The Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius is approaching and the tension in the Russian-Ukrainian relations is growing like an avalanche. It displays in somewhat grotesque forms: from installing barbed wire on the Russian side of the border to the threats to require of citizens of the two countries using external passports when travelling between them.
Propaganda duties are distributed in an interesting way. On the one hand, Russia declares its respect to Kyiv’s sovereign right to opt for rapprochement with Europe, but on the other hand it is openly putting economic and financial pressure accompanied with minor pinpricks concerning the trips between the two countries. With this, while picturing the enormous losses Ukraine will incur as a result of the applied sanctions, the Russian officials do not mention their citizens. It gives an impression that only Ukrainians travel to Russia and Russians do not travel to Ukraine at all.
Of course, making difficulties for people at the Ukrainian-Russian border is very brotherly. Fencing off with the barbed wire from brothers as it happened at the USSR time with the socialist countries. Probably, Moscow is dreaming of raising the social tension in Ukraine. They prefer not to speculate about the similar course of events in Kursk, Belgorod, and Voronezh regions. However, something similar is likely to happen there as well.
When making difficulties for Ukrainians’ labor migration to Russia they have to keep in mind the recent developments in Biryulevo. The Russian economy is unlikely to get by without hardworking Ukrainian migrants who do not create any social or ethnical problems when staying on the Russian territory. At the moment they cannot be replaced as the migrants from the Central Asia do not have the necessary professional skills.
In general, it is quite difficult to understand the logic of the Russian authorities. On the one hand, Moscow is criticizing Brussels for putting pressure upon Kyiv and, on the other hand, it is constantly telling Kyiv that it is impossible to keep a foot in both worlds. For example, Sergei Lavrov criticized the EU for imposing the principle “who is not with us is against us” to Ukraine and at the same time warned Kyiv that after the Vilnius Summit “it will be unable to join the Customs Union.” Judging from the project “The Breakup in Ukrainian” prepared by the television channel Russia 24 and supposed to be broadcast Monday to Friday (five times a week), it is easy to predict five threats awaiting Ukraine if it signs the Association Agreement in Vilnius. Firstly, the economic collapse. Everything is bad in Ukraine, no money to pay the pensions and the National Bank is running out of its gold and forex reserves. The International Monetary Fund does not give any money either. Although it is not said directly, but it is clear from the presenter’s words that only Russia will be able to help.
The second: there is an eternal threat, the gas price or the energy dependence from the neighboring country. In the Customs Union prices are lower and everything is just fine with energy sources. However, judging from the summit in Minsk, the presidents Lukashenko and Nazarbayev do not share this idea, but for a promotion video it is not critical. The message is: if you go to Europe, you will get frozen in winter.
The third: everyone is fed up with the topic of migration, but it is not an obstacle for the Kremlin. I wonder who will extract the oil in Tyumen if Ukrainians start facing visa problems. It is hardly possible to invite migrants from other regions for this. The Russians do not hurry to the North. Thanks to Glaziev, Ukraine will be accused of visa problems and its invented subordination to the West. For Glaziev it has become an idee fixe.
The fourth: the project of the channel Russia 24 should be taken as another action of the information war that will only worsen. This is a long-term factor that will have many components, from history acquisition to conscience manipulation and using Soviet mythologemas.
The fifth: we should not forget about separatist conflicts starters on the post-Soviet space. All the threads from Transnistria to Nagorny Karabakh turn to the same source of their inspirers and organizers. The speculations about the belonging of the Crimea and the Ruthenians suddenly found by Moscow in the Transcarpathian region are becoming topical in Russia again. So, Ukraine should be especially careful.
One more thing. The abovementioned television program is designed, first of all, for the Russian audience as the television channel Russia 24 is not widely accessible in Ukraine. The idea that Ukraine will have hard times if it signs the Association Agreement with the EU is being planted into the Russians’ heads. The Kremlin is extremely concerned with the Russian citizens’ reaction to Ukraine’s pro-European course. The Russians are going to have their brains washed and the anti-Western moods will reinforce.
Probably, the best choice in this artificially created nervous situation is to keep calm and not to respond with the same measures. Russia has every right to require external passports from Ukrainians to be able to visit Russia, but we have every right to let Russians come to the Crimea with their internal passports. I wonder how soon Moscow will get bored with this game. According to the scientific director of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Oleksandr Sushko, it is too early to speak about a certain “point of no return.” “What we can see now is the raising level of conflicts to torpedo signing of the Association Agreement. That is why before making fateful decisions the struggle is intensifying.”