Daily Archives: November 23, 2013

Gideon Rachman

I have just spent an interesting day in Washington, part of which was spent listening to European and US officials discussing Ukraine’s decision to halt talks on a bilateral pact with the EU. This decision by the Yanukovitch administration is a big blow to both the EU and the US, which had been hoping to draw Ukraine decisively into the Western orbit. It also a minor triumph for the Russians. One disappointed western analyst says that – “It is the first time that the West has lost a soft power contest with Russia.”

And yet the reaction from Western officials was calmer than I expected. Broadly speaking, the view seems to be that it’s a great shame – but that the biggest loss is to Ukraine itself. In the long-term, it is hoped that this will become apparent and that the Ukrainians will look West again. There is also a strong view that the Russians won this particular struggle through the use of inducements that were not available to the West. As one analyst put it – “In the end, this came down to money. And not money for Ukraine itself. Money for particular groups in Ukraine.”