As in 2004, Ukraine is wavering. As in 2004, it is hesitating between its desire for the European Union and being bound to the Russian big brother.
On the 1st of December, about 100,000 people were in Kyiv to demand the resignation of Viktor Yanukovych after he decided to reject the EU partnership and free-trade agreement, putting forward pressures from Moscow. After his announcement, lot of Ukrainian people went to protest and denounce the Yanukovych U-turn and his will to be closer to Russia, once again.
With such a behaviour, the Ukrainian leader probably missed a historical opportunity to bound his country to the European Union, a Union wanted by lot of his compatriots. On this point, I remember my Ukrainian friends at the College of Europe who expressed their euro-romantics and the wish to see their country join the EU one day. The partnership and free-trade agreement, if it is not put forward such a hypothesis, would have been a very important step in the Kyiv-Brussels relations and to reaffirm the will of rapprochement between the two parts.
But Viktor Yanukovych, refusing to sign this agreement, took the risk to open a very important political crisis inside his country although he tried to convince he has the intention to sign the free-trade agreement in a near future. In fact, the current Ukrainian leader ambivalent position clearly shows the hesitation and the lack of confidence this country has regarding its geopolitical role and weight. Since soon ten years, the country has been hesitating between a pro-western strategy and a complete faith to Russia even if it means to adopt an ambivalent, not to say ambiguous strategy, in order to make nobody angry.
This strategy was promoted by Yanukovych who was considered as a pro-Russian, close to Vladimir Putin and supporter of a conservative and nationalist political line. Nonetheless, from his election in March 2010, he wanted to show good intentions vis-à-vis the EU considering a political integration should not be excluded. In spite of this, the Yanukovych U-turn may, for a long time, discredit the will of Ukraine to be freed of Russia definitely, preferring the current status quo. This position became unbearable for the Ukrainian leader who is now politically awakened and who is faced with a heterogeneous but globally pro-European opposition who will enjoy the occasion to tackle a corrupted and autocratic system. What is more, the Party of the regions, the pro-Russian and nationalist Yanukovych’s movement, is also shared regarding the strategy vis-à-vis Russia and the EU, some Members of the Ukrainian parliament considering the EU free-agreement as crucial for the country.
So, there seems Viktor Yanukovych, who officially condemned the use of force to end the pro-Europe demonstration of the previous weekend in Kyiv, has not other alternatives to get out the situation. Faced with a determined opposition and a shared party, the Ukrainian leader did a political fault. He especially underestimated the strong will of Europe of his compatriots who considered the partnership and free-trade agreement as the kick-off of a process having to lead Ukraine to the European Union, as Member State. We are clearly far from this, all is going to depend on the capacity of this country to grant democracy and the most elementary principles of law, especially regarding the situation of some opponents as Yulia Tymoshenko, the ex-woman leader of the 2004 Orange revolution and former Viktor Yushenko’s Prime minister, currently in detention. To be clear, Ukraine is at crossroads and it will have to face with its contradictions to move forward with or without Russia, with or without the European Union.