Yesterday, Ukraine was faced with a historic choice: "go West" by signing a new trade pact with the European Union and align against its former master the USSR... or "East", and go back, at least symbolically, to mother Russia. To Europe's shocked amazement, the Ukraine picked "East" in yet another very visible win for Vladimir Putin in what has just been the former KGB spy's year. Sure enough, Putin spokesman's welcomed "the desire to improve and develop trade and economic cooperation" with a "close partner". Europe on the other hand, was shocked and appalled at this unprecedented snub: "This is a disappointment not just for the EU but, we believe, for the people of Ukraine," EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement. Ah yes, because Europe's unelected dictators are so concerned with the popular choices of wayward "democracies."
Reuters adds, "European officials were dismayed. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a veteran of east-west diplomacy, tweeted: "Ukraine government suddenly bows deeply to the Kremlin. Politics of brutal pressure evidently works."" Well that, or a rational choice by a country that at least has the option of saying no to the European Pandorafornia Hotel... Box - to most others this choice has been irrevocably eliminated by the unelected banker-supported Brussels bureaucrats.
Ukraine had been due to sign a wide-ranging trade and cooperation agreement with the EU on November 29 which would have tugged it westwards and away from Russia's sphere of influence. Brussels said the deal would have boosted investment in the cash-strapped country of 46 million people.
Earlier, EU officials said President Viktor Yanukovich had cited fears of losing massive trade with Russia when he told an EU envoy this week that he could not agree terms.
Yanukovich's prime minister issued the dramatic order to suspend the process in the interests of "national security" and renew "active dialogue" with Moscow. EU officials, who had hoped the president's complaints in recent days were a last-minute bargaining tactic, saw little chance of saving the deal.
For Europe, a pact with the Ukraine would have had profound symbolic implications:
Luring it westward has been a strategic objective for the EU, to tear down the last remnants of the old Iron Curtain.
But shuttle diplomacy was dogged for months by EU pressure for Yanukovich to release jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who European leaders consider a political prisoner.
Moscow meanwhile had threatened retaliation for Kiev's moves west, raising fears it could cut energy supplies in new "gas wars".
Ah, gas. And rather Gazprom's unprecedented monopoly power. Not to mention the cause for the near-break out of World War III when Europe desperately sought a gas pipeline outlet to Qatar just to avoid the Russian dominance over its energy needs. As is well-known by now, Europe failed, as did the US and Saudi Arabia. Putin won. Again.
Ukraine's parliament, dominated by Yanukovich's allies, prepared the way for the announcement by rejecting a series of bills that would have satisfied the EU by letting Tymoshenko out of prison to travel to Germany for medical treatment.
Shortly afterwards, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov issued the order on suspending the EU process. Talks would be revived with Russia, other members of a Moscow-led customs union and the former Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States.
European governments, especially those dominated by Moscow during the Cold War, have been keen to anchor Ukraine's bulk and population closer to the West, though others have doubted whether corruption and oppression make it a viable partner.
Promptly following the announcement, Europe piled on, adding threats to amazement:
Sweden's Bildt foresaw Ukraine's economy declining and said the rupture would "kill" Kiev's foreign investment prospects. EU officials told Reuters that when Yanukovich met the EU'S point man on Ukraine, Stefan Fuele, on Tuesday, the Ukrainian leader had said he could not agree to the deal.
It would, he said, cost Kiev $500 billion in trade with Russia over the coming years, while implementing demands for Ukraine to adopt EU legal and other standards would cost another $104 billion. Some EU diplomats had viewed that stance as brinkmanship, an effort to secure better terms.
Or math. Which is why only Germany, which is the last rational European actor had the most delicate words:
Germany's Westerwelle spoke of wishing that Ukraine would share the EU's values and choose a "European path of development" but made clear that was up to Kiev.
"Our interest in good relations with Ukraine is unbroken and our offer of a real partnership still stands," he said in a statement. "The ball is in Kiev's court. It is their sovereign right to decide on their path freely."
Regardless of the latest political humiliation for Europe, there was one clear winner that day.