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Ukraine to lose “Strategic Partner” status if it signs with the EU – Glazyev

August 30, 2013

Yesterday I wrote this relating to the obvious deterioration in Russian Ukrainian relations and the fact the EU, majority and opposition were at least on the same page for once.

There I raised the issued of Mykola Tomenko’s rather hopeful outlook relating to Russian relations being based on anything more than absolute “needs”.

“Unfortunately, “reasonable” works only when both parties are prepared to sacrifice “positions” but seek more than “needs” – effectively working by way of the middle road of “interests”. Mr Tomenko seems to have a rather hopeful outlook when it comes to Russia being “reasonable” any time soon.

It is also rather a stretch to say the current government have suggested an association with both Customs Union and EU to society. What it has suggested publicly and often – swiftly pooh-poohed by Russia – was a Customs Union +1 (Ukraine) arrangement whereby Ukraine was not a full member of the Customs Union. The current government is fully aware – having negotiated and agreed the Association Agreement and DCFTA with the EU themselves – that the two are not compatible (because the CU does not allow Ukraine to set unilaterally its trade parameters – a requirement of the EU).

However he is quite right. The current government should face the reality that the current status quo is an impossibility should any agreement be signed. Russia will sulk and will make Ukraine suffer given every opportunity. The recent warning shots have been fired and leave no room for doubt.

Nevertheless, until signatures dry on any agreements – and there is no guarantee there will be any signatures at all – perhaps stretching that status quo as long as possible is not such a bad option over the next few months. What is Mr Tomenko’s contingency plan should there be no signing with the EU and also having ruled out any kind of 3 +1 styled Customs Union arrangement having completely poisoned the Russian well in advance?”

Now if my skepticism relating to Russian attitudes towards Ukraine – and Mr Tomenko’s more up-beat hopes for a Russian/Ukrainian relationship based upon a “pragmatic and mutually beneficial basis” needed any further confirmation – presidential advisor to Mr Putin, Sergei Glazyev underlined the fact that Russia is quite prepared to cut off its nose to spite its face yesterday.

“Ukraine will stop being our strategic partner and it will disappear as a subject of international law because it will have to coordinate all its action in the trade sphere with the EU.  Ukraine will not be able to make a step towards us if the EU does not allow it to do. We do not understand why Ukraine is giving up its sovereignty voluntarily to Brussels, rejecting cooperation with us on preferential terms.

This is a catastrophe for Ukraine and a big blow for us.”

Ukraine will stop being Russia’s strategic partner was a statement waiting to be made by somebody – how could it be otherwise?

What Mr Tomenko wants to see by way of relations based upon a “pragmatic and mutually beneficial basis” in relation to trade is unlikely in the short term.  Somebody in the Kremlin at this very moment is working on the scenario of replacing the goods that Russian businesses rely on from Ukraine to determine how long it would take – whether that strategy be implemented or not.

But once again, Russia and Mr Glazyev (and Mr Tomenko) are choosing to concentrate only upon the DCFTA and economic issues and seem to be deliberately ignoring to Association Agreement which is of possibly much more serious domestic consequence to the Kremlin in the years ahead as I have written about recently.

“Despite the Customs Union (read Russia) framing the Ukrainian future choice in purely economic terms whenever and wherever it can, Russian concern relates to its desire to keep a nation with a perceived shared history, culture and language looking toward it favourably. The perception of Ukraine turning its back on Russia for the EU will present difficult questions for those in the Kremlin when ordinary Russians in huge numbers begin to ask whether the chosen Ukrainian direction is in fact the right direction – and shouldn’t Russia be following that route too?”

Mr Tomenko seems to expect a relationship based upon a “pragmatic and mutually beneficial basis”, when both the EU Association Agreement and Mr Putin’s Custom Union/Eurasian Union are ideological concepts first and foremost – and pragmatism often plays a poor second fiddle to ideology if it is perceived to undermine it.

The more Russia publicly  and deliberately ignores acknowledging the political, democratic and social parameters set by the Association Agreement upon Ukraine, the more I become convinced of what I wrote above relating to serious domestic concerns in the longer term within the Kremlin.

Should Ukraine and the EU manage to make a half-decent show of things with regards to both the Association Agreement and DCFTA – that may further stoke the discontent amongst an already unhappy Russian middle class.

If ever there was a reason to choose the EU deal over the offer by Russia, for those who care about the chances of not only consolidation, but the eventual invincibility of democracy in Ukraine over any other style of leadership, then the economics of the DCFTA vis a vis Customs Union are, whilst important, secondary – which is undoubtedly why Russia is keen to frame the entirety of the Association Agreement in singularly economic terms, remaining mute over the political, democratic and social  frameworks within the Association Agreement.

A fear of the Churchill hypothesis seeping across the Russian border from its perceived close Ukrainian kin?

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