Ukraine Leaves the European Union in the Lurch


Mira Milosevich is writer and lecturer at the Instituto Universitario de Investigación Ortega y Gasset

Ukraine's decision, announced by Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov, to "suspend preparations" for the signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union, scheduled for 28 November in Vilnius (Lithuania), is the result of the Ukraine's own economic and political situation, of Putin's coercion and of the European Union's inability to carry out its flagship project–the Eastern Partnership–addressed to several ex-Soviet countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine) and thus continue its eastward enlargement.

For Ukraine, the 610 million euros pledged by the EU and the International Monetary Fund are not sufficient to offset the consequences of the closure of the Russian market to its products and, particularly, with winter already at the doorstep, it does not remedy its energy dependence on Russian gas. The Ukrainian Parliament has rejected six times the EU's request and key condition for the signing of the treaty–Yulia Tymoshenko's release from jail (the former president and leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution)–as incompatible with its laws (and because Tymoshenko could run for the next presidential election of 2015, thus ruining the current president's plans to remain in power).

Russia's coercion has borne its fruit, but it's not the only influence on the relations between the two countries: Vladimir Putin helped the current president Viktor Yanukovych to get to office in 2010, and will do so again in 2015. There are some cultural and religious ties that resist European postmodernism: Kievan Rus was the embryo of the Russian State, 20% of Ukrainian citizens are of Russian origin and exert considerable influence on "Little Russia" (that was how Russians referred to Ukraine in Tsarist times), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church considers itself Russian, i.e., not autocephalous like other national Orthodox churches (Serbian, Greek, Bulgarian, Macedonian…).

Russia is the winner of this historic ditching: Ukraine has announced that it will intensify its negotiations with the Customs Union (Russia, Belarus and Kazajistan). For Russia, blocking EU's and NATO's enlargement toward the East is a priority of its foreign policy. Ukraine and the EU are the great defeated: Ukraine has lost an opportunity to get closer to the EU, which undoubtedly would have accelerated its modernisation. Even though Moldova and Georgia will sign the Association Agreement with the EU in Vilnius, it rather loses its meaning without Ukraine, the largest country (46 million inhabitants) of the six candidates. Ukraine's ditching shows that the EU lacks appeal and instruments to influence countries where there is no European historical feeling, unlike what happened in the case of the countries of the former Warsaw Pact who wanted to "return to Europe".