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Ukrainian developments could influence Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Monday, November 25
Last week, the civilized world was shocked over the breaking news coming from Ukraine, which announced its withdrawl from its quest to join the European Union (EU) as an associated member. This would have taken the place with the EU during the Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled in Vilnius, Lithuania on November 28-29.

On the eve of the summit gathering, the Ukrainian Rada (Parliament) came to this crucial decision. Of course this decision was endorsed by the Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich who was on a visiting tour to several European countries, but who until a decision was made public, kept telling European leaders about the determination of his country to the sign the membership agreement.

The world did not have to carry out a comprehensive investigation to reveal the reasons behind this decision. Since Ukraine started moving towards the EU, the Russian Federation began pulling various levers of influence to increase pressure on Ukraine and force it to give up its western aims.

Over the years, Russia would bribe or blackmail Ukraine, threatening to provoke unrest in the ethnically vulnerable Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Several times the Kremlin demonstrated its potential to create problems for Ukraine in the matter of gas and oil supplies to Ukraine. Ukraine has no gas or oil on its territory. Hence, Ukraine transits Russian oil and gas to the European Union via its territory, thus benefiting from this by receiving oil and gas at cheaper prices.

So, after all of Russia's coercive tactics, it managed to break the European will of Ukraine in the 11th hour. The opinion among the Ukrainian people is split; the ratio of supporters and opposition to this agreement is about fifty-fifty (there is a large segment of the Ukrainian public that are staunchly pro-Russian). They even support the idea of keeping the Russian language as the second state language of the country. Whereas the western part of Ukraine is European-oriented promoting European values.

Ukraine currently faces a civil confrontation over this, but the state decision has been taken Ukraine will not sign the association membership agreement in Vilnius.

The question remains: what impact will Ukraine's decision have on Georgia? Ukraine was much advanced in many directions. It had already signed the initial agreement with the EU about associated membership, whereas Georgia has yet to sign initial agreement of the membership. Thus, it will need around a year to fulfill all the formalities and Georgia would then receive the right to finalize the agreement by signing it with the EU on the next Eastern Partnership summit.

Some Georgian analysts are very much concerned that Moscow, which managed successfully to hinder Armenia and now Ukraine from joining the EU as associated members, could try to prevent Georgia from doing the same, if not at this stage, then from the final one.

Analysts suggest that the Kremlin may initiate and perform some nasty moves in regards of Georgia using different types of levers. Of course, not before the Sochi Olympic Games, but afterwards.

So, when the Olympic Games are over, Moscow probably will take some subversive steps against Tbilisi, not necessarily military aggression, but it can impose embargo once again on Georgian products, put pressure on the Georgian nationals living in Russia, stop the possibility of moving the citizens of the both countries to each other, make money transfers more difficult from Russia to Georgia, and some other nasty things.

Some Georgian analysts recall that in 2008, Georgia did not receive MAP at NATO's Bucharest Summit. Accordingly, this encouraged Russia to launch a military assault against Georgia in August of the same year.

So, the recommendation is that maybe in this extreme situation the EU might sign the Georgia-EU main agreement about the associated membership which will hasten the process required in ordinary situations.