Tony Barber at the FT’s Brussels Blog ponders the significance of Ukraine’s controversial gas-for-naval-base deal and how it colors relations with the EU. The deal puts paid to any chance of NATO membership, Barber says, not that Viktor Yanukovych is much interested in the alliance anyway. But the real meat of the deal is that it ‘illustrates how Russia deploys hard political and economic power in a way that the EU can never match‘. Why does the EU persist in excluding Ukraine, contributing to conditions that lead to these less-than-favorable deals?
For Europe’s voice to count for something in Kiev, the EU needs to make bold decisions, just like the Russians did with the gas-for-base deal. The EU could, for example, accelerate the timetable for completing an association agreement and free trade accord with Ukraine. The EU could set a date for giving Ukrainians the right to visa-free travel in the EU. Above all, it could stop shilly-shallying and announce that, even if it is a long way in the future, EU membership is a realistic prospect for Ukraine.