Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ukraine-EU relations must deepen, but with what costs?

The European Union is in advanced discussions with the International Monetary Fund on providing standby financing to Ukraine should the country come under economic pressure from Russia later this year, senior EU officials have told Reuters. (Reuters)

The reason being the potential signature of a free trade agreement between Ukraine and the EU, at a summit in Lithuania on November 28-29th. 

In other words because Europe wants to expand its sphere of influence Eastwards, it is planning to throw the country into the arms of the IMF, an organization that is responsible for a lot of misery to citizens in many other European countries. 

Understandably Russia will retaliate in some ways, most likely by cutting the gas supply in Ukraine and in extend in many EU states. Especially those who were part of the former Soviet block and still rely on the block's infrastructure for their energy supplies. Like the Baltic states for example. 

Nobody can really blame the Russians for acting they way they do when it comes to Europe's ever expansion of influence. Many European former colonial powers still feel entitled to meddle with the affairs of their former colonies and have established blocks or agreements that allows them to maintain their influence. 

The British Commonwealth or the French Francophone Festivals across the globe, exist for the sole purpose of keeping the cultural, linguistic, economic or political influence over these two powers over their former colonies. 

In similar way the Russians, feel angered when the West is trying to expand their influence in territories that they consider as part of their sphere. We can not forget that a large proportion of the Ukrainian population in the eastern part of the country, is ethnic Russian. And many Russians still consider Ukraine as a culturally and historically Russian region. 

Although the Russians must eventually accept that Ukraine is a sovereign state and is allowed to follow its own policies, create its own alliances and sign its own trade agreements, the way that Europe is planning to cut off Ukraine from the arms of Russia can have a negative effect in the Ukrainian public opinion and support for EU membership. 

The IMF is an organization that is based and controlled by the US, a country that the Russians have had and in extent still have, a complicated relationship with. This organization is the reason why many countries in Latin America, Africa and recently Europe, have seen their living standards dwindling by the accumulation of huge debt, imposed by loan repayments provided by the IMF.

In other words throwing Ukraine in the hands of the IMF, thus under the economic supervision or mercy of the Americans may cut off the country from the Russian influence, but with a huge cost to the people of Ukraine. 

European policies are favoring American foreign policies above all and that is something that does not help the EU-Russian relations. Every new state that joins the EU, must also automatically join NATO as well, thus be allied to the US. 

American TV channels like the CNN are quick to start broadcasting in every new EU state that joins the block, that was formerly allied or under the influence of the Russians. With CNN follow myriads of US TV dramas, documentaries and films that are expanding not Europe's, but America's cultural and political influence in these countries. 

So how can the Russians not feel angered by any further EU expansion to the East? Similar attitudes exist to former European colonial powers, when they have to deal with China's expansion of influence in Africa, a region that for decades was considered to be under clear European influence. 

If the EU includes the IMF in its effort to cut off the Russians from  Ukraine, it may eventually turn the Ukrainian public opinion against EU membership.

If the IMF imposes austerity on Ukraine, of the kind that has already imposed in many EU bailed out nations like Greece and Ireland, then will the Ukrainian citizens still be so strongly for EU membership? Knowing that the price they will have to pay will be similar to what Bulgaria and many Baltic states had to pay, in order to meet the criteria and join the block.

I do not understand why Europe must work to fulfill America's ambitions and foreign policies and not start creating its own. It is not good for us to have the Russians always hostile to us, at least not until we manage to become independent from their gas and oil. 

Even if we do manage this, Russia is our neighbor and many ethnic Russians are already, or will be if Ukraine ever joins the block, EU citizens. Europe, Russia and America should all leave their past competition and hostility, entering a new era of trade, political and economic relationships. 

The Russians must change their attitude towards Europe and all countries between them. If Ukraine or even Belarus one day decide to join EU, that should not be seen as negative for Russia, which must itself inevitably form closer relations with Europe, that will not be confined in gas and oil monopoly trade.

To achieve such thing, Europe itself must form its own foreign policies and relations and distance itself a bit from USA, moving closer and establishing a new kind of relation with Russia. And so the US should change their traditional stance towards both Europe and Russia. 

Their foreign policies since WW2 saw Europe under their absolute influence, acting in a patronizing or paternal supervision, or even as Europe's care takers and rulers. Towards the Russians they always had a hostile, competitive attitude with a great dose of mistrust. 

All three players must move on from the cold era and realize that their interests lie in forming closer cooperation. Sadly, such thing is in nobody's current agenda. 

The sad thing that it will be again the Ukrainian ordinary citizens that will pay for the East-West political and economic tug-of-war. Ukraine has the misfortune of being located right in the middle of the interests of two world's colliding, the clash of two economic and political superpowers. That of America and Russia, with Europe playing the role of America's middleman.

So I doubt that Ukraine will ever be political or economically stable, until these two big blocks solve their differences in some way. But if their political games persist, Ukraine is in risk of not just instability, but even partition. Hopefully the Ukrainian officials will keep that in mind in their effort to disentangle themselves from Russia and asserting themselves as a country in the region and the globe. 

Europe must help Ukraine in its effort to achieve this goal, while forming its own united voice as a global player and foreign policy, that will mean changing its overall traditional relationship both with Russia and America. Ukraine should ideally join a European block that has its own agenda and foreign policies, not a block that is still operating in a post WW2 mode.

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