Expert: Putin now less able to block Ukraine’s European integration than last year



Oleksandr Lashchenko
Kyiv – With its demand to amend the already signed Association Agreement on Ukraine’s European integration, Russia is now pressing for what former President Yanukovych had agreed to last year. This is how analysts view Moscow’s proposed amendments to the Association Agreement, which would allow Ukraine to possibly participate in the [ed. – Russia-led] Customs Union. After blackmailing the previous Kyiv government and fighting a war against the current one, it seems Russia has taken one step back. However, according to economists, this is a trick to block Ukraine’s European integration. 

Russia is demanding that Kyiv and the European Union amend the Association Agreement so that it would “not prevent” Ukraine’s integration to the Customs Union, Dzerkalo Tyzhnya reports, citing the document [outlining the changes].

The “Proposal of the Russian side regarding amendments to the Association Agreement between the EU and EU member states on one side and Ukraine on the other with the goal of minimizing risks that result from the enactment of the aforementioned agreement” notes how the agreement should be ‘amended’ in order not to preclude “Ukraine’s further participation in other integration unions besides the EU.”

Russia’s desire to influence the European integration of its neighboring state is not surprising, argued political expert Olesya Yakhno in commentary to Radio Liberty. However, the question remains: What was Russia thinking last year when answering the proposal made by the previous Kyiv government to participate in an equal discussion on Ukraine’s European integration?

The previous Ukrainian government was ready to discuss European integration while taking  Russia’s interests into account

The previous Ukrainian government was ready to discuss the country’s integration to Europe while taking account of Russia’s interests. Over half a year ago, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov offered to discuss the problem, however, at the time Russia refused.

“Russia’s current opportunities are worse than what it had last year. First and foremost, Russia had a government in Ukraine that was loyal to it. And had Viktor Yanukovych signed the Association Agreement in November of the previous year, he would have had high chances of being reelected in 2015. And, accordingly, there was a chance that Kyiv would have had Moscow’s interests in mind,” notes the political expert.

However, Russia decided to blackmail Kyiv, blocking the Association Agreement, then annexing Crimea and deploying its army against Ukraine, notes Olesya Yakhno. And now Moscow is coming back to what it could have done last year at a much lower cost.

Russia now has to convince more than just Ukraine

Economist Oleksandr Zholud told Radio Liberty: Even if Ukraine and its current government, after Maidan and the Russian invasion in Donbas, suddenly consented to Russia’s demands, it wouldn’t be enough [ed. – to meet Russia’s demands]. The Association Agreement was approved by all EU members. And they all have to consent to any possible amendments to this agreement. It is impossible to keep sitting in two chairs, the European and Eurasian integration ones, at the same time.

“For example, certain Customs Union norms may lead to increased tariffs imposed by all members of this union. This would violate the Free Trade Zone with the EU or the obligations that Ukraine takes up when joining the World Trade Organization,” concludes Oleksandr Zholud.

Meanwhile Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius emphasized on his Twitter page that Russia’s proposals to amend the Association Agreement are unacceptable.

Source: Radio Liberty

Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina, edited by Andrew Kinder

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