The Associated Press reports that Ukrainian lawmakers will sign the European Union agreement that sparked February’s revolution on Friday. The trade deal requires a number of modernization and reform efforts with regards to Ukrainian economic policy, and Ukrainians hope it will spur growth and bring the country to economic par with other former Soviet bloc nations. Risks abound, however. While the Russian parliament has revoked Vladimir Putin’s right to intervene militarily on behalf of Russian-speaking rebels in eastern Ukraine, many remain concerned by the potential Russian backlash over Friday’s deal signing. Russia has repeatedly threatened to slap tariffs on Ukrainian goods.
While the EU trade deal reduces Ukraine’s tariffs to almost zero, Russia and Ukraine already share a free trade agreement and, as Russia is Ukraine’s largest export market, an imposition of tariffs by the Bear could mean that Ukraine is gaining Europe at the loss of the giant to her east. Furthermore, despite support from Russia, France, Germany, and the Ukraine, the truce called by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko between Ukraine’s armed forces and separatists appears to be shattering as militants continue to attack Ukrainian interests. While the Ukrainian government had hoped the cease-fire would last through the June 27 signing of the economic agreement, a true truce seems to depend on a real defeat of one of the opposing parties.
The rebellion in the east has headlined Ukraine’s request of a $17 billion bailout program from the International Monetary Fund, as Kiev points to the extra expense of fighting separatists as further reason for financial assistance. The IMF has assisted Ukraine on two earlier occasions, in 2008 and 2010. Both times, Ukraine failed to fulfill the economic and governmental reforms required by the programs. The strictures of both the IMF and EU deals reflect the reforms sought by the Ukrainians who revolted earlier this year after Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to accept an earlier version of the EU economic agreement and his further aligning himself and his country with Russia.
Russian interests in Ukraine continue to rile Europe, despite Putin and the Russian Parliament’s decision to not consider military involvement. German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated Wednesday that further sanctions should be considered against Russia if the peace process and reunification of Ukraine does not accelerate. Merkel apparently feels that separatists will not continue to fight without Putin’s tacit permission, an assessment that hardly seems revolutionary.
Ukraine, by aligning with the EU, is contributing to the growing polarity in Eastern Europe, and revoking its name’s meaning: “borderland.” No longer is Ukraine the hinterland separating Europe and Russia. The binary between east and west appears to be growing, and Putin’s Eurasian Union, which contains Ukraine’s northern neighbor Belarus, sharpens the divide. Ukraine has for now chosen the west, but Putin, and men like political philosopher and madman Alexander Dugin, have grand ambitions for the east and Eurasian power. Germany and Russia, however indirectly, are waging a proxy battle over Ukraine that, unlike the truce, has not ended.