With Ukraine having rebuffed the Russian led Customs Union in favour of the DCFTA with the EU what other ways are there to keep pressure on Ukraine and the EU from a Russian perspective?
It seems the answer is another EU. This EU being the Eurasia Union and Mr Putin’s latest announcement.
For those of you who cannot read Russian, basically the Eurasia Union will consist of those actively engaged in the Customs Union, namely Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, with open invitation to all other ex-Soviet commonwealth nations, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, many of which are actively being chased by the European Union via the EaP.
So, does the Eurasia Union sound like the acceptable new name for recreating the Soviet Union?
Some would say no more than the European Union which is a similar supra-structure that has benefited Germany more than most other members without the need for the Third Reich and all the unpleasantness of war.
In effect this EU would be a direct rival to the existing EU for those who have not yet joined the western-European project.
Thus far, of those targeted by the EaP, Ukraine is the furthest along the road to agreements on associations and deep and comprehensive free trade areas. In fact no other nation has even started formally discussing such matters yet. They are all, therefore, fair game and up for grabs.
It would be foolish to state that these nations could not either be sucked back into the Russian influence or happily head there of their own will. A look at the recent election in Latvia shows the pro-Russian party won. Latvia has been a European Union member since 2004 so even an ex-Soviet and now EU nation is turning its head back towards Russia by public sentiment.
Is it conceivable that Ukraine would about turn and look seriously at the Euroasian Union rather than the European Union? What about Georgia who got a blooded nose from Russia a few years ago?
There is a considerably strong pro-Russia sentiment amongst the populations in both Ukraine and Gerogia and of a size that whilst possibly a minority, is a sizable minority.
What about Moldova, a nation where Russian troops are still stationed?
Ukraine is probably too far down the line to abruptly about face, Moldova has closer ethnic ties to Romania (an EU nation) than Russia but neither are guarantees that the EU will have won this geopolitical battle yet. Signatures on dotted lines and ratifications of agreements are still to take place whilst issues like the Tymoshenko trial irk the EU and no guarantee of EU membership in the future (despite Article 49 guarantees) in the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine are causing some annoyance in Kyiv.
There is still the potential for huge amounts of political energy to disappear in a puff of smoke as far as Ukraine and the EU is concerned. This is especially so if ratification of the agreements drags on and on amongst EU capitals whilst the open arms and arm twisting of and by Russia await.
The geopolitical tug-o-war which the EU looked likely to win is now back on.