The statement was made within the roundtable Implications of EU Enlargement for Ukraines Relations With Its Central-European Neighbours which was held on December 14, 2002 by the Kyiv Center of East-West Institute

The collapse of USSR has signified the end of the bipolar system and the beginning of the new phase in international relations. The post-Soviet space with its great resources has become more available for various forms of cooperation, but at the same time it has become a source of instability which is significant even in the global scale. Because of close economic, political, ethno-cultural interdependence of the post-Soviet states these problems have often transboundary dimension which in many cases requires coordination of activities of the all interested parties, including external actors.

In these conditions the new borderlands have other significance in comparison to the Soviet period. Were been formal and absolutely transparent administrative lines these boundaries acquired the functions not characteristic for them previously. On the one hand these borders should guarantee a sufficient level of security protecting against such threats and challenges as narcotraffic, other contraband, illegal migration, transboundary criminality and extremism. At the same time they should not damage very close economic, social, cultural and other ties between contiguous territories, the ties that were created mainly in the Soviet period. In the most of cases the economic and social stability within border regions strongly depends on cooperation between neighbor states.

The transboundary issues within the former Soviet Union are of great concern not only for its countries but also for other states and international organizations. In this light the enlargement of the European Union has been acquiring crucial importance for the post-Soviet space. It creates great possibilities for inclusion of the NIS into the system of economic cooperation. At the same time the common space inside EU means strict border regime in relations to outside countries and even creation of buffers in order to separate EU from the potential sources of challenges having transboundary origin; partly by this reason both Russia and Ukraine are encouraged to strengthen their eastern borders. The question where will pass the eastern border of the EU in the foreseeable future is also on the agenda. Therefore the above-mentioned enlargement probably will cause fragmentarization of the Post-Soviet space.

The border between Russia and Ukraine is the lengthiest European boundary between the countries of the former USSR. Its extent is about 2300 km., about 1500 km. of which is the land border. Russian-Ukrainian boundary is 5th in the rank of the new post-Soviet borders but by its geoeconomical and geopolitical importance only Russian-Kazakhstani border can be compared to it. Through Russian-Ukrainian border pass principal communication ways connecting Russia and many Asian countries to the countries of EU which makes this borderland the key regulator of Eurasian transboundary flows. Within Russian-Ukrainian border regions significant part of the industrial potential is concentrated: namely more than 40% of Ukrainian and about 6% of Russian whole-national production are elaborated there.

This potential can function successfully only under condition of close transboundary cooperation. Ukraine is a leading trade partner of all Russian border regions except Bryansk oblast while Russia is the leading partner for all contiguous Ukrainian regions. Taking into account high concentration of industry (especially in Ukrainian case) and agriculture in borderland it is evident that development of transboundary cooperation is a very important condition of social stability within the corresponding regions.

Among the post-Soviet borderlands Russian-Ukrainian borderland (as well as Russian-Byelorussian one) is the zone which in the greatest degree is contact in ethno-cultural respect. According the statistical information of the Western Regional Branch of Russian border guard Service (responsible for the whole border except the areas of Rostov and Krasnodar regions) during the last six year the border was crossed legally by 150 millions of persons that is about 25 millions per year or 50 persons in second. Due to the closeness by language, cultural, religious and other traditions Russians and Ukrainians living in border areas do not perceive each other as aliens. It contributes to very intensive social communication: interethnic marriages, migration double identities etc. For example in the cultural-historical region Slobozhanshchina (its core includes Kharkov and Belgorod administrative regions) the common regional identity is still strong despite the barrier of interstate boundary.

It is no wonder that very close economic and cultural ties seem to constitute the main reason of that the process of delimitation goes on slowly. This process faces many difficulties: at the end of 2000 experts numbered at about 1500 disputed areas within which borders should divide localities industrial objects, railway roads and stations, arable lands. By the present times the majority of these questions are solved. However, the most complicated problem is still on the agenda. The question is of the regime of the Kerch strait joining Azov and Black seas. As the way between them passes through Ukrainian territory (through the port of Kerch) Russian shipowners should pay harbor dues and other duties that in sum are estimated in millions of USD per year. In the course of negotiations Russia insists on that Kerch water area should consider as inner waters of two states and should not be delimited. Ukraine on the contrary is for delimitation of both water surface of Kerch strait and its continental shelf. In this case the problem is caused by the economic contradictions revealing as a result of intensive economic activity within the area.

Apart from delimitation the issues of border security form the most serious problem of Russian-Ukrainian transboundary interaction. The most significant challenges are illegal migration, narcotraffic and other contraband. After disintegration of USSR Ukrainian territory uses for illegal transit towards the countries of EU. It is no doubt that there are well-organized transnational criminal groupings specializing in transportation of migrants from Afganistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, China and other Asian countries through the post-Soviet space. Significant number of them tries to penetrate to Europe through Ukrainian and Byelorussian channels. For example, only in August of this year Russian border guards arrested 40 Indians and 43 Chinese trying to cross the border illegally. It demonstrates in what extent this migration is intensive while as it is considered only minority of such cases are revealed. However, it should be taken into account that the overwhelming majority (about 85%) of illegal immigrants is formed by citizens of Russia and Ukraine crossing the border by economic and social reasons. The existing system of legal regulation and border control is not convenient for them and they prefer to avoid it. It can be expected that the volume of Ukrainian illegal migrant will soon increase significantly because of the new Russian law regulating immigration and assuming that every labor migrant should pay $ 100 in order to work in Russia legally.

In my opinion potentially the most dangerous challenge for the post-Soviet space is not in international terrorism, ethnic conflicts or illegal migration. It is in narcotraffic that last ten years have increased dramatically. The main source is in Afghanistan which is the word leader by the production of heroin. Just one comparison: in 1999 the price of heroin produced in this country was estimated in $ 140 billion while the turnover between Russia and CIS countries in $ 26 billion. According to the appraisals of some experts if the existing tendencies will be lasted out 10 years every 5th Russian will become depending on drugs. It could discredit the ideas of liberal border regime and transboundary cooperation but according to some expert estimation about 70 or more percents of narcotraffic will not be held by means of the major roads through the existing posts of border and customs control. While a part of Afghan and Central Asian heroin is delivered to Europe through Ukraine some synthetic drugs come in Russia by reverse route. Significant volume of drugs producing in Ukraine and Russia from poppy and hemp is also delivered to neighbor countries.

The most cases of other contraband are caused by disparity of demands and prices in Russia and Ukraine as well as by bureaucratic difficulties of transboundary transportation of goods. According to the appraisal of the Western Regional Branch of Russian Border Guard Service only 10 percent of the contraband through Russian-Ukrainian border is revealed. The objects of smuggling are construction materials, fuel, foodstuffs (torment, groats, sugar etc.), agricultural products, alcohol and liquors, consumer goods etc. Because of very intensive economic interaction between Russian and Ukrainian territories it is very difficult to define the main direction of such illegal transboundary flows.

The existing system of border control does not allow solve these and other problems and in some cases it even aggravates it. Of course the border and custom services have the key importance in regulating of transboundary interaction and turning the borderland into the criminal zone but some problems appear due to such institutions. The high level of corruption in border guard and customs services as well as existence of transnational criminal groupings having stable links to them are not in secret for the public while numerous bureaucratic obstacles are especially painful for small business. The number of border passing points, which in 2000 was 51, does not correspond to the density of transboundary interaction and demands of the inhabitants of the border areas.

Therefore the number of illegal crossings of the border to all appearances remains very high. What is the optimal border policy in respect to Russian-Ukrainian boundary? It seems to be evident that its closing or excessive strengthening of border regime assuming visas for crossing the boundary can cause degradation of border territories especially of Eastern Ukraine where about 40 percent of national output is producing as well as a serious damage to interests of millions of people having relatives or working in the neighbor country. Too liberal border regime can cause dramatic increase of transnational Eurasian illegal operations directed mainly to EU countries and therefore this variant probably will require strengthening of Russian-Georgian, Russian-Azerbaijanian and Russian-Kazakhstanian borders as well as very effective cooperation between Russian and Ukrainian police and security services.

The third variant assumes effective control by means of strengthening border regime combined with opening of additional passing points and conceding essential advantages for Russian and Ukrainian citizens in light of not only bilateral relations but also of relations to EU.

In order to diminish corruption in the structures of border control the establishment of free trade space can prove to be effective. The key condition for efficiency of such a system is again in close cooperation between corresponding Russian and Ukrainian services at different levels. This way is maybe the most expensive and it requires organizational and material assistance of EU. Taking into account the present political conjuncture and intention of the most powerful European actor to strengthen its Eastern border this variant however can prove to be a reasonable compromise allowing to observe economic, political, humanitarian and other interests of the parties involved as well as to provide stability and successful development of the significant part of the post-Soviet space. The security system assuming strong barrierness but also strong contactivity of Russian and Ukrainian borders can allow these countries to obtain additional arguments for joining common European space.

Copyright 2002 Center for Regional and Transboundary Studies at Volgograd State University

Copyright 2002 Sergey Golunov

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