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
Victims Of The (Western) Christian Faith
Listed are only events that solely occurred on command or participation of church authorities or were committed in the name of Christianity. (List incomplete) Ancient Pagans As soon as Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire by imperial edict (315), more and more pagan temples were destroyed by Christian mob. Pagan priests were killed. Between 315 and 6th century thousands of pagan believers were slain. Examples of destroyed Temples: the Sanctuary of Aesculap in Aegaea, the Temple of Aphrodite in Golgatha, Aphaka in Lebanon, the Heliopolis. Christian priests such as Mark of Arethusa or Cyrill of Heliopolis were famous as "temple ...
READ MORE
Kosovo History – Fourth Part
The Serbs stepped again onto the historical scene in the years of the European wars that swept the continent from the forests of Ireland to the walls of Constantinople in the late 17th century. The Turks finally withdrew from Hungary and Transylvania when their Ottoman hordes were routed outside Vienna in 1683. The disintegration of Ottoman rule in the southwest limbered up the Serbs, arousing in them hope that the moment was ripe for joint effort to break Turkish dominion in the Balkans. The neighboring Christian powers (Austria and Venice) were the only possible allies. The arrival of the Austrian ...
READ MORE
Establishment Struggles to Maintain Anti-Russian Narrative as the Ice Starts to Crack Under Them
As I have noted before in Strategic Culture Foundation, the infant Trump Administration is engaged in a life and death struggle with the Deep State, the mainstream media (MSM), all of the Democrats in Congress, and a lot of the Republicans too. One issue lies at the heart of the struggle: the determination of Trump’s enemies not to allow any sort of warming of ties between Washington and Moscow. Day after day the MSM run story after story alleging, with no evidence whatsoever, that Trump is a puppet of Vladimir Putin, who stole our election to put Trump in the White House. ...
READ MORE
Why US’s “collateral damage” and “errors” are not a war crime?
BELGRADE – Many innocent civilians were killed in American military interventions around the world – from Vietnam and Serbia to Iran and Afghanistan, because of the alleged “errors” or “collateral damage” – without consequences for civil and military leadership. In addition to political, military and every other power, Americans secured itself with legal mechanisms. Twenty-two civilians, wounded and doctors, among them three children, were killed in the American bombing of a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz. Americans acknowledged the error and apologized. The President of the United States expressed his condolences, the military leadership announced three independent investigations. “Doctors ...
READ MORE
Holocaust Revisionism And The Campaign Against Russia
“The main reason for that was not because of warfare or systematic killing, it’s because …diseases, …did not have any immunities, so they perished in large numbers.” The above statement, if said in reference to the slaughter of Jews in concentration camps by Nazis, would be illegal in most European countries. Individuals like David Irving, who have claimed that “disease” not homicidal gas chambers, killed the victims of Auschwitz and other concentration camps, have been fined and imprisoned. Claiming pure intentions on the part of the Nazis, revising the statistics on their atrocities, and purporting that those who say otherwise have ...
READ MORE
Seal in lobby at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, USA
2015 has become a year of living dangerously. Wars are spreading across the globe.  Wars are escalating as new countries are bombed and the old are ravaged with ever greater intensity. Countries, where relatively peaceful changes had taken place through recent elections, are now on the verge of civil wars. These are wars without victors, but plenty of losers; wars that don’t end; wars where imperial occupations are faced with prolonged resistance.             There are never-ending torrents of war refugees flooding across borders.  Desperate people are detained, degraded and criminalized for being the survivors and victims of imperial invasions.             Now major nuclear powers ...
READ MORE
Anglo-Saxon Roots Of German Nazism
More than six decades after Berlin’s capitulation which capped World War II, the war is still raging, now in the form of revisionist attempts to cast a shadow over the memory of Soviet soldiers who fought in it. Among other things, the efforts aimed at equating fascism – a monster nurtured by the West in the 1930s-1940s – and Russia’s XX century wartime past are supposed to divert attention from the continuity between the Anglo-Saxon imperialism and the German national socialism. The nature and key traits of the continuity are exposed in “From Imperialism to Fascism: Why Hitlers’ India was ...
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
“We have the right to live”: NATO’s war on Yugoslavia and the expulsion of Serbs from Kosovo
In the period before the 1999 NATO attack on Yugoslavia, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) waged a campaign to secede and establish an independent Kosovo dominated by Albanians and purged of every other ethnic group. In October 1998, KLA spokesman Bardhyl Mahmuti spelled the KLA’s vision: “We will never change our position. The independence of Kosovo is the only solution…We cannot live together [with Serbs]. That is excluded.” Once NATO’s war came to an end, the KLA set about driving out of Kosovo every non-Albanian and every pro-Yugoslav Albanian it could lay its hands on. The KLA left in its wake ...
READ MORE
The Donald And The Jewish Question
As news of appointments to the Trump administration flow in, the hard Right is riding high, and anti-Semitism and Zionism are in the news in ways that purveyors of conventional wisdom have to struggle to make sense of.  The Trump phenomenon has undone conventional understandings of both. Trump’s thirty-something son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband, embodies a lot of what has put those conventional understandings in doubt. A (modern) orthodox Jew and rabid Zionist, Kushner is not exactly éminence grise material; his is too young and insubstantial to be what Dick Cheney was for George Bush.  Nevertheless, he does seem to be stepping ...
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
Fallujah: A symbol of US war crimes
No city in Iraq is more symbolic of the criminal consequences of the US invasion of Iraq than Fallujah. Prior to 2003, the 300,000-strong, prosperous, predominantly Sunni Muslim community on the Euphrates River, one of humanity’s oldest continuous urban settlements, was known as the “city of mosques.” After 13 years of destruction at the hands of the US military and its client state in Baghdad, it is today a labyrinth of ruins, a city of the dead. Following weeks of air strikes by US, British and Australian bombers, a combination of Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias is reportedly on the ...
READ MORE
The Long History Of Russophobia, Starting With Its Religious Roots
The former editor of the Tribune de Genève, [Guy Mettan-RI] visited Moscow and presented his new book Russia and the West: A Thousand Year War, which reviews the phenomenon of Russophobia: its roots, historical evolution and modern incarnations. Izvestia had a chance to interview him. What inspired you to write about this? There are two reasons why I began this work. The first is a personal, family reason. In 1994, my wife and I adopted a Russian girl, who now is now 25. Her name is Oksana, and she is from the Vladimir region. After we adopted her, I became interested ...
READ MORE
Kosovo ISIL – A Photo Documentation
Join the debate on our Twitter Timeline!
READ MORE
The Crimean ‘Question’
There are more questions than answers to the Crimean ‘question’. After more than two decades belonging to an independent Ukraine, the Crimean peninsula has become part of Russia, which has thereby gained an extra 27,000 km2 of territory and over two million new citizens. Ukraine and the West see this unprecedented event as annexation and a sign of the Kremlin’s neo-imperial ambitions. To countries not directly involved in the Ukrainian crisis, it is a dangerous violation of the Eurasian status quo that could cause widespread destabilisation in the area, while in Moscow’s eyes it is ‘the return of Crimea and Sevastopol ...
READ MORE
Obama’s ‘Big Lie’: US Has Supplied Ukraine With Arms From the Start
President Obama is still considering arming Ukraine in case the latest ceasefire is breached and the conflict escalates; but political analyst Stephen Lendman told Sputnik in an exclusive interview that the US leader is lying, and that the US has been supplying arms to Kiev from the very start of the military operation. © REUTERS/ Gary Cameron The ceasefire between Kiev forces and independence supporters of Donetsk and Luhansk is generally holding, shelling in Donbas has stopped as the truce came in force on midnight, a spokesperson at the Kiev special operations headquarters said Sunday.But a day earlier Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and US President Barack Obama, during a ...
READ MORE
The U.S. has Installed in 2014 a Neo-Nazi Government in Ukraine
This article first published in March 2014 at the very outset of the Ukraine crisis explains the nature of the Kiev proxy regime. we are dealing with a Neo-Nazi government supported by “Western democracy” and the “international community”.  According to the New York Times, “The United States and the European Union have embraced the revolution here as another flowering of democracy, a blow to authoritarianism and kleptocracy in the former Soviet space.” ( After Initial Triumph, Ukraine’s Leaders Face Battle for Credibility,  NYTimes.com, March 1, 2014, emphasis added). “Flowering Democracy, Revolution”?  The grim realities are otherwise. What is a stake is a ...
READ MORE
U.S. Bombs dropped in 2016
How incredible is this... The United States is technically not at war with any country right now but dropped more than 26,000 bombs in just 2016 and this under a "anti-war" President. We have an entire generation of Americans who have lived only under a system of "perpetual war". The time is long overdue to redefine these issues. Map of the US bombed states in 2016 with the number of dropped bombs By Ben Swann 2017-01-06 Source: Ben Swann FB Join the debate on our Twitter Timeline!
READ MORE
Victims Of The (Western) Christian Faith
Kosovo History – Fourth Part
Establishment Struggles to Maintain Anti-Russian Narrative as the Ice Starts to Crack Under Them
Why US’s “collateral damage” and “errors” are not a war crime?
Holocaust Revisionism And The Campaign Against Russia
The Age Of Imperial Wars: From Regional War, “Regime Change” To Global Warfare
Anglo-Saxon Roots Of German Nazism
Western Media Propaganda Threatens Peace and Prolongs the Deadly Conflict in Eastern Ukraine
“We have the right to live”: NATO’s war on Yugoslavia and the expulsion of Serbs from Kosovo
The Donald And The Jewish Question
Russia’s Balkan Politics: From the Politics of Pan-Slavic Reciprocity of the Tsarist Russia to the “Realpolitic” of the Republic of Gazprom Russia
Fallujah: A symbol of US war crimes
Is it an Empire? See the Facts
The Long History Of Russophobia, Starting With Its Religious Roots
Kosovo ISIL – A Photo Documentation
Post-War U.S. Presidents
The Crimean ‘Question’
Obama’s ‘Big Lie’: US Has Supplied Ukraine With Arms From the Start
The U.S. has Installed in 2014 a Neo-Nazi Government in Ukraine
U.S. Bombs dropped in 2016