Certain elements in Ukraine’s political establishment, some senior EU officials have alleged, seem to be colluding with Russia while the tensions in the country’s eastern regions have been recently escalating again. Nearly a year on from the first “EuroMaidan” protests, which finally toppled the pro-Moscow president, some in Brussels are disillusioned by the experience of trying to help Ukraine. This is because, as a senior EU official involved in negotiations suggested, “the Ukrainians are manipulating the EU,” while adding that “there may be, in certain sections of the Ukrainian government, an interest in colluding with the Russians and instrumentalizing to a certain extent the EU.” In other words, Kiev’s hard bargaining over gas and EU generosity in waiving import duties and funding gas supplies from Russia possibly being abused, some officials argue, mean that the bloc should “wake up” to a need to better defend its own interests.
These allegations are dismissed as “absolute nonsense” by Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev who resolutely condemned talk of secret deals between Kiev and Moscow as “Russian propaganda” while asserting his full confidence in continued cooperation with the European Union. These unofficial views stand is sharp contrast with the official EU light that is characterized by solid EU support for the newly elected Ukrainian president and parliament in the face of Russian hostility. Yet, in private, what seems to be an increasing number of senior EU official and diplomats point to the endemic post-Soviet corruption, the pervasive power of business “oligarchs”, and their own suspicions of lingering Ukrainian collaboration with supposed enemies in Moscow, which leads many in Brussels to question the future of current levels of EU backing. As one EU diplomat put it rather bluntly, “Maybe people fell for this ‘poor little Ukraine’ line [but] they’re not so naive. They’re waking up.” The implications of these changing perceptions are quite obvious: Tougher terms for Kiev in further negotiations and increased and sustained pressure to show fast results in reforming Ukraine politics and economy.