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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
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.

All About America

AppleAndroid