13 Jan 2012

Eschewing Choice: Ukraine’s Strategy on Russia and the EU

Elena Gnedina / Evghenia Sleptsova

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Ukraine has long been castigated for its noncommittal attitude to cooperation with the EU, this being part of its ‘multi-vector’ foreign policy. Such a policy was widely attributed to the failings of domestic elites, which delay reform for fear of losing rents and power. This CEPS Working Document suggests, however, that the recent setback in EU-Ukraine relations highlights more complex reasons behind this. First, it asserts that a pro-European vector is not a self-evident choice for Ukraine, which is economically interdependent with both Russia and the EU. Second, it finds that the economic crisis has made the EU less attractive in the short term. In good times business was looking to Europe for opportunities to develop. But in times of crisis, it is looking to Russia for cheap resources to survive. Despite these unfavourable short-term trends, the authors conclude that an association agreement with the EU stands out as the only alternative that promises to put the shaky Ukrainian economy back on track towards long-term sustainable economic growth.

Elena Gnedina is a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast and Dr. Evghenia Sleptsova is Senior Associate at Country Insights Ltd, London.