly Portnikov, Radio Liberty, exclusively for RIA Novosti) - Many Russian politicians who believe the myth about pro-Western Yushchenko and pro-Russian Yanukovych have breathed a sigh of relief on hearing the Ukrainian President's latest decision: to submit the candidacy for the post of prime minister of his recent rival in the presidential elections.

The fact that Yanukovych signed the document approving the basic principles of the country's foreign policy, which Moscow so dislikes, is of no particular importance. It does not matter much, either, that the president has received an opportunity to appoint security, defense and law-enforcement ministers, as well as his loyal foreign minister. Yanukovych has the economic block, and this is all that matters. All security ministries and any other agreements pale by comparison.

Meanwhile, the situation could be reversed. If Yanukovych got the security, law enforcement ministries and foreign policy, and Yushchenko were in charge of the economy, the myth could continue thriving. A Yanukovych-appointed foreign minister would support all Russian foreign policy initiatives, a defense minister would lash out at NATO, and an interior minister would be searching for fleas in Yulia Tymoshenko's plait. At the same time, the economics ministers would try to reduce prices for Russian gas; they would be indignant at the restrictions on Ukrainian exports into Russia; and they would do everything to keep Russian business away from Ukrainian plants.

What will be the case now? Here's a scenario. A Yushchenko-appointed foreign minister will continue talking about European integration and supporting Washington; a defense minister will spend most of his time at NATO headquarters; and a minister of the interior will be busy starting rows over regional business. At the same time, the economics ministers will try to reduce prices for Russian gas; they will express indignation over restrictions on Ukrainian goods supplies to Russia; and they will try to prevent Russian business from buying out Ukrainian enterprises.

Yanukovych's emergence in power is a good excuse to give up the myth. Ukrainian politicians are motivated not by pro-Russian, or pro-Western attitudes, but by their own interests and nothing else. Strictly speaking, business interests come first. The interests of Ukraine may coincide with those of Russia or the U.S. only on paper. This is why foreign policy and defense ministers are so important: in the domestic Ukrainian context they do not have any political meaning whatsoever. Those who control these departments determine the mythical future of the country. Those who control the economy determine its present, which has no obvious relevance to either Russia or the West.

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