President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sounded unusually subdued last week when asked about the possibility of Ukraine achieving EU candidate status:
“We have no objections.”
But Russian officials and analysts have since said that Putin he didn’t mean it.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel and the President of France, Emmanuel Macron), after giving a press conference during a European Council in Brussels. Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP.
“We consider that the EU enlargement process is negative, hostilein fact, in relation to Russian national interests,” said Russia’s ambassador to the bloc, Vladimir A. Chizhovto a state newspaper this week.
It was another example of mixed messages on the part of the Kremlin, which began before the war with inscrutable positions on whether diplomacy could prevent a conflict and continued after the invasion with ambiguous positions on a possible peace agreement.
But one thing seems clear:
Ukraine’s achievement of candidate status marks a milestone in Putin’s charged and bewildering relationship with the EU. – and the desire of a growing number of Ukrainians to join him.
For both Russians and Ukrainians, the question of whether Ukraine will one day join the European Union is secondary to the question of chow do you survive the country to the current Russian invasion.
That may be one reason the country’s EU application hasn’t been a top news story in Russia.
“There is a point of view that Ukraine will not exist or would not exist in its current geographical limits,” said Andrei Kortunov, director general of the Russian Council for International Affairs, an investigative organization close to the Russian government, describing the mood in Moscow.
“This sense further reduces the importance of the decision on candidate status. Because everything can change.
But it is also clear that Ukraine’s desire to align itself with its Western neighbors represents the last failure reminder of Putin to keep the hearts and minds of Ukrainians in his orbit.
In the Kremlin narrative, it is the anti russian axis of Washington and London that is pressuring Brussels to accept Ukraine as a member, against the best interests of the European Union.
“What will Europe get?
Ukraine or its remains? asked an essay published by RIA Novosti, the Russian state news agency, on Thursday.
“No, Russia will not allow this, because it fully understands that the EU is becoming a screen for the Anglo-Saxon games against Moscow”.
The explosiveness of Ukraine’s relationship with the European Union became apparent in 2013, when the country’s then-Russia-friendly president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, was in the final stages of negotiating a trade deal with the bloc.
Putin wanted Ukraine to be part of a Russian-led customs union that already included Belarus and Kazakhstan.
When Ukraine withdrew from the European agreement under pressure Putin, protests broke out in kyiv, leading to the country’s pro-Western revolution and Yanukovych’s overthrow.
This prompted Russia to annex Crimea and foment Russian-backed separatist warfare in the east.
So when Putin told an economic conference in St. Petersburg last week that he didn’t care if Ukraine joined the European Union, his words rang out. hollow for many analysts.
He stated that it would be costly for the members of the European Union to accept Ukraine as one of their own, and that European companies would want to stop the development of the Ukrainian economy in order to avoid new competition.
“If Ukraine does not protect its internal market, in my opinion it will completely turn into a semi-colony,” Putin said.
“But again, that it’s none of our business”.
Indeed, Russian officials have argued that the expansion of the European Union is part of a twin threat along with the expansion of the NATO alliance.
Chizhov, the Russian ambassador, told the Izvestiya newspaper that the union “has recently degraded at the level of an auxiliary military bloc, auxiliary to NATO”.
Candidate status is a “symbolic gesture of support,” said Kadri Liik, an analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, since the country it would take years to join the block.
And despite Russia’s comparison of the EU to NATO, membership in the European Union would not automatically provide Ukraine with security guarantees against future threats from Moscow.
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