News / Europe

Russian Pressure Moves Ukraine Closer to the West

Russian Pressure Moves Ukraine Closer to the Westi
X
September 12, 2013 5:57 PM
Since breaking away from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has been struggling with its identity, wavering between Russia and the West. However, with the first post-Soviet generation reaching adulthood, pro-European attitudes in Ukraine appear to be prevailing. In November this year, the European Union and Ukraine are scheduled to sign Association and Free Trade Agreements, which would lead Ukraine to move further from Russia’s sphere of influence. Russia is trying to prevent this development but some experts say its methods are backfiring. VOA's Tatiana Vorozhko explains.
Since breaking away from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has been struggling with its identity, wavering between Russia and the West. However, with the first post-Soviet generation reaching adulthood, pro-European attitudes in Ukraine appear to be prevailing.  In November this year, the European Union and Ukraine are scheduled to sign Association and Free Trade Agreements, which would lead Ukraine to move further from Russia’s sphere of influence. Russia is trying to prevent this development but some experts say its methods are backfiring.

To sign the Association and Free Trade Agreements with the European Union, the Ukrainian parliament has to adopt legislation to bring the country's laws into compliance with European standards.

Pro-European former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko sees it as Ukraine's last chance.

"We will not have this chance in a year, two or 10," he said. "We have many deficiencies, beginning with the election system, law enforcement, the problems of double standards in the rule of law, unprecedented corruption and many others. But all these problems can be only resolved within the context of moving closer to Europe."

The EU is also demanding an end to politically-motivated prosecutions and the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Despite a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that her right to a fair trial was violated, she remains in jail on abuse of power charges.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer says freeing Tymoshenko is crucial.

"If they are not prepared to do something on Tymoshenko, I think it will be very difficult, from what we are hearing now, to see a majority of EU member-states favoring going ahead and signing an Association Agreement," he said.

Meanwhile, Russia, which is striving to keep Ukraine in its orbit, is offering an alternative: joining the Customs Union. Ukraine would not need to fulfill any requirements and will enjoy free trade with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and pay lower prices for Russian natural gas.

In August, Russia blocked imports from Ukraine. Some goods suddenly failed to satisfy Russian safety and quality standards or had other difficulties passing through customs.

Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute in Washington sees the move as a form of pressure.

"Russia is really showing that the chips are down and since about one quarter of Ukrainian trade is with Russia, Russia has a big impact," he said. "Ukraine has been in recession for four quarters with GDP falling 1-2 percent a quarter, the financial [situation] is in the very poor shape. So, President Putin seems decided to get Ukraine down on its knees."

As a result, Ukrainian politicians called for closer ties with the EU, promising promised to fulfill all requirements as soon as possible. 

The Europeans were outraged over Russian actions towards its neighbors who seek partnership with Europe.

"What we have seen during the last few week - brutal Russian pressure against the partnership countries, the sort that we haven`t seen for a very long time," said Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Bildt. "I think to the certain extent they are doing this because all the world attention on Syria, they don`t think that will be that much noticed. That`s why it is important we bring it up here."

Russian influence over Ukraine is not limited to trade. It has a strong political, media and religious presence.

Kennan Institute head Matthew Rojanski believes that Russia will continue to exert its influence over Ukrainian politics even after the Association Agreement is signed.

"It does give me concern that even if Ukraine has an Association Agreement with Europe, even if the Ukrainian economy grows consistently, education becomes more widespread and people have more ties to the West, as well as to the East, that potential to interfere in a destructive way in the development of the Ukrainian nation-state is always going be there, or is going to be there for long enough that that development will be dysfunctional," said Rojanski.

Despite this, many Ukrainians seem ready for their country to move closer to Europe.

According to the most recent poll, 41 percent of Ukrainians support joining the EU and 31 percent are in favor of the Customs Union.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs