Ukraine election result raises concerns in former eastern bloc
The result of Ukraine’s presidential run-off on Sunday – a slim victory by opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych – is being seen by some analysts as an indictment of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of five years ago, at the very least a political full-circle that will now see the country move closer towards Russia. That could spell bad news for the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme as well as for regional neighbours such as Poland or the Czech Republic, long concerned with Russia’s growing regional influence.
“In terms of Ukraine’s political future I don’t think we have many reasons for optimism because both candidates were repeatedly accused of corruption, both of them have strong ties to influential economic groupings, and neither of them shied away from extreme populism, so there I think that the choice was not great and a choice of two evils. The victory by Mr Yanukovych just confirms that the country’s orientation towards the East will gain new momentum.”
The shift could impact both economic ties as well as security issues to different degrees; in terms of economic cooperation, Petr Kratochvíl says, there are reasons why Ukraine will opt for deeper ties with the EU, rather than Russia. But security is another matter. Petr Kratochvíl again:
As for NATO, is that effectively frozen?
“Absolutely, absolutely, it is moving to the backburner and I think that unlike the issue of European integration, NATO membership will simply disappear from the political agenda.”
The new rise of Russian influence in Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet bloc – is something that observers within the former eastern block, historically wary of Russia’s expansionist ambitions, are now debating. Last February, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov raised Czech hackles when he suggested the Czechs were still well within Russia’s geopolitical backyard. Vladimír Votápek is a Prague-based specialist on Russia who suggests there is cause for concern; here’s how he sees the latest developments: