Response to Voice of Russia Op-Ed

Jul 19th, 2011 | By | Category: European Union, Georgia, News, Politics, Russia, Ukraine, Ukrainians Worldwide

By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep

On July 18th, Llya Kharlamov crafted a devilish propaganda commentary, “Will Ukraine Join EU?,” for the Voice of Russia website.  He mocks Ukraine’s support of Georgia’s territorial integrity, dismisses Kyiv’s efforts to join the European Union, criticizes it for not expanding use of the Russian language, and has the temerity to complain that Ukrainian politicians can’t be trusted to keep their word.

Grumpy bear doesn't feel well.

Perhaps the most extraordinary accusation is that Ukraine is “preserving [its] economic stability at the expense of Russia.”  Did the lumbering Russian bear eat sour borscht, get a tummy-ache, and get a bit grumpy? Ukraine is preserving its economic stability at the expense of its oppressive northern neighbor?  Really?  Russia, the big world power, the epitome of Slav machismo, is being hurt by little Ukraine?  This reflects a lame political attempt to blame and project Russia’s short-comings and its consistent failures on someone else.

In addition, Mr. Kharlamov has forgotten Russia’s exploitative gas agreements with Ukraine.  As a measurement of greed the money extorted by Russia in order for Ukraine to keep its families warm in the winter exceeded the usurious interest rates that credit card companies charge.  Perhaps these agreements were poorly negotiated by Ukraine, or maybe Kyiv was too trusting of its Slav brother, or the country simply had no choice.  No matter the reason Ukraine’s economy suffered.  Until Ukraine establishes energy independence from Russia its economy will continue to suffer and its political system will be compromised by the taint of Muscovite authoritarianism.

Ukraine has been consistently pressured by Russia not to join the European Union.  Vladimir Putin has lobbied Ukraine hard to join the Customs Zone with former Soviet republics.  It’s hardly in Ukraine’s best interest to be a member of a Moscow-run economic cooperative.  Ukraine has the potential to be one of the  wealthiest nations in Europe and it won’t occur if it is dragged down by  Russia’s corrupt oligarchs or Belorussia and Kazakhstan’s backward economies.

Yes, Mr. Kharlamov, Ukraine must look out for itself since Russia has shown throughout history that it puts itself first at the expense of others.  Russia’s imperial empire was not a union of choice, but one of force not unlike its Soviet system.  Yes, Mr. Kharlamov, despite all the hoopla about “Holy Russia” it can be a “Very Bad Russia.”  It can be a very “Unholy Russia.”  Trust is a two way street and Russia has usually made it one way.

Fortunately, the European Union (EU), despite the behind the scenes obstacles put in place by Muscovy, is forging ahead with a “Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with Ukraine.

According to Yulia Lyovochkina, Ukrainian Member of Parliament, the “DCFTA will not only offer Ukraine a stake in the EU’s single market and significantly strengthen Kyiv’s ties with the bloc, it will also send a clear-cut message that Ukraine’s course toward European integration is irreversible as it will clearly signal the geostrategic choice of the country.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryshchenko shared during an interview with New Europe  that pursuing European integration began in 2007.  Integration will improve the standard of living for Ukrainians, strengthen the country’s economy, and put it definitively within the European family.

Ukraine is European not Eurasian.  It’s something that Russia still doesn’t understand.

This sense of modern European values explains in part Ukraine’s refusal to recognize the independence of Russian backed Abkhazia and South Ossetia provinces that broke away from Georgia.  Russia used its military to invade George to set up these puppet states.  The civilized world condemned Russia and refuses to recognize the sovereignty of these puppet regimes.

There’s also a pragmatic reason.  Will Russia attempt some day to do to Ukraine what it did to Georgia.  Will Muscovy instigate political instability in Eastern Ukraine and the Crimea to justify a military excursion?  If Ukraine recognized the illegal occupation of Georgian territory then such a position could come full circle to haunt Kyiv.

Despite all of its mysticism, its self-professed holiness, its deluded belief that it has a messianic mission to save the world, Russia must save itself first while trying to understand its nationhood without an empire.

Bishop Paul Peter Jesep of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox
Church is the designated United States spokesperson for His Beatitude
Metropolitan Myfodii of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine.  The views expressed here are personal and in no way reflect those of his Church.  He may be reached at

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