Why signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union is bad news for Vladimir Putin?
Over the past few months political and economic pressure on Ukraine by the Russian Federation has significantly increased. Despite numerous statements of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that Ukraine’s geopolitical choice is an internal affair of a sovereign state, it is no secret that the pressure has increased because of the approaching of Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius.
So let’s try to figure out why possible signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, which, in the opinion of many experts, still can happen, is so unprofitable for Mr. Putin.
Although the Association Agreement (hereinafter sometimes referred to as AA) does not explicitly guarantee the prospects of Ukraine’s membership in the European Union, the Russia’s president, obviously, clearly understands that it is fundamental for the final and almost irreversible geopolitical drift of Ukraine towards European values. And, accordingly, our country’s abandoning of orientation on the Russian version of so-called “managed democracy” widely practiced in former Soviet Union states.
Mr. Putin, for whom the most essential task nowadays is to build up a geopolitical project codenamed neo-USSR (regardless of how it will be called – the Customs Union or somehow else), categorically rejects such state of affairs. Thus, in the case of signing of AA between Ukraine and the EU the plans of Russia’s President on the creation of this quasi-alliance will undergo a significant correction, if not collapse. And European politicians, who still remember the “successful neighborhood” of their countries with the Soviet Union should seriously think this issue over before the summit in Vilnius.
An Expert on Ukraine from Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (which provides analysis and recommendations for Russia’s President and Russian Security Council) Eduard Popov have just recently stated to the Ukrainian media that “the revival of Russia will be difficult without Ukraine”. “Ukraine is needed not by Vladimir Putin but by Russia. We live in the age of globalization. It shows that there is a future only for those communities, which have large markets…, – he said among other things. – “The future belongs to the communities where markets are not less than two hundred million people. Russia along with Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and possibly some other countries of the former Soviet Union, can gather such a market from parts”. Or here are a few more quotes of the same “Putin’s analyst” that clarify the interest of the Russian Federation in the failure of EU integration prospects of Ukraine: “Russia, which in the 90s has gone through liberal reforms, that undercut the high-tech industry, now needs to transform its reviving industry in the form of Ukrainian and also needs Ukrainian workers…”, “If Ukraine was a member of the Customs Union, there would be no these trade wars. Russia is interested in Ukraine as an island of production sector industrialization. Together with Ukraine Russia would be a major economic, industrial player. Without Ukraine revival of Russia as an industrial nation is very difficult.”
Domestic political reasons
For Mr. Putin failure of Ukraine at the Vilnius summit and, as a consequence, postponing of its European prospects for an indefinite period is also a victory on the domestic front. It’s no secret that in the past few years, Russian propaganda has been depicting Mr. Putin in the context of mythologem “the gatherer of Russian lands” – a reference to the medieval princes of Moscow, Russian tsars, emperors and the leaders the Soviet Union. So winning by European oriented Viktor Yushchenko in the Ukrainian presidential elections in 2004 was a serious blow to Vladimir Putin’s image among Russian people.
And that is exactly why the possible signing of the AA between Ukraine and the EU, on disrupting of which all possible diplomatic and economic arguments are aimed, as well as the efforts of Russian secret services, could significantly undermine the authority of the Russia’s President in the country.
Definitely, it is quite normal for the Russia’s leadership to protect the interests of their state, as it is normal for Ukrainians to defend their interests. As, after all, it is quite natural for Europeans to aspire the expanding of democratic values and the desire to have adequate neighbors.