At the Moscow summit, Ukraine and Moldova applied for and received the status of observer countries in the EAEC. Kyiv and Chisinau, however, hold very dissimilar views of the EAEC.
Ukraine has no intention of becoming a member, and is having acrimonious differences with Russia over bilateral trade. On March 21, two weeks before the balloting in Ukraine’s parliamentary elections, President Leonid Kuchma made a purely political gesture to Russia-oriented voters in eastern and southern Ukraine, announcing an intention to seek Ukrainian membership of the EAEC. Earlier, Kuchma himself and his government had consistently refused to join the EAEC, citing its lack of substance and Ukraine’s own goal of moving closer to the European Union.
Kuchma himself stayed away from the EAEC summit. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s caretaker government pursues perennial commercial grievances vis-a-vis Russia with the usual vigor. Most of the grievances arise from Russian protectionism. Kyiv seeks redress not in a multilateral economic union within the CIS, but through bilateral agreements with Russia. Mutually satisfactory agreements have proved difficult to attain since 1994, when a bilateral free trade agreement was signed but never took effect.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government’s overriding priority is association with, and eventual entry in, the European Union. The Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s State Secretary for Euro-integration, Oleksandr Chalyi, reaffirmed this priority on May 14, the day of the Moscow summit. Foreign Affairs Minister Anatoly Zlenko and other officials later reaffirmed that membership of the EAEC would be incompatible with Ukraine’s course toward the EU. Russia’s ambassador in Kyiv, Viktor Chernomyrdin, publicly contradicted them. They then promptly and publicly contradicted him.
Moldova is a different case. President Vladimir Voronin of Moldova attended the EAEC summit because his Communist electorate in Europe’s poorest country thinks the EAEC an attractive proposition. He gushed effusive about the benefits that he expects Moldova to gain from membership. He and some Chisinau politicians naively deem EAEC membership compatible with the Eurointegration program that parts of Moldova’s government genuinely espouse (Interfax, Unian, Infotag, Flux, Basapress, May 13-15; see the Monitor, March 20, April 29).
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