By Robert J. Guttman and Jelena Jovic
December 19, 2013
It seems like a scene from the days of the Cold War.
Will Ukraine move toward the European Union and democracy and free markets or be “a strategic partner and ally” of Russia?
The President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin answered the question on December 17th when “Russia lavished Ukraine with a bailout package worth at least $20 billion Tuesday, trumping the West in a Cold War –tinged struggle that keeps the former Soviet republic in Moscow’s orbit” states The Wall Street Journal.
“Russia maneuvered aggressively to dissuade Mr. Yanukovych from signing political and trade agreements with the European Union and, by offering the bailout package, Mr. Putin ensured that Mr.Yanukovych would not revive these accords anytime soon,” comments The New York Times.
Continuing, the NYT article states, “To Mr. Putin’s evident glee, his bold steps left European officials stunned and scrambling for a response.”
“Under the deal, Russia will buy $15 billion in Eurobonds issued by Ukraine. Kiev will also receive a discount on critical gas supplies from Russian state giant OAO Gazprom of nearly one-third to $268.50 per 1,000 cubic meters through 2019, Ukraine’s top energy official said,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
Ukraine has been in the news with the massive protests against the government for moving away from the European Union and back towards Russia. The Euromaidan protests (name comes from the location of the protests which took place in Kiev’s central square) rallied supporters in the United States and across Europe to support the protestors’ calls for more democracy, less corruption and more of a move towards the West.
Senator John McCain and EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton were two of the supporters of the protestors who traveled to Ukraine to throw their support behind their cause.
While it looks as if the battle has been lost for the short term with Ukraine staying in Russia’s orbit and not moving towards the European Union, in the long term there seems to be quite a bit of hope for eventual relations with the EU.
As an article by the German Marshall Fund points out, “Europeans should be grateful to Ukraine. What makes hundreds of citizens withstand freeze and force alike is not a plea for help; it is their confident demand for self-determination, lawfulness, prosperity and peace. Ukrainians’ commitment to these most basic values is a powerful reminder of what European Union integration once set out to achieve, and how much is still to be done. If it ever lives up to its self-declared ambitions, Europe must succeed in Ukraine. First of all, the ‘Euromaidan’ movement signals that Europe is still an attractive model of development. …A majority views the path of Europe as the only way out of the post-Soviet slump, its cleptocracy and corruption, stalemate and semi-authoritarianism.”
As the old saying goes: “I can’t be bought but I can be rented” applies to the current government of Ukraine. They have rented themselves out to their old masters in Moscow for a very needed loan and good terms on energy prices.
The White House spokesman Jay Carney is quoted as saying, “We urge the Ukrainian government to listen to its people and to find a way to restore a path to a peaceful, just, democratic and economically prosperous European future to which Ukrainian citizens aspire.
The opposition in Ukraine will continue and eventually the country, under a new government-elections will be held in 2015-will hopefully change direction and move more towards the EU and away from Russia.
For the time being the “financial lifeline” from Russia is keeping the unpopular Yanukovych government in power. However, look for protests to continue in the streets and the ballot box in the near future in Ukraine.