Oscar Aubert, political scientist and expert on West Europe, Russia and CIS, has stated that Ukraine and Russia are in a good place to further bilateral ties.

Aubert said: “Russia and the Ukraine have a long shared history. Russia sees Ukraine as part of its own identity. But Russia’s political elite has no wish to restore the USSR, and it clearly understands that this would be impossible. However, the Ukraine remains the elephant in the room. Its closest neighbour and transit to mainland Europe, the Ukraine plays a major strategic role in Russia’s role in and relations with the rest of Europe.

“Meanwhile, the defining objective of Ukraine since the collapse of the Soviet Union has been to adopt a truly independent course from Russia and ‘return to European civilization’, whilst Russian interests in Ukraine remain manifold.

“In 2009 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared that for Russia, Ukrainians since the dawn of time have been and remain ‘not only neighbours, but a brotherly people’. Therefore he regarded it as an obligation on Ukraine’s part to maintain ‘tight economic cooperation’ and ‘solidly kindred, humanitarian ties’ with Russia.

“In more practical terms, Russia has not managed to construct a single coherent conception of how to bring its interests to bear on the reality that Russia and Ukraine are now two sovereign states.

“In a recent Chatham House paper, Alexander Bogomolov and Oleksandr Lytvynenko argue that for Russia, “maintaining influence over Ukraine is more than a foreign policy priority.

“Russia’s socio-economic model limits its capacity to act as a pole of attraction for Ukraine. As a result, Russia relies on its national myths to devise narratives and projects intended to bind Ukraine in a ‘common future’ with Russia and other post-Soviet states. These narratives are translated into influence in Ukraine through channels such as the Russian Orthodox Church, the mass media, formal and informal business networks, and non-governmental organisations.

“Russia’s soft power project with regard to Ukraine emphasises cultural and linguistic boundaries over civic identities.” ”This project they speak of underlines the importance of the Ukraine to Russia. Late year Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov in Novo-Ogaryovo to discuss the need to develop the investment component in trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Ukraine.

“The return of Vladimir Putin as President will be positive in securing closer ties between the two great nations, with Mr. Putin keen to target energy as a key component of any future agreement. Mr Azarov has said himself that Kiev is ready to seek compromise and “win-win solutions” in the gas issue.” Oscar Aubert is a sociologist, political scientist, an expert for West Europe, Russia and CIS