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You're reading: Out of touch and out of the EU

In fact the president seems blandly oblivious of the tightrope he is walking, assuming that in the world of realpolitik, it is Ukraine rather than Brussels that holds most of the cards. The Ukrainian leader’s logic is that the Kyiv government can operate between the EU and Russia, which are also limited in their bargaining power: Russia, because it needs Ukraine to make the Union work, and the EU because by isolating Ukraine, it would push that country firmly into the Russian orbit. He has witnessed similar maneuvers by the president of Belarus, after all, who has survived largely unscathed to date and remained in power for almost two decades.

In reality, however, Ukraine’s position seems much weaker than the Yanukovych-Azarov team imagines or acknowledges. Russian pressure is constant. The former deputy of United Russia, Sergey Makarov, commented that if Ukraine joined the Russian-led Customs Union—it currently comprises Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan has expressed a wish to join—then the $7.09 billion fine for unused gas will simply be waived. 

Joining would also mean more chances that gas prices would be reduced (http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2013/02/8/6983116/). In brief: join us and your troubles are over! Understandably, the Ukrainian side baulks at Gazprom’s demand, partly because it has denounced the 2009 agreement, signed between former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in 2009, which failed to anticipate the fall of gas prices and committed Ukraine to paying for the full amount of imported gas, whether or not it was actually needed. Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Yuri Boyko met with Chairman of the Gazprom Board Aleksey Miller in early February and stated that he did not think it appropriate for Ukraine to pay such a sum (http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2013/02/8/6983148/).

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