Why V. Yanukovych said no to the European Union

Christopher Marsh and I, in our recently published book (Russian Foreign Policy: Interests, Vectors and Sectors), sketch out what we term “Putin’s Eurasian dream”—the ambition to create a Eurasian economic and political zone where Moscow sets the overall agenda and is able to hold its own in the global geopolitical competition with the United States, the EU and China—and to have the foundations laid by 2015. A major obstacle to this vision was abruptly removed on Thursday when Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych announced that his country would not sign a landmark partnership agreement with the European Union—which Russia had consistently opposed. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, which was to be concluded at the EU “Eastern Partnership” summit in Vilnius this coming week, was seen as the linchpin of a renewed EU commitment to engage with the states of the former Soviet Union. While Georgia and Moldova will still ink their own initial trade agreements with Europe, it has cast a pall over the Eastern Partnership process, because, as Steven Blockmans of the Centre for European Policy Studies notes, “The whole idea essentially falls apart without Ukraine.”

While Russia has not opposed some links between ex-Soviet republics and the European Union, it has opposed the EU Partnership Agreements because these bind the signatories to the EU in such a way as to make membership in the Moscow-sponsored entities (the customs union, the single economic space, and so on) impossible. While such agreements are not an automatic guarantee of future membership in the European Union, they put the country on the trajectory towards harmonizing its institutions with those of the EU member-states and would, over time, significantly reorient the economy away from traditional links with Moscow and towards fuller participation in a wider European market.

Of course, there were two drawbacks for Ukraine in the proffered EU agreements. The first is the requirement for domestic political change—and the expectation that the Ukrainian government would terminate its approach of “selective justice” (highlighting corruption charges only against political opponents of Yanukovych), beginning with a release of imprisoned former prime minister and principal political rival to Yanukovych, Yuliya Tymoshenko. Even the proposal for Tymoshenko to leave Ukraine for medical treatment in Germany, a form of soft exile, was problematic to the Yanukovych team, who continue to see Tymoshenko, whom Yanukovych narrowly beat out to capture the presidency in 2010, as their prime rival. In the short run, keeping Tymoshenko neutralized was more important than signing the EU deal.

Like Turkey, which has also had a rocky road with pursuing closer integration with the EU, the Ukrainian government has sought to secure as many economic benefits as possible while preserving as much sovereignty as it can so as not to have to make significant changes to its domestic institutions. Impelled by the desire for greater access to the European market, Ukraine did take a number of steps to bring its institutions into closer conformity with EU standards, but the Rada (parliament) balked this week at passing the last set of bills that would be needed to bring Ukraine into compliance with the EU—including the one concerning Tymoshenko’s ability to go abroad for medical care.

The second was the announced Russian response. Russia remains Ukraine’s largest foreign investor and Ukraine still remains highly dependent on the Russian market. Ukraine’s push to secure greater energy independence for itself by developing indigenous oil and natural gas projects will not bear fruit for a number of years, and the country remains dependent on Russia for low-cost supplies of energy. On Friday, Ukraine’s prime minister Mykola Azarov bluntly told lawmakers in the Rada that Ukraine could not, at this point, afford an economic rupture with Moscow. “What will be our compensation for the huge losses from losing the Customs Union market, what, I am asking you? Unfortunately, we did not receive a realistic answer to this question.”

Ukraine’s decision does represent a major setback for Western policy. It again exposes the hollowness of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s promises at the end of 2012 that the United States would undertake a major effort to counter Putin’s Eurasian integration plans; the United States continues to rhetorically oppose Moscow’s proposals but is not going to devote much time, energy, and most crucially, resources to the task. It also challenges the EU approach which believed that Moscow would have no choice but to acquiesce to greater EU activism in the Eurasian space, and that Brussels could present Russia with a fait accompli. Ulrich Speck, a visiting fellow at Carnegie Europe, summed up the naivete of this approach: “The EU always saw itself as someone that wasn’t in to playing geopolitical games. But the irony is that Putin’s new assertiveness forced the EU into playing power politics, so this has become largely a geopolitical game.”

For the time being, Yanukovych has acceded to Russia’s principal demand: to torpedo the EU deal. But Yanukovych has also always resisted Moscow’s blandishments and still does not want to see Ukraine fully absorbed into Russia’s Eurasian structures, although he has contemplated, in the past, a looser degree of “association” with the emerging Eurasian Union. Nor does he wish to preserve his country’s continued dependency on Russia—he still would like closer relations with Europe.

In addition, Yanukovych must also deal with unexpected public anger over his decision to suspend the deal. Protests in the capital—attracting more than 100,000 participants—were the largest since the Orange Revolution of 2004 and could easily turn into a major political liability for the government, especially given recent clashes between protestors and riot police. Monday’s statement by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will bolster the position of those who argue that Yanukovych backed down from his own stated commitment to pursue closer ties with Europe in the face of concerted Kremlin pressure: “It is up to Ukraine to freely decide what kind of engagement they seek with the European Union. Ukrainian citizens have shown again these last days that they fully understand and embrace the historic nature of the European association.”

Yanukovych’s preferred outcome would be to put real limits on any continued economic and political integration with Moscow—while seeking an accommodation with the EU that would help Ukraine’s economy but not challenge his political dominance of the country. When he meets with European leaders in Vilnius later this week, he will have an opportunity to sound out what he might be able to salvage from the wreckage of the deal. He would prefer to continue his precarious balancing act between East and West rather than find himself fully under Moscow’s thumb or answering to EU directives. The question now is whether either Putin or Brussels is willing to accommodate him.


2013-11-26

About the author:

Nikolas K. Gvosdev is a contributing editor at The National Interest and a professor of national-security studies at the U.S. Naval War College.

Source: The National Interest

RELATED POSTS
Lithuanians Under Police State Attack And The World Under Washington’s Attack
According to news reports and to this appeal by Kristoferis Voishka, the pro-American government installed in Lithuania is persecuting Lithuanians who dissent from the anti-Russian propaganda that is driving Washington’s NATO puppets to war with Russia. Unlike their puppet government, Lithuanians understand that war with Russia means that Lithuania on the front line will be utterly destroyed, a result that would not bother Washington in the least, just as Washington is undisturbed when its forces obliterate weddings, funerals, and children’s soccer games. What is Lithuania? To Washington it is a nothing. Kristoferis Voiska runs an alternative Internet news site in LIthuania. Not ...
READ MORE
Jimmy Carter: Return of the Crimea to Russia was Inevitable
  Former US President Jimmy Carter, in an interview with radio station “Voice of America”, ​​said that the reunification of Russia and the Crimea was an inevitable event. Carter also says he is pleased with Russia’s commitment to implement the Minsk agreement.  He added that the Elders were also pleased with Russia’s allegiance to the Minsk agreement.  “There’s not any doubt in our mind that the Russians genuinely want to see all the aspects of that concluded.  I think that’s the only ballgame in town,” said Carter, “really as far as resolving the problems with Ukraine, is to get the Minsk agreement ...
READ MORE
Memorial Day Hypocrisy
America is a warrior state, a serial aggressor, unaccountable for unparalleled high crimes against peace because of public ignorance and indifference. Americans are sublimely unaware of their nation’s history. Its so-called war of independence substituted new management for old. Everything changed but stayed the same. Civil war had nothing to do with freeing slaves, everything to do with keeping the nation intact, maintaining business as usual. Imperial America enslaved Black Africans, exterminated its native people, stole their land and resources, stole half of Mexico, followed by Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, Samoa, Hawaii, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Canal Zone, Puerto Rico and other territories. Peace ...
READ MORE
The Lie Of The 21st Century: How Mainstream Media “Fake News” Led To The U.S. Invasion Of Iraq
The mainstream media (MSM) has declared war on alternative media websites labeling them “Fake News” ever since Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump. The New York Times editorial board expressed their frustration in an article calling for the censorship of alternative and social media‘Facebook and the Digital Virus Called Fake News’ which claimed both social media platforms (Facebook and Google) has not been aggressive enough in blocking fake news sites: Most of the fake news stories are produced by scammers looking to make a quick buck. The vast majority of them take far-right positions. But a big part of the responsibility for this scourge ...
READ MORE
Israelis – Not Muslims – Cheered in Jersey City on 9/11
The corporate media don’t like Donald Trump. They used to like him a lot; in fact, Big Business Media are responsible for making this minor multi-millionaire into a household name. But Trump is on their hit list, nowadays, because the Republican presidential candidate insists on telling his own lies, rather than sticking to the list of official lies parroted by corporate media every minute of every day. Donald Trump told a really “HUGE” – as he would put it – lie when he claimed to have watched thousands of Muslims cheering in Jersey City, New Jersey, as the World Trade Center ...
READ MORE
Orwell At The UN: Obama Re-Defines Democracy As A Country That Supports U.S. Policy
In his Orwellian September 28, 2015 speech to the United Nations, President Obama said that if democracy had existed in Syria, there never would have been a revolt against Assad. By that, he meant ISIL. Where there is democracy, he said, there is no violence or revolution. This was his threat to promote revolution, coups and violence against any country not deemed a “democracy.” In making this hardly-veiled threat, he redefined the word in the vocabulary of international politics. Democracy is the CIA’s overthrow of Mossedegh in Iran to install the Shah. Democracy is the overthrow of Afghanistan’s secular government by ...
READ MORE
The ghosts of World War I circle over Ukraine
We don’t yet know the details behind the tragic downing of the Malaysia Airlines jetliner over eastern Ukraine on July 17, but in one sense, the details aren’t going to matter very much in the global scheme of things. The geopolitical outcome is already known. World outrage has focused on Russian president Vladimir Putin to such an extent that Putin has suffered a huge loss of moral authority. That, in turn, lessens his range of actions in his ongoing confrontation with the West over Ukraine and increases the likelihood that Russia will lose its traditional dominance over that split country ...
READ MORE
Overthrowing Other People’s Governments: The Master List
Instances of the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War. (* indicates successful ouster of a government) China 1949 to early 1960s Albania 1949-53 East Germany 1950s Iran 1953 * Guatemala 1954 * Costa Rica mid-1950s Syria 1956-7 Egypt 1957 Indonesia 1957-8 British Guiana 1953-64 * Iraq 1963 * North Vietnam 1945-73 Cambodia 1955-70 * Laos 1958 *, 1959 *, 1960 * Ecuador 1960-63 * Congo 1960 * France 1965 Brazil 1962-64 * Dominican Republic 1963 * Cuba 1959 to present Bolivia 1964 * Indonesia 1965 * Ghana 1966 * Chile 1964-73 ...
READ MORE
Vatican clergy and Ukrainian nationalism
The Catholic pontiff does more than just spread the Vatican’s word across the world, as he also spreads the ‘gospel’ of Ukrainian nationalism and victimhood, too. Francis made headlines when he said the mass killing of ethnic Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire was “the first genocide of the 20th century”. Largely lost amidst the ruckus is his previous statement that “the remaining two (genocides) were perpetrated by Nazism and Stalinism”, which was a strong allusion to Ukrainian nationalists’ decades-long campaign to have the Golodomor recognized as genocide, to which the Vatican, and especially Francis himself, are ...
READ MORE
A Nazi past of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Censored truth in the West
Bosnia’s Nazi past and role in the genocide of Bosnian and Krajina Serbs, Jews, and Roma during World War II has long been censored and covered-up in the U.S. and the so-called West. Film footage exists, however, of the Bosnian Muslim Nazi SS troops and Imams in the Handschar and Kama Nazi SS Divisions. Bosnian Muslim Division Imam Abdulah Muhasilovic shown in 1943 during training and formation of the Bosnian Muslim Nazi SS Division Handzar Moreover, German film footage also exists of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, a self-proclaimed leader of the Muslim world, reviewing the Bosnian Muslim ...
READ MORE
Western Media Propaganda Threatens Peace and Prolongs the Deadly Conflict in Eastern Ukraine
Western media is becoming unhinged as its anti-Russia propaganda struggles to keep a hold on its consumers. Two recent examples provide evidence. Pro-peace conspiracy emanating from Moscow On August 28, the New York Times published an article by its Moscow bureau chief about the troubling news (from the Times‘ viewpoint) that the people of Sweden are not happy with their government’s wish to join up with the NATO military alliance. The ruling elites in Sweden and Finland have been quietly pushing for NATO membership for years. In May, the Swedish government pushed through the Riksdag a proposal for a ‘cooperation agreement’ with NATO, ...
READ MORE
Serbia Under The EU’s Ultimatum On Kosovo’s Independence
Serbia entered on December 14th, 2015 a final stage of negotiations with Brussels on the EU's membership. It is known, however, that the EU gave an informal ultimatum to Serbia to recognize Kosovo’s independence for the exchange of becoming a full Member State of the EU. The western (the USA/EU) client Serbia’s Government is currently under the direct pressure from Brussels to recognize an independence of the narco-mafia Kosovo’s quasi state or to give up an idea to join the EU. It is only a question when a western colony of Serbia has to finally declare its official recognition of ...
READ MORE
Russia’s Balkan Politics: From the Politics of Pan-Slavic Reciprocity of the Tsarist Russia to the “Realpolitic” of the Republic of Gazprom Russia
Abstract: This article investigates the Russian foreign politics at the region of the Balkan Peninsula after the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the time of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) World Order in relation to the Pan-Slavic ideals of intra-Slavic solidarity, reciprocity and brotherhood. The particular stresses are put on four main research topics: 1. The Pan-Slavism and Russia; 2. Relations between pro-Western and pro-Orthodox approaches of the Russian national interests on Russia’s domestic political scene; 3. Different attitudes towards the Balkans in Russia; and 4. Historical ties and future perspectives between Russia and the Serbs. A research ...
READ MORE
Zionist Israel Hides Its Crimes Behind Its Smears Of Truth-Tellers
Several years ago two very distinguished American scholars wrote a book, The Israel Lobby. The book made a very understated case that the Israel Lobby has far more power over the US government and media than is good for America or Israel, as it silences constructive critics who are Israel’s friends. The two scholars were demonized by the Israel Lobby as advocating the return of the Holocaust. The Israel Lobby presented itself as just a poor little weak thing unable to stand up to all the Nazis assailing Israel. Meanwhile the US Congress was unanimously passing outrageous resolutions handed to it by ...
READ MORE
Democrats Are Now The Aggressive War Party
The Democratic Party has moved from being what you might call a reluctant war party to an aggressive war party with its selection of Hillary Clinton as its presumptive presidential nominee. With minimal debate, this historic change brings full circle the arc of the party’s anti-war attitudes that began in 1968 and have now ended in 2016. Since the Vietnam War, the Democrats have been viewed as the more peaceful of the two major parties, with the Republicans often attacking Democratic candidates as “soft” regarding use of military force. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. ...
READ MORE
The Nazi Solution Of The “Serb Question” In The 1990s Croatia
On September 10th, 2015 a City Council of Croatia’s capital Zagreb decided to promote a war criminal General Ante Gotovina to “honorable citizen of the City of Zagreb” for his “contribution to the defending of Croatia’s independence and territorial integrity”. The General, however, as a Commander-in-Chief of Croatia’s army, is directly responsible for a brutal ethnic cleansing and war crimes committed by Croatia’s army, police forces and state authorities over the Serbs during the SS-punishment-style military-police operation “Storm” (Oluja) in August 1995 when around 3000 ethnic Serbs in the Krajina region were killed and 250.000 expelled from their homes. That ...
READ MORE
Hillary Comes Out as the War Party Candidate
On June 2, a few days before the California primary, Hillary Clinton gave up trying to compete with Bernie Sanders on domestic policy. Instead, she zeroed in on the soft target of Donald Trump’s most “bizarre rants” in order to present herself as experienced and reasonable. Evidently taking her Democratic Party nomination for granted, she is positioning herself as the perfect candidate for hawkish Republicans. Choosing to speak in San Diego, home base of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, on a platform draped with 19 American flags and preceded by half an hour of military marching music, Hillary Clinton was certain of ...
READ MORE
The Russians Are Coming
As 2016 closes, we find ourselves a deeply unsettled nation. We’re unable to draw the lines of our national interest. Is it jobs and economy, is it national security, or is it now in our interest to ensure global security — in other words, act as the world’s policemen? As the “failing” (to quote Trump) New York Times degenerates into a Washington Post organization with its stagnant Cold War vision of a 1950s world where the Russians are to blame for most everything — Hillary’s loss, most of the aggression and disorder in the world, the desire to destabilize Europe, etc. — the Times has added the ...
READ MORE
Lithuanians Under Police State Attack And The World Under Washington’s Attack
Jimmy Carter: Return of the Crimea to Russia was Inevitable
Memorial Day Hypocrisy
The Lie Of The 21st Century: How Mainstream Media “Fake News” Led To The U.S. Invasion Of Iraq
Israelis – Not Muslims – Cheered in Jersey City on 9/11
Orwell At The UN: Obama Re-Defines Democracy As A Country That Supports U.S. Policy
The ghosts of World War I circle over Ukraine
Overthrowing Other People’s Governments: The Master List
Vatican clergy and Ukrainian nationalism
A Nazi past of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Censored truth in the West
EuroMaidan Ukraine – (Selection of the Best Photos)
Western Media Propaganda Threatens Peace and Prolongs the Deadly Conflict in Eastern Ukraine
Serbia Under The EU’s Ultimatum On Kosovo’s Independence
Russia’s Balkan Politics: From the Politics of Pan-Slavic Reciprocity of the Tsarist Russia to the “Realpolitic” of the Republic of Gazprom Russia
Zionist Israel Hides Its Crimes Behind Its Smears Of Truth-Tellers
Democrats Are Now The Aggressive War Party
The Nazi Solution Of The “Serb Question” In The 1990s Croatia
Hillary Comes Out as the War Party Candidate
The Russians Are Coming
Post-War U.S. Presidents
Share

Subscribe, Share & Follow