I was utterly fascinated by it, especially given the events in Belarus not too long ago. Russia's grip on the bloc is slipping and my assessment is they're started to feel a bit panicked. Russia wouldn't issue an ultimatum if they felt they would win outright. If Russia doesn't win outright, I'm pretty sure she won't win at all. The border countries between the EU and Russia, the counterweights, are showing far more interest in the EU. Let's be honest: Russia is still economically skiwompus––Khodorkovsky, anyone?––and too politically top-heavy to be considered truly stable. It's like a person with a really huge head, no pun on "full of hot air" heads intended. Democratic countries are less intimidating because power rotates nicely between various politicians; Russia is characterized by the Kremlin and as far everyone is concerned, the Duma is a mere side note. Power of the people or power of the Kremlin? I have my money on the ex-KGB man.
Medvedev, though rife with (potentially) good intentions and youthful appeal, doesn't seem to do much on his own. He's not a puppet, but I still look for marionette strings. This ultimatum probably wasn't his idea and it was unwise nonetheless. I think Russia needs to face facts and realize that the EU provides far more business opportunities than they can logically promise. Mother Russia is a one way business plan and the EU is a launching pad. In matters of natural gas, Russia holds a bit more promise, but I figure that Ukraine wants more than domination over that market. I'm simply wondering why Russia thinks it's worth joining their team. They're not exactly throwing out discounts or incentives, and especially not a business pitch. I wouldn't want to be on a team with Lukashenko, especially if I'm hoping for economic prosperity and stability, the primary draw of the EU. Lukashenko is the antithesis for a functioning democracy that protects business and the Western world loathes him, so that puts any country in close association in the same category. Plus, anyone in a relationship can tell you that placing an ultimatum on the table does not guarantee someone will join you or even do so happily. I don't know, maybe Ukraine will knife Russia in the middle of the night out of rage.
This is beside the point. Medvedev called Russia and the EU "two chairs" and I appreciate the image. I appreciate it because it puts in clear as day, black and white, terms that Russia sees the EU as a competing entity. (I often wonder if they think they're doing the world a favor by balancing out the EU's power...) Black and white days of economic and political ties are over and have been since the Cold War. Delicate balancing is a necessity and frankly the speech makes him look like an arrogant chump. There are a host of problems facing these bloc nations and Russia does not seem to be the answer mainly because Russia can only assert itself on the international stage. Russia cannot drag along Belarus, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, etc. Russia is not even a shining example of modernization and improvement. It's mostly a shining example of how to thumb your nose at the world because you have oil and gas. If you have economic resources of unparalleled size (people, oil, gas, minerals, etc.), you can pretty much do what you want and no one can shut you out. Latchkeys are weak and don't get benefits, so that's pretty much the loser club.
Those are my spur of the moment thoughts. No ruminations on this essay at all and written off the cuff. However, a more thoughtful analysis can be read at opendemocracy.net. I defer to this article mainly because it is far more thorough than what I wrote. Neftegaz has a good essay and The Heritage Foundation has a nice blurb of an article on the topic as well.
UPDATE: This article by the EU Observer is an excellent summary of the delicate balance in Ukraine. (EUkraine?)