Sushko: Ukraine cannot carry on in the same rut

PONARS Eurasia
19 Jan 2017

(ECFR) Ukraine's prospects are under threat from developments on both sides of the Atlantic.

Something is stirring in Ukraine. The most obvious cause is Donald Trump’s imminent inauguration on 20 January, and the widespread fear in Kyiv that his push for some kind of Yalta 2.0 agreement with Russia will be at Ukraine’s expense.

But another parallel cause is the fear that the European Union is losing interest in Ukraine. After Dutch voters rejected the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement at a referendum in April 2016 (though many were really voting about the Netherlands and Europe), the price of bringing the Dutch government into line was high. In fact, it took a triple reassurance just to get PM Mark Rutte to take the issue back to parliament for a vote to overturn the referendum result. 

Those reassurances came in the European Council’s resolution of 15 December, which declares that ‘the Agreement does not confer on Ukraine the status of a candidate country for accession to the Union, nor does it constitute a commitment to confer such status to Ukraine in the future’. Furthermore, it ‘does not contain an obligation for the Union or its Member States to provide collective security guarantees or other military aid or assistance to Ukraine’. And finally, it ‘does not grant to Ukrainian nationals… the right to reside and work freely within the territory of the Member States’. While this resolution does not roll back existing, modest, European commitments to Ukraine, it was interpreted as a major setback in Kyiv. [...]

Oleksandr Sushko of the Institute of Euro-Atlantic Partnership talks in a similar vein: ‘it is clear that we cannot carry on in the same rut. We need to propose new approaches, be more pragmatic. To explain and motivate the American side not only by Ukraine’s ability to confront Russia, but also by our ability to create an attractive investment climate, to become interesting for US investors. ’Significantly, not only has Kyiv announced a deal with the traditional Republican lobby group BGR, led by the former Republican Party leader and governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, to lobby Ukraine’s line in Washington; but BGR’s brief includes ‘strengthening US-Ukrainian relations and increasing US business investment in Ukraine’. This is the kind of language that Kyiv hopes that Trump will understand. [...]

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