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Ukraine's Relations With Russia and the EU - Atahan Tümer

Ukraine means border country in the old Slavic language. It has maintained its feature of being a border country for centuries. Having a key position between the Russians and Europe, the country has often been the center of conflicts. Although it has consistently had anti-Russian movements, Ukraine has been a strategically important country controlled by Russian forces for centuries. As a natural result of these close ties, the two countries have close ties due to their religious and cultural similarities. These close ties are also the reason behind the strong economic relations between the two countries. However, especially after the collapse of the Soviets, anti-Russian movements in Ukraine gained strength and found a space for themselves. This has deeply affected the relationships they had before. In this article, we will examine the effects of this rupture on energy politics.

Problems began to arise between the two countries immediately after the Soviet dissolution. However, the most serious crisis after the Soviet dissolution occurred in 2006. Today, Ukraine buys natural gas at the same price as other European states because of Ukraine's anti-Russian events. Ukraine has paid the price of moving away from Russia by taking a heavy blow to its economy. The crisis in 2006 is such a crisis that some countries' natural gases in the European Union have been greatly interrupted during this crisis.

Considering that the European Union countries depend heavily on Russia to meet their energy needs, we can better understand the scale and importance of this crisis. Russia used its energy supplier role as a weapon in this incident. It tried to punish a country acting against its interests and leaving its sphere of influence by closing its valve. Russia's use of natural gas lines as a kind of threat increases the pressure upon Europe. However, it is a fact that Russia also needs the European market. Still, Russia's hand is much stronger in negotiations. The reason for this is that Europe does not have an alternative to Russia.

Ukraine is a very important factor in the equation between Russia and the European Union. For this reason, Ukraine mostly applies a balanced policy. Ukraine, which also depends on investments from Europe, continued this balanced policy very successfully until 2014.

However, the Euromaidan events in 2014 upset these balances, and anti-Russian thought came to power in Ukraine. Especially the annexation of Crimea and the conflicts in Donetsk-Lugansk spread anti-Russianism to all segments of society. The high tension in the region is dangerous for the security of Europe's energy supply. At this point, even the sanctions that should naturally be imposed on Russia could not receive direct support from many countries in Europe. For example, Germany didn't support sanctions immediately due to the high trade volume with Russia. If we consider Germany's role in Europe today, we can understand the importance of Russia better.

At this point, if we are to examine Russia's relations with Europe in terms of energy trade, we should not ignore Russia's security paranoia. Ukraine is very critical for Russia in terms of its strategic and geopolitical position. A possible NATO or European Union membership of Ukraine, which was spoken in 2014, although not very strongly, is not something that Russia can accept. In such possibilities, Russia cannot be expected to accept this situation by taking no action. It wouldn't be realistic to expect them to admit.

Considering that Russia uses its energy supply as a weapon or a tool, new crises will await the European Union as Ukraine approaches the west. Today, even though the tension has decreased significantly with Zelensky's coming to power, conflicts continue on the Donets-Lugansk front. Solving the crisis between Ukraine and Russia is of vital importance for Europe as well. At this point, providing realistic solutions for this problem will contribute to peace in the region.

Russia does not trust Ukraine, which it has used as a transit country for years, and is looking for alternatives. After these crises, European countries realized how risky and unsafe it is to depend on Russia in energy and started to search for alternatives. At this point, pipelines coming from the south are important. Since almost all the pipelines coming from the south pass through Turkey, the tension between Ukraine and Russia increases Turkey's geopolitical importance. These events also contribute to Turkey's goal of becoming a transit country for energy trade. So much so that some projects that envisage the marketing of Central Asian natural gas to Europe are much more seriously spoken than before. At this point, Turkey can utilize the tension to its benefit and can acquire a bigger share from the European energy market.

We can say that there is a possibility of a crisis in the region today. If we ignore this, we cannot interpret the region correctly. At this point, although the European Union and Russia are dependent on each other, they do not hesitate to look for alternatives. While Europe is looking south, Russia looks east and signs energy trade agreements with China. We can clearly say that the commercial relations between Russia and the European Union will not suffer in the short term, and both countries will continue their energy trade. Ukraine will maintain its importance by keeping its critical position in the long run. Undoubtedly, the country that will benefit most from the continuation of these commercial relations will be Ukraine.


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