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Ukraine: Yanukovych’s failed poker game

by host

“In Europe without Yanukovych.” AT a pro-EU demonstration attended by more than 100,000 protesters on November 24 in Kiev.

In rejecting the Association Agreement offered by the European Union, perhaps the Ukrainian president hopes to raise the stakes and thus obtain EU funding and support. Instead, he finds himself between the Russian rock and the hard place of popular discontent, says a Kiev columnist.

The great majority of columnists are convinced that the events of November 21 are an indisputable sign of the end of the “European Dream”. Others, on the other hand, want to believe that President Viktor Yanukovych has not yet “folded his hand”. Perhaps, they say, he is still raising the ante, he is playing with the nerves of the EU and will, just hours ahead of the Vilnius [Eastern Partnership Summit], pull a trump card out of his sleeve. But today that appears an unlikely development.

Viktor Yanukovych is not known for his fondness for improvisation. Could this mean that he has thought about each step and is actually several moves ahead of the game? A good player knows when to stop bluffing and how high to raise the stakes. For that, one must listen to the other players and not be focused on oneself.

Let us leave aside guessing games. Yanukovych already held all the trump cards when he decided to disrupt the game in the hope of grabbing the ante. But what did he, in so doing, put on the table? Ukraine’s destiny, our future.


Three hypotheses could explain what happened. In the first Yanukovych understood that it was absurd to continue to try to bluff the EU by saying that if it did not want Russia to win the day, if it wanted the Association Agreement signed, it would have to provide more funds and support.

The Kremlin is now imposing its own draconian financial requirements in exchange for a return to the fold

In the second, Yanukovych was trapped by his own bluff. He misinterpreted the mind-sets of his partners around the table. The EU did not appreciate his bartering and Moscow cannot forgive his dithering. The Kremlin is now imposing its own draconian financial requirements in exchange for a return to the fold and, even to be awarded such poor fare, the president will have to work hard. Yanukovych has not understood that the poker game is getting out of hand. To quote a recent ad in the metro: “Poker – an intelligent game”. That is the least one can say.

In the third hypotheses, Yanukovych continues to bluff. Nothing is settled, he flirts with Russia, thinking this will scare the West so that the EU will accept all of his conditions when he makes his final comeback.

First test

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, perhaps the road to heaven is paved with bad intent? Let us hope that will be the end result of “Black Thursday”.

After all, with all of his manoeuvring, has Yanukovych not pushed the country into believing it might soon have a future within the bosom of Europe? The answer is obvious: today the country’s choice is that of the people, not that of a single person. A people that must now defend itself.

“Black Thursday” gave us the opportunity to pass the first test on the path to European integration. We have traded reflection for action. And despite the confusion, the fear, the incredulity, the apathy, the fatigue and the frustration – we still believe in it.

Factual or translation error? Tell us.

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