Does Europe Need Associated Ukraine?

Does Europe Need Associated Ukraine?

Up to the autumn of 2013 very few Ukrainian politicians had been acquainted with the text of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The content had not even been openly accessible in Ukrainian or Russian languages and people could not read it. The only thing they had patience for was going through the short text of the basic Agreement itself without multiple amendments containing the most scandalous provisions. With the amendments the document exceeded 900 pages. 

The publications highlighting the details appeared in February-March 2013 sparking a real row. The implementation of the agreement would have made Ukraine collapse entailing impoverishment of population. In September the scandal started to rage making the leadership read the document and make an independent study of possible consequences. No matter the strong pressure on the part of the United States, Ukraine did not sign the document at the Eastern Partnership summit held in Vilnius. The February coup brought to power the people fully controlled by the United States. They intend to sign the economic part of the agreement on June 27. This is a political decision taken under pressure that does not take into account the interest of Ukraine. 

Anyone who followed the events related to the Vilnius summit knows it was not the «old Europe» who pushed Ukraine into this direction, but rather the United States, Poland and Lithuania. Poland has a clear interest: the introduction of European norms would allow over 80 thousand Poles demand restitution of the property expropriated after Western Ukraine joined the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. 

Lithuanian President D. Grybauskaite wants the summit to be a success opening the way for her promotion to a top position within the framework of the European Union structure, something she aspires to. 

The United States is pursuing its geopolitical interests.

First, the EU-Ukraine association agreement means putting an end to Ukraine’s economic and military cooperation with Russia to weaken the latter’s military potential. Ukraine would refuse common standards and customs levies would come into life.

Second, the agreement makes Ukraine part of all-European system of security based on NATO where the United States plays the leading role. Actually it becomes an issue of moving US military presence to Russia’s borders. 

Third, the agreement provides American companies access to Ukrainian arable land and mineral resources. US agricultural giants specializing on genetically modified products are getting ready to start business in Ukraine. Burisma, a private oil and gas company in Ukraine, has appointed Hunter Biden, the youngest son of US Vice President Joe Biden, to its board of directors. The younger Mr. Biden isn't the only American with political ties to have recently joined Burisma's board. Devon Archer, a former senior advisor to current Secretary of State John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign and a college roommate of Mr. Kerry's stepson HJ Heinz, signed on in April. Mr. Biden and Mr. Archer are also managing partners at Rosemont Seneca Partners, a Washington, DC-based investment company. Former president of Poland Alexander Kwasniewski is also a member of Burisma’s board of directors. Naturally it raises serious conflict of interest questions for Western countries’ Ukraine policy.

Fourth, joining the agreement would lead to negative consequences for common Ukrainians, things like impoverishment, bankruptcy of middle and small business enterprises, hikes of household costs resulting in migration. The flows of immigrants will rush to Russia. Waves of people leaving Poland would hit Europe too. It would exacerbate the problem of unemployment inevitably giving rise to ethnic crime.

Fifth, Europe and Russia will have to spend time and effort to deal with humanitarian disaster near their borders. It will sap their resources limiting options for tackling other burning problems. 

Sixth, some branches of Ukrainian economy integrated into Europe (metallurgy and chemicals produced by some Ukrainian oligarchs) will face difficulties of transition period to make them curtail the production. At first glance, it would meet the interests of Europe doing away with competitors. But Ukrainian high-tech enterprises operate in Europe, not in Ukraine. It’s the European Union they pay taxes to. If taxes are not paid it hurts the European Union not the United States. 

Nobody took seriously the possibility of competition on the part of Ukraine while the agreement was in works. They talked about saturating Ukraine with high quality European goods. Actually it was about creating a new market for European producers. Perhaps it would have been so a couple of years ago but the 2013 crisis substantially brought the Ukrainians’ living standards down. After the February coup the Nazi government launched a number of economic experiments and started a war with its own people, the situation has deteriorated to the extent that people cannot satisfy elemental basic needs anymore. 

According to HeadHunter, 54% male and 58% female cannot pull on till the next time they get their salary, the time is coming when people will not be able to make the ends meet. Today Ukraine is considered at immediate risk of defaulting on its foreign debt that amounts to around 40% of annual gross domestic product. The tearing up economic ties with Russia will deliver a severe blow. The Russian Federation consumes one third of Ukrainian export. By joining the association agreement with Ukraine the European Union does not get a new market for exports but rather a big «black hole» sucking in European commodities without paying for what it consumes. If there is no profit made, then how will it affect the European Union’s economy? This a rhetoric question, the deal with Ukraine can inflict enormous damage. 

All told, one should say that this is the time for prudence. The new Ukrainian rulers have shown they are ready to eliminate their own country while serving the US interests. If the European Union leaders recklessly succumb to political ambitions and outside pressure they’ll fall into a trap having to face a grave threat. True, the United States is the leading lobbyist pushing the Ukraine-EU association agreement through. But does it serve the interests of Europe and the common people?