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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs