This autumn Ukraine faces uneasy political choice. There are two months left till "Eastern partnership" summit, during which Ukraine may sign the Association agreement with the European Union. The parliament has started working on adoption of eurointegration laws, but nearest neighbors decided to interfere in the process.

On September 9, during a weekly meeting with deputy premiers, PM of Russia Dmitry Medvedev warned that Kiev would be barred from Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan if it signs an agreement with Europe.

"I don't want there to be any illusions ... Practically, for our Ukrainian partners, entry into the Customs Union will be closed," Medvedev said.

At the same time, on September 10 during the presentation of EU-Ukraine project "Stronger together", EU ambassador to Ukraine Jan Tombinski tried to assure Ukrainians that signing of the Association agreement would not lead to any trade crisis with the Russian Federation.

"I'm deeply convinced that there will be no crisis between Russia and Ukraine, as a trade conflict is not in the interests of the Russian Federation. Russia maintains very good relations with rich European and other countries, and if a negative decision is taken in relation to a particular country, it affects relations with third countries," he noted.

In this respect ForUm has asked experts to learn whether the relations between Ukraine and Russia may go worse after the signing of Association with the EU.

Anatoly Zlenko, former foreign minister of Ukraine:

- I think that in any case we have to sing the Association agreement with the EU. Then we will finally reach the goal, we have been working for years - political association and economic integration. However, I also believe that the integration policy should include maintenance of stable relations with all states, especially the nearest neighbor - Russia. The main task of Ukraine's foreign policy is to seek a mutually acceptable formula of relations with Russia considering the realization of European and transatlantic integration. Stable cooperation with Russia is necessary to carry out the very realization of the integration course of Ukraine and to create proper conditions for trans-regional political and economic cooperation.

I also want to point out that key areas of development of Ukrainian-Russian relations include cooperation in politico-economical, scientific-technical and cultural and humanitarian sectors. If we manage to realize these tasks, mistrust and bias between our countries will disappear. Until we build a certain scheme of relations with Russia and follow it while carrying out the integration policy, we will have problems.

Andrey Okara, political expert, Moscow:

- What we observe now is the information war. It started between Russia and Ukraine, but is turning into an information war between Russia and the EU. On one hand we have the statement of Jan Tombinski that no crisis is expected, and on the other hand - the warning of Russian Premier Medvedev that Ukraine will be barred from the Customs Union. I think that a part of Russia's threats may turn into a real economic problem, but this part is small, as the trade turnover between Russia and Ukraine is based on economic, not political reasons. If the political problem appears on the agenda, the economic necessity will force both to trade at the same volume anyway. What Ukraine has really to think about is its benefits from the Association agreement. I have an impression that the EU benefits from the free trade area more that Ukraine. I think the Ukrainian side has not calculated the risks properly.

Oleksandr Paliy, independent expert, political scientists:

- Russia does create certain obstacles, but their number is not critical. In the first half year of 2013 export to Russia made 24.5% and to the EU - 30%. Russia can turn down about 10% of our production, but this maximum what Ukraine may lose. Russia multiplies news pegs - aviation, "NITKA", cheese, chocolate - but in reality these threats are not that serious, just an information buzz. Thus, giving up is worse than resisting. Our country has to resist, but at the same time should offer an alternative to restore good relations. Economy depending on 50-60% export to Russia, like in Belarus, is not healthy. However, our business has learned to deal with Europe, Asia and other foreign markets. Thus, in this situation Ukraine must stay cool and show fight but at the same time show readiness to restore friendly relations.

Oleksandr Sushko, scientific director of the Institute of Euro-Atlantic cooperation:

- Considering legal aspect of the situation, nothing can change after the signing of the Association agreement with the EU. Ukraine already has free trade regime with CIS countries and does not intend to withdraw from it. Thus, free trade area agreement with the EU, stipulated by the Association agreement, does not conflict with the existing regime. According to legal logic, no problems should be expected. However, considering current political relations, Russia really wants to punish Ukraine, and if the latter signs the Association agreement, Moscow may take certain steps to demonstrate its anger, introducing some trade sanctions, for example. But these sanctions will have nothing to do with legal field and will be of pure political character.

Volodymyr Ohryzko, former foreign minister of Ukraine:

- I have a counter-question. Why does Russia have normal relations with Italy, Germany, France despite the fact that these countries are members of the EU and NATO? Thus, all these threats to ban Ukraine after the signing of the Association agreement are pure speculations and attempts to influence public opinion. Nobody will close the borders, because the economies must cooperate. If specialists want, they will agree. If Russia does not want, well, our producers will find new market outlets. As simple as that. 

Boris Nemtsov, former vice PM of Russia:

- I think that the requirements of the Association agreement must include the release of Yulia Tymoshenko. Europeans will be wrong if sign the agreement with Yanukovych while Tymoshenko is staying in prison. I also think that problems with Putin will not disappear, and no happily ever after should be expected. However, in this situation Ukraine should focus on benefits of the European choice. First of all, to claim partnership Ukraine must adopt a number of anti-corruption laws. Corruption is a real problem in Ukraine and there is a lot of work to be done to restore justice, order, judicial independence in the country. From the point of social and economic development, such partnership is very beneficial for Ukraine. But the matter is that Puin writhes in hysterics, which will hardly calm down after the autumn summit.


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