Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 01.09.2017
The astonishing agreement that became life-or-death for the European Union and Ukraine
The European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement goes into force on September 1. Now that the deal has been negotiated, agreed, signed, ratified and proclaimed, we can look back and ask: What did it take to get here? The answer is astonishing: a revolution and a war.
The political class in Brussels and in Kyiv will talk about the bureaucratic milestones: negotiations started in March 2007; the text was ready in March 2012; the agreement was signed in June 2014; ratification was complete by June 2017. But that’s not the real story.
On the face of it this is a trade deal with extras – something policy wonks talk about around a conference table. But because Russia didn’t like Ukraine’s European choice, the EU-Ukraine AA turned out to be something that was life-or-death for millions of people. In November 2013, then-president Yanukovych reversed course and refused to sign the EU-Ukraine AA. Protests against Yanukovych’s about-face began in Kyiv, to be called “EuroMaidan.” Berkut special police attacked the protestors brutally. Repression didn’t quell the protests but caused them to get bigger, more sustained, and to widen their aims into a fight against corruption and for Ukrainians to live a normal life. Yanukovych became wholly a creature of his Russian advisors. He rammed through “dictatorship” laws in January 2014. Over a few terrible days in February 2014 Yanukovych let loose snipers against his own people. More than 100 patriots were killed and became the honoured dead known as the “Heavenly Hundred.” Yanukovych fled Kyiv, wound up in Russia, and went so far as to call on his patron Putin to invade Ukraine. EuroMaidan had won the day and the tyrant was out. But Russia gave no time to savour the victory of the Ukrainian people.
On February 20, 2014 Russia launched its long-planned invasion of Ukraine. Russia seized Crimea and Sevastopol, and in March proclaimed that this territory had been “annexed.” Russia also launched special operations and hybrid warfare against regions in eastern and southern Ukraine, succeeding in occupying parts of Luhansk and Donetsk. In three and a half years of Putin’s War, over 11,000 Ukrainians have been killed, many more than that wounded, well over a million and a half are internally displaced, and billions of dollars of damage have been done to the largest country that is wholly within Europe.
Starting in late 2015, Russian intelligence services engineered a referendum in the Netherlands against the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement through a cut-out called “GeenPeil.” Russia did not go to the same effort against the coterminous agreements with Moldova or Georgia. Russia mobilized an army of information warriors, made an anti-EU appeal, and squeaked out an anti-Ukraine result from oblivious Dutch voters. The effect was to delay ratification of the EU-Ukraine AA for almost two years.
The Ukrainian people are coming into their own as quintessential Europeans. The European Union weakly defends its ideals in the face of Russian aggression. Russia is invading Europe in Ukraine to destroy everything the EU-Ukraine AA represents.
Russia attacked the EU with information warfare and attacked Ukraine with conventional warfare to stop the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. From November 2013 to today, the Kremlin has triggered a revolution and invaded Europe to try to stop this deal. But Putin has failed. The Ukrainian people won their people-power revolution and they’re the indefatigable vanguard of Europe’s defence against Russian invaders. EU-Ukraine AA is here. EuroMaidan wins.