When the story of Ukraine’s drive for Europe is written, Vladimir Putin will star in an outsized role: one of his rare blunders will be known as perhaps the final push that brought Brussels and Kyiv together at last.
After a decade of hard work, Putin is finally poised to reclaim the Russian Empire he believes should exist of right.
The coming months and years will be a test of leadership in the EU and Ukraine, as Russian intransigence and vengeance will undoubtedly come with heavy clubs.
Ukraine cannot hold out against Russian trade wars indefinitely; Europe’s shameful practice of holding out indefinitely a deeper integration has placed Kyiv in a position in which it must choose whether to protect its present or its future.
The effort to rebuild the Russian Empire has been stymied by Ukraine’s clever transformation of its energy policy and Azerbaijan’s growth as an alternative energy provider.
A critical moment is approaching in November, when Ukraine and the European Union are set to sign an historic Association Agreement and create a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. Russia is determined to stop this.
What he is really doing is telling his slowly-dying country that it remains a great power and demonstrating to wavering neighbors such as Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Georgia that when Russia speaks, the world listens.
Cyprus can only serve as both a warning shot to and a bad example for former Soviet states desperate to enter the European Union, a statement that the law can be disregarded if the victim is small and unliked.
The 1990s sensation — now down to a trio from their glory days as a quartet — will be jetting to Moscow for some magic, some music, and, just perhaps, some baby-making. Somehow, this makes sense in the Kremlin.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is playing a dangerous game, but it is one forced on him by a European Union that pushes Ukraine away even as it claims it wants closer ties. Unfortunately, he cannot play this game indefinitely.