Saturday, September 13, 2014

What a difference a day makes

Alas no, I am not writing about the opinion polls on the Scottish referendum, which have been yo-yoing quite alarmingly, thus giving the opportunity every two-bit politician, activist and media hack to pontificate. No, this is about another messy situation that may not be more important in the long run (who can predict such things?) but is of greater immediate interest and worry to all except the dedicated appeasers of Russia, of whom there are too many both on the left and the right. For a while it looked like the trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine, which intensified Russia's efforts to destabilize Ukraine, will, after all, come into existence. (With all its faults it was never going to be a substitute for close relations between Russia and Ukraine as that would have been impossible. Russian actions in grabbing Crimea and fighting a war in eastern Ukraine have ensured Ukrainian hatred for the idea of a close Russian agreement. Given President Putin's preference for the sledgehammer as a method of diplomacy there seems to be no solution to the mess that has been thus created.) On September 12 it was announced that
Ukraine leader Petro Porosenko has said the European Parliament and the Ukrainian assembly, the Verkhovna Rada, will on 16 September jointly ratify the EU-Ukraine free trade pact. Ukraine's foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin will also meet with EU and Russian delegates in Brussels on Friday to discuss implementation of the treaty.
Come September 13 (that, is today) and the story has changed somewhat.
Ukraine and the EU are to delay the entry into life of a landmark free trade treaty for more than one year due to Russian concerns.

The trade pact was originally to enter into force on 1 November.

But following meetings between European Commission trade chief Karl De Gucht, Ukraine’s foreign minister, and Russia’s economy minister in Brussels on Friday (12 September) it will now be implemented on 31 December 2015.

Defending the deal, De Gucht told press it means Russia will not impose trade restrictions on Ukraine in the next 15 months.
One does not have to read between the lines or indulge in the arcane pseudo-science of Kremlinology (how that word takes me back to my youth!) to understand what happened: they all met on Friday (that's yesterday) and the Russians once again threatened to impose trade sanctions on Ukraine that would undermine its fragile economy just as its .... ahem .... aid convoys to eastern Ukraine are anxious to destroy its fragile political structure. Upon which, the EU capitulated. This will, no doubt, be greeted with joy among the appeasers in the various eurosceptic circles.

Judging by the EUObserver summary there seems to be some confusion around the EU decision with, quite possibly, a break-down in communication between the various offices that are supposedly negotiating and making decisions, such as they are.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Kremlin (where are those Kremlinologists when one needs them?) has announced [in Russian but Mr Google will translate] that although there has been a big price rise in Russia on basic foodstuffs this had nothing to do with the counter-sanctions against Western imports. These price rises were happening, anyway, said Andrey Belousov, one of President Putin's assistants. He also explained that the sanctions imposed on Western imports were not really counter-sanctions, anyway, but were motivated by concern for the Russian consumers' health and, sometimes, for Russian products, though it is not quite clear which of the sanctions were motivated by which concerns. At least, neither he nor the others in President Putin's staff will go short of wine, no matter what sanctions or counter-sanctions Russia might decide to impose.

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