On Friday, Ukraine’s new Western-backed President Petro Poroshenko signed a landmark free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) pact that distances his nation further from its former Russian master. It defies the plans of Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure his country by guaranteeing its neighbors’—specially Ukraine’s—loyalty. It has been observed also that Mr. Putin, using the ancient image of Holy Russia, is planning to revive, not quite the Soviet Empire, but the moral and physical might of a modern Imperial Russia.
The EU pact had actually been rejected by Poroshenko’s pro-Moscow predecessor, despite the overwhelming support of it by the Ukrainian parliament and people. The rejection plunged the ex-Soviet country into turmoil and plunged EU-Russian relations to the lowest level since the Cold War.
The EU agreement quashes Putin’s dream of enlisting Kiev in a Kremlin-led alliance that could rival the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Moscow has warned Kiev that the signing of the EU deal would have “serious consequences.”
For one, the Association Agreement with the EU is deeply unpopular in Ukraine’s heavily Russified eastern rustbelt, where pro-Russian insurgents have battled government troops until a shaky ceasefire was forged last week.
The EU also sealed similar partnership agreements on Friday with Georgia and Moldova—two countries that were also members of the defunct Soviet Union which have also have complicated relations with Russia.
Ukraine has nuclear power
The signing of the historic EU deal by Poroshenko is being lauded by the international community, because it shows the determination of the former Soviet state to forge its own economic and political destiny. Ukraine was one of the major countries within the Soviet Union, a large segment of its population being Roman Catholic. It has nuclear power and has one of the Soviet Union’s fully armed arsenals in case war broke out with the Western Powers.
The EU is one of the largest markets for Philippine exports. Ukraine’s free trade deal with the EU virtually adds 45-million Ukrainians to the Philippine European market.
Some economic experts say Ukraine’s economy—already expected to shrink by an additional 5.0 percent this year— should eventually benefit from the adoption of European business and production standards that could make its goods competitive again.
EU officials say the deal will boost Ukraine’s exports to the 28-nation bloc by $1.35 billion (1.0 billion euros) a year and save the country roughly half that amount in revoked customs duties.
While it will be very hard for Moscow to stop acting like a villain toward Kiev’s signing of the historic EU deal, President Putin cannot really do much without making himself look so bad. He can punish the EU by not supplying it with the energy Europe buys from Russia, but if he does that he will only be hurting himself. Russia depends on income from sales to Europe for much of its cash flow.
Putin should also realize that moves to fold back former Soviet states into a Russian Empire is an impossible dream in this present age.
Russian pullout from border sought
The current situation remains volatile. President Poroshenko has extended the ceasefire in the war with insurgent pro-Russian Ukrainian citizens, who are ethnically Russian (they were flooded into the region during the Soviet Union’s heyday, the late Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev was a Ukrainian). This act of goodwill has not moved President Putin to pull out the thousands of troops he deployed into the Ukraine-Russia border.
Putin has also not called the pro-Russian insurgents to lay down their arms. President Poroshenko and the West have repeatedly asked the Russian President to make that call and pull back his troops from the border.
The Ukraine president has made it clear that his government will not treat the pro-Russian rebels with kid gloves.