Association with the European Union was never his goal. It
was a device dangled for the opposition to divert attention from mundane
concerns. Also, his hobnobbing with the European Union sent Russia’s president into
convulsions, which showed Yanukovych how far he can manipulate the Kremlin into
offering some attractions and concessions for his Donbas empire. Such concessions would very soon become a
necessity — by his own countdown
— knowing that his lifestyle and that of the oligarchs, as well as massive corruption, is bankrupting the country and requires a bailout.
But Yanukovych could
not scare Putin to a point where the Russian leader would promise a deal if Yanukvych simply abandoned the association agreement with the EU.
It is widely suspected that, as part of a quid pro quo, Ukraine’s president made
a secret promise to join Russia’s customs union.
probably could have played his game even harder. He must have known that it was
impossible for Yanukovych to accept association with the EU. For one, he
would have to release ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from jail and meet other requirements tantamount to self-destruction of his regime. Putin apparently chose to take it
to give Yanukovych some slack in how to handle Maidan protesters. Also, it was not in Putin’s interest to see
Ukraine going into a financial default, because then all bets would be off.