Ukrainian Politics
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 Flirting With Russia, Yanukovych is Overestimating the Importance of Ukraine for Europe and US, Says Former Ambassador Pifer

Mr Yanukovich is flirting with joining the customs union as part of an effort to persuade the West to ignore Ukraine’s regression on democracy.

Former USambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer writes in Financial Times:

"In the past, Mr Yanukovich has ruled out joining the customsunion precisely because it would kill Ukraine's prospect of a freetrade arrangement with the EU. A fundamental turn away from Europeand towards Russia and the customs union would prove controversialwithin Ukraine - both with the public, where polls show consistentsupport for integration with the EU, and with the elite, includingsome in Mr Yanukovich's Regions party. The deputy Prime Ministerquit the government last month, expressing concern that thereappointed prime minister would not pursue European integration.Ukrainian business would also have doubts," writes the formerambassador.

A pivot East, therefore, would pose serious domestic politicalrisks for Mr Yanukovich. Kyiv's expressions of interest in thecustoms union aim to raise concern in the west that it is somehow"losing" Ukraine to Russia. The president and others in the eliteappear to have an inflated sense of Ukraine's significance toEurope and the US, believing their nation figures so importantly ina geopolitical tug of war between the West and Russia that, in theend, the west will set aside its democracy concerns and acceptUkraine as it is," writes Pifer.

However, according to the analyst it is unlikely to happen:"First, there is no evidence to suggest that Barack Obama, USpresident, or many EU leaders think in such cold war terms. Second,the west understands that, for Kyiv, joining the customs unionwould risk compromising Ukraine's sovereignty, something thecountry has fought hard to bolster over its 21 years ofindependence."
"For Ukraine, the logical foreign policy is one that deepenslinks with Europe while maintaining good relations with Russia. Thewest should not set aside its values to embrace a Ukraine thatlooks more likely to become Europe's next Belarus rather than itsnext Poland.
The EU and US should instead do everything to crystallise aclear choice in Mr Yanukovich's mind: he can live up to thedemocratic standards that he has, at least in word, accepted andimprove his relations with Europe and the West, or he can becomemore isolated. He may claim such a choice will drive him to Russia.But he almost certainly does not want to go there," Piferconcluded.
Источник: https://en.censor.net.ua/n229932