Back in the USSR: Putin twists the Ukraine’s arm

It was a done deal. The Ukraine would join a trade pact with the EU as a run-up to full membership. All she had to do was release the imprisoned ex-Premier Yulia Timoshenko and ink would go on paper.

Angela was happy, her Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was ecstatic, so was his husband. President Victor Yanukovych was happy too, even though that bitch Yulia almost defeated him in the 2010 elections.

Victor clapped her in poky after that and now he’d have to let her go, supposedly to Germany for medical treatment. What’s wrong with Ukrainian prison doctors? Anyway, Angela is welcome to her. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

That’s a small price to pay for becoming Angela’s full-fledged partner in Europe. If Angela’s love is contingent on Yulia’s release, Victor wouldn’t quibble. After all, he’d no longer be Russia’s stooge. He, Yanukovych, has come a long way from his humble beginnings.

Actually, the beginnings were more than just humble: young Victor had two felony convictions to his name. The first one was for ripping fur hats off people’s heads as they were doing their business in unheated public lavatories. The second one was less Baroque: a straightforward armed robbery.

That background is slightly unorthodox for a European leader in the making, but hey – who hasn’t done silly things in his youth? And Victor has more than made up for his youthful indiscretions. These days he calls himself Professor Yanukovych, though he still has difficulties spelling the title in his native Russian (he favours the ‘proffesor’ version).

And now he’ll sit as an equal at the Brussels round table – how good is that? Alas, good things in life sometimes turn out to be illusory.

On 9 November, Yanukovych was summoned to a meeting with Putin, held in secret at Novo-Ogaryovo, Putin’s (actually the government’s, but let’s not split hairs) estate near Moscow.

Both statesmen are comfortable with the concept of clandestine meetings, Putin thanks to his former capacity as KGB spy runner, Yanukovych thanks to his former capacity as petty criminal. That the meeting had taken place was only announced two days later. The outcome of it was made clear yesterday.

Rather than signing a trade pact with the EU, the Ukraine will enter a customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. The hydrocarbon leash on which the ‘former’ Soviet republics have been held has now been shortened.

No doubt Putin learned the customs-union trick from the Germans on whom he used to spy when young Victor was still nicking hats from defecators. It was by using the Zollverein, customs union with other German states, that Prussia successfully united Germany under her aegis in 1871.

Now Putin is using the same stratagem to rebuild the Soviet Union, whose demise was, according to him, the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century. Considering that more people were killed in that century than in all the previous centuries of recorded history combined, the claim sounds slightly bizarre. But the man is entitled to his own opinion.

The fact is that all ‘former’ Soviet republics are securely attached to Russia by economic ties, especially by the umbilical oil pipe, which is why the ‘collapse of the Soviet Union’ was allowed to happen in the first place – indeed was actively promoted by both the communist party and the KGB.

Yanukovych has explained to the upset Europeans that he had no other choice. Over several years it would cost the Ukraine $500 billion in lost Russian trade, not to mention the $100 billion cost of complying with EU regulations.

“For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest,” says the book Putin has held in high esteem for the last few years. Suddenly, the agenda of Novo-Ogaryovo emerges out of the fog of mystery.

The ex-Premier Timoshenko is doing time for having entered into an extortionate gas deal with the Russians. She was subsequently charged with corruption, and no doubt she was guilty – either in the traditional kick-back sense or more likely because, desperate for votes in the predominantly Russian east of her country, she made the Ukraine pay for her electoral success.

Now Vlad probably told Vic that, if the Ukraine still wanted Russian hydrocarbons, she’d have to pay not just through the nose but also through every other orifice in her body. The EU isn’t going to be much help, Vic, you know that.

As to the billions in Russian trade, they’d vanish and how does Vic propose to replace them? Vlad no doubt tried to put this as gently as possible, but Ukrainian goods aren’t exactly, how will he say this without offending Vic, of pan-European quality.

The French and the Germans aren’t going to queue up for them even if Angela and François tell them to do so, the bastards are too hoity-toity for that. The Russians are different: most of them are half-starving, so they’ll gobble up anything. Moreover, many Ukrainian products are made specifically for the Russian market and to Russian specifications.

The Ukraine is poor, but there’s poverty and there’s famine. Remember the 1930s, Vic? Yes, Vlad’s historians still insist that millions of Ukrainians didn’t starve to death then. But that doesn’t mean they won’t this time. And what’ll happen to your electoral chances then, Vic?

All it takes now is for Paul McCartney to attend a Kremlin reception and sing his immortal hit ‘Back in the USSR’. At the subsequent banquet, Yanukovych could serve at the tables, perhaps assisted by Peter Hitchens and other Western admirers of Putin.


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