Friday, November 25, 2011

Intrigue on the chessboard

On Wednesday, reports appeared in some media that president Yanokovych was going to be in Moscow on December 19th rather than in Kyiv where, on that same date, the EU-Ukraine summit is to take place.

A few hours later the European Union's Delegation to Ukraine said that the EU-Ukraine summit hasn't been cancelled at all and was still scheduled for Dec.19th.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said they knew nothing about the participation of Yanukovych at any meeting of the Eurasian Economic Community Council on that day either.

It seemed that not everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. Rumours immediately appeared that the president's administration had deliberately put the story out to torpedo the EU-Ukraine summit, or at least to indicate that Yanukovych was not going to 'fall over on his back with his feet in the air' for sake of the Europeans. [What a horrible thought..]

Polish and other European media, without waiting for explanations saw this as an indication that Yanukovych was turning away from the EU and heading north.

Later that evening Hanna Herman, who's job it is to explain away her boss's gaffes, appeared on TV, declaring:

"We have to take into account the fact that right now we are at a critical point in Ukraine's negotiations with the EU and the Russian Federation. And it sometimes happens that in such cases it is necessary to make unexpected moves on the diplomatic chessboard. And sometimes one cannot, or should not explain them...How should all of this be perceived by society? We just have to trust the president. To believe that he is doing everything possible to gain the best possible terms for their country, and that the president will make a step in the direction that best suits the national interests of Ukraine," assured Herman.

[Yanukovych's trust rating, incidentally, is currently about 20%, i.e. 80% do not trust him]

On Thursday Yanukovych took a similar line. When asked by journalists in Sumy whether he will be going to Moscow on 19th December, he cryptically replied:

"..The intrigues spread by politicians, we have become accustomed to them, and this is no surprise for me. I did not give any information where I will be on the 19th. I will be where I need to be."

So who is playing games here? How can these comments be perceived as anything other than negative by European leaders?

p.s. It is not wise to make too many unexpected moves whilst playing chess - your pieces can sometimes drop over the edge of the board...


Anonymous said...

I think your headline is somewhat misleading and too generous

It is more like a game of poker, more bluff then strategic manoeuvring

Yanukoych is trying to hold the EU to put up or risk folding. He is saying either you grant us concessions or we talk to the other buyer. He feels he needs a win and if the EU can not deliver it he can just as well talk to Russia.

The EU needs to ask can they reform Ukraine from within or will Ukraine continue to operate on its own terms.

It difficult to know which way the EU will lean. ON one hand the EU stays that Ukraine has to demonstrate its commitment to democracy and on the other the EU want them under their influence. Keep friends close and your enemies even closer.

Yanukovych has certainly taken Ukraine in the wrong direction. his decimation of Ukraine;s constitutional order, his ongoing misuse and abuse of the Courts and selective justice and persecution of the opposition leadership are issues that the EU can not ignore. If they do capitulate to this game of bluff then they run the risk of loss of confidence and their word will never be taken seriously again. A case of do as we ask you to do but not what we require you to do.

There is an old adage never deal with terrorists or blackmailers is out the window

LEvko said...

You are right, my headline was a bit generous - there is a game of bluff and counter-bluff going on. My guess is that it is unlikely now the Association Agreement will be initialled, and even if it is the Europeans have gone cold over the whole idea in any case, so ratification is a long way off. Yanukovych and his people are aware of this, but consider they can fend off the worst of what the Ruskies can do to them - a dangerous assumption.