The Russian-Ukrainian Conflict and the European Union


The parliamentary elections in Ukraine eight months after then-president Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev, were a success for pro-Western politicians like President Petro Poroshenko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk. This could be a chance for Ukraine to achieve political and economic stability and a new chance for the European Union to decide what sort of relationship it wants to have with Ukraine on long term. However, the new Ukrainian government faces a huge challenge. Ukraine’s economy is shrinking, in urgent need of reform and has to deal with a serious energy problem. Moreover, even though the new government will clearly search for closer ties with the EU, the question how to deal with Russia is looming large. Poroshenko has pointed out that there is no military solution to the current conflict and believes that he can negotiate a peace deal with Putin. He has promised not to compromise on Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but no settlement will be possible without far-reaching autonomy for parts of the Donbass. On the other hand, there are no real signs from Russia that might indicate a willingness to compromise. President Putin insists on his point of view that Russia is not a conflicting party in the armed conflicts in the Donbass, which he considers a solely inner Ukrainian affair. Most parts of the Minsk agreement are not implemented by Russia. Russia refuses to even discuss the status of the Crimea peninsula. The Russian leadership condemns the Western sanctions and accuses the West in not only having initiated the conflict, but to add fuel to the fire. In order to placate Russia, Ukraine partially postponed the implementation of the EU-Ukraine trade agreement. In the meantime, the EU has created a special task force to help Ukraine’s new government and has decided to maintain the sanctions on Russia it had installed because of the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s role in fuelling the conflict in eastern Ukraine. But, are the Western sanctions against Russia working, how long should they remain in force and are there any other means to influence Russia’s politics? What else is it the EU can do to strengthen Ukraine? Is a long-term EU membership for Ukraine feasible and how would Russia react to that? Finally, what exactly is the driving force behind Putin’s policy towards Ukraine and how can EU-Russian relations evolve under such hostile circumstances?

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Date of Publication
December 2014
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
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Language of publication