MOSCOW (Alexei Makarkin, deputy director general at the Center for Political Technologies, for RIA Novosti).
The failure of the European Constitution during referendums in France and the Netherlands put in question the future of the European integration.
Such development of events might have serious consequences for the prospects of the accession of new members to the EU. If before the referendums it was expected that Ukraine had good chances to integrate into united Europe in the next 10-15 years, now such a possibility looks rather far-fetching. Georgia's chances are even smaller because it failed until now to ensure its own territorial integrity and without it the country cannot join either the EU or NATO. Moldova faces the same problem.
At present, the leadership of several CIS countries consists of politicians who either came to power on the wave of "color" revolutions (Ukraine, Georgia), or follow their logic (Moldova). It is hard to believe that they would abandon their plans to join the EU, even though this prospect becomes more distant. For the current leaders it would not only mean the revision of priorities (which is possible in theory, if we recall the Moldavian Communists who started as supporters of integration with Russia, but later turned into staunch supporters of the European integration), but also "the loss of face."
Besides, we cannot play down the attractiveness of Europe. After all, the negative effect caused by the failure of the Constitution might disappear in the near future and be replaced with a new wave of European optimism. In addition, the EU might develop a system of palliatives, which would allow the candidates to keep their hopes for integration without being full members of the "elite club," for example by introducing the institute of associate EU members. We should not forget that not only the European countries, but also the U.S. would like to patronize these countries. In that respect, the U.S. influence did not decrease (or maybe even increased) after the referendums in France and the Netherlands.
The difference between the situation in the CIS countries and in new EU member-countries is that the elites in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are not completely EU-oriented. In Hungary, for example, all major political parties that constantly replaced each other at the reigns of power -- the socialists, the liberals, the conservatives - were unanimous in their understanding of the priority of the European integration. They disagreed only on the dates and the methods. As a result, the change of ruling coalitions did not affect seriously the European choice of the country.
The situation in Ukraine is different. Last year's elections clearly showed the elite and the electorate are split on pro-Russian and pro-Western. Besides, the Ukrainian business supports the idea of the Common Economic Space on post-Soviet territory and is extremely cautious about the European project because of its hypothetical nature and the problems related to the sales of Ukrainian products on European markets. In Moldova, pro-Russian forces lost during the parliamentary elections only because they chose the wrong strategy - they split in two groups. In Georgia, Mikhail Saakashvili's clearly pro-Western orientation goes against traditional orientation of this country on Russia. Overall, despite the impressive effect of "color" revolutions, many problems still remain in these countries.
In this situation, Russia has a window of opportunity. Contrary to the EU with its antagonisms between member-countries, Russia exercises sole political will. Russia offers its neighbors concrete and lucrative economic projects rather than hopes for integration in the distant future. Meanwhile, Russia demands much less in return from its neighbors. On the contrary, each step of the European integration, even the most preliminary, is accompanied by a massive number of economic and political conditions.
Therefore, after the wave of "color" revolutions, the pendulum might sway in the opposite direction. Laborites in Georgia, progressive Socialists in Ukraine, and the Rodina movement in Moldova, those who strongly and steadily support integration with Russia, might get their chance.