Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovitch is learning what it means to be the human rights surrogate for Western Europe. Yanukovitch is on the receiving end of diplomatic snubs from European leaders who in the name of realism would never contemplate acting in the same manner towards Putin's Russia.
With the exception of Poland and Lithuania that would like to see Ukraine and Belarus as buffer states between them and a resurgent Russia, Europe is not dependent upon the Ukraine as it is on Russia and its energy supplies. The Ukraine's role in hosting the pipelines that shipped Russian gas to Western Europe has diminished now that Russia has opened direct pipelines linking it to Western Europe and the re-emergence of other players notably the United States in the world gas market has further diminished the Ukrainian role.
Europe can now crack down on the Ukraine for its human rights violations and notably the case of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko who is staging a hunger strike in prison where she was serving a seven-year sentence that was considered to be politically motivated and tainted.
A number of leaders have canceled their visit to Ukraine for a conference of Central European countries. The latest is Czech President Vaclav Klaus. German President Joachim Gauck is also boycotting the summit and getting an enthusiastic press reception for his efforts.
While the summit was not expected to be a top draw f the same cannot be said of the European Nations cup to be cohosted by Poland and the Ukraine from June 8 to July 1. Even politicians who really dislike football cannot pass up the opportunity of briefly appearing as fan number one. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was expected to attend a key match scheduled in the Ukraine pitting Germany against the ever dangerous Dutch national team. Now Merkel who has been dusting off her previous image as a human rights activists after a prolonged bout of realism has announced that she will give the match a miss unless the Ukraine allows Tymoshenko to leave her prison accommodations in the Ukraine for medical treatment and possibly asylum in Germany. The Czech Republic has already granted political asylum to Tymoshenko's husband.
German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen has defended the government boycott of the Ukraine during Euro 2012, to avoid letting Yanukovitch exploit the competition to bolster his “dictatorship”. Hence, “visits by ministers and prime ministers” are “out of the question.”
The president of the European commission Manuel Jose Barroso is also threatening to boycott games played in the Ukraine although he comes from football mad Portugal.
"It is clear that as things stand now, the president has no intention of going to Ukraine or indeed participate in events in Ukraine." Said Barroso's spokesperson.
The Ukraine reacted angrily and referred to the threatened boycott as a revival of Cold War tactics. Presumably the spokesperson was alluding to the 1980 Moscow Olympics that the United States and China boycotted to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and then the Soviet bloc retaliated in 1984 when the Olympic Games were staged at Los Angeles.
It should be noted that there is no talk of having the national teams themselves boycott games staged in the Ukraine. Nobody after all wants to punish the Poles who are considered model European citizens.