Ukraine Signs Historic Trade Pact, Risks Escalating Conflict With Russia

Justin Streight

Ukraine has made its voice heard and continues to move closer to Western democracies, but will Russia up its conflict with the former Soviet socialist state as a result?

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement, which will create a free trade agreement and a political association. The ultimate goal is full membership into the EU. As Poroshenko stated, "Ukraine is underlining its sovereign choice in favour of membership of the EU."

The treaty will commit the Ukraine to making important political and economic reforms, so that it can one day converge its policies the EU. The Ukraine will also now have access to financial support, certain research, and preferential treatment in trade into the EU market.

Mr. Poroshenko also said the treaty was a "symbol of faith and unbreakable will" of the Ukraine.

The president's statement almost seems like an understatement.

The EU pact has been the instigation for Ukraine's current conflict with Russia. Russia has annexed Crimea, built up troops along the Ukrainian border, and incited a deadly insurgency in Eastern Ukraine. Each action came with the condemnation of the rest of the world. Nevertheless, if the Ukraine signed the final association agreement, some Russia officials see it as losing a former piece of its empire.

Russian senior adviser Sergei Glazyev said that Petro Poroshenko does not have the constitutional right to sign the treaty, and that it would damage the economy of the Ukraine. He also called Mr. Poroshenko a Nazi.

However, a spokeperson for Vladimir Putin said that Mr. Glazyey statements did not reflect the official position of Russia, which remains ambiguous.

The state of the current conflict in Eastern Ukraine is also unclear.

The Ukraine called for a cease-fire this week, which seemed to hold up for just a few days.

As reported earlier at the Inquisitr, a helicopter was shot down. Other reports also claim fighting has resumed in some areas.

The insurgents agreed to release four international observers, who were captured over a month ago, as a sign of good faith. On Friday, the two sides are supposed to meet to discuss furthering a cease fire.

The UN estimates that about 423 people have died in the conflict.

Now, it's time for everyone to hold their breath and see what Russia does.

Given the enormous amount of political capital and credibility Russia was willing to sacrifice to prevent the treaty, it seems unlikely Russia will simply accept its losses and move on.

Nevertheless, it also seems unlikely that Russia would ever risk an open conflict with the Ukraine, which is now a proud associate of the EU.

Image Credit: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)