This editorial in the Financial Times criticizes Viktor Yanukovych’s questionable deal with Moscow to trade cheap natural gas for an extended lease for the Russian Navy at Sevastopol, Crimea, which will push Ukraine further away from the European Union and give the Kremlin a powerful point of leverage to hold over the country in the future.
But the deal kills any hope of accession. And it tilts Kiev eastwards in other ways, offering Russia economic concessions that Moscow can hope to transform into lasting influence. Mr Yanukovich has quickly put his stamp on foreign policy, cosying up to Russia rather than returning to the norm of balancing between the west and Kiev’s former colonial master.
Mr Yanukovich’s price harks back to an earlier period of backroom deals by Kiev. He has traded the concessions in return for cheap gas. This may be popular at a time of economic hardship, but it is a retrograde step. It perpetuates Ukraine’s dependence on cheap Russian energy, thus leaving Moscow with a powerful lever in any future disputes between the two countries – one Moscow has shown itself more than willing to use. The only way to break this would be for Ukraine to pay the full price.