As the semiannual E.U. Summit in Lithuania approaches, a recent survey conducted by GfK Ukraine reports that a majority of Ukraine citizens prefer their nation sign an E.U. Association agreement rather than join Russia's proposed Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan The survey was conducted during the first week of October and included responses from 1,000 Ukrainians.
The sentiment marks a shift from earlier in the year which still revealed a majority leaning toward the E.U., but a greater proportion favoring Russia's Customs Union. 45% favored siding with the E.U. in the October survey while the number in support of the Custom's Union has been cut in half from earlier surveys to 14%.
Meanwhile, a natural gas dispute over unpaid bills may soon have Ukraine leaning on national stockpiles which they say will last them through the winter, without assistance from Russia. It was Russian natural gas that found Yulia Tymoshenko in jail and that central figure now looms large in talks with the E.U. which holds the release of Tymoshenko as a condition of the E.U. Association agreement.
It shakes out like this... Russia is urging Ukraine to join their Customs Union and is using unpaid natgas bills and tried and true strong-arm techniques to make their point clear. Ukraine is leaning away from Russia and wishes to forge its own identity -- but Ukraine President Yanukovich has his pride and has thus far refused to release Tymoshenko, causing the E.U. to lean away from Ukraine.
Were Tymoshenko still part of the Ukraine politick, that nation may already have signed an association agreement with the European Union, and that dirty little secret just might be the thing that encourages Yanukovich to keep Tymoshenko off ballots and out of sight -- but what is his angle?
To waive the E.U. off now would affirm Ukraine's loyalty to Russia in the midst of an ongoing natgas dispute. To concede to the citizenry of Ukraine would be a slap in the face of Russia, but a clear signal that the nation is ready for top-down progressive social and economic reforms.
The summit to have it all out takes place while Americans will be sitting down to turkey and cranberries on Nov. 28 & 29. With Moscow threatening another natgas war and the E.U. threatening exclusion, President Yanukovich's options are limited. The recent survey suggests the people are ready for social and economic reform by a vote of 45 to 14. Ukraine has 16 days to sort it out.
Photo credit: MarcoResidori / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA