As Ukraine’s likely signing of the Association Agreement and opening free trade with the European Union draws closer, more and more news organizations have finally realized some hard truths about the region. Bloomberg is the latest of the crop, offering the surprisingly unsubtle editorial “Don’t Let Russia Bully Ukraine.”
It apparently only took Russia threatening to wreck the Ukrainian economy and open a multifront trade war against its former vassal states to reach this point.
Europe’s leaders may soon have to choose between a woman and a nation. They should resist the impulse to pick Yulia Tymoshenko over her 46 million fellow Ukrainians.
Yet nothing is so simple when it comes to Ukraine, a nation torn by its history, trade and geography, between Russia to the east and the EU to the west. What the EU’s leaders need to decide is how their economic and security interests — and those of Ukrainians in developing a more accountable, prosperous and independent country — will be best served. Refusing Ukraine also risks compromising those goals and values.
The backhanded aside at Tymoshenko is a nice touch, and most of the meandering about the sincerity behind Kyiv’s western moves is merely window-dressing so that Bloomberg’s readers won’t believe its editorial board has betrayed first principles.
That aside, the change in tone is remarkable, and is a sign of a growing consensus that the world is finally developing some Realpolitik in the region. The choice for a change is stark, and has been for some time: A Ukraine that is part of Europe, or a Ukraine that is merely a glorified province for Russia.
Whether it was the ongoing collapse of Belarus (a puppet state now kept afloat essentially by Russian largesse); Russia’s threats against Ukraine, Armenia, and Moldova; or Russia’s expanded range of threats against EU members (beginning with Lithuania for its criticism of Moscow’s handling of Kyiv and continuing with the renewed gas cutoff threats), the world is finally beginning to understand the stakes in Ukraine.
Yulia Tymoshenko’s case is being according to Ukraine’s domestic law and that required by its ties with Europe. It will be resolved in time.
But the real prize is Ukraine itself, and finally, the West has joined the game to win it.
November will be interesting to watch.
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