The chess set between Moscow and Brussels, whose prize for victory is Ukraine, begins to resemble the “Chapayev” game. For those who are not in the know of the rules of this game I will explain: players place the pieces along the back rows of the chessboard and knock out the opponent’s pieces – by flicking their index finger. Who knocks out all of the opponent’s pieces first wins.
The game is unpretentious, in the Soviet times popular with the children, being on holiday in summer camps. Surprisingly, but President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, who has until recently been considered a strong strategist, also turned out to be the adherent of this game.
The first “piece” knocked out on Putin’s part was Armenia. Its President Serzh Sargsyan, preparing his country for the Association Agreement signature, backed up and declared that Armenia would join the Customs Union.
No economic logics in such a decision of the Armenian President can be spotted. It seems he became a victim of the tough game on the part of the Kremlin, as it is impossible to explain such a steep turn otherwise. Even by the historical ties between Armenia and Russia which traditionally supported Armenia with a thrust at Turkey.
A sweeping reaction on the part of the EU testified that the hibernation period of Europe’s bureaucrats was over. Linas Linkevičius, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania which presides at the Council of the European Union, stated firmly and unambiguously: if Armenia chooses to join the Customs Union it cannot sign the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.
The results of the G20 Summit taking place in Saint Petersburg will eventually make it clear if the Armenian establishment can draw any conclusions.
At the same time, Belarus, as it seemed, an entirely dependent vassal of Russia, entered the game. After Alexander Lukashenko’s statement that his country is ready to build up deeper relations with the EU, severe sanctions followed on the part of the Russian Federation. At first, the import of Belarusian milk was restricted and then the oil export to Belarus was cut off.
But official Minsk was not taken aback – and arrested Uralkali’s CEO Vladislav Baumgertner. After that the General Prosecutor’s Office of the republic said that the company Belaruskali is ready to litigate with Uralkali in European courts because of unfair competition on its part. It is quite a clear message that Belarus is ready to move in the western direction.
Thus, Putin approaches the Petersburg Summit as if with the 1:1 score. On the one hand, there is a kind of an acquisition of a new ally in the person of Armenia, on the other hand – a very possible loss f Belarus.
But a factor of Ukraine remains. Here Russian President does not intend to give up. In the interview for Associated Press and ORT he stated that Russia would have to close its borders for Ukrainian goods if Kyiv signs the Association Agreement.
“It means that Ukrainian enterprises will have to produce everything, I don’t know, a lift, car, shirt, watch and other goods according to the technical regulations of the European Union. They are good but they are very tough, and investments of many billions are needed for the enterprises to work according to those regulations, time is needed. I doubt it all can be done immediately. And while that is being done a lot of enterprises will already have gone bankrupt or again will be pushing goods into our market. We will have to close, that is the problem,” Putin particularly emphasized.
Such kind of didactics on the part of the head of the state which is a WTO member is at the very least incorrect. But, firstly, Putin’s correctness has always been poor. Let’s remember his historical statement “We’ll bump off in loos”, said from all TV screens in the Russian Federation.
Secondly, when the remains of the empire, hopes for whose reanimation were glimmering in certain minds of the Kremlin bonzes just yesterday, are dying before their eyes it is no time for joking at all.
And it can only be imagined what difficult backroom talks will be held at the Petersburg Summit. What rosy skies Vladimir Putin is going to promise the Europeans and what lightnings he is going to fling at those whom those promises will not be to their taste.
Here a lot depends, as usual, by the way, on France and Germany. The countries of Western Europe and the Baltic Belt have already spoken on the matter and probably will not change their position – Ukraine must sign the Association Agreement with the EU.
And if France and, most importantly, Germany will remain persistent in their assurances Putin will have nothing else to do but in a helpless rage to impose the visa system with Ukraine, already starting since 1 January 2014.
In case France and Germany show weakness Ukraine’s situation will become immensely difficult. The European course has been decided upon finally and irreversibly. In Kyiv even those people who used to be in favor just yesterday are suffering terribly – just because of their disagreement with the official course towards the EU.
And we all expect that even if Europe does not value it, at least it will be consistent in its support of Ukraine’s aspirations to merge with really civilized society, free from the moldiness of Stalin’s legacy.