According to most reports, the three leaders had no common consensus on the future of the Soviet Union prior to the meeting, but, once they assembled, they decided to shelve plans to preserve some sort of reformed Soviet state, as preferred by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and instead pressed for its dissolution. In the days that followed, Gorbachev would try in vain to preserve the USSR, but there was little mass or elite support for its continued existence, at least in these three republics.
The treaty noted that "the USSR has ceased to exist as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality" and stated that the activities of bodies of the former USSR would be henceforth discontinued. Its drafters asserted the authority to do this by noting that Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus were the three surviving original founders of the Soviet state in 1922. In its stead, these three republics agreed to form a new organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which was designed to foster a variety of forms of economic, political, social, and military cooperation. Specifically, the accords guaranteed equal rights and freedoms to all residing in those states, provided for the protection of ethnic and linguistic minorities, recognized each state's borders, emphasized the need for arms control, preserved a united military command and common military-strategic space, and pledged cooperation on the Chernobyl disaster.
Later that December, eight more former Soviet republics would join the CIS, and by December 25, 1991, the Soviet flag was at last removed from the top of the Kremlin.
No participant has produced a definitive and detailed account of the meeting in Belovezhska Pushcha, and the accords remain the subject of some controversy, particularly in Russia. At the time of its signing, the agreement was widely celebrated, with only five deputies in the Russian legislature voting against its ratification, and Ukraine adding twelve reservations to its ratification, directed toward weakening any sort of new union or commonwealth.
However, over the course of time, many, especially in Russia and Belarus, have disputed the right of the three leaders to conclude this treaty and have lamented the lack of open debate and popular input into its conclusion.
ForUm has asked politicians to express their opinion on whether the reanimation of USSR is possible, may be in a shape of other unions, and what role the dissolution of the "Great Empire" played in the fate of Ukraine.
Andriy Shkil, MP of BYuT faction:
- The time has showed that the so-called theory of less evil has worked out and Ukraine has liberated from the prison of the peoples.
Look how Russia is trying to involve Ukraine into various kind of unions: EurAsian union, Customs Union, Common Economic Space. Russia understands that without Ukraine the resurrection of the Great Empire is impossible. Belovezh Accord was an important event of those times. Unfortunately, then leaders did not have enough patriotism and experience to get for Ukraine bigger economic load.
I also believe that Ukraine's role in those events was determinant. Our position determined the position of Belarus and Russia. If Ukraine through Kravchuk had declared preservation of USSR, it would not have broken apart in 1991.
Leonid Kozhara, MP of Party of Regions faction:
- That meeting 20 years ago was the most significant event for Ukraine's independence, as three leaders - Yeltsin, Kravchuk and Shushkevich - legally solved the question of USSR dissolution.
I want to mention that Kravchuk went to Belarus with a little bit different intentions - creation of confederation, federation or a new union. Kravchuk did not expect Yeltsin would arrive with such radical proposition - to dissolve the USSR. It's difficult to say what the motives of the Russian leader were. May be his actions were determined by rivalry with then president Mikhail Gorbachiov.
The signing of Belovezh Accord was a result of many events and actions of then USSR authorities. For that moment USSR was economically dead. Hence, Shushkevich, Kravchuk and Yeltsin just fixed the state of events on the paper, but they were not responsible for the dissolution of USSR.
I remember Gorbachiov ordered then secretary of the Central committee of Communist party in Kazakhstan Nazarbayev to break in Belovezh and to change the course of negotiations. But in the last moment Nazarbayev's invitation was cancelled, and he stayed in Moscow ready to take off to Belarus. Anyway, it never happened.
Gorbachiov was making everything possible to preserve the USSr. But it was impossible to save politically something, which economically was already dead.
Valery Bevz, MPs of the Communist faction:
- Drive for national independence resides in every people. Once a famous politician said: "A person, who does not remember the past, does not have a heart, but a person, who regrets about the past, does not have mind." Hence we should take into account the modern realities, which say there is a state Ukraine, and base our actions on this.
If to speaker about the role then leaders - Shushkevich, Kravchuk and Yeltsin - played in the dissolution of the USSR, I want to say there was no systemic work aimed at dissolution. The leaders were simply engaged into civilized divorce of USSR republics with further move in national apartments. Shushkevich, Kravchuk and Yeltsin were pushed to sign the agreement by the corresponding historical events.
Andriy Parubiy, MP from the Our Ukraine faction:
- This is a historical event of geo-political scale, which has changed the political map of the world and enabled Ukraine to create an independent state. In my opinion, this event is exclusively positive.
Some politicians still say that Yeltsin, Shushkevich and Kravchuk ruined USSR. But it was not a decision of three men, because for the moment of signing there already were some nationalist movements in republics. Belovezh Accords just confirmed the state of events and helped to avoid violence. One cannot be so naive to believe that three men were capable to ruin such state as USSR. Yeltsin, Shushkevich and Kravchuk simply registered the accomplished fact.
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