By Michael Haltzel
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
THE HUFFINGTON POST
Ukraine’s decision to freeze its signing of a trade and cooperation agreement with the European Union in favor of a closer relationship with Russia constitutes a stunning triumph for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a major geopolitical defeat for the West, a stinging rebuke to the EU, and a tragedy for the long suffering Ukrainian people, a strong majority of whom see their country’s destiny as part of Europe.
Since Ukraine gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union, its government has distinguished itself by corrupt, dysfunctional, and occasionally comical misrule. Nevertheless, the well-endowed country of forty-six million has enormous potential. As has often been noted, without Ukraine Russia will remain an upper mid-level power; with a subservient Ukraine firmly in its sphere of influence, Russia could hope to reclaim its status as a great power.
Led by Poland and Sweden, the EU created an Eastern Partnership Program in 2009 with the aim of integrating post-Soviet republics Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine into the Western democratic, capitalist system with eventual membership in the EU an implied, although not promised, long-term goal.