What is Ukraine’s Game Plan?

Even a few months ago, it looked as if Ukraine had taken a significant step towards Eurasian integration by signing up as an observer to the Customs Union between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. However, in the past month, evidence is emerging that it was but a temporary ploy to appease Russia while in reality speeding up the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the European Union. This is scheduled to be signed in Vilnius late this November.

The Ukrainians say that that does not preclude further integration within the framework of the Customs Union. However, it is difficult to see how it could simultaneously have free trade with Europe while simultaneously being a part of strategic protectionist bloc. Although it is entirely possible that in the Customs Union will eventually be gradually merged with and into the European economic area – Putin himself has hinted as much – any such scenario will likely be decades in the making.

Putting aside for the moment geopolitical (Atlanticism vs. Eurasianism) and cultural (European civilization vs. Orthodox-Slavic brotherhood) considerations for the moment – which have been overdiscussed anyway both on this blog and Leos Tomicek’s and many others, with the result that there is now little left to add – I would like to frame the debate in economic terms.

The EU Path

As Mark Adomanis points out in his blog, most Russian claims regarding the disadvantages of DCFTA ratification at the recent Yalta summit were in fact based on technical considerations (the Russian negotiator Sergei Glazeyev’s comments on irredentism and ostensible blackmail that have dominated media coverage appear to have been offhand and taken out of context anyway).

The free trade area will make imports cheaper, but at the cost of an even greater current account deficit – Ukrainian factories aren’t likely to compete well with German (or even Czech) ones on equal terms. This current account deficit will be financed by external borrowing, which is short-term and limited due to Ukraine’s poor credit status. This means that either it will have to do a default or devaluation of some kind, so the Russian argument goes, or seek a bailout.

And who is going to provide that bailout? Russia? Of course not. As for the EU states, many of them are strained themselves, and have quite enough pasta and paella on their plates anyway. For the same reason, the generous transfers that eased the Med’s convergence with the European core in previous decades are now a thing of the past; if the Ukrainians expect freebies, they will probably be in for a disappointment. In any case, actual membership of the EU is extremely remote. In any case, the advantages conferred by the supposed “transparency” and “rule of law” that European integration brings are oft-overstated, as we have witnessed many times.

Fortunately, unemployment will be contained, if free trade is accompanied by an easing of visa restrictions; but not so much in terms of demographics, which will take a hit just as they show tentative signs of recovering somewhat. A positive side is that there might be more European investments and technology transfers, especially in western Ukraine, since countries like the Czech Republic and Poland start to become too rich to be attractive as sources of cheap, educated labor.

The EEU Path

This would integrate Ukraine with the Russian economic sphere of modest protectionism coupled with an industrial policy aimed at reviving Soviet mainstays such as the aircraft indistry as well as delving into new spheres like nanotechnology. The technological level of Russian industry isn’t substantially higher than Ukraine’s, and furthermore, the latter’s will receive a boost in the form of lower energy prices; as such, there will presumably be no big threat of many factory closures or unemployment spikes. As such, in the short-term and medium-term, it is clearly preferable to the EU path.

In the long-term, that depends on your view of whether Russia’s own modernization path is sustainable or not, and also perhaps on whether the Customs Union / EEU is destined to merge with the EU in some way. But those are entire debates on their own.

Sitting on the fence?

It’s interesting to note that that the DCFTA is pushed for by a government whose electoral support is rooted in the Russophone east and south – indeed, one which is frequently accused of being a stooge of Russian imperialism.

The Party of Regions isn’t a stooge of Russian imperialism. If it is a stooge of anyone, it is of the Donbass heavy industrial oligarchs. The interests of those oligarchs are clearly mixed. On the one hand, many of their factories will no longer be profitable under conditions of free trade and regulatory convergence with Europe. On the other hand, they will get a chance to increase their status and long-term security by merging with the transnational oligarchy based around London and New York. As for electoral strategy, the choice to pursue the European vector is… downright curious. For it is its own electoral heartlands that free trade with Europe will hammer the most, especially in the short and medium term. Are they hoping that their voter base wouldn’t connect the dots?

This is why it’s difficult to say right now whether the Ukrainian elites as a group (including the oligarchs who fund PoR) have made a definitive choice to integrate with Europe – or whether it is merely continuing its very old game of playing off both sides against the other in return for concessions. Still, if I had to guess, I’d go with the former. The “civilized” West has a ineluctable charm to many overly idealistic citizens in the former Soviet Union that is not often appreciated by Westerners themselves. This charm transcends both reason and the realistic observation that many civilized Westerners themselves don’t reciprocate those warm feelings, and certainly don’t consider Ukrainians (or Russians – though at least Russians don’t tend to have quite as big an inferiority complex on this) to be civilized Europeans. What else could explain PoR taking a course that will probably end up majorly shafting their own electoral base *and* (at least in part) the oligarchs who fund them?


  1. 1) I do not think visa restrictions will be eased. The North Western part of the EU is currently dealing with Romania, Bulgaria, Baltic states, Mediterranean countries, it cannot afford Ukraine and its unemployed.

    2) The Yanukovych government was accused of being pro-Russian by diaspora Svidomites, and West Ukrainian freaks. Problem is that these people have too much voice, especially the former in the English language.

    To them anything that does not outright hate the Russian language, and that is willing to commemorate 9 May is Russian Imperialist. Russian language and 9 May are really separate from Russian Federation interests, they are internal Ukrainian matters. And you can give rights to Russian and commemorate 9 May in the EU as well, and nobody apart from Svidomite freaks would complain about this. Yanukovych has always declared his pro-EU ambitions, and his paymasters have as well.

    I have come to the conclusion that Yanukovych and his party do not care about reelection or at least do not feel any threat. Either they hope that bydlo will vote for them, perhaps they will do an operation: “bottle of vodka for vote”, or the party will break up and try to win votes under a new brand, or they will simply lose elections and join Yushchenko.

  2. Ukraine has followed a separate path and the results have been that it has fallen behind every one of its neighbors other than Moldova (which amazingly has about half of Ukraine’s per capita income PPP). In c. 1990 Ukraine’s per capita income was higher than that of Poland!

    Ukraine can look towards two post-Soviet Slavic countries who took different approaches: Poland and Belarus. Which do they want to be more like? It seems to lean towards wanting to be more Poland (latest polls show something like 42% support for EU and 31% customs union; not a resounding pro-EU wave but a clear trend). This is not to say that Ukraine’s path would be nearly as easy as Poland’s was – Poland was the recipient of massive EU subsidies, and Poland was blessed with some very good managers which Ukraine probably completely lacks. But it seems that for more of Ukraine’s people, particularly the younger people, becoming like Poland in 20 years is seen as preferable to becoming like Belarus in 20 years, by more of Ukraine’s people.

    Due to Ukraine’s cheap labor and educated workforce, it would expect to be a good source of investment – like Poland was. Wages in Ukraine are currently what – 20% of Polish wages? Poland has shown that investment has a “snowball effect;” as the westernized workforce expands, local companies will begin to emerge. Initially almost all factories in Poland were set up by Western companies, but now for example a Polish company (Fakro) is one of the world’s leaders in window manufacturing (I mention this because I came across this company while doing renovations in the USA). In terms of technology, Ukraine is already a place for IT outsourcing:


    EU connections probably lead to some perception of stability and fairness, which is what investors need. In the longterm, a diversiifed economy (auto manufacturing, IT, tourism, etc.) seems to be better than an economy based on steel that is subsidized by cheap Russian gas, and military hardware.

    But you are correct that Ukraine will hurt, a lot, in the short and probably medium-term.

    • Good comment, except for one major disagreement – comparing Belarus with Poland is about as bizarre as… well, comparing Russia with Poland.

      The Polish economy was nowhere near as distorted as the Soviet economy, and besides, it underwent its period of “shock therapy” under Balcerowicz relatively early and quickly in 1989-1992. Belarus lost the entirety of the 1990s, and this was in addition to the fact that under the USSR it was relatively underdeveloped compared to Russia, the Baltics, and Ukraine.

      • You are correct. I was using the comparison because both are culturally Slavic, post-Communist, relatively educated countries, the closest that Ukraine can be compared to, even if they are not necessarily very close.

  3. A few relevant random thoughts and observations about the Party of Regions and the oligarchs who back it:

    – the Party of Regions electorate is shrinking both demographically (here’s Ukraine’s 2012 natural growth rate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NaturalGrowth2012.PNG) and geographically – for example, in 2010 one of Tymoshenko’s allies came within a couple % of being elected mayor of Kharkov. Its domination of the Donbas is secure, but its longterm prospects are not. It consistently loses by 1%-4% nationally (other than the last fluke presidential election where Yanukovich won with about 49% of the vote in a 2-person runoff election, during the economic crisis) but holds onto power thanks to opposition stupidity/disunity and rules that give the monolithic Party of Regions an edge. Such tactics won’t be enough as the slide continues, however. It won’t be as easy overcoming a 6% or more deficit in “natural” support than it was overcoming a 3% deficit.

    – Linking to Russia would essentially mean becoming junior partners. I doubt Ukraine’s oligarchs can compete with Russia’s. They will simply be subdued. They don’t want this.

    – Europe may be a way for the Eastern elites to hold onto what they have and/or secure a place for themselves in the West if they have to. European stability might make it less likely for the next government to mass-expropriate all of those eastern industries; links to Europe might offer the oligarchs a safe and lucrative path westward if they leave Ukraine. I suspect that the eastern oligarchs have reviewed their situation and possible outcomes quite carefully, and that if they suspected that they’d be better off linking their fate to Russia the Party of Regions would have joined the Customs Union.

    – Being the party that brought Ukraine to Europe won’t make the PR popular in the western and central Ukraine, but it might be enough that people won’t be as outraged/disgusted/hateful of the PR in the western and central parts of the country and therefore will be more apathetic, resulting in a lower vote turnout. The opposition won’t be able to run a campaign of “Yanukovich blocks our access to the European wonderland.” The PR owns the Donbas no matter what it does anyways, and its machine can get out the vote in the areas under its firm control. I still don’t see the PR winning the next presidential election but this would be its best chance.

    • Nothing is firm in Ukraine, and that goes for Yanukovych/Regionnaire support as well. Yanukovych cannot count on support from Western regions even in the form of apathy. Mobilisation of the Western electorate is also possible. Even though at present Yanukovych seems to be doing everything right, 2015 is still long way off.

      It is rather more likely that Yanukovych’s core electorate might be prone to apathy or even motived into a protest vote. Bear in mind that opposition to Eurointegration is common among the Party of Regions electorate, and this group of dissatisfied might as well vote the Communists, especially if the latter are able to do some agitation and harness this protest vote. Speaking of protest vote, the Eastern electorate might also be prone to vote for some West Ukrainian party, motivating its protest by something else than Eurointegration.

      Yanukovych has some work to do at convincing his electorate that Eurointegration is the good thing, and the right decision. Or alternatively that a vote for Party of Regions is the good thing regardless of the party’s decisions. I am sceptical about the ability of the Party of Regions to maintain power in the near future.

      • In Ukraine, the Communists are a “safe” opposition party designed to manage upset eastern voters in a way that is acceptable to the local ruling party of regions (loosely comparable to Zhirinovsky’s historical role vis a vis Russia’s rulers). The Communists may negotiate for position but have consistently entered into a coalition with the PR. They are led and financed by business leaders who are at the mercy of the PR leaders and their bosses. I recommend you read Andrew the chapter “Inventing the Opposition: Virtual Communists” in Andrew WIlson’s Virtual Democracy book, which is accessible as a preview in googlebooks.

        Yanukovich’s base in the Donbas is secure, even if he loses votes to the Communists. As for other options – Svoboda is out of the question; Tymoshenko has been sufficiently demonized/discredited that she, too, stands no chance (nor does her “deputy” Yatseniuk). Klitschko, maybe, but his support in the last elections was small in the east (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ukr_elections_2012_multimandate_oblasts_udar.png) and his position is quite pro-Europe so it makes little sense for anti-Europe protest voters to vote for him.

        • The issue here is not that the Communists are fake, but that they could absorb some of PoR’s votes, likewise some of those votes could be lost to apathy. I do not see Yanukovych’s position as that secure.

          As for UDAR, now Yanukovych is also pro-EU. That makes the choice between him and Klitschko more easier.

  4. Maybe Ukraine doesn’t really have a game plan……..

  5. My own impression for what it’s worth is that Yanukovitch wants to have it both ways. He both wants to have an association agreement with the EU AND he wants to preserve some sort of connection to the Customs Union because he realises that the latter is essential to the Ukraine’s economic stability and his own continued hold on power.

    Were the Ukraine to join the Customs Union and were that decision to stick and be accepted then it would surely quickly become an irrevocable one. Given the very close cultural and economic links between Russia and the southern and eastern Ukraine it is impossible to believe that the people in that section of the Ukraine would again willingly weaken those links in which case the process of integration would quickly gather force.

    By contrast I think there are wildly over high expectations on the part of some people in the Ukraine about what an association agreement with the EU would achieve. My brother who is a European Affairs consultant based in Brussels tells me that no one in the Brussels bureaucracy envisages the Ukraine actually joining the EU any time soon and that the Germans are adamantly opposed to the whole idea. Given that this is so I think there is a real possibility that much like the Ukraine’s WTO entry of a few years ago (another overhasty step made on very unfavourable terms) an EU association agreement might very well in the end turn out to be a damp squib with none of the great changes for the Ukraine that many expect. Certainly on the basis of what I have seen in Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece the assumption many people in the Ukraine seem to have that an association agreement or a close relationship with the EU will lead to a reduction in corruption within the Ukraine seems to me a fanciful one. Most people I have spoken to in Bulgaria and Greece (and incidentally also some I have spoken to in Poland) feel that the connection with the EU may actually have worsened corruption in their countries. Bear in mind also that both Turkey and Egypt have association agreements with the EU. In the case of Turkey that was supposed to lead eventually to full membership in the EU. Fifty years after that association agreement was agreed Turkey’s EU membership is nowhere in sight whilst Russia has emerged as the country which is now Turkey’s biggest trading partner.

    Incidentally I have been told that the common assumption that the terms of the association agreement prevent the Ukraine from joining the Customs Union is wrong even if some EU officials have gone out of their ways to encourage this impression. Of course whether the Russians would agree to the Ukraine entering the Customs Union if the Ukraine were tied to the EU with an association agreement that is another matter.

    As for the domestic politics of this, it seems to me that the big risk Yanukovitch runs is in assuming that everyone apart from him is bluffing. As I understand it there was recently a meeting in Yalta where the German representative stated categorically that the Ukraine would not get an association agreement with the EU unless Tymoshenko is released and all charges against her are dropped. Yanukovitch apparently again said that he would not/could not release Tymoshenko. Yanukovitch appears to be gambling that the German threat is ultimately a bluff just as he is gambling that when the Russians say that the Ukraine joining the Customs Union will affect trade links between Russia and the Ukraine they too are engaged in a bluff.

    Yanukovitch may of course be right. I wonder what however happens if he turns out to be wrong.

    It seems to me that with so much of Yanukovitch’s political capital invested in the association agreement Yanukovitch will be badly damaged if the Europeans and the Germans especially are not bluffing and call the whole association agreement off because Tymoshenko has not been released. In that case his political opponents (who also want Tymoshenko released) would be in a perfect position to say that it is Yanukovitch who by his refusal to release Tymoshenko is standing in the way of the association agreement with the EU that he himself says is vital for the Ukraine’s future. What that will do for Yanukovitch’s re election prospects it is easy to imagine.

    At the same time I don’t see how Yanukovitch can realistically release Tymoshenko (even assuming he has the power to) without leaving her politically looking completely vindicated in a way that will make her an even more formidable political opponent come the Presidential election in 2015 than she was in the last election in 2010.

    Conversely if the Europeans swallow their doubts and abandon Tymoshenko and agree to the association agreement will the Russians really continue to extend trade benefits to the Ukraine when they have repeatedly shown that they are not prepared to subsidise (as they see it) Ukrainian policies that they regard as inimical to themselves?

    What if the Russians really do pull the plug? I understand that the Russians hold a significant part of the Ukraine’s foreign debt and with the Ukraine running a structural trade deficit and with negotiations with the IMF for another $15 billion loan having apparently run into the sands what in that case does the Ukraine and Yanukovitch do? If Yanukovitch has an economic crisis on his hands because he has alienated Russia his eastern supporters will not thank him despite AP’s confidence that they will stand by him. It seems to me that they might in that case desert him in droves either by staying at home or conceivably by voting for the Communists who were after all the dominant party in the eastern and southern regions until the Party of the Regions was formed.

    I suspect that the truth is that Yanukovitch thinks very much in the way machine politicians do that provided he ticks the right boxes everyone will do what he wants on the machine politician’s perpetual principle “that every man has his price”. The fact that people may at times actually mean what they say is I suspect an idea that is frankly foreign to him. Behind all this (and with apologies to Ukrainians here) I have to say that I also get the impression that Yanukovitch like many members of the Ukrainian political class assumes that the Ukraine as a large country of 50 million people is more important in the great scheme of things than it really is and that others will do almost anything to win it over. That the Germans in particular may not welcome what from Berlin’s perspective must look like another potential basket case (especially if this complicates Berlin’s vital relations with Moscow) and that Russia may at least for the time being be prepared to cut the Ukraine adrift is I suspect something that Yanukovitch and other members of the Ukrainian political class simply cannot bring themselves to understand.

    On one point I do agree with AP. The Ukraine cannot continue indefinitely in a state of suspended animation. Doing so is causing economic and political stagnation and is dangerously exacerbating sectional differences. A choice has to be made. The risk is that if it turns out to be the wrong choice then it could aggravate what has already because over the years of drift become an unstable situation sharpening sectional differences even further.

    • On Tymoshenko, the EU sends mixed messages. No wonder Yanukovych might think they are bluffing. The Russians however seem to be very consistent in their message.

      • Tymoshenko herself wants the Europeans to sign.

        • Dear AP and Leos,

          You are both absolutely right. On the subject of Tymoshenko, the fact that she has repeatedly made it clear that she wants the association agreement regardless of what becomes of her begs the obvious question of why in that case the Germans appear to be insisting on her release? Similarly, it’s also absolutely clear that there are many powerful forces within the EU (including the French and the British and probably despite what Sikorski has just said the Poles) who want the association agreement again regardless of whether Tymoshenko is released or not.

          The mystery in all of this is Merkel’s position. First of all one has to wonder whether the insistence on Tymoshenko’s release and (much more incendiary) the really quite extraordinary demand that all charges against her be dropped – both apparently to be done by 15th October 2013 (!) – is not in the light of Tymoshenko’s own known position a pretext for German opposition to the association agreement rather than a reason for it.

          The trouble is that one can’t say that for sure. Merkel’s whole pattern of action throughout her career is to say as little as possible until the very last moment thereby preventing opposition to her chosen course of action from coalescing until the actual moment she takes it. This is exactly what she did in 2008 when she waited until the NATO summit before making it clear that her opposition to the Ukraine’s and Georgia’s NATO membership plan bids was for real. More to the point as a Greek I can say it is the same cat and mouse game she constantly plays with us.

          It is infuriating but it is very much a consequence of Merkel’s position in German politics. The one consistent feature of Merkel’s career and the reason for her political success is that she invariably prioritises the unity of her own political base whose wishes and instincts she never goes against. At the same time she obviously does not want to get into unnecessary and premature arguments with her NATO allies and European partners by declaring her position too early. This is why she tends to leave controversial decisions that affect both her domestic base and her foreign partners until the last possible moment.

          What has complicated matters further in this case making the runes even harder to read are the results of the recent German elections. These have been widely reported as a victory for Merkel. In a personal sense they were. In reality they have however actually weakened her grip on power by depriving her of her parliamentary majority. The debacle suffered by her coalition partner the FDP has left her 5 seats short of a majority in a Bundestag where the combined left now has an overall majority. With the SDP very reluctant to go into coalition again and Merkel’s Bavarian sister party the CSU and her supporters in the business community clearly unhappy at the prospect of a coalition with the Greens, Merkel has to consider the possibility another early election despite the obstacles the German Constitution puts in the way of this. In that case Merkel will be concerned not to be outflanked on the right in the way the SPD has been outflanked by the Linke party on the left by the new anti euro party the AfD, which at the last election only just failed to enter the Bundestag on a platform which incidentally also calls for much stronger relations with Russia. I don’t know where this leaves the prospects of the association agreement but I can imagine that it might make Merkel reluctant to present German voters with something that they might have cause to think might increase the fiscal burdens upon them. Alternatively, the assumption that the Greens especially probably do favour granting the Ukraine the association agreement, she might agree to it as a sop to them and as part of her work of coalition construction.

          By contrast the Russians as Leos said have taken a simple position because they do not operate under any of these constraints. Not only is the Russian government fully the master of its own house but Russia as a single country in contrast to the EU is able to speak with one voice. This is why Russian policy at the moment looks consistent whilst EU policy looks confused.

          We therefore have a very complicated situation before us. I do not how things are going to turn out. I make only two predictions: firstly if the Ukraine does get its association agreement it will not be the economic, political and cultural game changer that many think. Secondly, Yanukovitch has played this game badly by grossly overinvesting in an association agreement that might not happen and by wildly inflating expectations of what it will do if it does. A better strategy, which might have defused tensions with Moscow and the risks to his political base in the east, would have been to downplay the significance of the association agreement, which could quite properly have been presented as an essentially technical agreement flowing naturally from the Ukraine’s WTO membership, instead of overemphasising it. He could also in that case have taken his time in the way he negotiated it. It never pays in negotiations of this sort to appear over eager and if Yanukovitch had played a longer and cooler game he could have come away with a better association agreement for the Ukraine than by most accounts he has.

          In contrast to AP I had until recently thought Yanukovitch the favourite to win the Presidential elections in 2015 against what looks to me a weak and indecisive opposition. I am much less confident of that now. Whatever happens I don’t see this saga ending well for Yanukovitch and the odds on his failing to get re elected have in my opinion shortened.

          • The Poles have now proposed a way round the Tymoshenko impasse. This is for Tymoshenko to go to Germany to receive medical treatment there.

            This idea has been often discussed. However I understand that before Tymoshenko can go to Germany Yanukovitch has to pardon her. Yanukovitch has repeatedly said he cannot pardon her and the Presidential Commission on Pardons in April said there were no grounds to do so.

            On the face of it what the Poles are proposing is no solution at all. Further by proposing it they seem to be signalling that without Tymoshenko’s release the association agreement will not happen.

            The question then comes back to what Yanukovitch is going to do. Conceivably he may hope that if he pardons Tymoshenko so that she can go to Germany for medical treatment she will stay there. However if he pardons her what stops her going back?

            • Yanukovych seems to be in a very unenviable position over Tymoshenko. If he releases her, he demonstrates that the accusations regarding selective justice are true. If the AA really hangs on Tymoshenko’s release, then not releasing her would be even more disastrous to Yanukovych’s image.

              • Dear Leos,

                I think you’ve summed it up perfectly.

                As I said before, I think Yanukovitch gambled that European concerns about Tymoshenko were not for real. He may of course be right about that. However if he’s not he will have a very difficult decision to make.

                I said below in response to AP that German politics are intensely provincial. I think the same is true of Yanukovitch to an even greater extent. In the Donbass he knew how to build a formidable political machine. Outside the Donbass his touch becomes unsure because he simply doesn’t understand how other people think and cannot relate to them. This is as true of the rest of the Ukraine as it is of the broader geopolitical canvas. He would have done better both for the Ukraine and himself if he’d stayed in the Donbass.

              • Interesting poll results:


                Tymoshenko is the last competitive of Yanukovich’s enemies (other than Tiahnobok, of course). In a 2-person runoff, Klitschko would win by the largest margin, then Yatsenuk. Tymoshenko would win by only a couple percentage points.

                From Yanukovich’s perspective, It might actually not be a bad idea to release her, and see the chaos (this would backfire if she endorsed and campaigned for Klitshko, but would she?).

          • Interesting. It is clear that the Poles strongly want the AA with Ukraine. What do you think Merkel’s stance towards Poland is? My impression is that Poland, due to its good and well-managed economy (and the absence of a Kaczynski in charge) is seen positively by Germany. Do you think that not wanting to slap Poland in the face will play a role in Merkel’s decision?

            • Dear AP,

              At a personal level I think Poles and Germans get on. I know of at least one German businesswoman who has transferred the production side of her business to Poland (she had a horrifying experience a short time later when she tried to do the same thing in Latvia but that’s another story).

              Incidentally I would personally question whether Poland’s economy is well balanced and I speak as someone who knows the country. It had a big boost in the 1990s when it received very substantial financial assistance (including a write off of its Communist era loans and very substantial help from the EU structural funds) but that period is drawing to a close and earlier this year its economy was actually in recession. Despite the fact that it is already running a budget deficit the Polish government’s response has been to try to boost the economy by spending even more. In contrast to Russia there is little leeway for more spending or for interest rates cuts especially if the Poles follow through on their plans to enter the Eurozone (a crazy idea by they way). Also I am afraid I think there is a real chance that with the economic picture deteriorating Kaczynski may soon be back in charge.

              Putting all that to one side, I have to say frankly that I don’t think Poland’s opinions on the Ukraine will be the key to deciding what Germany ultimately does. It is difficult for those who do not know Germany well to know how intensely provincial and indeed parochial its politics are. Germany will make its decisions on the basis of German opinion and the German business community’s narrow calculations of its own self interest. Outsiders can influence this process only a little.

  6. The complex dance about the Ukraine’s EU association agreement continues:

    1. Yanukovitch met with Gauk the German President and Guido Westerwelle the German Foreign Minister last week. It is worth remembering that Westerwelle is Germany’s outgoing Foreign Minister since as the leader of the FDP, which as a result of the elections has now lost its representation in the Bundestag he cannot be part of a new German coalition government. However he presumably continues to speak for the German government. Anyway after their meetings with Yanukovitch both Gauk and Westerwelle said that they had received assurances that the Ukraine “would do what was necessary” to get the EU association agreement signed. Given that the Germans have publicly said (and have said again today) that Tymoshenko’s release is a condition for the EU association agreement this might be a sign that Yanukovitch has given the Germans private assurances that he will release Tymoshenko. However another way to read these comments is that they are actually intended as a warning to Yanukovitch that the Ukraine will not get its EU association agreement unless he “does what is necessary” ie. orders the release of Tymoshenko. These Delphic comments from Gauk and Westerwelle come alongside Merkel’s complete silence on the issue. As I have said previously, this is exactly how Merkel deals with questions of this sort. Until Merkel makes her position public we cannot know what say with any certainty what Germany’s final position will be. In the meantime Merkel continues to be locked in coalition talks with both the SPD and the Greens. At the moment she seems to be tilting towards a coalition with the Greens, which may be good news for the Ukraine, but it is impossible to be sure and a new election remains a strong possibility.

    2. In the meantime both the Ukraine Presidential Committee on Pardons and the Ukraine’s Justice Ministry today have ruled a pardon for Tymoshenko out. A few days ago a suggestion was floated by the Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament of a law being rushed through to allow Tymoshenko to be sent to Germany for medical treatment without the need for a formal pardon. Obviously were that to happen Tymoshenko on arrival in Germany would apply for and would be granted political asylum making her release a certainty. However since in the Ukraine she would remain a convicted person she would not be able to return there.

    If Yanukovitch did give assurances to Gauk and Westerwelle that Tymoshenko would be released it might have been with this rather neat device in mind. However nothing to put it into effect has happened since. I suspect that the reason is that there is strong opposition to such a step from within Yanukovitch’s parliamentary majority with a serious risk that it might split if such a move were seriously proposed.

    3. Meanwhile Yanukovitch’s Prime Minister Azarov continues to play soft cop with the Russians to Yanukovitch’s hard cop. He had another meeting with Medvedev today at which he again appeared to float the possibility of the Ukraine joining the Customs Union (he explicitly mentioned this as a possibility a few days ago) whilst talking grandly of the Ukraine becoming involved in a free trade zone with the other CIS states and collaborating with Russia on aircraft building and rocket development. This however comes just a day or so after Azarov also made what I suspect is the wildly impractical suggestion of the Ukraine ceasing entirely to import energy from Russia if Russia did not reduce its prices. I doubt the Russians were impressed either by the proposals or the threats.

    4. One way or the other I am coming round to AP’s view that in electoral terms Yanukovitch is holed under the waterline whatever now happens. I doubt by the way that releasing Tymoshenko would do him any good. It did briefly cross my mind that Azarov with his overtures to the Russians might be positioning himself to take over as a possible candidate for the Party of the Regions in the event that Yanukovitch looks like facing a meltdown in the east and south as the latest opinion polls suggest might happen. This would be especially the case if the EU association agreement does not happen and the nabobs who run the Party of the Regions decide they need someone who can seal a deal with the Russians fast. However AP will doubtless point out that this is simply not a practical option if only because Azarov isn’t actually even Ukrainian (!). Frankly I can’t see such weird and wonderful manoeuvres convincing anyone especially not in the centre where Ukrainian elections are fought and won. All in all it looks increasingly to me as if come 2015 we should prepare ourselves for President Klitschko.

  7. An interesting poll:


    Basically, if Yanukovich cheats only 12% of the population would be willing to protest if protests were illegal. If he cancelled the election entirely, only 13% would.

    Obviously everything can change if either of the two events actually occurred, but there is a possibility that Yanukovich could go “international pariah” in 2015 and get away with it.

    • Dear AP,

      This poll testifies to the cynicism the Ukrainian political class has created as a result of its incompetence and its endless political games. Having said this, I am not entirely convinced by this poll. The poll discusses what for most people is a hypothetical situation rather than an actual one.

      Let us engage in a brief hypothetical discussion. Let us assume that the EU association agreement does not happen and that Yanukovitch in order to bolster his position takes the Ukraine into the Customs Union, which in truth would be the only option he had left. That might rebuild his support in the south and east. However the west would remain beyond his reach and would indeed be further alienated. What of the centre? I think we both agree that Yanukovitch cannot win without at least some support in the centre. Yanukovitch is not the sort of person to surrender power easily or gracefully. With the Russians backing him him and with the south and east solid for him I can see how he might be tempted to use “administrative resources” to win support in the centre.

      It would however be a grim and ugly battle. If that scenario were to unfold (and as you must realise I have deliberately made it as favourable to Yanukovitch as I can) would people in the centre – especially in Kiev which is in the centre – take it all lying down? Isn’t there at least a chance that some of them would protest about it. 12-13% of the Ukraine’s population is still a very large number of people – millions to be precise. Many of them are surely located in the west but if only a fraction of them are located in the centre and in Kiev especially and if only a fraction of those were to protest we could easily see crowds similar in size to those of 2004.

      I am not of course predicting that any of this is going to happen and beyond that there is also the uncertainty of how Yanukovitch would respond to protests of this sort. I do not see him buckling in the way Kuchma did. With the Russians backing him and with the south and east solid behind him he might try to brazen it out. However that might also cause problems especially in the west if his legitimacy there is questioned. Anyway I can certainly see how the atmosphere in 2015 might be a lot more fraught and febrile than it was in 2010 and regardless of what happens next a potential for instability has been created which more skilful handling might have avoided.

      • Alex,

        I agree with what you have written. I wrote that “Obviously everything can change if either of the two events [canceleld or cheated elections] actually occurred.” With respect to the hypothetical situation of Yanukovich bringing Ukraine into the Customs Union after EU’s rejection, and then having to cheat or cancel the election. I suspect thatr in such a case his support in the East would be lukewarm at best, while opposition in the west and, importantly, Kiev, might be white-hot.


      • Yanukovych’s bastion really is the South East of the country. In the Western part of the country, the only place where he enjoys some support is Transcarpathia, and the loyalties there are not very firm. The Central regions are pretty much the same with perhaps a little more support for the Regionnaires at time than in the West. Likewise, the loyalties in the Centre cannot be counted on.

        The Russian factor cannot be counted on either, and frankly I believe the Russian factor is traditionally blown out of proportion in the Ukrainian context. It is doubtful Russian support can help Yanukovych, although pro-Russianness is (or rather was) a useful tool for harvesting votes. Pro-Russianness does not necessarily mean support of the Russian Federation, but might simply be a support for the “Russian” cultural element in Ukraine. The latter is a purely Ukrainian issue, and mostly does not involve relations with the Russian Federation. As for the promises he made about improving relations with Russia, we can see how much he remained true to those. And for that reason, Russian support for him cannot be counted on.

        My own prediction is that he will lose to the opposition. His electorate will be apathetic, and there do not appear enough tricks that he might be able to use to rally support. Perhaps Tyahnybok as his opponent would mobilise the masses to vote for the lesser of two evils, but that is an unlikely scenario in my opinion. I also suspect that the Communists might feed on some of his core electorate. He might help himself to some votes using administrative resource, an operation “Bottle of Vodka for a Vote”. But I don’t think that will save him.

        • Dear Leos,

          If we are talking about the Russians, if Yanukovitch gets his EU association agreement they have no reason to support him unless he suddenly reverses himself and seeks membership of the Customs Union as well. Whether that’s possible I don’t know. I suspect not. In that case with both NATO membership and outright EU membership off the agenda the Russians have no reason to prefer Yanukovitch to Klitschko. On the contrary they might actually prefer Klitschko on the principle that an honest adversary is always to be preferred to a false friend and that there is more scope for building up pro Russian sentiments in the eastern and southern Ukraine under a Klitschko Presidency than there is under Yanukovitch.

          Having said that, I certainly don’t think the Russians have any direct ability to control Ukrainian elections or to affect the way anybody even Russian speakers in the east and south vote and I am sure that they know this. Yanukovitch’s problem is not that he has annoyed the Russians but that he has pursued a policy that is supported most strongly in the west where he cannot win and which meets with indifference or even hostility in the east and south where he can. Moreover he has done this without taking corresponding steps to secure his eastern and southern base. Instead he has madethe mistake of taking his base for granted. If they now don’t vote for him but choose to stay at home or even vote for the Communists then he has no one to blame but himself.

  8. The latest news is that Kuchma (remember him?) is now saying that Tymoshenko should be sent to Germany for medical treatment and Yanukovitch is saying that if the parliament passes a law permitting that he will sign it.

    Does that mean that this is what is going to happen? If only things were that simple. Firstly Yanukovitch is not actually calling for such a law or proposing it to the parliament and nor is the government. Instead what Yanukovitch seems to be doing is passing the initiative to the parliament.

    The parliament of course has a pro government majority (let’s pass over how that came about) but it’s also a snake pit. A law of this sort can only pass if the parliamentary majority or at least part of it actually supports it. Will the parliamentary majority support it or will it split? I gather one of Yanukovitch’s parliamentary supporters said today that the question of the EU association agreement should be separated from the question of Tymoshenko’s fate, which suggests strong opposition within the parliamentary majority to this proposal. If the pro government parliamentary majority splits on this issue can it be brought together again? If not and part of the parliamentary majority breaks away to form an opposition in the eastern regions then if Yanukovitch nonetheless presses for a vote he risks his parliamentary majority.

    This latest episode once again shows Yanukovitch’s limitations and weaknesses as a politician. If he thinks the EU association agreement is so important he should nonetheless accept the risks and unequivocally support and indeed press for this proposal and not talk about it in this elliptical way. In politics the sort of people who inspire and command respect are those who within reason speak their minds and act on what they say. This hole in the corner manoeuvring is unattractive. It also begs the question of why if this is Yanukovitch’s preferred solution he has left it so desperately late. If it now happens it cannot fail to appear as something Yanukovitch has been forced into by the Europeans making him look shifty and weak. By contrast if he had done this a year or even 6 months ago when this proposal was already being talked about his action would have appeared to flow naturally from his policy.

    As for the proposal, I would say that though it might solve the immediate problem I can easily see how it might throw up another. Firstly we should be clear that if Tymoshenko goes to Germany she will not be going back as a prisoner. We would have the extraordinary situation of a Ukrainian politician granted political asylum in Germany even as the Ukraine was being granted EU association status. Whilst this would not be entirely unprecedented I cannot think of any political leader of Tymoshenko’s prominence from an EU association status country for whom this has ever been done. On the face of it this proposal does not meet Germany’s conditions, which are for Tymoshenko to be unconditionally released and for all the charges against her to be dropped. Even if the Germans were prepared to swallow that (as they presumably would be) given Tymoshenko’s extraordinary ambition she would presumably spend her time in Germany agitating to return to the Ukraine on the basis that all the charges against her are dropped. I can easily how she could become a thorn in the side for both Germany and Yanukovitch. In fact it might actually be better for Yanukovitch if he could somehow do what AP says and find a way to free her so that she can remain in the Ukraine. At least she would not then be able to make trouble for him in Germany and Europe.

    Turning to the other party to this dance, Merkel has now definitely opted for a grand coalition with the SPD instead of an alliance with the Greens. The SPD is said to be the most pro Russian of Germany’s big parties so we could see German policy tilting back towards pursuing good relations with Russia. Where that leaves the Ukraine’s EU association agreement especially if the SPD gets the Foreign Ministry as part of a coalition deal is anyone’s guess.

    • Thank you for the ongoing updates!

    • I have read this, and I still do not quite grasp the ridiculousness of the situation. Yanukovych suggests to the parliament to make a special law to release her. As I recall, he said earlier that Tymoshenko does not meet the conditions that give him the right as the president to pardon her.

      From the start, the demand regarding Tymoshenko is a ridiculous one. It is hard to believe they would let a massive trade agreement hinge on the fate of one jailed politician.

  9. Russians news agencies are giving contradictory information about the state of play with the proposed law. Novosti says that it has/is going to be proposed to the parliament by a Party of the Regions politician. On the very same day Interfax, which I generally find more reliable, said that whilst the Party of the Regions has said it would support such a law that it is for the opposition to propose it and that it would only support the law if it accorded with the provisions of the Ukrainian Constitution. Whether it does or not I cannot say and I doubt anyone can give a definite answer. I don’t see why in the nature of things it should not. However the invocation of the Constitution tends in my limited experience of Ukrainian politics to be a harbinger of obstruction and trouble. Whether it will be in this case is another matter. I suspect that an enormous amount of arms twisting is probably now going on behind the scenes.

    Meanwhile Interfax has issued the reported remarks allegedly made by an anonymous EU official that seemed notably lukewarm about the whole idea and which said that the EU would have to “study carefully” whatever solution the Ukrainian authorities come up with on the subject of Tymoshenko’s release to see whether it meets the EU’s demands.

    The short answer to that is that the proposed law does not meet the EU’s demands. These are for Tymoshenko’s unconditional release and for all charges against her to be dropped. Not only does the proposed law not do this but the Party of the Regions is apparently insisting that it require the return from abroad of any prisoner after the medical treatment is provided. Having said this diplomatic dodges of this sort are hardly unusual and if there is a real will on the EU’s or at least Germany’s part to see this thing through then the proposed law – assuming it is passed and that Tymoshenko does indeed go to Germany for medical treatment – does offer a face saving way out. As I said before, given what the Germans have said about her once Tymoshenko is in Germany she can secure her release by claiming political asylum.

    For the rest Leos is absolutely right. For the Germans or anyone else to link the passing of an important trade treaty to the fate of a single Ukrainian politician is indeed absurd. I cannot judge the mood in the Ukraine but there must be at least some people there who given Tymoshenko’s past history also find it ridiculous. There must be some people within the EU who are saying it too.

  10. The latest news is that the parliamentary opposition appear to have shot down the suggestion of a special law to allow Tymoshenko to go to Germany for medical treatment. They insist that Yanukovitch should simply release her and not try to dodge what they say are his responsibilities by transferring the whole question to the Rada. Carl Bildt, the Swedish Foreign Minister, has in the meantime also poured cold water on the proposal, quite reasonably pointing out that it does not meet the EU’s conditions for Tymoshenko’s unconditional release and for all charges against her to be dropped. Bildt reasonably enough has also touched on some of the points I have previously made: if Tymoshenko does go to Germany what is supposed to happen to her then? As he has sensibly pointed out, it is simply unreasonable to expect the Germans and the Europeans to return her after what they have said about her case yet that is what the proposed law would presumably require. Finally, in a further turn of the knife, Fule, one of the EU officials responsible for negotiating the association agreement with the Ukraine and who was probably the EU official who earlier gave anonymously the distinctly lukewarm response to the proposal of the special law, has now said publicly that the Ukraine must do more to get the association agreement. More presumably than would be achieved by the proposed law.

    In this bizarre game of bluff and counter bluff it is perhaps too early to say that this latest proposal has been conclusively shot down. Whilst I can understand why politically the parliamentary opposition have no wish to help Yanukovitch get himself off the hook he’s impaled himself on would they really refuse to support the proposed law if it results in the association agreement they say is vital for the Ukraine’s future and if it gets Tymoshenko out of prison? Let’s not forget that Tymoshenko has herself already agreed to this proposal. As for the Europeans, are they really willing to torpedo the whole association agreement with the Ukraine even if Tymoshenko has in fact been freed albeit through the roundabout device of a special law that sends her to Germany for medical treatment?

    I don’t know the answer to these questions but with every day that passes Yanukovitch’s position looks more difficult with the initiative slipping from his hands and his room for manoeuvre getting smaller. There are rumours that some of pardon might be granted to Tymoshenko at a routine meeting of the Presidential Committee that looks into these questions on 24th October 2013. I suppose that is possible but Yanukovitch and that same Committee have previously ruled that out and did so in fact only within the last few weeks. It would be a complete personal humiliation for Yanukovitch if were now to reverse himself on this. Perhaps he will but the political price will be very high.

  11. It is now quite clear that the plan for Tymoshenko’s transfer to Germany for medical treatment has been shot down at least for the time being. Moreover it’s also clear that the initiative for its rejection came from the Europeans and was communicated to the Ukrainians by Sikorski and Bildt. The Russian government newspaper Rosiskaya Gazeta has apparently published a cruel article ridiculing the abject obeisance of the Ukrainians (both of the government and of the opposition) before the envoys of their “Brussels masters”.

    Meanwhile in further news today:

    1. The Presidential Committee on Pardons has refused to reopen the Tymoshenko case. The European Parliament has said that the Ukraine can have its association agreement provided it ends the practice of “selective justice” (ie. unconditionally releases Tymoshenko) and fulfils all of the EU’s other conditions. On the face of it this is a total standoff. Unless one side or the other is bluffing (and a Ukrainian parliamentarian is reported by Interfax as saying that the question of Tymoshenko will have to be decided after the association agreement is signed – which may suggest that there are still some in the government who still think the Europeans are bluffing) then the time to resolve this issue is becoming very short.

    2. Though it is not being widely reported Yanukovitch is meeting with Putin apparently today on the fringes of the EEC summit in Minsk. Azarov for his part continues to speak about the need for the Ukraine to maintain its economic relations with both the EU and the Customs Union/Russia. Shuvalov and Siluanov have both said over the last two days that this is impossible and that the Ukraine must make a choice. One wonders what Yanukovitch and Putin are saying to each other.

    3. Klitschko has confirmed he is definitely a candidate for the Presidential election in March 2015.

  12. Nazarbayev says Turkey is applying to join the Customs Union. Turkey of course has an EU association agreement though it’s terms doubtless differ from those negotiated by the Ukraine. Anyway should Turkey join the Customs Union that really would be a game changer. Bear in mind that Turkey is also a member of NATO.

    • Nazarbayev must be mistaken. How could Turkey join the Belarus-Russia-Kazakhstan Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union when it already part of the EU Customs Union (separately from it’s own Association Agreement)? Unless Turkey is planning on withdrawing from the EU Customs Union……

  13. It may be premature to say this but today could be the decisive day in relation to the Ukraine’s bid for an association agreement.

    The Ukrainian Justice Ministry has now confirmed that Tymoshenko will not be pardoned and that there is no prospect of her being pardoned whilst legal proceedings against her are still underway. This flatly rejects the EU’s demand that Tymoshenko be released and that all charges against her be dropped. With the Europeans in turn rejecting the suggestion for a proposed law to allow Tymoshenko to travel to Germany for medical treatment it seems that there is a complete impasse.

    Both the EU and significantly the US have criticised today the statement of the Ukrainian Justice Ministry. Amazingly one European diplomat has even made the incredible demand that Tymoshenko should be allowed to participate in the 2015 presidential elections. The Europeans are also dropping clear hints that with Tymoshenko not being released as they demand the signing of the association agreement will not happen in Vilnius in November and will be postponed. Meanwhile, predictably enough within the Ukraine itself recriminations are already underway with the parliamentary majority and the opposition each blaming the other for the failure to resolve the Tymoshenko problem so as to secure the association agreement.

    One cannot as of this moment conclusively say that the signing of the association agreement in Vilnius in November will definitely be called off. In the world of politics and diplomacy nothing is ever impossible. However it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how without a major climb down by one party or the other the signing of the association agreement in Vilnius in November can now take place. The trouble is that given the public stands everyone has taken today it is difficult to see how either Yanukovitch or the Europeans can back down without paying a political price which they would probably see as unacceptable. Certainly I cannot see how Yanukovitch can now pardon Tymoshenko or even release her without being completely humiliated.

    Postponing the signing of the association agreement does not of course mean that it will never happen. What it does however mean is that it is unlikely to happen before March 2015 when the Presidential election is due to take place. Realistically if the signing of the association agreement is postponed in November then it is difficult to see it being signed whilst Yanukovitch is President. One would have thought that Yanukovitch would at some point understand that in which case with a gathering economic crisis on his hands the Customs Union and an agreement with the Russians to slash energy prices looks like his only option. It’s not impossible that the 2015 Presidential election will become a straight battle between Yanukovitch and the Customs Union and Klitschko and the EU association agreement.

  14. Vaguely related to this, a map of the change in the number of voters in Ukraine (by % and by absolute numbers), by oblast, since independence, from a great blog dedicated to Ukrainian demographics:


  15. Thanks AP. There has in fact been some further news:

    1. The Speaker of the Rada has said that Tymoshenko can only be pardoned if she signs a document agreeing to compensate the Ukraine for all the losses it has suffered as a result of her criminal activities including the losses caused by the gas deal with Russia.

    This is a totally fantastic idea. First of all it is impossible to see how Tymoshenko could possibly afford to pay such compensation given that the losses are said to amount to $20 billion. I appreciate that Tymoshenko is supposed to be a millionaire but she surely isn’t that rich. Putting that aside and even assuming that the document is intended merely as a scrap of paper which would never be acted on, I simply cannot see Tymoshenko signing it because it would be an admission on her part that she is indeed guilty of the crimes she is accused of. Tymoshenko has always protested her innocence and I cannot imagine her reversing herself about that.

    2. The Speaker then said that there would be a meeting of the Rada in early November at which a number of different bills would be considered including:

    (1) the bill to allow Tymoshenko to go to Germany for medical treatment, which it is now confirmed is being proposed by two members of the Party of the Regions. The trouble with that proposal as we know is that the Europeans have already rejected it and the opposition refuses to support it; and

    (2) a different bill proposed by the opposition that “automatically pardons” Tymoshenko. Conceivably Yanukovitch might instruct the Party of the Regions either to support or to abstain in the voting on this bill. However putting aside the obvious question of whether such a bill would be constitutional it is difficult to see how its passage could be anything other than a humiliation for Yanukovitch since it would in effect contradict the position his own Justice Ministry has taken.

    Personally I wonder whether there is a majority in the Rada for either bill. The Speaker’s comments smack to me of desperation. We shall have to wait and see.

    3. Yanukovitch meanwhile has cut a pathetic figure at the EEC summit in Minsk repeatedly saying to anyone who will listen that the association agreement does not prevent involvement in the Customs Union or even membership of the Customs Union and suggesting some sort of consultative body involving the Ukraine, the Customs Union and the EU (a non starter if ever there was one) only to have his statements immediately shot down by Putin who has twice made absolutely clear that so far as he is concerned the terms of the association agreement make membership of the Customs Union impossible.

    These comments of Putin and of Yanukovitch make me wonder to what extent Yanukovitch actually understands the terms of the EU association agreement he has committed himself to signing? Yushchenko and Tymoshenko have both in the past been shown to be poor negotiators. Yushchenko negotiated poor WTO accession terms for the Ukraine whilst whatever one’s views of the case against her there is no doubt Tymoshenko made a hash of the gas negotiations with Putin. Could it be that Yanukovitch has made a similar hash of negotiating the terms of the EU association agreement? Did he not realise that they would preclude cooperation or membership with the Customs Union? It does sometime seem to me that Ukrainian politicians are more interested in achieving agreements so that they can use them in the political battles they wage with each other rather than taking the time needed to sort out the detail and agree the terms. Could it be that we are looking at another example of this?

  16. Putin and Yanukovitch finally had their meeting today. I only know of it because of a brief mention of the meeting on Interfax. There is complete silence about it on Putin’s own website and on the part of every other Russian English language news agency. It’s not difficult to guess what Putin and Yanukovitch talked about but what they said to each other is anyone’s guess. The fact that the Russians are restricting reports of the meeting to such a degree suggests that it did not go easily.

    Meanwhile as if to complicate a complicated situation even more there are reports circulating of attempts to prevent Klitschko standing for the Presidency on the grounds that he is resident not in the Ukraine but in Germany.

    • It is too early for any certainty about predictions but I increasingly suspect, particularly given this stuff involving Klitschko and Tymoshenko’s ongoing problems, that the EU is going to issue a “strong” declaration of support for Ukraine’s EU goal but will delay the formal signing until after the next elections. Again, I am not firm about this idea at all, it’s just a passing thought.

      • I too sense that the signing will be postponed in the light of Klitschko and Tymoshenko issues. On my part it is just a feeling, I don’t say this will happen.

        • Dear AP and Leos,

          I share your views. However it is important to remember that from Yanukovitch’s point of view it is probably now or never. If the signing of the association agreement is postponed in November it is very difficult to see it being signed before the Presidential election in March 2015. This puts great pressure on Yanukovitch to resolve the issue now.

  17. What is the reason you have swastikas on the left margin of your site as an artistic pattern? Have you now Nazi sympathies as well?

    • So Russian folk art is Nazi? I didn’t know that. You learn something new everyday!

      Anyway, aren’t you the same guy as this troll I banned a while ago? Back into the blacklist you go, “Gary.”

      • Coincidentally, I posted a reply to the stupid (and perverse) questions of trolls like Njasalander (who started the conversation about the swastikas on Adomanis blog).

  18. Reading the latest blog posting on Austere Insomniac had me thinking about this blog posting again. And it made me wonder if Yanukovych is playing an even longer game than any of us realized. Whereas his electoral base is rather cool to the prospect of an EU Association Agreement and more in favour of increased economic linkages to Russia (in the Eurasian Economic Union/Customs Union for example) the “anti- or luke-warm to the Association Agreement” crowd doesn’t exactly line up with the pro-Yanukovych crowd. So if he were to eschew the Association Agreement entirely from the start of his term he might risk alienating some of his base. And given how close the electoral contests are in Ukraine I doubt any politician would risk to alienate permanently a part of his or her base. However the key here is temporary alienation versus permanent alienation. Right now Yanukovych has been pushing for the Association Agreement and leaving open the possibility of Ukrainian participation in the Bel-Rus-Kaz Customs Union/Eurasian Economic Union at some point in the future. In this way he seems to be hoping to keep the majority of his base with promises about the B-R-K Customs Union/EEU in the future while pursuing the Association Agreement at present.

    And why would he pursue the Association Agreement now? Well it could be for a multitude of reasons. One might be that he genuinely expects some economic and political benefit from it (whether temporary or more permanent). He might win over a few marginal voters in areas traditionally opposed to him and the Regionnaires. He would also be able to “shoot the fox” so to speak of his opponents and kill the EU Association Agreement as a political issue in Ukraine. There is also the possibility that he is fully expecting to go into the Association Agreement knowing that there will be an anti-EU backlash as the reality of the Association Agreement hits ordinary Ukrainians (no streets of gold, but more imports, reduced exports to the EU, tighter regulations in order to qualify for exporting to the EU, job losses as less competitive Ukrainians businesses lose out to increased imports, no EU membership for the forseeable future, no visa free travel, etc). He has Turkey as a salient example of where support for the EU has waned over time the closer Turkey gets to the EU without ever actually getting in.

    So where would an anti-EU backlash leave the Ukrainian political landscape? Well support for the EU Association Agreement will probably then fall (after the fact of course) and support for alternatives (such as the Customs Union/EEU) might grow. In which case it could be that Yanukovych is looking ahead to 2020 rather than just 2015. If he gets his Association Agreement this year and the reality hits home by 2015, then pro-Western politicians advocating ever closer integration with the West may have a harder time justifying their position (which might allow Yanukovych some breathing space in the run up to the election and put a small roadblock on Klitschko’s campaign path. If Yanukovych manages to pull through (probably by rallying his base after the Association Agreement is signed and a bit of time allowed for the reality to start sinking in) in 2015 then between 2015 and 2020 he might start to push for joining the Customs Union/EEU. This would also give him the time to see if the EEU works.

    Misha also seems to think that the oligarchs which support the Party of Regions have determined that the Customs Union/EEU is an option more likely to be available in the future for Ukraine unlike the EU Association Agreement. Leoš though seems to think it’s more a case of the Regionnaires bungling the entire situation politically for which they are likely to pay a very large price in the future (electorally speaking).

    I would love to know Anatoly’s and Alexander’s take on this.

    • Dear Hunter,

      My own clear view on the association agreement is that since the Ukrainian political class is so eager for it then it should have it. If it turns out well then so much the better for the Ukraine. If it turns out badly for the Ukraine or (which I think more likely) if it turns out to be a damp squib, then far better for the Ukraine that the Ukrainians find this out for themselves rather than brood over the wonderful gains and opportunities the association agreement might have given them which they have been unfairly deprived of. As for the Customs Union, at a time when it is still very much in its infancy the very last thing it needs is a surly and uncooperative member such as the Ukraine might all too easily turn out to be, which could impede the integration wanted by the rest. Nazarbayev made that very point in Minsk during the recent summit there though he was careful not to refer to the Ukraine openly. If one day after the association agreement has turned out to be a failure the Ukraine decides that joining the Customs Union (or the Eurasian Union as it would probably by that point be) is in its interest then that would be a different matter. At that point hopefully the Ukraine would embrace membership. By contrast at the present the Customs Union simply cannot afford reluctant and unwilling members.

      I would add that Putin himself in various interviews he has recently given has spoken with great confidence that in time Russia and the Ukraine will converge with each other. Whether he is right or wrong about this, that is the confidence he should show.

      As for Yanukovitch, all I would say is that if he does have the kind of strategy that you outline then in my opinion it is simply too complicated.

      1. I don’t think Yanukovitch is going to win any support in the west or the centre by signing the association agreement. All he is going to achieve is lose support in the east and south.

      2. I have no doubt that Yanukovitch does want some sort of arrangement with the Customs Union. He said so again in Minsk just last week and of course both he and Azarov have been saying that constantly for years now. Quite possibly he does intend to try to patch things up with the Customs Union after the association agreement is signed. The trouble is the Russians have made it absolutely clear that that is simply not an option. Now it may be that the Russians are bluffing about this just as the Europeans may be bluffing about Tymoshenko. As I have said previously, Yanukovitch’s entire political strategy has been based on the belief that everyone is bluffing except himself. The trouble is that if the Russians are not bluffing he will be left high and dry since it would simply not be a politically viable option for him to ditch the association agreement once he had signed up to it.

  19. The latest twist to the Tymoshenko saga is that the opposition has said that it will support a rival bill that would allow a convict to go abroad for medical treatment if they had not been made well after year’s medical treatment in a clinic outside the Ukraine’s prison. The proposed bill clearly envisages that the convict must be released for the year’s treatment in the Ukraine to take place.

    It goes without saying that this bill does not describe Tymoshenko’s situation. She has received medical treatment in a Kharkov hospital but has done so whilst remaining under detention. There would be no legal grounds to send her to Germany under the provisions of this bill if it were to become law.

    In fact what this bill seems to be intended to do is to get Tymoshenko released from prison whilst remaining in the Ukraine purportedly for medical treatment. Presumably there would be nothing to prevent Tymoshenko from engaging in any other form of activity including of course political activity whilst she had been made free purportedly for medical treatment. Whether Yanukovitch would agree to such a bill that in effect liberated his main political rival in a way that is difficult to see as anything other than deeply humiliating for him remains to be seen. Whether the Europeans for their part would accept the compromise offered by this bill is another matter. It still does not address their essential demand for Tymoshenko’s unconditional release and for all charges against her to be dropped.

  20. On the subject of the latest gas spat between the Ukraine and Russia, there are it seems to me three possible explanations:

    1. Russia is using the gas supply issue as a means to put more pressure on the Ukraine in advance of the date for the signing of the association agreement. The fact that the Ukraine does not deny that its gas bill is in arrear might argue against this;

    2. The Ukraine has deliberately run up arrears in order to provoke the Russians into taking action, which they calculate would win them European sympathy and support and which might possibly cause the Europeans to set aside the Tymoshenko issue;

    3. Naftogaz has run out of money.

    The Ukrainians are now saying that they will find the money to pay the gas arrears out of the state budget. That might suggest that the correct answer is three. I don’t know which is the correct answer, though I would say that they are not necessarily mutually exclusive (for example 1 and 3 could both be true). I am open to any suggestions.

  21. I have been away from London for a few days so it has not been fully possible to keep up with events. Here however is a brief summary:

    1. The Party of the Regions formally declared last week it would not support any of the four proposed bills concerning Tymoshenko that have been put to the Rada on the grounds that they might jeopardise attempts to recover compensation from Tymoshenko for the damage she has caused to the Ukraine. This is a difficult argument to take seriously. It may be simply intended as a negotiating ploy (though the time for that is running very short) or it could be intended to paper over cracks within the Party of the Regions with many of its deputies possibly refusing to support a bill that might allow Tymoshenko to go free. It is difficult for me to get a sense of the state of parliamentary debates or manoeuvres on this question but days that had been mentioned as decisive for these laws have come on gone with little sign of any progress being made. The latest news is that the parliamentary opposition has said that its latest draft takes the stance of the Party of the Regions into account. I do not know or see how that is possible but I have not seen this draft even in summary. It could be that the opposition within the Party of the Regions crumbles or that a desperate Yanukovitch will simply order enough Party of the Regions deputies to this draft even at the risk of a party split. However as I have said already, time for that is running out.

    2. The EU is due to make its decision on 18th November 2013 and unless it is bluffing (which is not impossible) Tymoshenko will have to be free by then if the signing of the EU association agreement is not to be postponed. That only leaves three working days unless Yanukovitch is prepared to convene the parliament on the weekend or is prepared to take some other step to free Tymoshenko during this period. In reality the time available may be shorter still since the Cox-Kniasniewski team from the EU that is supposed to give a report on whether or not the Ukraine has fulfilled its EU association agreement conditions is supposed to report tomorrow (13th November 2013).

    3. Meanwhile matters have been muddled further with some confusion over whether or not one of Tymoshenko’s lawyers who I believe is called Vlasenko was detained for questioning by the Procurator General’s Office. I do not have any details about this incident. This would be an extraordinarily provocative step on the eve of the Cox-Kniasniewski team’s report if it actually happened. If it did happen it may be a further sign of divisions within the Ukrainian government about Tymoshenko and the EU association agreement.

    4. Meanwhile Azarov has said that the EU no longer thinks Tymoshenko is “as white as the driven snow” (PS: I didn’t know that was also a Russian/Ukrainian expression but those were the words Interfax reported he had used). Azarov also said that it was “totally irresponsible” to link the EU association agreement to the question of Tymoshenko’s release. I happily agree with Azarov on both points but what is the point in making them now? I cannot imagine that they will make the EU happy. Yanukovitch for his part has said that integration with Europe cannot be at the expense of links with Russia. An equally true observation but one made rather late in the day. The opposition has predictably interpreted it as signalling Yanukovitch’s retreat from the EU association agreement.
    An at least equally plausible explanation for it is that it is intended to reassure Yanukovitch’s supporters in the south and east.

    5. Somewhat mysteriously Yanukovitch has also made a semi secret visit to Moscow. Nothing has been reported about what he did during that visit or who he met or whether he met Putin and if so what the two of them talked about (I think it is a certainty that he did meet Putin). In the absence of any knowledge it’s unwise to speculate. However Yanukovitch’s visit certainly adds to the atmosphere of intrigue that now surrounds this whole issue.

    6. Meanwhile the gas crisis rumbles on. The Ukrainian government has admitted that its gas bill with Russia fell into arrear in August. It said that it would pay the arrears presumably out of its financial reserves. There are contradictory stories about whether it has actually done so. Those financial reserves continue to dwindle as the Ukraine continues to run a structural trade deficit and as its economy remains in recession. Growing worries about the Ukraine’s financial stability have resulted in the country suffering further credit downgrades. A possible further indication of the strain the Ukrainian economy is under are comments apparently from Azarov expressing concern about the decline in levels of Russian transit gas (one of the country’s major sources of hard currency) and today’s announcement that the Ukraine will buy no more Russian gas until the end of the year and will rely instead on gas it has stored in its underground reserves. This could be intended as a way of putting reciprocal pressure on Russia but I suspect it is more likely due to a need to husband the Ukraine’s fast dwindling foreign exchange reserves. Gazprom’s Miller (hardly an objective source) said a few days ago that the Ukraine’s gas reserves had fallen to critically low levels. If that is true then the Ukraine has been lucky with the recent mild weather and could be facing problems when the predicted cold spell comes.

  22. I have just heard that the parliamentary committee charged with resolving disagreements about the terms of the bill relating to Tymoshenko has postponed its discussions till tomorrow (13th November 2013) apparently because of irreconcilable disagreements between the government parties and the opposition about whether Tymoshenko should be automatically amnestied after she receives her medical treatment. This is of course the same day when the Cox-Kniasniewski team are supposed to deliver their report. Meanwhile Vlasenko, Tymoshenko’s lawyer, has been released on bail, which appears to confirm that there are some sort of proceedings underway against him. Lastly Yanukovitch had a meeting with a group of Ukrainian industrialists who apparently asked him to postpone signing the EU association agreement to give Ukrainian industry more time to prepare for it. At least one of the participants at the meeting expressed concern about the effect the EU association agreement would have on trade with Russia.

    All of these events could be taken as a sign that the Yanukovitch government has now decided that the EU association agreement is not going to happen this year. The meeting with the Ukrainian industrialists could have been orchestrated to give Yanukovitch political cover. He can now claim if the signing of the EU association agreement is postponed that this has been done at the urging of the Ukrainian business community and in the Ukraine’s economic interests.

    Against that an EU representative in Moscow seems to be confident that the EU association agreement will be signed this month. I do not know what reasons he has for this confidence. Judging by his name he is Lithuanian so perhaps it’s a case of the wish being the father to the thought. We will see.

    • I heard an interview with that EU representative on Echo yesterday and can say that it was rather unsatisfying. He is the typical EU bureaucrat, an ideologue and talking head with nothing of substance to add to the conversation. All he seemed to say was, “Yes, everything will be wonderful, all you need to do is ride off with us into the European utopian sunset.”

      As for the rest, thank you for the updates and summaries. It’s truly like watching a soap opera, As The Ukraine Turns! I’m really on the edge of my seat as to what will happen with the blond braided one.

      • Dear JLo,

        That was very possibly the same EU representative I was referring to. I am afraid anyone who has worked for the EU (as my brother has) will tell you that its cultic quality: doubting or questioning the project is simply not done.

    • Thank you for the ongoing update. It looks increasingly likely that the EU will delay signing, as I had thought earlier. This delay will probably be presented not as a rejection but as a strong call to make changes in order to enter. It will make the next Ukrainian presidential election quite interesting…not in terms of who would get more votes (this is becoming increasingly clear) but how Yanukovich will attempt to maintain power despite having no chance of winning the election, or even making it close enough to permit plausible cheating.

      • Dear AP,

        The chances of the EU association agreement getting signed this November have further slipped today.

        The day began with two contrasting statements: Kuchma, Yanukovitch’s former political boss and his patron, said that if the Ukraine didn’t get an association agreement it would end up with nothing. Azarov, who is now clearly positioning himself as the voice of the pro Russian element in the Ukrainian government, said that fully restoring the economic relationship with Russia is the Ukraine’s most important priority and that he knew of no alternative market for the Ukraine’s goods to the one provided by Russia.

        It is confirmed that a criminal case has indeed been launched against Tymoshenko’s lawyer (Vlasenko?) apparently on charges of assaulting his wife. This may be an entirely valid case (I know nothing of the details) but I suspect few people will think so and from the point of view of getting the Cox-Knasiewski team to recommend in their report of today the signing of the EU association agreement the timing could not have been worse.

        Overshadowing all this is the news that defying a small a small pro EU gathering outside its building the Rada again today was unable to agree a bill allowing Tymoshenko to go abroad for medical treatment. Further consideration of this bill has now been postponed to 19th November 2013. This is a day after the EU Council of Ministers is due to meet on 18th November 2013 to decide whether or not the EU association agreement with the Ukraine should be signed. The EU had previously said that 18th November 2013 was its final deadline for Tymoshenko’s release. Unless Yanukovitch either manages to get the parliament to reverse itself and meet earlier to pass the bill or finds some way of releasing Tymoshenko himself – something he has always insisted he cannot do – that deadline cannot now be met and the EU Council of Ministers will meet on 18th November 2013 with Tymoshenko still in prison.

        That does not mean that it is now certain that the EU Council of Ministers will decide on 18th November 2013 that the signing of the EU association agreement will definitely be postponed. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has somewhat plaintively said today that no reasons why the EU association agreement should not be signed this November in Vilnius exist. It is indeed possible that the EU Council of Ministers accepts this possibly saying that “sufficient progress” has been made on the subject of “selective prosecutions” and on Tymoshenko’s case in particular to permit the EU association agreement to be signed. Alternatively the EU Council of Ministers could say that the EU association agreement will be signed provided Tymoshenko is released before the summit in Vilnius on 29th November 2013 in effect giving the Ukraine a further week. Anyone who has followed the workings of the EU in any detail knows that such last minute “breakthroughs” or “compromises” or “climb downs” (call them what you will) are part of its political fabric. However there needs to be a strong political will to make them happen and I wonder whether that will exists in the Ukraine’s case.

        Meanwhile the parliament’s inability to pass the bill has resulted in the usual recriminations. The Party of the Regions has accused the opposition of deliberately wrecking the bill by attaching to it politically unacceptable amendments presumably for Tymoshenko’s unconditional release once she has received her medical treatment. I suspect that is true. Yatseniuk has tweeted that the failure of the bill shows that Yanukovitch has never intended to sign the EU association agreement at all. That I don’t believe. Lastly Yatseniuk has apparently also said that Yanukovitch should be prosecuted for treason because of his semi secret trip to Russia. All I would say about that is that coming in the context of a discussion of Tymoshenko’s case it suggests that Yatseniuk passionately opposes politically motivated prosecutions unless they are proposed by himself.

  23. It’s all fury and rage today (13th November 2013) following the Rada’s decision to postpone consideration of the Tymoshenko bill until 19th November 2013.

    I have already reported Yatseniuk’s comments. Tymoshenko has tweeted from prison that Yanukovitch has intentionally wrecked the EU association agreement. Klitschko is saying that the battle lines are now clear and that the issue now is whether the Ukraine becomes a European country or a banana republic. If the signing of the EU association agreement is postponed I expect this to be the theme of his Presidential election campaign between now and 2015.

    Meanwhile Cox and Knasiewski have said that following the Rada’s failure today the Ukraine has not fulfilled the terms of the EU association agreement. Knasiewski has however said that his team will remain in the Ukraine right up to the date of the summit in Vilnius and that the vote in the Rada on 19th November 2013 (after the EU Council of Ministers meeting on 18th November 2013) is now the Ukraine’s “last chance” to meet the conditions of the EU association agreement. An EU official, who is surely Knasiewski, has accused Yanukovitch of putting his short term political interests over the Ukraine’s future and has said told the Financial Times that all is not yet lost and that efforts will be redoubled between now and the Vilnius summit in two weeks time.

    Knasiewski has made a heavy personal commitment to getting the EU association agreement signed and Poland of all of the EU states is its primary sponsor. His comments should not be treated as reflecting those of the EU as a whole. Certainly he has no authority to bind the EU Council of Ministers meeting on 18th November 2013 or to postpone the decision until the following day. As I have said many times previously the final decision will not be made by Knasiewski and Poland but by Merkel and Germany.

    The Party of the Regions has in the meantime published what it says are its conditions for the passage of the bill. Briefly these require a medical examination by Ukrainian doctors confirming that the necessary treatment is
    not available in the Ukraine, validation that the foreign clinic to which Tymoshenko will be sent is capable of providing such treatment and legal guarantees that Tymoshenko will return to the Ukraine to complete her sentence after she receives her treatment. There’s even some talk of reciprocal arrangements between the Ukraine and the country to which any prisoner requiring medical treatment is sent for the prisoner’s return. It goes without saying that these conditions are completely unacceptable to the parliamentary opposition and almost certainly to the EU as well. If the Party of the Regions continues to insist on them then the bill will fail and the prospects of Tymoshenko going abroad will disappear in which case given what the EU officials (including Knasiewski) have been saying the signing of the EU association agreement will have to be postponed unless the EU itself is prepared to commit a climb down of such a scale that the parliamentary opposition within the Ukraine would certainly see it as a betrayal.

    Given the conditions the Party of the Regions has set today and of what was said during Yanukovitch’s meeting with the industrialists yesterday and by Azarov today a possible interpretation of today’s events is that the political mood in the Ukrainian government has now shifted away from the EU association agreement and that Yanukovitch’s visit to Moscow (and his meeting with Putin which must have happened) was about that. We will find out soon.

  24. The European Parliament has now formally extended the term of the Cox-Knasiewski mission right up to the date of the Vilnius summit. In language that carries a hint of desperation the European Parliament’s leadership again asks Yanukovitch to pardon (or partially pardon – I don’t know what that means) Tymoshenko, which it says does not require legislation, something Yanukovitch has repeatedly said he will not do. In the alternative it asks that the parliamentary factions combine on 19th November 2013 around an agreement framework for the law.

  25. It is becoming utterly clear over the last 24 hours that both Yanukovitch and the EU have been bluffing each other over Tymoshenko and both are utterly dismayed to find that their respective bluffs have been called.

    It’s become completely obvious at least to me that the EU bureaucracy (ie. the Commission and the European Parliament, not necessarily the member states) never imagined that Yanukovitch would put the EU association agreement at risk by refusing to budge on the Tymoshenko question. There seems instead to have been a blissful assumption that at some point he would back down and release her. This doubtless explains the repeated “final” deadlines for her release the EU has imposed (eg. 31st March 2013, 30th May 2013, 14th October 2013, 13th November 2013 and now 18th November 2013), which have come and gone only for the EU to extend them. I say this because the latest calls from the EU have to be heard or read to be believed with the European Parliament practically pleading with Yanukovitch to at least make a gesture towards releasing Tymoshenko even if by the time of the Vilnius summit he has not actually done so that the EU association agreement can be saved. It is clear that the EU has completely misread Ukrainian politics and has entirely failed to understand that for Yanukovitch or at rate for some of his supporters the release of Tymoshenko is an uncrossable red line. This flows from the EU’s and the west’s basic failure to understand that for all his deeply unattractive aspects Yanukovitch or rather the constituency he represents has a fundamental and legitimate presence in Ukrainian society and cannot be simply ignored or wished away.

    As for Yanukovitch it is equally clear that he took the EU’s evident anxiety to sign off the EU association agreement as a sign that its concerns for Tymoshenko were not for real and would be dropped once it became clear that he would not release her. Again the possibility that after making such a strong pitch over Tymoshenko the EU would be unable to drop the issue without feeling an unacceptable loss of face never seems to have occurred to him. The fact that there might be forces within the EU especially in Germany who for their own reasons do not want an EU association agreement with the Ukraine anyway perhaps never occurred to him either.

    Anyway at least for the moment Yanukovitch appears to be standing firm. He has said today that he will not make any exceptions for Tymoshenko, which appears to rule out a pardon. He has also said that any law that is eventually passed to allow her medical treatment abroad must apply to any convict and must be framed in such a way that it is not open to abuse by a convict seeking to avoid punishment. This appears to rule out using the mechanism of the law as a device to pardon or free Tymoshenko (as insisted on by the parliamentary opposition) and appears to endorse the conditions the Party of the Regions has attached to the law, which as I said yesterday I cannot see the parliamentary opposition accepting. Yanukovitch has also said today that the Ukrainian economy would require massive investment to bring it up to EU levels – possibly a further sign that his enthusiasm for the EU association agreement is dimming.

    If Yanukovitch maintains this hard line then it will be the EU that will have to back down. I understand that some members of the parliamentary opposition are urging it to do just that. Whether it does or whether Yanukovitch cracks we will just have to wait and see.

    • Alexander, could it be that Yanukovych did not think the EU’s concerns for Tymoshenko were strong enough for them to actually scupper the signing of the association agreement precisely because they let so many repeatedly “final” deadlines for her release pass without actually backing up those implicit threats with action? After all, if the EU imposes at least 4 deadlines (according the list of dates for deadlines that have already passed) for Tymoshenko’s release and all of them pass without incident, why should Yanukovych begin viewing the fifth deadline (November 18, 2013) as the real “final” deadline?

      Maybe he was expecting the game to continue past the signing of the association agreement with the EU then setting a new deadline based upon ratification of the association agreement or suspending it or something like that…..

      And perhaps he might be hoping that by standing firm and giving hints that he is losing interest in an association agreement it will spur the EU to go ahead with it anyway in order not to “lose Ukraine to Russia” in a sense.

      • Dear Hunter,

        You are absolutely right and in the light of what has happened over the last 48 hours I now have some more understanding and even sympathy for Yanukovitch’s position. It has become absolutely clear that the EU bureaucracy and one suspects the US are utterly desperate to get the Ukraine’s signature to the EU association agreement presumably as part of some imbecile geopolitical strategy they have against Russia. Indeed as of today they come across as far more anxious for the EU association agreement than Yanukovitch is. Given that this is so Yanukovitch can be forgiven for thinking that the EU’s insistence on Tymoshenko’s release is not for real and that if he holds firm (as he is doing) the EU will come round to what he wants.

        The EU presents itself as the inheritor and trustee of European civilisation going back to Charlemagne or even Pericles(!). Given that this is so its conduct over the last few hours has been beyond pathetic. Seeing EU officials and the President of the European Parliament no less begging the Nabob of the Donbass to give them some sign however small that he will release Tymoshenko if not now then at some indeterminate point in the future so that they get their EU association agreement signed is positively cringe making.

        What this shows is that Europe has fallen upon little men. There’s not an Adenauer or a De Gaulle or a Churchill or even a Brandt or a Thatcher (let alone a Bismarck or a Napoleon or a Caesar) amongst them. I cannot imagine any one of those worthies giving someone like Yanukovitch so much as the time of day. Quite why anyone would want to join a union led by such nonentities is beyond me. The utter hash they have made of European economic and monetary union should of course have alerted everyone to this obvious truth. I suppose this is how Europe’s long and glorious history will end: not with a bang but a grovel.

    • I do not agree that the Regionnaires and Yanukovych are not aware that there are forces in Europe that do not want to see EU AA with Ukraine. It is just that they cannot do much about these forces…

  26. Meanwhile back in the Ukraine, after solemnly declaring that it would not buy any more Russian gas this year the government and Naftogaz have resumed doing so. Quite what it has taken to engineer this complete reversal in just a few days is unknown to me. The Russians were apparently warning that the quantity of gas held by the Ukraine in underground storage was falling dangerously short. One would presume however that the Ukrainian government and Naftogaz would have known this when they announced their intention to buy no more Russian gas this year. If that announcement was intended to put pressure on the Russians either to lower gas prices or to ease off pressure over the EU association agreement then that bluff appears to have been called.

    There’s also a brief report from Interfax that appears to say that Tymoshenko was prevented today presumably by the prison authorities from meeting her allies. If that is true then that may suggest a further hardening of the government’s position though its sudden reversal on the question of Russian gas purchases shows that it is perfectly capable of reversing itself from one day to the next.

  27. The EU Council of Ministers meeting that was supposed to be the make or break meeting viz the EU association agreement has come and gone with no decision being taken despite Tymoshenko being still in priason. Yanukovitch had a meeting with two top EU officials on Friday but there is no information about what was said. It was on Friday that Yanukovitch said that he would not make any exceptions for Tymoshenko and that any law passed about her would apply to all convicts in Ukrainian prisons and should be framed so as not to be abused by persons seeking to evade punishment, so it seems likely that he took a hard line. Given the EU’s perpetual dithering one can see why. The Ukraine and Naftogaz also seems to have come to an agreement with Russian and Gazprom on how to pay for Russian gas for the remainder of the year.

    The Rada is supposed to consider the proposed law for Tymoshenko to be sent to Germany for medical treatment tomorrow (19th November 2013), this being the umpteenth deadline the EU has set for her release. We shall see what happens.

  28. Today (19th November 2013) was the day which Knasiewski was saying last week would be the make or break day. Well it has come and gone, the Rada has again failed to agree on a law to send Tymoshenko for medical treatment to Germany, Party of the Region MPs from industrial constituencies are apparently being heavily lobbied by the machine building and engineering industry against voting for the law, the Rada has again postponed consideration of the law for a further two days with the Speaker accusing the opposition of obstruction, Tymoshenko remains in prison and the EU still is not saying whether the signing of the EU association agreement will go ahead in Vilnius or not and has done precisely nothing.

    Meanwhile the US Senate has now weighed in with a unanimous resolution calling for Tymoshenko’s release “as required by the Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights”.

    These continuous claims that the Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights somehow requires Tymoshenko’s release are being continuously made by the Ukrainian opposition, by the EU, by western governments and now by the US Senate. For the record here is a link to the press release the European Court of Human Rights has provided, which summarises its actual Judgment in the Tymoshenko case:


    This Judgment is provisional and still subject to appeal.

    As is clear from the text of the Judgment, the European Court of Human Rights has not said that the prosecution against Tymoshenko was politically motivated or selective or that she is innocent or that she is illegally imprisoned or that she was not given a fair trial. All that the European Court of Human Rights has so far said about her case is that she was illegally denied bail before her trial. In saying this the European Court of Human Rights has also said that the failure to administer Tymoshenko’s pre trial detention properly is a recurring problem in the Ukraine and one which is not unique to Tymoshenko’s case. The European Court of Human Rights also said that the reason why Tymoshenko was refused bail – to punish her for disrespect shown to the Court – which is a wrong and inappropriate reason (in fact she should have been separately charged for contempt of court). The European Court of Human Rights did not however award Tymoshenko compensation since she did not ask for it and nor did it say she should be released either immediately or at all as it is perfectly capable of doing in appropriate cases and as it has just done in the Inez del Rio case.

    In reaching its Judgment the European Court of Human Rights also specifically rejected Tymoshenko’s claims that she had been mistreated whilst in pre trial detention.

    This wilful misrepresentation of a Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights is of course hardly unusual in relation to high profile cases in the former USSR (see Khodorkovsky). It is however becoming tiresome and it is very disappointing to see both the European Union and the US Senate engaging in it.

    The European Court of Human Rights will in due course look at whether the case against Tymoshenko is well founded or not and whether there was a political motive behind it and whether or not she received a fair trial. That case (Tymoshenko 2) has only just reached the European Court of Human Rights and the Ukrainian authorities are still in the process of replying to it.

    In the meantime there is now more information about who were “the EU officials” that Yanukovitch spoke to on Friday. It turns out that one was none other than Barroso, the President of the European Commission, with whom he spoke to over the telephone. The other was Jean-Claude Mignon, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe who actually went to Kiev to speak to Yanukovitch in person.

    Mignon’s visit to Kiev tells one everything one needs to know about who actually controls Europe’s institutions. The Council of Europe of whose Parliamentary Assembly Mignon is President is not an EU institution or a part of the EU. It actually predates the EU and was once proudly independent and separate from it. Russia is a member as is the Ukraine. Going to Kiev to lobby for Tymoshenko’s release and to procure the signing of the EU association agreement is therefore none of Mignon’s business yet that is what (doubtless on orders from his masters in Washington) Mignon seems to have done.

  29. Ukraine’s political leadership ignores all signals from credit rating agencies because it hopes that Brussels will pay the bills. As a result German taxpayers will be indirectly bound to Ukraine’s economy through European Union Eastern Partnership programs (The European Commission has donated € 600 million for the six partner countries for the period 2010–13 as part of the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument). It is highly doubtful that German citizens are ready to compensate to Kyiv imminent shortfall in income from gas transit and custom duties.

    • Dear Route Magazine,

      I have read both your comment here and the fine article you have written on your own blog. If you do not mind I will respond to both here. I want to keep all my comments about the Ukraine in one place and this is the obvious place. I will have try to create a link on your own blog

      Briefly, what you say about the Ukraine’s steadily deteriorating economic situation is entirely true. I would add that further information has come to light over the last week, which shows how bad it actually is. Briefly, it seems that for some time now the Ukraine instead of buying Russian gas has been drawing on its underground reserves, which in consequence have fallen to critical levels. This has put in jeopardy the transit of Russian gas to central and eastern Europe because of the risk of insufficient pipeline pressure and concerns that the Ukraine might be obliged to tap into Russian transit gas to make up for any shortfall in a cold snap caused by the run down in its own reserves.

      This episode has cruelly exposed the bluff over diversification Yanukovitch and Azarov have been playing with the Russians in order to get gas prices reduced. It is clear that the seeming decline in the Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas is largely due to a combination of lower demand for gas in the Ukraine caused by the industrial recession there and the recent mild weather and to the government’s decision to draw down its own gas reserves. This policy is unsustainable and is now coming dangerously close to hitting the wall at precisely the point where the Ukraine’s financial reserves are dwindling and are coming under critical pressure.

      For the rest, it makes utterly no political or economic sense for the EU to seek to take under its wing a country with a dysfunctional political system (the Tymoshenko debacle has exposed the extent to which this is the case), deepening sectional divisions and with an economy on the rack, which is fast running out of both money and gas. Yet that is what some people in the EU (and in Washington) want the EU to do. The only possible explanation for this policy is that it is intended to weaken Russia. That this is the reason for the policy has been all but said in any number of articles and editorials in western newspapers and in comments of western and Ukrainian officials and (of course) Ukrainian politicians.

      That seeking to challenge Russia at all and especially on this ground is an utterly misguided policy given the extremely close connections between the Ukraine and Russia (which ensure that Russian influence will remain paramount regardless of whether the EU association agreement is signed or not) is of course something that I am sure many people in Europe and especially in Germany surely realise but which for well known reasons they are far too intimidated to say.

      On the subject of Germany and of the German taxpayer, the whole story of European policy since 1989 is of grandiose and utopian projects (eg. the euro, EU/NATO expansion etc) hatched in Washington, Brussels, London and Paris based on the blissful assumption that Berlin will pay. Berlin’s response to the euro crisis is a sign that much to the collective dismay of Washington, Brussels, London and Paris, it’s willingness or ability to pay is running out.

      It goes without saying that if German taxpayers were told that if the EU were to take the Ukraine under its wing they would have to pay its bills their answer would be a firm no. Remember that on the two last occasions Germany got mixed up in the Ukraine (during the two World Wars) it met with disaster there. My partner is half German and I can tell you for a fact that ancestral memories of this in Germany remain strong.

      What makes this whole project even more delusional is that not only would the Germans be required or expected to pay it but that the project can only ultimately work if it is carried out with the cooperation of the Russians, without whose help its costs become unsustainable and open ended. Western (and Ukrainian) assumptions that the Russians will subsidise policies that are directed against them always strike me as bizarre as do the expressions of outrage (as in the New York Times piece) when the Russians say no.

      The point however about Germany is that for historic reasons the government there (unlike the Russian) despite all appearances to the contrary still lacks the self confidence to say no clearly and in good time. The result is that German taxpayers are ill informed and there is drift until (as with the euro crisis) either a crisis happens or a decision cannot be put off any longer.

  30. Mark Adomanis has written a fine piece for Forbes demolishing the latest New York Times editorial accusing Russia of putting pressure on countries like the Ukraine and Moldova the EU wants to forge links with.


    I make only one prediction in this affair, which is that if the EU association agreement is not signed in Vilnius this month it will be Putin and Russia who along with Yanukovitch the west will blame. I suspect that the reason for the endless postponements of the “deadlines” for Tymoshenko’s release the EU has set is precisely because of alarm that if the EU association agreement is not signed Putin will chalk it up as a “victory”. Upon such foolishness do the affairs of great nations now turn.

    Returning to the subject of Tymoshenko, I should say that as I understand it the case that has been brought against her is:

    1. That she exceeded her authority in agreeing a deal with Putin on the gas price formula;

    2. That she put illicit pressure on the head of Naftogaz to sign the deal she had negotiated with Putin (which he didn’t want to do) and actually threatened to dismiss him from his post even though she didn’t have the authority to do this; and

    3. That she forged a letter purportedly from the Ukrainian Council of Ministers instructing the head of Naftogaz to sign the deal she had negotiated with Putin.

    There may be other charges I don’t know of. As I understand it Tymoshenko denies that she forged the letter from the Ukrainian Council of Ministers (though she admits it exists), denies that this letter in any way effected anything and says that she had implicit or express authority to do all the things she did by virtue of her office as Prime Minister of the Ukraine.

    I am happy to leave it to the European Court of Human Rights to decide who is right. If anyone knows more about the case then feel free to tell me.

    One thing I would say is that regardless of whether Tymoshenko did or did not break the law I don’t think there is any real doubt that she negotiated a bad deal with Putin for the Ukraine and one which was significantly worse for the Ukraine than the deal that Gazprom and Naftogaz had practically agreed between themselves just a few weeks before prior to Yushchenko and Tymoshenko becoming involved (and making a hash of the whole process and triggering another gas war in the process).

    I suspect that Tymoshenko (who was running an all but parallel negotiation to the ones conducted by Yushchenko and Naftogaz) was far more interested in securing Putin’s and Gazprom’s agreement to the cutting out of RosUkrEnergo as an intermediary for the supply of gas rather than the detail of the gas supply formula. Her statements at the time show a single minded obsession with RosUkrEnergo. Possibly she thought the Ukrainian oligarchs who own UkrEnergo were funding her political rivals (including Yushchenko). Anyway it seems she took her eye off the ball, landing the Ukraine with a deal that was disadvantageous. It always puzzles me why people continue to think of Tymoshenko as a potential strong leader able to stand up to Putin when on the evidence of the only negotiation she has conducted with Putin she is no match for him.

    For the rest, the news today is that Azarov has turned up to the CIS Prime Ministers’ summit in St. Petersburg where he has been busy lamenting the 25% drop in the Ukraine’s trade with Russia this year and has been stepping up calls for a free trade zone within the CIS. He continues to say that the Ukraine will push ahead with the EU association agreement apparently oblivious to the contradiction.

    As for the Rada’s meeting tomorrow, I gather that Yatseniuk has withdrawn most of the opposition’s amendments to the bill proposing reforms to the Ukrainian Procurator General’s Office but there is no word of what if anything is happening over the far more important and contentious law concerning Tymoshenko.

    I am no longer entirely clear what the EU is actually demanding. If it is merely demanding that a law be passed that might conceivable allow Tymoshenko to receive medical treatment in Germany then there must a fair chance that will happen. If it is still demanding (as it was only a week ago) that Tymoshenko be freed before the summit in Vilnius takes place, then assuming the law is passed in line with Yanukovitch’s and the Party of the Regions’ conditions, it is very difficult to see how that can happen. As I understand it the conditions Yanukovitch and the Party of the Regions have set for the law require

    (1) that Tymoshenko (or any other convict in her situation) be examined by a panel of Ukrainian doctors to determine (a) whether she is really ill and (b) whether the treatment for her illness can be provided in the Ukraine;

    (2) if the answer to (a) is yes and to (b) is no, either the same or a similar panel must then decide where else the necessary medical treatment can be provided, the proviso being that it must be provided by an internationally known and respected clinic in another country (the Charite Clinic in Berlin has been mentioned); and

    (3) that reciprocal arrangements must then be agreed with the host country of this clinic for the return of Tymoshenko (or any other convict in her situation) once the course of medical treatment is over.

    Though anything I suppose is possible, with the best will in the world it is very difficult for me to see how this very complex process can be completed successfully so that Tymoshenko is on a plane to Germany before the Vilnius summit starts on 28th November 2013. This of course always assumes (1) that the law is passed (2) that it is passed with these conditions and (3) that the panel of Ukrainian doctors and the host country (ie. Germany) give all the correct answers.

    If the EU however relents on its demand that Tymoshenko be free before the summit in Vilnius and says that the EU association agreement may be signed if only the law is passed, then it seems to me that not only is there no guarantee that Tymoshenko will ever be free (the reason to free her having passed) but Yanukovitch will have effectively called the EU’s bluff, in which case the EU association agreement risks becoming just a scrap of paper since Yanukovitch will know the EU has no will to enforce it.

  31. AK,

    Have you seen this latest puzzling article on The Economist website? http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/11/russias-economy

    I read it and remembered your own long-term predictions and wondered how these people came up with their own (and how the NBER allowed them to publish it under the NBER name)

    • My longterm predictions tend to be kind of for fun and unbacked by figures, just speculations about general trends. Because nothing else is feasible as regards such timescales.

      Even in demography, a subject that is much “harder” than economics or sociology (in terms of being quantifiable), projections can only be more or less valid out to one generation.

      I have indeed seen and read that article. It is pretty absurd. Apparently when oil revenues end, they go down in a straight vertical line.

      In any case, very long-term forecasts have a way of vastly overestimating future liabilities. I recall an analogous study for the US showing Medicare/SS coming to consume some ridiculous % of the GDP by mid-century. If things get that bad, the system will simply be revamped.

      In Russia’s case, if it really does substantially raise life expectancy – which I expect and one hopes will happen – and gets all those new pensioners, it will simply raise the current low retirement ages to normal West European levels and voila! no more pensions crisis again.

  32. The Rada has rejected the law for Tymoshenko’s release. It seems there are no fewer than six competing drafts, which shows how confused and acrimonious this issue has become. I am not sure whether the Rada actually voted against these drafts but in any event it is clear the Party of the Regions with the Communists now breathing down their backs and apparently heavily lobbied by east Ukrainian industrial interests refused to support any of them.

    The Speaker has spoken of a working group to look further into this question but realistically for the time being at least this question is dead. We are only a week away from the summit in Vilnius and it is surely now inconceivable given the deadlock that by then Tymoshenko will be released or that there will be any law or procedure in existence that might eventually cause her to be released. The Ukrainian opposition has again called for Yanukovitch to pardon Tymoshhenko and Klitschko is demanding that the EU impose travel bans on all Party of the Region MPs who have opposed the law, which I take as a sure sign that both Klitschko and the opposition have finally despaired of this process.

    This puts the ball squarely back in the EU’s court. It can either press ahead with the EU association agreement exposing its demands for Tymoshenko’s release as a bluff, which has now been humiliatingly called, or it can postpone the whole signing of the EU association agreement to a later date, possibly after the Presidential election in 2015, which Klitschko might win.

    It has become clear that the EU bureaucracy and possibly the US are completely committed to the EU association agreement in which case they may accept the loss of face and decide to sacrifice Tymoshenko to what they see as the greater cause. However as I said before, doing so would show up the EU as a paper tiger. Yanukovitch, having called the EU’s bluff on the Tymoshenko issue, would in that case feel far more confident in the run up to the election in 2015 making it far more likely that he will be re elected by fair means or foul. He would also be in a much stronger position to negotiate with Putin for some sort of special status for the Ukraine inside the Customs Union – or even for outright membership of the Customs Union – since he would be able to tell Putin that he will simply disregard any provisions in the EU association agreement that appear to contradict this. In that case the EU association agreement would quickly become no more than a scrap of paper (as arguably the EU’s association agreements with countries like Egypt, Algeria and Lebanon already are) and Yanukovitch having called the EU’s bluff would have achieved everything he set out to achieve.

    The decision as I have said many times ultimately rests with Angela Merkel who as always presents a sphinx like appearance on this as on every other question. The latest indications from German MPs close to her suggest that the question of Tymoshenko’s release remains for her a make or break issue. Whether this is so or not or whether if it is others such as Barroso, the US and the Poles can dissuade her remains to be seen. We will now find out. It doesn’t help matters one way or the other that there is still no agreement for a new government in Berlin so that Germany continues to be represented at international meetings by its outgoing Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, who following his party’s (the FDP’s) ejection from the Bundestag is the lamest of ducks.

  33. Dear Hunter,

    I cannot speak for Anatoly but for myself I would say that any article that purports to predict what any part of the world may or will look like in 2100 is an exercise in futurology rather than economics. As is usually the case with such articles it arrives at its predictions by substituting one set of assumptions for another.

    The fact that articles like this one get published by prestigious publishers and journals is nothing new. All my adult life I have read articles about Russia like this. That they continue to get published despite the uniform failure of their predictions to come true merely shows the extent of the delusional thinking that exists around this issue. In this particular case the willingness of the Economist and I suspect of Ed Lucas to republish and give weight to this article proves that they will clutch at any straw if it appears to lend support to their fervid wish that one day Russia will go away.

  34. Well that’s that.

    Thank you to the commentators and especially Alexander Mercouris for keeping the conversation going despite the paucity of other activity here. I may not have participated much, but I did keep track of the discussions and learned a lot from them.

  35. It’s all over. The Ukrainian government has just announced that work on the EU association agreement is suspended in light of the concerns from the Ukraine’s industrial exporters.

    Splenetic anger to follow in Washington and Brussels and from some in Kiev. Relief in Berlin. Game, set and match to Mr. P.

  36. I was starting to wonder how the Ukrainian industrial exporters were really going to take to having an association agreement that opened them up to competition from Western and Central Europe and left them little hope of being able to revamp themselves in time to make the best out of the agreement to compete within Ukraine and in the EU. It seems at least some of them have woken up to what the association agreement would really mean for their export businesses.

  37. In a way Yanukovych has gotten lucky – he has an easy “out” (he can easily say “don’t blame me! Our industrial exporters warned us against signing it!”) and he now won’t have to worry about whether or not the EU (or rather Germany’s Merkel) would really make Tymoshenko’s imprisonment into a make or break issue over the deal.

    The EU has also gotten lucky as now it no longer has to worry about deciding if it should finally put up a last stand over Tymoshenko and have a really, final “final” deadline for her release. With Ukraine suspending the signing of the agreement, the Ukrainians have done the work for the EU and let the EU off the hook.

    There are probably loud sighs of relief all throughout Western European capitals today as this was probably the best outcome the EU could hope for – Ukraine suspending an agreement that in retrospect it seems like neither party was truly interested in or committed to (excepting for the Ukrainian opposition). This is probably not the best outcome for Yanukovych though since he can now easily be blamed for having the association agreement fall through come the next election (whereas if he had got it signed and called the EU’s bluff he would have been in a much stronger position politically as Alexander noted).

    Of course there is still time enough before the summit for the Ukrainians to change their minds yet again….

    • Dear Hunter,

      Given how unstable and unpredictable the Ukrainian political system is, a reversal of this decision before the summit in Vilnius is not impossible. However the chances of that are small. Bear in mind that not only would Yanukovitch have to explain away two reversals made in the space of a week but there is still the Tymoshenko situation which is unresolved. It seems to me that the only thing that could conceivably force Yanukovitch to change positions would be overwhelming popular pressure. I understand that the opposition intends to call a demonstration this weekend but opinion polls hardly suggest overwhelming support for the EU association agreement. I doubt the demonstration this weekend will be big enough to force Yanukovitch to change position but we shall see.

      As to the international reaction, I think this will vary from place to place. The EU bureaucracy is deeply disappointed and I suspect that Washington is as well. However Berlin as I said is probably relieved.

      I would make two points:

      1. Yanukovitch has been damaged by this affair. He now has a chance of consolidating his eastern power base, the industrial lobby will strongly back him and if he starts making moves towards the Customs Union the Russians may start backing him too. Whether that will suffice given that he needs to win support in the central Ukraine is another matter. The one thing that works in his favour is that the west and the EU are much weaker than they were in 2004 so if there is another attempt to launch an Orange revolution western support for it will carry less weight.

      2. Though it is rash to make predictions I feel I should say that it is by no means a foregone conclusion that even if Klitschko wins in 2015 the EU association agreement will be revived. When negotiations for it began in 2005 Yushchenko was in power, the Baltic States were joining NATO, there had been colour revolutions in Yugoslavia, Georgia and the Ukraine, the US was still enjoying its unipolar moment and the euro had just been launched. Today the world is a completely different place: Russia is far stronger, the colour revolutions have all ended in failure, the US is in retreat and the EU is racked by crisis. Given the distinct lack of enthusiasm for this project in Berlin I am far from sure that come 2015 the Germans will agree to revive it.

      • “I understand that the opposition intends to call a demonstration this weekend but opinion polls hardly suggest overwhelming support for the EU association agreement.”

        The latest polls were giving support for the EU association agreement in the mid to upper fifties across the country – it is probably higher in Kiev. Moreover, the younger the age group, the stronger the support. Even in Donetsk oblast, people between the ages of 18-25 prefer closer ties to the EU over closer ties to the CIS:


        If you notice on that chart, the very strong pro-CIS opinion (77%) is limited to the group who are over 55; it’s in the low 50s among other age groups other than 18-25 year olds.

        The big question of course, is how will the people react. I make no predictions. I suppose that by announcing the rejection this early rather than at the last minute, there is a faint chance that with enough protests he may change his mind.

        • Hmm…

          There is a marked difference in preferences by age, but the 18-25 age group is the only one where support for joining the EU is relatively stronger than for joining the Customs Union.

          • To make it clear: these numbers were in the city of Donetsk. Obviously the numbers would be quite different in other parts of the country.

            • My bad! Missed that somehow…

              Yeah, in that case you’re right, if that’s the situation in Donetsk, support for the EU over the CIS would probably be almost universal in the younger age groups of the central regions.

              Also found some other data showing that support for the EU very sharply increased precisely over this summer/autumn. Any ideas about why that could have been?

              • A cursory examination of opinion polls seems to indicate upper forties to 50% support for EU association prior to the summer and undecideds in the low 20’s, and support in the mid fifties and undecideds in the mid to upper teens most recently.

                I think, ironically, the government’s and media’s’ (linked to government) pro-EU campaign have increased EU support by convincing undecided people that the EU is better.

                I suspect it is easier to help people who are undecided to form an opinion, than it is to have people change already-formed opinions.

                Country-wide, the cutoff of pro-EU vs. pro-CIS support seems to be age 50.

      • I think this sounds about right.

        If there are to be protests, they are not off to an auspicious start.


        • We’ll be better able to tell tomorrow. If the opposition was limited to Yatseniuk and Tymoshenko I’d be certain that the reaction would be sullen resentment, plans to emigrate, and nothing more. And it still may be that way. Will be interesting to see of Klitschko can rile the people up.

          • Dear AP and Anatoly,

            Novosti suggests that the total number of protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square is a rather underwhelming 1,500. In fairness it is very early days and a truer measure of popular anger will come on Sunday when the opposition is calling another rally.

            However in saying all this I think it is important not to misunderstand the actual political dynamic. I have never got the sense of a tidal wave of fervid support in the Ukraine for the EU or for the association agreement as such. Doubtless this exists with some people and in some places but this is hardly an issue that in itself excites passions. To the extent that it does I get the impression that the passions are largely negative ie. those people who passionately support the EU association agreement do so because they passionately oppose Russia not because they passionately support the EU. Of course such people are a minority except possibly in places like Lviv.

            On the contrary the fact that only a relatively small plurality of Ukrainians say they support an association agreement with the EU which until just a week ago had the unanimous support of the entire Ukrainian political class and nearly all the Ukraine’s mass media suggests that support for the association agreement is wafer thin even with many of people who now say they support it.

            The fact that there are a lot of people in the Donbass who at present say they support it is unsurprising and becomes a lot less significant if one remembers that just a week ago Yanukovitch and the Party of the Regions were saying they support it too. Now that the association agreement is off the table popular sentiment towards it may change especially in the east and south and especially now that Ukrainian industry has come out so strongly against it. If people are told in the east and south by their employers that if the association agreement happens their jobs are on the line I can easily see how that might crystallise opposition to it even from people who now say they support it.

            Yanukovitch’s problem is not that Ukrainians care passionately about the EU association agreement but that he has reversed himself on what was his flagship policy just a week ago. Anywhere where that happens and a political leader U turns so spectacularly there is a political price to pay. Obviously the views of Ukrainian industry give Yanukovitch some political cover and he is continuing as of today to pretend that nothing substantial has happened, that the EU association agreement has merely been postponed and that he remains committed to integration with the EU and that he will go to Vilnius next week even if he doesn’t sign the association agreement there and that he wants tripartite talks involving the Ukraine, the EU and Russia (a suggestion shot down by the Lithuanians this morning). I doubt any of this will convince anyone, especially not in the centre where elections in the Ukraine are lost and won.

            Now that does not mean that Yanukovitch’s defeat in 2015 is definitely a foregone conclusion. Those elections are still more than a year away, dropping the association agreement and moving closer to Russia may secure Yanukovitch’s eastern and southern base and if he now manages to get the Russians to agree to lower gas prices (Putin has said today that negotiations about that are now underway) he might even succeed in turning the economy round. He is also fortunate in his opponents with neither Klitschko nor Yatseniuk coming across to me as especially inspiring leaders and both utterly lacking the charisma that Tymoshenko unquestionably has. However Yanukovitch’s political position and his electoral prospects are undoubtedly weaker than they looked say a year ago.

            • The weather is also cold and rainy (+6 Celsius), which works against having mass demonstrations (cold rain is worse than snow).

              I think the issue is not so much tepid support for the EU vector, but a sense of hopelessness due to the failure of the Orange Revolution. When I was in Ukraine this summer I asked my uncle what he thought would happen if Ukraine chose the CIS over the EU association, given that it was obvious that the majority of the people – particularly the young people – preferred the EU. He told me an interesting story about rats. Psychologists trained some rats to become cannibals – they starved them until they learned to attack and eat other rats. These cannibal-rats were then unleashed onto a large community of normal rats. The normal rats could have easily overpowered and killed the cannibal-rats, but they did not do so. Instead, they tried to avoid the cannibals by moving to other areas in the enclosure, to live without them. In Ukraine, the oligarchs and the politicians are the cannibal-rats. My uncle predicted that the people (particularly young people) would behave as the normal rats – they would try to emigrate, they would try to avoid the government, and would try to live separate lives from the authorities the best that they could. But they would not resist. This does not mean that they support the government or that their opinions are fickle or superficial. Rather, it means that they are passive and don’t see any point in openly resisting.

              But, we will see what happens.

            • I wouldn’t be surprised if the protests turned out to be supported by only a few thousand at best. The thing is that the EU is mainly sold by the media and political class within aspiring states and even in member states as being about the financial bottom line. So while people may like or dislike the EU, very few people get inspired enough to actively protest against or in favour of it. As the American saying goes “all politics is local”.

              More people would probably come out to protest a local issue than the EU association agreement. And this is exemplified by the fact that the protests for the Orange Revolution started around this time nine years ago. Cold November weather wasn’t enough to stop people REALLY coming out to protest the results of that election because it was a more personal issue to them (“my vote was stolen!”) than anything over the EU could ever be (“my possible access to visiting the EU and maybe EU development money which may trickle down to me if I know the right people in government was thrown away!”).

              As I said, this is true for aspiring and current EU member states. Note that in the UK, while the EU is generally viewed in a negative light and much is made about it by the United Kingdom Independence Party and a lot of Conservatives, the general public does NOT put the EU as high on the list of political priorities with local issues trumping the EU EVERY time. This is why despite the public’s generally negative attitude to the EU, the UKIP has had a very difficult time in general elections in the UK and only really does well in European Parliament elections and some local elections. It is also why the Conservatives tend to lose support among the public around the time of general elections if the public perceive them to be fixating on a backburner issue (the EU) to the detriment of their priority issues (infrastructure, healthcare, jobs, government services).

              • I have to disagree here somewhat. Many Ukrainians have taken the idea of moving towards Europe to heart – it is not some far-off idea for them that is irrelevant to their lives, just as this idea was important for Poles, Balts, etc. in their times.

                If Ukrainians don’t rise up in defense of this desire – which seems to be quite likely, though not certain – it will not be because they don’t really care, but because of factors such as the disappointment of the Orange Revolution, uninspiring opposition leaders, and an overall sense of hopelessness and feeling that they cannot really change things.

              • You misunderstand. Nowhere did I say the question of association with the EU was irrelevant. If it was then in both Britain and Ukraine what you would find is antipathy towards the EU rather than general hostility (in the case of the UK) or general favourability (in the case of Ukraine). However the EU is NOT and never will be of the top of the list of priorities for voters in ANY current member state or aspiring state. Day to day issues will always be more important because that is how most people live their lives. In the UK, a lot of ordinary people generally don’t like the EU but simply don’t have the time to be hung up on the issue of membership (unlike media personalities and some politicians who have the time to indulge). In Germany the among the biggest issues currently is gay marriage, a national minimum wage and The deployment to Afghanistan, not the EU. In Kiev the results of the demonstrations speak for themselves; a few thousand demonstrators protesting the suspension of the DCFTA process almost nine years to the day when the same city saw hundreds of thousands demonstrating against election results. Does anybody doubt that if Yanukovych stole the 2015 elections that we wouldn’t see at least tens of thousands on the streets on a cold November day?

  38. Ukrainian president tells President Grybauskaitė about Russia’s blackmail

    A curious claim.

    If Yanukovych thought Putin was blackmailing him, the Lithuanian President would not, I imagine, be the likeliest person to take those grievances to.

    Alex, AP, what do you make of this?

    • Dear Anatoly,

      It is inconceivable that Yanukovitch would have spoken of “Russian blackmail” to anyone at all and certainly not to the Lithuanian President (who currently occupies the EU’s rotating Presidency). If you read the article carefully it is absolutely clear that he did no such thing.but that his words are being spun by Lithuanian President’s adviser (or twisted would perhaps be more accurate) to give them that meaning.

      This is of course in line with the party line that is being followed across Europe with Stefan Fule, Carl Bildt, Radek Sikorski, Catherine Ashton, William Hague and Knasiewski and Cox all blaming Russian pressure for the Ukrainian decision. Bildt has gone furthest talking about “brutal pressure” that supposedly “forced” the Ukrainians “to bow to the Kremlin”.

      All I would say about these comments is that they sound very strange to me after the relentless pressure the EU has been exerting on the Ukraine for years and indeed until just last week to release Tymoshenko even though as we saw it is simply wrong to say that the European Court of Human Rights said her continuing detention is illegal or that the Ukraine should release her.

      The European response has by the way exposed Europe’s divisions on this issue since there is one very significant exception to the party line. Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister, has reminded everybody that it is “the Ukraine’s sovereign right to choose the path it wishes to follow”. This somewhat Delphic comment can of course be interpreted as being directed against the Russians, but it can also be interpreted as directed at the Americans and the Europeans as well. In fact it is most similar to what the Russians have been saying. Here again we have an example of the Germans and the Russians quietly appearing to agree on a major international issue and borrowing from each other’s phrase book.

      This is the closest the Germans have come to expressing their real feelings about this whole question and it has come from the person who was considered to be the most pro American figure in the outgoing government. As I said previously, no one should assume that the Germans will be prepared to go down this road again in 2015 even if Klitschko is elected and even if Tymoshenko is released. Others in Europe understand this very well, which is why on Tuesday when the Rada failed to vote on the Tymoshenko issue the Lithuanians warned that any postponement in signing the EU association agreement might be for a very long time and why Knasiewski has been talking about “major downside risks” arising from the postponement.

      A further factor is that the European elections next year are expected to produce a European Parliament in which parties like the French National Front, Winders’s Dutch block, the Finns (formerly the True Finns), UKIP and the German AfD are far more strongly represented than they are in the present one. All of these parties are characterised as anti European and right wing (though the AfD is neither). One thing they do have in common is that they tend to be much more pro Russian than the establishment parties (the Finns go furthest with some of their members actually arguing for Finland to enter into some sort of association with Russia in place of its current membership of the EU). It goes without saying that a European parliament in which these parties are strongly represented is going to be less sympathetic to European integrationist plans for the Ukraine than was the outgoing one.

      • Probably Germany breathed a sigh of relief. Germany seems to be less keen to threaten Russia and thumb their noses at her.

    • I think Alex may have a point. Note this article is quoting the Presidential advisor of the Lithuanian President who is supposed to be quoting the Lithuanian President who in turn is quoting Yanukovych. It is more likely that what Yanukovych actually said is that the potential losses to the eastern industries and the potential job losses and loss of exports were ultimately calculated to be too much of a risk at this time for the Ukraine to proceed with DCFTA as it is currently outlined. And then this got summarized and “interpreted”.

      • This claim from Lithuania has provoked a typical joke from Putin who has said at a joint press conference with Erdogan in Turkey that though he didn’t know what Yanukovitch and Grybauskate said to each other the Americans presumably did (because they were doubtless listening in) but that they hadn’t told him. He also (half) joked that the EU was “blackmailing” the Ukrainians who should seek advice from the Turks who 50 years after signing their own association agreement with the EU had more experience of negotiating with the EU than anyone. Erdogan was obviously amused by this little quip.

        • Azarov has effectively denied that Yanukovitch spoke of Russian blackmail to the Lithuanian President and has made the same point that has been made here that the source for this story is one of the Lithuanian President’s advisers.

          This piece of Lithuanian mischief making needs to be put in its context. Not only is the Lithuanian government (like all Baltic governments) fiercely anti Russian and an active supporter of the so called “Promethean” policy (of detaching the former Soviet states from each other and from Russia and if possible of breaking Russia up) but it also currently occupies the EU’s rotating Presidency. The Lithuanians intended the Ukraine’s signing of the EU association agreement to be the great achievement of their EU Presidency. They have now been robbed of their prize and their anger and frustration is obvious.

  39. News: Azarov calls ‘tactical’ his decision to suspend EU deal

    There are many possible interpretations of this.

    The one I’m leaning to is the same old, same old (and also Occam’s Razor): The PoR elites only being interested in milking the most accessible cow. Which happens to be Russia right now. $20 billion now (Russia’s offer) obviously beats $1 billion over 7 years plus some vague promises of help with the IMF (the EU’s offer). I presume he intends to take the money, use it to pull through the coming difficult electoral period, then rush back to Europe to legitimize said money.

    Does anyone know of precisely which channels Russia is offering the $20 billion? The risks are high of it being played for a fool, and Russian diplomats tend to be shrewd; I’m sure there’d be safeguards. Although the $20 billion figure itself isn’t certain, since AFAIK it originated with the opposition.

    • I think it would be a bit silly to assume Russia is going to just transfer $20 bil. over to Ukraine as some kind of non-signing bonus. If there’s any truth at all to that number, it’s probably just a rough estimate of a total package. It would include things like savings on natural gas, low interest loans, guarantees, promises of campaign support over the next election cycle and, yes, perhaps a couple hundred million to Yanukovitch’s personal pension fund. This is a long game, a very long one, and the Russians are unlikely to be played for fools.

  40. A note on opinion polls:

    This Guardian writeup originally had a poll claiming that 45% wanted to join the EU and only 13% wanted to join the Customs Union. It seemed strange to me; while I’m aware EU sentiment has increased a lot of late, that still seemed highly unlikely; though I couldn’t comment as I’m banned from doing so at The Guardian.

    I now see they have removed those percentages, writing instead “Opinion polls show a plurality in favour of the deal with the EU.” I do not see an acknowledgement of the mistake/correction, although evidence of it is rife in the comments.

    The opinion poll they were referring to (but seemingly unable to quote correct figures for) is this one by a Kiev sociological institute:


    The real figures are 41% for EU vs. 35% for CU.

    So the EU is more popular, but the difference really isn’t as vast as a lot of the Western media outlets have been insisting.

    One interesting result is that age group differences are almost as significant as regional differences. As AP correctly points out, the cutoff where the CU becomes more popular than the EU is right around 50.

  41. A few more thoughts:

    (1) The “Euromaidan” event has 10,000 RSVP’s on Facebook. That means it will in all likelihood fall short of the desired 100,000.

    (2) Really I think the best way forwards for Ukraine is to have a referendum on the issue and be done with it. Unfortunately however I don’t see it happening because neither PoR nor indeed the opposition has much interest in the voice of the people; it comes after that of oligarchs/their electoral prospects (in the case of PoR) and ideology (in the case of the pro-Europe opposition). Yes, ideology – having read some of the arguments on Ukrainian sites, I was struck though not overly surprised by the sheer virulence of their loathing towards “Азиопа” (~”asia-ass,” i.e. Russia/Eurasia) and the frankly masturbatory worship of европейская цивилизация which can only have been borne of the idealism associated with never having directly experienced it or lived there or even dispassionately analyzed the effects of EU policies on member economic basket-cases.

    (3) These are very vocal people and the problem is that if Ukraine goes towards the Customs Union they will continue complaining very loudly and denouncing Russia for having robbed Ukraine of its vaunted “European choice.” This is why I think that ultimately Ukrainian membership of the Customs Union (unless done through a democratic referendum which would confer upon any decision some degree of popular legitimacy) is a bad idea. There will be a strong lingering undercurrent of bitterness that will manifest itself in various scandals and sabotage. Let them join Europe – well, in all likelihood not exactly join, but stand around the edges like Turkey. The long-term future of the Customs Union/Eurasian Union is likely to be gradual convergence with the EU anyway, and the combined weight of that bloc – with or without Ukraine – means that any such integration will be happen on much more favorable terms than Ukraine could manage by itself (as it insists on doing so).


    An important clarification – apparently my interpretation of Asiopa is mistaken (if understandably so). From commentator Artem:

    (For the record: Asiopa doesn’t mean Asia-arse (although the A-word is an easy and expected rhyme), it’s an alternative portmanteau of Asia and Europe, created out of the first syllable of the former and the last of the latter and used by detractors of “Eurasianism” such as myself)