The Eastern Partnership initiative of 2008 was designed to draw all former Soviet republics in Europe and the South Caucasus not already in the European Union and NATO (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) away from the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (of which Armenia and Belarus are members) with Russia and arrange their “Euro-Atlantic integration”: EU and NATO membership.

The EU is the bait; NATO is the gateway. All eleven nations that have joined the EU and NATO since 1999 – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia – joined NATO first, the EU second.

It was now deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to postpone an association agreement under Eastern Partnership auspices that triggered the 2014 coup in his nation.

EU integration, like NATO integration, demands as preconditions the “resolution of frozen conflicts” and the reclaiming of “occupied territories.” In the case of the three relevant countries (which were formerly allied with Azerbaijan under the acronym of GUAM), the conquest of “occupied territories” pertains to:

Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Moldova: Transdniester

Ukraine: Crimea, Donetsk and Lugansk

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Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova want to be EU’s friends with benefits

Despite instability at home and fears of Russian intervention, trio pushes for closer ties with Brussels

The so-called “trio” — the three most EU-enthusiastic members of the bloc’s Eastern Partnership program for former Soviet republics — wants to convince the European Union to keep bringing them closer….

Closer ties could also bring benefits for the EU, which is keen to have friendly, democratic-minded neighbors to its east and to keep them from slipping into Russia’s grip. But the EU is also wary of being dragged into instability and conflict in the region.

That means the trio of prime ministers have their work cut out in meetings with top officials in the EU capital, given recent events including a Russian troop buildup on its border with Ukraine….

Meanwhile, Georgia has been mired in a deep, long-running domestic political crisis….

And in Moldova, initial enthusiasm and high hopes for a new, pro-EU government have been dampened in recent weeks by the uneven handling of a dispute with Russia over natural gas contracts….

…Ukraine could provide storage for an EU strategic natural gas reserve….

…EU policymakers concluded that the three countries had more prospects of closer EU ties than other members of the Eastern Partnership. Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a military conflict that was mostly settled in a brief war last year, while Belarus has become openly hostile to the EU….

Already, the trio have each signed political association agreements with Brussels and they already enjoy the benefits of “deep and comprehensive free trade areas” that grant them some access to the single market.

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“A proximity policy would not start with the promise of membership and it would not exclude eventual membership,” Prodi said. “The aim is to extend to this neighboring region a set of principles, values and standards which define the very essence of the European Union.”

[In 2002 then-European Commission President Romano Prodi said] “I want to see a ‘ring of friends’ surrounding the Union and its closest European neighbors, from Morocco to Russia and the Black Sea.”

In 2013, the Kremlin persuaded then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to abandon his plan to sign an association agreement with the EU – a broken promise that set off the Maidan Revolution….