PUTIN'S LATEST DÉMARCHE OVER UKRAINE: A COMMENT
"Moscow will curtail Ukraine's access to vital Russian markets if Kiev implements any part of a trade agreement with the European Union, President Vladimir Putin warned in a letter, toughening his stance on a deal at the centre of East-West tensions. In a letter to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, Putin warned that even changing national legislation to prepare for the EU-Ukraine trade deal, known as the association agreement, would trigger an immediate response from Moscow. We still believe that only systemic adjustments of the Association Agreement, which take into account the full range of risks to Russian-Ukranian economic ties and to the whole Russian economy, will allow to retain existing trade and economic cooperation between the Russian Federation and Ukraine," Putin wrote in the letter, which is dated Sept. 17. Putin did not go into detail about possible retaliation, but Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said last week he had signed an order to curb Ukrainian exporters' access to Russia. Those measures are yet to take effect.... In a last-minute concession to Moscow, the EU delayed implementing the trade accord until Dec. 31 2015. Brussels hopes that will give it time to assuage Russian concerns about the pact, which is now a legal treaty that cannot easily be changed. But Putin's letter suggests that the Kremlin considers the 15-month delay to the EU-Ukraine agreement a complete freezing of the process until Russian demands for changes to the legal texts are met. "Adoption of such amendments to Ukrainian legislation, including implementing acts, will be considered as infringement of the arrangement to postpone implementation of the Association Agreement, entailing immediate and adequate retaliatory measures from the Russian side," Putin wrote.".Robin Emmott, "Putin warns Ukraine against implementing EU deal". Reuters. 23 September 2014, in www.reuters.com.
"The West should take advantage of any cease-fire efforts to craft and strongly advocate this solution, and should then negotiate the precise terms with Kiev and Moscow. Legally and morally, there can be no Western objection to this — it is after all the solution that the West has put forward to end conflicts in many parts of the world. In another former Soviet territory, Nagorno-Karabakh, the West went further and proposed the loosest form of confederation with Azerbaijan. This solution corresponds to history and local reality; for the Donbass is in fact a region with its own culture and traditions. To separate the Donbass in this way while preserving the principle of Ukrainian territorial integrity would allow the West to help in developing and consolidating the rest of Ukraine without constant disturbances in the East. This would open the possibility — albeit a long way in the future — of Ukraine joining the European Union; and if the people of the Donbass region at that point choose to secede and lose the benefits of European Union membership — well, so much the worse for them.... The choice today is not between a united Ukraine fully in the Western camp, or a Ukraine which has lost part of its territory to Russia. As recent military developments have demonstrated, the first outcome is simply not going to happen. The choice is between a Ukraine with an autonomous Donbass region, along with a real chance of developing the country’s democracy and economy in a Western direction, or a Ukraine which will be mired in a half-frozen conflict that will undermine all hopes of progress. The way out of this disaster is obvious — if only Western governments have the statesmanship and courage to take it".Anatol Lieven, "A Way Out for Ukraine and Russia". New York Times. 3 September 2014, www.nytimes.com. Grazhdanin Putin's démarche the other day in re the recently executed agreement between Ukraine and the European Union gives the lie once again (if that were actually needed or indeed required at this point in time) that for Moskva, the question of Ukraine is not a question relating to NATO or any (very vague) 'Russian interests', in Ukraine as such. The real issues involved are those related to the fact that nothing scares Moskva more than the idea that Ukraine has a Western and European, rather than Russian and Asiatic future 1. With a fully Western oriented Ukraine, democratic (or if you like, semi-democratic) and pluralistic, one of the fundamental rationales, the props of Putinism ceases to exist: that Russia and its people as well as the other former peoples of the ex-Sovietskaya Vlast, are destined to a non-Western and non-pluralistic future. With a positive example of Ukraine before their eyes, the Russian people, especially the urban, middle classes of the major cities, will see that the allegedly primordial nature of Russian statehood is in fact nothing of the sort. It is merely a rather tread bare rationalization for the endemic corruption, violence, backwardness and stupidity which is the ne plus ultra of Putinism in its current form. Hence, Putin's statement the other day and the need for the Western powers to counter it at every turn. 1. DAVID M. HERSZENHORN, "Ukrainian President Sets Sights on Closer E.U. Ties". The New York Times. 25 September 2014, in www.nytimes.com; Richard Balmforth and Natalia Zinets, "Ukraine president sets 2020 as EU target date, defends peace plan". Reuters. 26 September 2014, in www.reuters.com