Europe or Russia? Whom will Ukraine Choose?
Ukraine has seen a drastic shift in its foreign policies two times in the past seven years. Just after the Orange revolution in the year 2005, a pro western government was setup in the country. Ukraine, a former soviet republic began to see its future with the western countries. Russian military bases and submarines were pushed back to Russia.
Ukraine’s pro western stance always irked the big giant. Russia started to see Ukraine’s will to join EU and NATO as a threat and a plan of America to place NATO on its western border. Vladimir Putin once said that if America plans to setup its missile shield in Ukraine, then it would consider placing missiles in Kalingrad (Russian territory in west Europe).
While the west was more than willing to bring Ukraine in EU and NATO, US kept the membership of NATO for Ukraine on hold. Just after the Orange revolution, Victor Yushchenko’s government was seen as a new big change in the region. Democracy was successful.
As on 2004, 40% of Ukrainians were against joining NATO and 30% were in favour, the rest were uncertain. But the change didn’s want to stay for long, the new Ukrainian government came under various scanners for corruption and bad politics. Due to this and bad foreign policy Yushchenko had lost his popularity, leading to the victory of Victor Yanukovuch in the 2010 elections.
According to the FOM-Ukraine pollster, in April 2009, 57% of Ukrainians were against joining the alliance, while 21% were in favor. A Gallup poll conducted in October 2008 showed that 45% of Ukrainians associated NATO as a threat to their country, while only 15% associated it with protection. A November 2009 poll by Ukrainian Project System relieved 40.1% of Ukrainians polled said the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) with Russia was the best global security group for Ukraine to be apart of, more than 36% of the respondents of the poll said that Ukraine should remain neutral and only 12.5% supported Ukraine’s accession to NATO. A 2009 Gallup poll showed that 40% of Ukrainian adults associate NATO with “Threat” and 17% with “Protection”.
Yanukovych’s pro Russian stance worried west to an extent. As soon as he came to power, relations with Russia were repaired. He withdrew the application of Ukraine to join NATO, saying the relations between Ukraine and NATO are really cooperating and supporting and so there is no urgency to join the group.
The plan of NATO to reach the western border of Russia failed, Russian submarines re-entered Ukrainian waters and in turn Russia started providing gas in subsidized rates.
Now it is time for Ukraine to think which way to choose, “One side is pulling us toward imperial, Asiatic politics, the other toward democratic values,” former President Viktor Yushchenko told TIME on Wednesday, 19th Oct 2011. Terming it as Ukraine’s internal affair, Russia believes it can pull Ukraine into its trade sphere.
Some events which took place recently communicates Ukraine is tilting its policies towards Russia. As the seven years long jail term was handed over to former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Russia announced cheap gas to Ukraine. Just after this incident, the European Union cancelled Yanukovych’s visit to Brussels, raising doubts on the planned deal on free trade and political cooperation.
Time will tell Ukraine’s destination. But having an old giant friend in the backyard and cheap gas, Ukraine might like to go with Russia, but it is very difficult to say. What do you think?