October 21, 2013

“Battle of the “Eastern Partnership”

Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia at the crossroads between the East and the West

With the approaching summit of “Eastern Partnership” of the EU in November this year in Vilnius, the struggle between the West and the Russian Federation for the opportunity to influence Ukraine looks already like “cold war” in the political, economic and information spheres.

One of the reasons is the fundamental importance of the EU “Eastern Partnership”, which opens new prospects for implementation of the second phase of EU enlargement to the East. If the first stage member states are countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic states, which are not formally included in the geopolitical space of Russia, today the prospect to return to Europe have got Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, which Moscow considers “part of the Russian world” and “objects of its exceptional influence.”

The countries of Central-Eastern Europe
The countries of Central-Eastern Europe http://interaffairs.ru/

Based on these circumstances, the European integration of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia will have fundamental geo-political implications for the European Union and Russia, which will cover their basic potentials (including economic, military and democratic), territorial locations in Central and Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region, as well as influence in Europe and the world.

Besides, the implementation of Euro-efforts of these countries in some way undermines the state ideology of the current Russian government and Russian President V. Putin's efforts aimed at extolling traditions of Russian and Soviet empires (actually a one-man system of government) and denial of Western values.

This explains the intensification of contradictions between Russia and the EU on the Ukrainian question which arose as one of the key factors in the development of geopolitical processes in Europe and Eurasia.

Within these contradictions, the leadership of the Russian Federation takes a complex of measures to influence CIS countries, ranging from the use of instruments of political and economic pressure, to large-scale information campaigns and supporting pro-Russian movements and other political forces, defending the idea of ​​ Eurasian integration and denying the European choice. These measures become more active and aggressive before the summit of the EU “Eastern Partnership”.

Closing the Russian borders for Ukrainian and Moldovan goods
Closing the Russian borders for Ukrainian and Moldovan goods http://www.dw.de/

Thus, in the early summer of this year, Russia took up large-scale trade and economic wars against “Eastern Partnership” member countries, in particular, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. Were used general measures of closing the Russian border for Ukrainian and Moldovan products, targeted embargo on export of Ukraine and Moldova's certain goods. First of all it concerns the Ukrainian dairy products, confectionery of the Ukrainian company “Roshen”, large diameter steel pipes and Ukrainian coal, as well as Moldavian wine and brandy. Russia has limited cooperation also in other spheres, important for our state, including aircraft building, where the implementation of joint projects for the production of military transport aircraft AN- 70 and AN-124 has been suspended.

Russia's large-scale measures of trade and economic pressure on Georgia never stop. Moscow has actually given up constructive cooperation with Tbilisi, ignoring all attempts of the new Georgian leadership, headed by the Prime Minister Boris Ivanishvili to resume bilateral relations ceased due to the Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008. Thus, after reaching in September basic agreements on the return of Georgian products to the Russian market, in October Russia again used the embargo on Georgian wine products.

Similar measures are being taken by Russia regarding other member states of the EU “Eastern Partnership’—Armenia and Belarus. Manipulating gas prices, demonstratively politically supporting Azerbaijan and supplying it with arms and military equipment, Russia made Yerevan change their position and join the Customs Union and, in fact, reject the Association Agreement and free trade zone with the European Union.

True, Russia could not actually manage with the same measures to undermine positions of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia in matters of their European integration. Then Russia decides to change its approaches, having created in Ukraine and Moldova powerful pro-Russian forces. They are engaged in implementation of the idea of Eurasian integration, while increasing the tension in the Ukrainian and Moldovan societies.

A striking example — organization of meetings in Ukraine and Moldova to demand referendums on joining the EU or the Eurasian Union, in Moldova — also demanding the resignation of the pro-European government of the republic.

The Party of Communists of the Republic Moldova (PCM) openly declared course on the implementation of "revolutionary change"
The Party of Communists of the Republic Moldova (PCM) openly declared course on the implementation of "revolutionary change" http://comunist.md/

In Moldova such actions are organized by the Communist Party of Moldova (PCM). With the support of Russia, it has openly declared the policy of the implementation of “revolutionary changes” in order to remove the current leadership. PCM keeps trying to provoke social unrests in Moldova and then to turn them into riots and civil disobedience (including road closures and blocking state institutions, “marches to Chisinau”, etc.). On the one hand, Moldovan Communists are trying to create conditions for the seizure of power in the country, on the other hand — to disrupt signing the Association Agreement between Moldova and the EU in November this year in Vilnius.

Russia is trying to put pressure on the CIS countries at the regional level through local authorities and political forces that are oriented to the Russian Federation. Such cases can be seen in Ukraine — in Kharkiv, Crimea, Odessa and Donbas, in Moldova — in Trans-Dniester, in Georgia — in Abkhazia and South Osetia.

Holding the conference in Kharkiv on September 24 — the "Kharkiv as the capital of the Eurasian integration"

Just an example of such actions: a conference in Kharkiv September 24 —“Kharkiv as the capital of Eurasian integration “, visits to Transnistria in September of the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Special Representative of the President of the Trans-Dniester settlement D. Rogozin and the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, who supported the idea of ​​Eurasian integration of the self-proclaimed Trans-Dniester Moldovan Republic (TDR). Russia has also increased its economic and financial assistance to separatist regimes of Trans-Dniester, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are openly opposed to Moldova and Georgia.

Russia implements the concept of so-called "Euro-regions
Russia implements the concept of so-called "Euro-regions" http://euroregion.ru/

Russia also implements the concept of creating so-called “Euro-regions” for phased involvement of CIS countries in the Eurasian Union (through specific regions) and making a split in their society. At this, using self-proclaimed republics in Moldova and Georgia as a model, Russia is trying to apply methods of their creation in Eastern and Southern regions of Ukraine.

It also takes measures to provoke internal conflicts in “Eastern Partnership” member countries. In particular, the process of settlement of the Trans-Dniester conflict through the negotiation process in “5+2” format is being inhibited on purpose. The leadership of Trans-Dniester is being assisted in the organization of incidents in Security Zone on the border between Moldova and Trans-Dniester. And in the Caucasus, using the “creeping” occupation, they are trying to separate from Georgia its territories, explaining it by Abkhazia and South Ossetia's border management.

The Islamic extremist organization "Hizb ut-Tahrir"
The Islamic extremist organization "Hizb ut-Tahrir" http://ru.wikipedia.org/

Representatives of Russian politics and mass media insistently impose the idea of the “inevitable worsening of the situation in the Crimea” due to “activation of anti-Ukrainian activities” of the Crimean Tatars and the Islamic extremist organization “Hizb ut-Tahrir.”

Within the framework of counter-acting the European integration of the member countries of the EU “Eastern Partnership”, Russia also increases the pressure on their European partners too. Primarily on Poland and Lithuania, which especially irritate Moscow, as they actively support the European choice of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, aggressively defending their own interests before the Russian Federation. By the way, since July 2013, Lithuania has been holding the EU Presidency, and in November this year it will be receiving on its territory the Summit “Eastern Partnership” in Vilnius.

Russia uses elements of trade wars also to Poland and Lithuania. As an example — the import of meat and dairy products made in Poland and Lithuania has been limited, customs control for Lithuanian transport on the Russian border has become more thorough.

Russia not to affect also the position of the "old" EU member states, including Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands
Russia not to affect also the position of the "old" EU member states, including Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands http://censor.net.ua

Russia would not mind influencing also positions of the “old” EU member states, including Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, which are rather reserved about the enlargement of the EU, believing that the internal problems of this organization will get only more complicated. All this taken together, as well as the interest of business circles of “old Europe” in economic cooperation with Russia (which in some cases dominates their sense of threat from the Russian Federation) is used by Russia to realize its interests in Europe. For this, Russia is working hard with leaderships and business structures of these countries, trying to convince them that concluding association agreements between the EU and members of the “Eastern Partnership” is “inappropriate” and that it would be very “beneficial” for the European Union to keep the post-Soviet territories exactly under Russian Federation's control.

But the leadership of the European Union is not going to make concessions to Moscow, gradually realizing the EU “Eastern Partnership” program and supporting the countries of the “Eastern Partnership”. It is also making the pressure on Russia in the most sensitive issues.

Thus, on the 12th of September, the European Parliament adopted a resolution “On the pressure exercised by Russia on the countries of “Eastern Partnership” which condemned the above mentioned activities as such that do not comply with the international Law, and affirmed the right of CIS countries to choose their own foreign policy. Similar statements have been made by other Western organizations, including NATO.

NATO Secretary General F. Rasmussen confirmed "NATO's door remains open" for Ukraine
NATO Secretary General F. Rasmussen confirmed "NATO's door remains open" for Ukraine http://lenta-ua.net/

Even more so, on the 10th of October, NATO Secretary General F. Rasmussen confirmed “NATO’s door being open” for Ukraine and the Alliance's high level of interest in cooperation with Ukraine. In particular, in this connection were presented plans for Ukraine's participation in NATO Response Forces’ trainings Steadfast Jazz early this year in Poland.

As a counter-balance to Russian trade and economic sanctions, the management of the European Union has introduced additional economic benefits for the “Eastern Partnership” member-countries. For example, in September, the European Commission cancelled the quotas on supplies of Moldovan wine products to EU countries, while the European Investment Bank has allocated additional funds for financial support to Moldovan farmers. Besides, in early October, with the assistance of the EU and the USA, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank decided to provide concessional loans to Moldova for its economic development.

Financial support to Georgia has also increased. In particular, according to the plans of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, it is expected to invest in Georgia's economy more than 200 million US dollars by the end of the year, and the European Investment Bank intends to provide the Georgian side with 40 million Euro to implement programs for modernization of the country's infrastructure.

Besides, according to the President of the European Commission J. Barroso, the EU will compensate Ukraine's losses in case if Russia closes its market to Ukrainian goods. In turn, on the 9th of October, during his meeting with Prime Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov, Representative of the European Commission for Energy G. Oettinger expressed the EU's commitment to fully fund the measures for modernization of the Ukrainian gas transportation system. According to him, this may include loans of European banks and IMF.

Against this background, in order to put pressure on Russia, the leadership of the European Union has activated measures to create difficulties for the activity of the JSC “Gazprom” at the European market. Thus, in early October the European Commission completed the preparation of formal charges against the Russian company in violation of EU rules, including attempts to monopolize gas supply to Europe, as well as setting unreasonably high gas prices.

"The European Union is preparing to accuse the Russian "Gazprom" in the abuse of a dominant position in Central and Eastern Europe" - European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia

"The European Union is preparing to accuse the Russian "Gazprom" in the abuse of a dominant position in Central and Eastern Europe" - European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia

In case if the European judicial authorities make a positive decision on the matter, against “Gazprom” will be put forward significant penalties of up to one billion US dollars. At the same time, will effectively be thwarted plans of JSC “Gazprom” to strengthen its positions in the energy system of the EU and, therefore, the intention of Russian leadership to strengthen its influence in Europe.

In their turn, some member-states are taking measures to limit access of Russian goods to their markets. In particular, at the end of September supervisory authorities of Lithuania have introduced enhanced quality control of the Russian dairy and meat products due to the spread of African plague among cattle in Russia. Lithuanian Government is considering an appeal to the WTO with a complaint about Russia's creating unnecessary barters for the access of Lithuanian goods to the Russian market. Besides, according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania L. Linkyavichus, Lithuania can block road and rail connections between Russia and Kaliningrad region through the territory of the Baltic States in case if the Russian side holds the Lithuanian transport on the Russian border.

An important means of the European Union's pressure on Russia is also the initialization of the issues of human rights violations in Russia. Thus, in early October the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution on selective justice in the Russian Federation. Also in the governing bodies of the EU has been prepared the so-called European Magnitsky's List, which prohibits entry into the EU of state governors of the Russian federation who are involved in the destruction of democracy and media in Russia.

Naturally, in the current situation, the EU will have an advantage over Russia in the “battle of Ukraine.” The objective conditions for this is more than a tenfold advantage of the European Union on Russia, which will be more than twentyfold shortly after the creation of a free trade area between the EU and the USA.

Taking into consideration this situation, Russia's pressure on Ukraine due to the latter’s European integration may lead (and already is leading) to positive outcomes — for Kyiv and negative ones — for Moscow (no matter how paradoxical it seems at first glance). Thus, thanks to the actions of the Russian Federation on the Ukrainian direction it can be stated the following:

  • Firstly, for the first time in its history Ukrainian society has actually got united around the idea of ​​European integration, which made Ukraine virtually invincible to external pressure. Besides, Russia's pressure has led to the growth of the national idea in Ukraine, to the Ukrainian national self-identification;
  • Secondly, Ukraine has received a major boost to realize its strategic goal — to achieve real independence from Russia in political, economic and security spheres. This is evidenced by the reorientation of Ukraine from Russian to European integration structures; transfer of the energy system of Ukraine from Russian to European energy carriers (including in terms of reversible circuits supplying gas to Ukraine from Germany and other European countries); compensation of the consequences of Russia's refusing from economic and military-technical cooperation with Ukraine (including in ship and aircraft building industry) through the establishment of appropriate relations with the European, Chinese and Middle Eastern companies;
  • Thirdly, due to pressure on Ukraine, Russia has actually brought our country out of the “gray zone of uncertainty between the East and the West.”

Who won the battle for Ukraine?

From now on, both, Europe and the whole world, clearly and unequivocally differentiate Ukraine from Russia as a really independent state that is able to choose the vector of its state development.

In general, the above-mentioned circumstances reaffirm the rightness and correctness of the chosen course towards our country's integration with the EU and, more generally, its return to Western civilization, no matter how hard the Russian federation is trying to disagree with this.