The already month-long unrest in Kiev has been interpreted unanimously by the Western media as a testament to the desire of all Ukrainian people to enter into the Association Agreement with the European Union (EU). However, public opinion polls indicate that the proportion of people who wish to enter the Customs Union with Russia is still slightly higher than the proportion that favor the EU (38 percent to 37 percent, respectively). Some absurdly claim that Ukraine has no other options beyond the EU, yet the agreement at hand envisions neither membership, visa-free travel nor financial aid, which many protesters and EU-propagandizing journalists naively ignore. Another issue is that some neo-fascist protesters are organizing demonstrative attacks on the police, take-overs of public buildings, and open promotion of anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and other values fully incompatible with European values.
In the language of psychologists, the Euromaidan could be characterized as a schizophrenia in which a skewed perception of reality has caused myriad problems. At the center of this lies the pathological interaction of all parties to the conflict: the opposition, the authorities, big business, European officials and politicians, as well as their Russian and American colleagues. It’s no help that the reality of the Association Agreement has nothing in common with the dream version envisioned by its supporters in Ukraine. The proposed EU agreement for Ukraine falls patently short of any commitments to improve the lives of Ukrainians or truly give them new rights in Europe.
The Association project, for which the leaders at Euromaidan strive, burdens Ukraine with obligations to follow European directives on trade policy; technological and antimonopoly regulation; veterinary and phytosanitary control; subsidies and government purchases; intellectual rights; and the commitment to follow in the wake of European foreign policy. In the case of a signed Association Agreement with the EU, Ukraine puts itself under European jurisdiction as a unilaterally dependent colony. The Ukrainian politicians fighting for this privilege position themselves as nationalists, swear on the inviolability of Ukrainian sovereignty and declare the impossibility of subjecting it to the wishes of a supranational entity. Yet, they also demonstrate an importunate readiness to serve that same sovereignty on a platter to the European Commission on whose directives they will have no say. Even Ukrainian neo-fascists, proud of their newly acquired sovereignty, fight to make of it a gift to Brussels.
According to some representatives in Ukranian industry, even modernizing Ukraine to the standards demanded by European technological directives will cost 150 billion euro, which the Ukrainian financial system does not have. Economists calculated that as a result of the Association-envisioned free-trade area, Ukrainian goods would be pushed out of the market and suffer a $2 billion annual loss, ultimately leading to a fall in GDP by 1.5-2 percent. Up until 2020, the Ukrainian economy and government would sustain losses due to the uneven competitiveness of Ukrainian with European goods. Financial experts even predicted a Ukrainian default due to the deterioration of trade relations with Russia a mere two months after the signing of the Association agreement, which was planned for November 26 in Vilnius. Despite the obviously catastrophic repercussions for the Ukrainian economy, all Ukrainian ministers voted to approve the agreement and tried to convince everyone of the inevitability of the Association.
The motivations of the Ukrainian leadership—which came to power through support from the country’s east and south who hoped for closer association with Russia—are even more difficult to understand. In these parts of Ukraine, two-thirds of the population supports Ukrainian entrance into the Common Economic Space with Russia and opposes an association with the EU. In a number of districts, the percentage supporting the Common Economic Space and opposing the Association Agreement reaches 85 percent. The anti-Russian European-integration policy is seen as disappointing and even traitorous. At the same time, however, the nurturing by the government of the Russophobic “Freedom” and “Udar” parties via oligarchic structures seems downright painful. Those same groups also finance the government-despised “Batkivshchyna,” thereby digging their own graves.
The conductor of these manic interactions is Ukrainian big business, which tries to ensure its safety by maintaining good relations with all political powers through corruption. Unlike the politicians and bureaucrats, the business sphere has a clear reason for its double-dealing behavior: Ukraine’s oligarchy receives most profits from a preferential trade regime with Russia, including access to the Russian market and Russian natural resources. However, the oligarchy turns its money largely into property in Western Europe. This explains why the oligarchs tell Moscow they favor its Customs Union, while in Washington and Brussels they court the European choice.
The picture of the mad Euromaidan comes full circle with the entrance of European officials and European politicians. And if the former pursue career advancement and pay from the Ukrainian association, then the latter behave as if they truly suffer from some malady. For instance, why would Poland or Lithuania need to drag Ukraine into the EU? Do they intend to share their Brussels subsidies and jobs? Or perhaps they are ready to invest multiple billions to support their Ukrainian competitors? And the Germans, already unhappy in their role as the EU’s principal bankroller, would likely be further chagrined that the addition of Ukraine into the Union would mean even more German tax money spent on Euro integration.
The behavior of Polish and Lithuanian politicians, judging by their rhetoric, can be explained through nostalgia for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Great Duchy of Lithuania that oppressed the Ukrainians half a millennium ago. In their wrongheadedness, historical episodes from centuries ago coexist with ballooned ideas of their EU mission. They do not seem to understand that their rude interference in Ukraine’s domestic issues and open participation in the events at the Maidan tramples the very same European values and democracy that they mobilize for. They, in fact, incited the opposition to engineer a coup without any regard for the democratically elected officials. Eurocrats similarly meddle by imposing the Association Agreement on the government even though it contradicts the Constitution of Ukraine. The Constitution bars the Ukrainian president from signing international agreements that delegate the sovereign functions of the government. Had Yanukovich signed the Association Agreement, he would have violated articles of the Ukrainian constitution, which, according to those very same European values, would represent intolerable despotism and state crime.
This senseless behavior is a result of the paradoxical relations that various sides involved maintain in the interest of personal comfort ultimately at the country’s expense. The Ukrainian economy is in a pitiable state, with its GDP volume still 30 percent smaller than it used to be a quarter of a century ago in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The population is suffering mass labor emigration and a so-called brain drain. Stereotypes of enmity and hate on one side and ennui on the other plague the public conscience. State offices are being degraded through inescapable corruption and incompetence. The EU is faring no better, as mass unemployment and increasing social unrest amply illustrate. A signed Association Agreement incorporating Ukraine into the EU reminds one of the famous painting by Vasili Pukirev “The Unequal Marriage,” in which a fragile old man takes a weeping young woman with no dowry as a wife. One cannot expect such a family to produce health, wealth or progeny.
It is hard to find rational motives for such economically doomed projects as the Eastern Partnership. If a rapid expansion of the EU immediately after the fall of the USSR could have been explained by fear of a renascent Socialist empire, the present-day attempts to isolate formerly Soviet republics from Russia appear fully irrational. The aspiration to check, at any cost, the reemergence of the Common Economic Space propped up by centuries of trade relations is a relic of a previous era’s geopolitical thinking. It is no coincidence that the Eastern Partnership initiative comes from Poland and the United States: the politicians of the former fall victim to historic delusions of grandeur, while the politicians of the latter remain mentally mired in former eras.
In many areas, Euro-Atlantic integration has pronounced imperial overtones. The use of military power to establish orders in the Near and Middle East, the organization of revolutions in the post-Soviet space and territorial expansion via the incorporation of former Socialist countries are great lengths just to establish geopolitical hegemony. In the twenty-first century, such forceful integration is unlikely to succeed. It brings chaos and destruction to the colonized countries and delivers no benefits to the hegemon. Despite bringing profits to the hegemon’s corporations, the economic results of this expansion are largely negative, while the social ones are characterized by humanitarian catastrophe.
If we toss away the mythology of the European choice and analyze the obvious consequences of signing the Association Agreement, it is easy to see that the true meaning of the agreement is to tear Ukraine from Russia and isolate it from the process of Eurasian economic integration. Despite the fact that Ukraine’s participation in the Common Economic Space with Russia is natural and vital for the development of Ukraine’s economy, culture and education, it is being opposed by the anti-Russian policy of Washington and its NATO allies in Kiev. This policy is steered by Zbigniew Brzezinski who convinced the American geopolitical machine that Russia could never return to its Great Power status without Ukraine. The desire to do harm to Russia even at the cost of economic collapse of Europe’s largest country— half of whose population considers itself Russian and almost universally speaks Russian—can clearly be followed in the work of all American missions to Kiev. The financing of anti-Russian school curricula, the preparation of fighters for provocation, and the pressure and intimidation of government officials have all been meticulously orchestrated by the American embassies and their allies in Kiev for the entirety of the past two post-Soviet decades.
Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland’s visit to Kiev was a pivotal moment. Accompanied by calls in Congress to impose sanctions against many Ukrainian officials and businessmen disloyal to Washington, she had confidential meetings with the most influential of them, threatening that they would be put on a list of sanctioned persons barred from entry into the United States and other NATO member-states and have their accounts and property seized. The blackmail of the most influential Ukrainians was attended by the publicized distribution of food to “suffering” supporters of Euro-integration and accusations against Russia for tough pressure on Ukraine.
President Putin called for mutual efforts to put an end to the paradoxical relations in the American-European Maidan around Ukraine. This was met with hysteria. In response to the warning that Russia would end preferential trade ties with Ukraine in accordance with WTO norms should the Association Agreement be signed, Ukrainian and European politicians began hurling accusations at Russia, blaming it for blackmailing and exerting pressure. When Yanukovich refused to sign the agreement because it would both hurt Ukraine and violate its Constitution, he was blamed domestically for treason, while internationally there was an attempt to provoke a coup and unseat the president. In the end, when the Russian leadership came to help Ukraine with credits and discounts in the price of natural gas, saving it from imminent bankruptcy and economic disaster, it was accused of buying out the Ukrainian leadership.
Compare the economic effects of the two regional integration scenarios for Ukraine. The side-by-side comparison of both—the signing of the Association Agreement and entry into the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space—shows the conspicuous benefits of the latter. In foreign trade, the Customs Union promises Ukraine’s economy $9-10 billion in the near future. With EU association, the forecast is a net loss of $2-4 billion. Depending on the depth of integration until 2030, Ukrainian entrance into the Customs Union and Common Economic Space is projected to increase GDP anywhere between 3 and 9 percent; under the Association Agreement it is projected that GDP would fall about 2-3 percent. In the financial sphere, the EU scenario would mean the growth of foreign debt, a devaluation of the currency, a government default, peak inflation, and ultimately, a lower standard of living. All of this would lead to increased unemployment. Overall, the economic benefit difference between the two scenarios by 2030 is about 7.5 percent.
Second, we must remember the common history of Russia and Ukraine, as well as previous attempts at European integration. During both World Wars, integration resulted in genocide against the Ukrainian people.
Third, we must admit that the Eastern Partnership project is in its nature anti-Russian and exceptionally detrimental to the establishment of good neighborly relations and stability in Europe. We must unpack the personal motives of European politicians and bureaucrats, who have manifestly violated all norms of international law in their pursuit of imposing the unconstitutional and one-sided Association Agreement on the Ukrainian leadership.
Fourth, we must negotiate a stop to interference in the domestic affairs of Ukraine and allow the Ukrainian people to decide their fate without blackmail from abroad. The geopolitical choice the country faces should be put to a national referendum.
Fifth, we should combine the efforts of both the EU and the Customs Union in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Community to optimize trade and economic cooperation with Ukraine.
The last proposition, recently articulated by Prime Minister Azarov of Ukraine, has excellent potential for improving the trade, economic and political relations in Europe. As we know, Russia and the EU have failed to establish a constructive dialogue since the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation expired some years ago. This is largely driven by political tensions caused by the anti-Russian Eastern Partnership. President Putin supported Azarov’s proposition, which was then rejected by frenzied Lithuanian politicians and by some European officials. Fortunately, the terms of those officials are coming to an end, and it is possible that this may also bring an end to the Maidan “schizophrenia,” which poisons the climate for cooperation in all of Europe.
Should the blackmail of Ukraine’s elite continue, the meddling of politicians and secret agencies of NATO countries in the domestic affairs of Ukraine will also endure. This could make the conflict spill beyond the limits of the Maidan in Kiev to overtake all of Ukraine, ensnaring Russia and the EU in it, and further aggravating relations between all parties. The escalation of this conflict would inevitably lead Ukraine to split, which would throw the entire Eastern European region in a spiral of instability and political tension. In the context of the continuing global economic crisis, this would have severe consequences for the trade relationship between the Customs Union, Ukraine and the EU, undoubtedly bringing about losses. It is possible that American political pundits are deliberately manipulating Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs dependent on them, however the realization of such a plan would damage the United States itself because it would further weaken the EU, America’s main ally in the post-Soviet world.
The staging of trilateral discussions between Ukraine, the EU and Russia together is the best possible outcome of the current stalemate. The EU’s ignoring this proposition would be counterproductive and reflect the involvement of the current European Commission, as well as the disproportionately large ambition of the Polish and Lithuanian politicians trying to enmesh the EU in their own anti-Russian adventures fanned by old inferiority complexes in their own countries. It is time to stop the growing conflict zone around the EU, which is still paying for the Balkan wars after the collapse of Yugoslavia. Russia’s interest lies in a stable and strong European Union, as it is the country’s main trade partner. The temptation of Ukraine, which was and is a historic and spiritual center of the Russian world with Kiev—the mother of all Russian cities—could end in catastrophe for the EU, as has already been explored in previous attempts to forcefully integrate Russia into Europe.
Sergey Glazyev serves as an adviser to the Russian President on Regional Economic Integration. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own made as a private citizen and do not necessarily reflect those of the Russian government.
Image: Wikicommons/Creative Commons.