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Sevastopol Deal A Russian Sacrifice?

Russia’s controversial deal offering reduced gas prices to Ukraine in exchange for an extended lease on its Sevastopol naval base have commentators up in arms.  Ukrainian opposition to the deal has reached near fever pitch: Reuters reports that the situation in Ukraine’s parliament is getting ugly, with smoke bombs and eggs being thrown at the Speaker as ‘thousands of opposition demonstrators‘ protested outside.  And so the tactic employed by those who want to protect the deal is to argue that Russia is the one getting the sour end of the deal, not Ukraine.

Alexander Golts, a military analyst, suggests that the deal is a ‘trap‘, that Russia ‘got burned‘ by unfair logistics, and that Yanukovych ‘has the upper hand‘.  But the latest to weight in on the debate is Vladimir Putin, who suggests that the price of leasing the base has been ‘overvalued‘, but that the deal was made to ‘raise the level of trust and possibilities for credible work in economic and social sectors‘.  
Russia is cash-strapped, for sure, but its economic troubles are structural, and nothing to do with a lack of resource income.  The truth of the matter is that the deal benefits both sides – Ukraine badly needs the economic boost, and Russia’s extension of its naval presence in Ukraine ensures decades of visible power and influence.  Unfortunately for Ukraine, its opposition movement, however dedicated to the desire for independence, is in a minority position in a country whose economic recovery currently depends on the continuation of IMF loans. It seems likely that the deal with remain firmly fixed in place as long as Yanukovych is in power.