by Anders Aslund, Peterson Institute for International Economics
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Ukraine's intention to sign the European Association Agreement at the Vilnius summit in late November 2013 has raised a furor in the Kremlin, which wants it to join the Customs Union instead. In retaliation, Russia has imposed trade sanctions against Ukraine in clear violation of its obligations in the World Trade Organization (WTO). Åslund argues that Europe, Ukraine, and Russia all share the blame for creating the current impasse and must alter their policies to resolve the conflict. Ukraine should improve its macroeconomic policies to reduce its vulnerability and also comply with all EU demands, including releasing Yulia Tymoshenko. The European Union should support Ukraine but also make sure that Ukraine meets its conditions so that both parties can sign the agreement in November. The Association Agreement will bring substantial gains to Ukraine, whereas the Customs Union is smaller, less competitive, and does not offer Ukraine any significant benefits. Russia should realize that it is not in its national interest to force countries to join its Customs Union. It should obey the rules of the WTO and the Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Agreement and end its trade sanctions against Ukraine. The United States and the European Union should defend Ukraine against Russian economic aggression in the WTO and through vocal and economic support.
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