Ukraine: The West and Russia negotiate shares of influence

Press conference by Manuel Barroso, President of the European Union, on the package of support measures for Ukraine. (EC Audiovisual Services, 5.3.2014).

Press conference by Manuel Barroso, President of the European Union, on the package of support measures for Ukraine. (EC Audiovisual Services, 5.3.2014).

The seriousness of approach, the magnitude of the interest and the pertinence of the proposal the European Union adopted yesterday to end the stalemate in Ukraine can be seen in the kind of money the EU sets aside for this country. José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission stated yesterday that the Union can help Ukraine with a package of aid and soft loans amounting at €11 billion and he added that, “It is a package designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms oriented Ukrainian Government”. This doesn’t seem to be very far away from what Russia could accept as a viable solution. Yesterday, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, from Paris, asked that the 21st February agreement signed between the political opposition and the subsequently ousted Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych be implemented.

EU sets aside €11bn

This agreement was brokered by the European Union. Three EU Foreign Ministers, the French, the German and the Polish representing the EU Foreign Affairs Council, had undersigned it as witnesses. Unfortunately 24 hours after this agreement was inked, the Ukrainian Parliament ousted Yanukovych, in a flagrant breach of the constitution. The President is elected directly by the people in a general vote and not by the Parliament. Understandably the EU as the catalyst of the 21st February agreement could accept the Russian demand for its implementation.

As for the EU aid package of €11bn as designed by the Commission, it is expected to be presented and approved today by the EU 28 leaders, set to meet in Brussels in an extraordinary summit. “The most immediate priority for the EU is to contribute to a peaceful solution to the current crisis, in full respect of international law”, Barroso said. “In parallel, the international community should mobilise to help Ukraine stabilise its economic and financial situation. The European Commission is proposing today a package designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms oriented Government in rebuilding a stable and prosperous future for Ukraine. What we propose could bring overall support of at least €11 billion over the next couple of years from the EU budget and EU-based international financial institutions.”

An inclusive government

Now, despite the fact that the EU could at the limit accept the Russian demand, that the Ukrainian political parties implement the 21st February agreement, the return of Yanukovych in Kiev as President, seems quite impossible. It’s like expecting history to rewrite the last two pages… On top of that the EU has invited the currently interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to appear today in the 28 leaders’ summit, in a direct recognition of his office and role.

The word ‘inclusive’ Barroso used to describe a Ukrainian government that the Union could trust and support with €11bn, doesn’t mean that Yanukovych should be restored. Quite the opposite. In the special EU language the bureaucrats of Brussels use, this word is like a standard axiom to be used all the time. Everything in the EU has to be ‘inclusive’, otherwise the Union will disintegrate. In this case it surely means that the EU will support with €11bn a Kiev government, only if it includes a lot of Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party people, like the interim President and Prime Minister.

Knowing the way Europeans value things, Brussels would demand that the other interested parties, like the US and Russia, should have a say in the formation of this government in a direct analogy, with the money they are prepared to put in. It may not look very nice, but at least it’s bloodless and could be fair. Probably the prices to be paid were set yesterday in Paris, where the US Foreign Secretary, John Kerry met his Russian counterpart Lavrov. Apart from Laurent Fabius, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, it’s not clear who else participated in the Paris meetings of Kerry-Lavrov.

‘Fait vos jeux’

The Americans for example have already announced that they are setting aside for Ukraine a mere $1bn. Not much compared with $15bn the Russians had promised to Yanukovich. Moscow had already transferred to Kiev $2bn, before the ex-President was ousted. Not to forget that Ukraine owes to Russia a round sum of $80bn. As for the very cheap natural gas – currently offered to Kiev by the Russian gas monopoly Gasprom – it has an expiration date set by Moscow on 31st March. Presumably, the price Ukraine would have to pay for its natural gas as from April’s Fools day, would depend on how much Moscow would like the members of the Kiev government.

It is really a sad sight, to watch a large European country of 46 million people, being the object of trade between the West and Russia, valuing what they are buying at current market prices. The hard military talk has not vanished from the West-Russia negotiations, but it seems that there is agreement to agree on the prices to be paid.


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