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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs