What a difference a day makes. Ukraine, which was set to sign a free trade and association agreement with the EU in eight days, today spun on its heel. Reuters reports:
The order issued by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the government was suspending preparations for concluding the agreement with the EU “with the aim of adopting measures to ensure national security”. Ukraine has been concerned that a punitive Russian trade response could hurt its economy.
In the end, the EU brought a baguette to the knife fight over Ukraine, and unsurprisingly their starchy weaponry couldn’t compete with Russian steel. Brussels tried to entice Ukraine with a deal for cheap natural gas, but that paled in comparison to the overt threats (and likely clandestine gifts) Moscow brought to bear.Vladimir Putin’s spokesman was chipper about the development, telling reporters that Russia “welcome(s) the desire to improve and develop trade and economic cooperation.” As well he should be; this is a huge coup for Putin, whose legacy among Russians was on the line with this vote. Had Ukraine gone ahead with the EU agreement, Vlad would have gone down in history as the man responsible for losing a country that many Russians still consider their own.Put this together with Putin’s success in keeping Assad in power and not since Adolf Hitler bamboozled France and Britain has a world leader with so few cards to play made such headway.[Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin photo courtesy of Getty Images]