National Review‘s editors suggest an implausible response to Ukraine’s protests:
“Europe” should therefore make every effort — and offer every financial, economic, and political guarantee — to persuade Yanukovych and his supporting cast of oligarchs to break with Putin’s Russia and sign onto an association agreement with the European Union that will more than compensate them for Putin’s threatened trade war [bold mine-DL].
As Julia Gray mentioned in the post I linked to earlier, trade with Russia accounts for approximately one-fifth of the country’s GDP. The EU has so far shown no interest in providing remotely enough compensation to begin to offset the effects of lost trade with Russia, and it is doubtful that most Ukrainians would favor the “decisive separation” from Russia that the editors see as the ultimate goal of all this. Indeed, the more that trade with the EU has been cast in terms of being a “civilizational choice,” the less attractive it has appeared to Ukrainians that might otherwise see the benefits of it. It is impractical at best to seek a “decisive separation” between two countries that have been bound together both culturally and economically over such a long period of time. Like the misguided idea of bringing Ukraine into NATO, it substitutes the preferences of hawks in the West for what most Ukrainians want.
The other major flaw with this proposal is the assumption that Ukraine represents a “major” strategic prize. Mark Adomanis reviews the numbers and reaches the opposite conclusion:
Ukraine is not a “prize,” it’s a rapidly aging society that is one of the most demographically unstable in the planet.
As he said in an earlier post, “winning” Ukraine would mean taking on a new burden:
An objective look at the numbers tells you that Ukraine is not an asset but a major liability, a country that is likely to need massive infusions of resources just to stay on its feet.
Considering the EU’s recent problems, it makes little sense for them to make the larger commitment that NR’s editors want. It isn’t just a “long shot,” as they say. It is a seriously flawed policy that is likely to increase regional tensions to no one’s benefit.