News / Europe

Ukraine Drops Plan to Go West, Turns East

Ukrainian and EU flags are seen before a session of parliament in Kyiv Nov. 21, 2013.
Ukrainian and EU flags are seen before a session of parliament in Kyiv Nov. 21, 2013.
Reuters
Ukraine abruptly abandoned a historic new alliance with its western neighbors on Thursday, halting plans for an imminent trade pact with the European Union and saying it would instead revive talks with Russia.
 
EU officials, who had been preparing to sign the long-negotiated deal at the end of next week, said President Viktor Yanukovych cited fears of losing massive trade with Russia when he told an EU envoy this week that he could not agree to the terms.
 
Yanukovych's prime minister, Mykola Azarov, issued the dramatic order to suspend the process in the interests of “national security” and renew “active dialog” with Moscow. EU officials, who had hoped the president's complaints in recent days were a last-minute bargaining tactic, saw little chance of saving the deal.

Russia welcomes move

Russia, sensing betrayal in the westward pivot of its most populous former Soviet satellite, had threatened retaliation, raising fears it could cut energy supplies in new “gas wars.” The Kremlin welcomed the news of Ukraine's change of heart.
 
EU pressure for Yanukovych to release a jailed opponent whom he sees as a threat to his re-election in 2015 also dogged months of shuttle diplomacy with Ukraine, a country in which Russians see the historic origins of their nation and where many of the 46 million people are native Russian speakers.
 
Ukraine's parliament, dominated by Yanukovych's allies, rejected a series of bills earlier on Thursday that would have satisfied the EU by letting opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko out of prison to travel to Germany for medical treatment.
 
Shortly afterwards Prime Minister Azarov issued the order on suspending the EU process and reviving talks with Russia, other members of a Moscow-led customs union and the former Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States.
 
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “We welcome the desire to improve and develop trade and economic cooperation.” Ukraine was a “close partner,” he added.
 
European governments, especially those dominated by Moscow during the Cold War, have been keen to anchor Ukraine's bulk and population closer to the West, though others have doubted whether corruption and oppression make it a viable partner.
 
‘Brutal pressure’
 
Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said the European Union was keen still to improve ties with Ukraine but that it was up to Kyiv to decide. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a veteran of east-west diplomacy on the continent, was blunter.
 
“Ukraine government suddenly bows deeply to the Kremlin,” he tweeted. “Politics of brutal pressure evidently works.”
 
He added that Ukraine's economy would decline and that the rupture would “kill” Kyiv's prospects for foreign investment.
 
EU officials told Reuters that when Yanukovych met the EU commissioner in charge of relations with Kyiv, Stefan Fuele, on Tuesday, he had said he could not agree to the deal. It would, he said, cost Kyiv $500 billion in trade with Russia over the coming years, while implementing demands for Ukraine to adopt EU legal and other standards would cost another $104 billion.

Deal dead

Some EU diplomats had viewed that stance as brinkmanship, an effort to secure better terms. But on Thursday, after the government order, EU envoy Aleksander Kwasniewski was quoted as telling a Polish news agency that next week's deal was dead.
 
“The agreement will not be signed in Vilnius,” the former Polish president told TVN24.
 
“Our mission is ending. It is a pity that it is ending without a finish like the signing of the agreement,” he said.
 
Ukrainian opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk, an ally of Tymoshenko, said that if Yanukovych failed to sign it would be “treason” and provide grounds for the president's impeachment.
 
The 28-member EU had insisted Kyiv carry out democratic reforms including ending “selective justice” - the EU sees Tymoshenko as a political prisoner, irking Yanukovych who narrowly defeated her in the 2010 presidential election.
 
Nonetheless, he had been scheduled to sign the far-reaching free trade and cooperation agreement with the EU at a summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius next Friday, November 29.
 
German Foreign Minister Westerwelle spoke of wishing that Ukraine would share the EU's values and choose a “European path of development” but made clear that was up to Kyiv.
 
“Our interest in good relations with Ukraine is unbroken and our offer of a real partnership still stands,” he said in a statement. “The ball is in Kyiv's court. It is their sovereign right to decide on their path freely.”

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Warren from: US
November 22, 2013 1:12 PM
The EU needs to be patient and farsighted. A relationship based on coercion cannot last. And as Russia continues to de-industrialize, it will be ever more dependent on the imports of industrial goods.

In time, if the EU plays its cards right, Ukraine will export an increasing share of its industrial production west, reducing its dependence on earnings from Russia. At the same time, Russia is bound to become increasingly more dependent on imports, as its own corrupt, inefficient industry continues to disintegrate. Eventually, the tables will shift in Ukraine's favor, and turning its back on Russia will be not only desirable, but also possible.

Probably the only trump card Russia will retain is its energy supply to Ukraine, but even there the Ukrainians have options. The fact that Moscow now charges them near-world market prices means it's no longer a subsidy issue - just security of supply. And were the country to finally liberalize its oil & gas sector, it would not take long for companies from the world over to move in and begin developing the country's vast endowments of hydrocarbons. Never mind shale gas, which Ukraine is expected to have plenty of - the country has significant deposits of coal bed methane, which for all purposes is now a conventional resource, and has great potential for both conventional oil and gas in its offshore.

So, Kiev does not need to resign itself to this fate for ever. With prudent policies, and an open door policy from the EU, the country should be able to extract itself from the serf-like relationship it now endures with Russia. The fact that Putin had to essentially pull all the levers to bring Kiev to heel shows that the Russians know it's just a matter of time before Ukraine is truly free, and want to extract the maximum gains before latching on to another victim.


by: Dr Damekovych from: Ukraine
November 21, 2013 5:01 PM
don't be fooled by this cowardly act... Russia is disintegrating and it would be happy to take Ukraine with it. Ukraine just consigned its future to another 60 years of corruption and misery. the real question in this drama is - where the hell is America??? hey Obama, are you awake...??? do you see what are the implications here...???


by: David
November 21, 2013 3:52 PM
Russia wants to reform the Soviet Union and are using its resources as a negotiating club. Ukraine chose resources over the educational wealth of the EU.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid