Kremlin fills the void left by indifferent America and inept EU
It is as if the Orange Revolution never happened. In a breathless few weeks since he came to power, President Yanukovych has undone almost all of the pro-Western policies of his predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko.
The pro-Russian leader has been love-bombed by President Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister, as the Kremlin has taken advantage of American indifference and European Union ineptitude to restore its dominance in Kiev.
Mr Yanukovych had ditched aspirations to join Nato before handing Russia’s Black Sea Fleet a 30-year extension on its lease that leaves it secure in Sevastopol until 2047.
As opposition wrath filled Ukraine’s parliament with smoke and smashed eggs, he was at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg renouncing another key Yushchenko policy.
He declared that the famine that killed millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s was not genocide perpetrated by the Soviet Union but a “shared tragedy” with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan at the hands of Joseph Stalin.
Ukraine depends entirely on Russia for its gas, which it will now get at a discount, and Mr Putin has proposed a merger of their nuclear industries into a shared company as well as joint ventures in shipbuilding and aircraft construction.
This is music to the ears of supporters of Mr Yanukovych’s Party of Regions in his Russian-speaking strongholds in the east and south of Ukraine. But it confirms the worst fears of nationalists in western Ukraine, who voted overwhelmingly against him in February’s presidential election.
Opposition moves against Mr Yanukovych’s policies threaten to deepen a geographical divide that could mean that western Ukraine rejects him as its president.
The EU’s vaunted new foreign policy “reach” is proving illusory in the rush by individual member states to cut energy deals with Mr Putin.
He told a press conference with the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday that Italian companies had received $2 billion in contracts to build the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, while France’s EDF would have a 20 per cent stake in the South Stream project that will carry energy to Europe under the Black Sea.
Both bypass Ukraine’s pipelines, crushing earnings from transit fees and making the country even more dependent on Moscow.