Russian Government Official: Ukraine Will Continue to Suffer If It Embraces “Suicidal” Association Agreement

We have discussed before Russia’s new trade war with Ukraine, which was to any reasonable observer an attempt to strong-arm Kyiv away from Europe. Over the weekend, Russia elected to discard any pretense at subtlety and closely linked its reminder of its economic importance to the upcoming Association Agreement between Brussels and the former Soviet republic.

Sergei Glazev, Vladimir Putin’s special adviser on developing the Eurasian Customs Union, told the Russian state-run news agency RIA that this opening phase of the trade war was a one-time event and would only be temporary but warned, “We are preparing to tighten customs procedures if suddenly Ukraine makes this suicidal step of signing the EU association agreement.”

You can appreciate Glazev’s honesty while reviling the brute force behind it, but it is hard to deny the value of clarity in international relations. Moscow is making a hard power play to remind Ukraine that Moscow is perfectly willing to suffer the loss of Ukrainian imports if it teaches Ukraine a lesson about where its future lies. Putin is also implicitly asking Kyiv if it is willing to lose up to a quarter of its trade just to hang out with Eurocrats.

Ukraine is the lynch-pin of Russia’s future. Every other republic pales in comparison to its value. Moscow realizes this. Kyiv realizes this. Increasingly, Brussels realizes this. The question then is whether the signing of the Association Agreement in November is a moment that symbolizes hope, pain, or both.

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