You do not have to be an expert to properly evaluate what is at stake in the relations of the European Union and Easter Partnership countries. Teasingly but honestly speaking, it is not all about the future of Ukraine and other partners. It is also not only about imperial plans of Russian Federation. The real issue at stake is credibility of the European Union in its foreign policy. Not much has been recently done about it by the EU, and even less was successful. Neighborhood Policy was directed to the East and it was a moderate, ambitious and very well organized idea to bring the countries and societies of the former Soviet Union closer to democracy, human rights, modernism and justice.
We offered this policy to our partners and they accepted it – some more, others less enthusiastic. It is not surprising that the image of Azerbaijan or Belarus is different right now. Likewise, the image of Moldova and Ukraine. The plan was to give everyone according to their needs and take according to one’s possibilities. This kind of program was implemented with acceptance of societies and political elites of partner countries. Whereas, through its recent actions, which pushed Armenia to radically change politics, Russia showed that Eastern Partnership countries are objects of its geostrategic actions.
Russia has always been treating the European Union as a competitor towards this region, but it has been a soft rivalry so far. Now Kremlin starts to use trade tools and threatens Eastern Partnership countries that they might experience problems which their economies would not overcome. It shows a radical change of philosophy in relations with Russia. The country proves to be a tough player who aims at dominating these countries and pressurizes them to follow the chosen way simultaneously devoiding the societies of a sovereign choice. If the European Union does not stand firm and fails to create a real counteroffer for its partners to decide without pressure and in a sovereign way, its credibility on the international stage will get seriously undermined.
To cut the long story short, if we lose the battle over Eastern Partnership countries it may well be that wine, cognac or gas embargos will prove to be more effective than a positive encouragement. I wish all European leaders who are in doubts about how to react in this situation recall millions of people freezing cold but calling for freedom and democracy in Maidan. I wish they recall the Revolution of Roses in Georgia and think about all those who treated an offer of building democracy as a real perspective. If today the elites get intimidated and do not take enough action, those people will feel deceived.
The European Union must urgently redefine its Neighborhood Policy. Apparently, a model of dignified crawling towards Russia’s aggression which has been applied so far becomes ineffective right now. We should quickly eliminate trade and visa barriers and encourage our partners to cooperate in a more effective way.