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.
Tatiana Vorozhko
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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid