The Disappearing Partnership Summit

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April 21, 2015

Rostislav Ishchenko: The Disappearing Partnership Summit

By Rostislav Ishchenko

Translated from Russian by J.Hawk

The next Eastern Partnership summit will be held in Riga on
May 21-22, 2015. There don’t appear to be any reasons for the participants to
feel particularly happy about anything.

With possible exception of Latvia. Hosting a major
international event will undoubtedly underscore the dying country’s place in
the EU’s hierarchy of priorities. Now the Latvians will be able to say they are
as important as the Lithuanians, who held the summit in Vilnius in 2013. The
same summit during which the former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych
delayed the signing of the association agreement, and received a coup from the
grateful West, while Ukraine received a civil war.

Incidentally, the decision to hold the next summit in 2015
in Riga was made already during the summer of 2013, even before the summit.
Granted, back then it was expected that the Riga summit would be held in
November. I think the month was being picked in connection with planned
geopolitical shifts.

First, by then association agreements with the EU should
have been signed by Ukraine, Moldavia, Georgia, and Armenia. It’s possible
Azerbaijan was also being considered.

Second, Washington and Brussels in the summer of 2013 were
assuming that Yanukovych will sign the association agreement in November 2013.
The catastrophic economic consequences of the agreement would have completely
discredited him just in time for Ukraine’s presidential elections that were to
have been held in March 2015.
Three months after that (from the beginning of
April until the end of June) were allocated for a coup in the format of a
Maidan, peaceful or otherwise. Another three months (July through October) for
the legitimization of the new government, the issuing of Western credits, the
beginning of “reforms”, and the staging of a “success” of some sort. By
November the EU and its Eastern partners would have been ready to harvest the
results of the many years of efforts.

The Riga summit was intended as a confirmation of the new
geopolitical reality. The process of pushing Russia out of the former Union
republics which should have formally begun in Vilnius in 2013 with Ukraine’s
signing of the association agreement would have been formally concluded in Riga
in 2015 with the declaration of geopolitical victory over Russia and the
collection of spoils.

But it turned out otherwise. The coup in Kiev had to be
organized a year and a half ahead of schedule. The unpreparedness of the legal
opposition to seize power brought the Nazi militants to the forefront. The
intellectual weakness and the openly beastly face of the regime which ensconced
itself in Kiev somewhat altered the Old Europe’s relationship not only to
Ukraine and to Eastern Partnership, but also to its Eastern European EU
colleagues. The last, with dedication worthy of a better cause, are still
playing with matches next to a powder keg, all the while making
important-makings speeches about how the US will thank them for the ensuing
fireworks.

The planned geopolitical defeat of Russia is slowly but
surely transforming into its geopolitical victory, comparable in scale to its
great victory 70 years ago. The Kiev regime’s rhetoric and symbolism only
facilitate direct analogies. In general, the Eastern Partnership’s path from
Vilnius to Riga resembles Napoleon’s Grande Armee’s march from Moscow to
Vilnius between October and December of 1812.

It’s possible that’s the reason the summit was moved from
November to May. It’s possible that by November there’d be no point in holding
the summit.

In May there will still be reasons for hope. Georgia expects
to receive a visa-free regime with the EU. It won’t get it, but at the same
time the EU will not refuse outright. They’ll talk about the already achieved
huge successes in reaching the required standards, and of the need to make a
few more changes. One more effort, and the “golden key” in the form of the
visa-free regime is in our pocket. Georgia, of course, does not have a
population of 40 million, and the EU could have made them happy with the
visa-free regime at another time. But Europe has it so hard now that any extra
gastarbeiter becomes a burden (and the EU is not hoping for crowds of wealthy
Georgian tourists).

EU needs to move forward with Armenia somehow (since it’s
already in the Eurasian Economic Union), but do so in such a way so as not to
offend Azerbaijan which is closely watching whether its partner in resolving
the Karabakh crisis is not being overly spoiled by the West’s attention.

Ukraine will be waging intense combat operations on the
Donbass at the time of the summit. Since France and Germany have turned away
from Ukraine, Kiev will need to secure the support of its Eastern European
friends, which can be presented to the Ukrainian audience as evidence of
support by the EU itself. Careful positives from Poland, Sweden, and Romania,
as well as hysterical support by the Baltic states will be sufficient for
Poroshenko’s regime.

Moreover, one should schedule the conflict’s intensification
so that by the start of the summit the UAF is already heavily engaged, but has
not been totally defeated yet. The benefit to Ukraine here lies in the Baltics’
condemnation of Russia which allegedly attacked the peaceful Kiev Nazis, which will
once again be presented as unconditional support by the EU and its ultimatum to
Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

If there’s no war, the Eastern Europeans will have nothing
to say, since otherwise the Minsk Agreements will still be in effect,
agreements guaranteed by Paris and Berlin. Both France and Germany will take a
very dim view of their younger EU partners’ (who are already irritating with
their pro-US stance) attempts to put into doubt the effectiveness of policies
advanced by their older brothers.

The resumption of active warfare on the Donbass will
automatically nullify all of Hollande’s and Merkel’s peacekeeping efforts and
allow the junior Europeans to insist on a harsher policy toward Russia.

Moldavia is part of that club too, and it will be pressed to
“thaw” the conflict in the Transdnistria region. One more war, by one more
eastern partner, and once again with Russia. What might be better when it comes
to validating the Eastern European euroradicals’ pressure on Paris and Berlin.
Bucharest is likely to play a stabilizing role here, because it’s not against
integrating Moldavia, but it also does not want to get into a war over the
unwanted Transdnistria.

Keeping all of these factors in mind, and considering that
the Ukrainian offensive on the Donbass is hopefully awaited by many, it seems that
only Georgia will leave the summit satisfied. If the plans to involve the EU in
a military confrontation with Russia fail, it may be necessary to give the
Georgians a full-scale visa-free regime in order to save face. It’s all the
same, since the EU will qualify any concession with so many conditions, that
the unfortunate beneficiaries will be glad to return to visas.

It’s probably not necessary to plan the date and place of
the next Eastern Partnership summit. It likely won’t be required.

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