Poor Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is having a veritable field day with the former Soviet state’s run of bad luck. Last week he magnanimously announced that Russia would generously leave off bankrupting its neighbor with fines for breaking gas contracts that it can no longer afford, making very public in the process the idea that Ukraine is somehow at Russia’s mercy where energy is concerned. To anyone familiar with Russia’s long history of abrasion with Ukraine, this kind of overture will reveal itself as a somewhat backhanded pledge of support.
And just today, Putin has rained on a potential Ukrainian parade. In what looks like good news for Ukraine, it has just signed a deal with the EU in Brussels this week that would pave the way for €2.5 billion of Western investment to upgrade its gas pipelines through to 2015, as part of a broader plan to upgrade and root out corruption from its energy infrastructure system.
But it seems Putin isn’t so keen on the idea of Ukraine regaining its bearings, as he immediately slammed the move as ‘ill-considered and unprofessional’, furious that Russia was not involved in the meetings pertaining to the deal, and threatened to review EU-Russia relations if steps were not taken to include Russia in the negotiations. The tone of his outburst seems more like that of a vent than a constructive critique – suggesting that Ukraine is on the right track for independence in working with the EU. But at what cost?