Many countries watched the European Union's and Ukraine's annual summit, held Sept. 9, to see how Europe would handle relations with the former Soviet state after Russia declared Ukraine within its sphere of influence — not the West's. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who has been pushing for membership in Western institutions like the European Union and NATO, was left disappointed in that the European Union extended no promises of membership for Kiev, signaling that Europe is pretty much abandoning Ukraine for now. Ukraine is still many steps from any firm agreement with the European Union over membership. But following Russia's military action in Georgia and then Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's declaration that the former Soviet states were essentially Russia's turf, many European countries — especially the ones closer to Russia, such as Poland, the Baltic states and the Czech Republic — wanted some EU arrangement with Kiev, such as a "Perspective Agreement," which would at least signal to Moscow that Europe is planning to strengthen ties with Ukraine. However, at the summit, EU and French President Nicolas Sarkozy extended only the prospect of signing an "Association Agreement" — a weak bilateral pact that the European Union has with countries like Chile and Morocco. Moreover, that agreement would not be signed for another year or two, potentially delaying Ukraine's aspirations to join the union by many years. There are many reasons for the European Union to not pull Ukraine any closer. Ukraine is too big and too poor, and its government and population are too divided for it to be a good EU candidate. But the larger reason is Russia. Sarkozy's empty gesture to Kiev comes just a day after he met with Medvedev in Moscow with the summit assuredly on their agenda. Sarkozy and most of Europe understand that Russia drew a line in front of Ukraine and warned the European union not to cross that line. The Sept. 9 summit was Europe letting Kiev know that Brussels does not consider Ukraine worth a head-to-head confrontation with Moscow while Russia is on the move after crushing Georgia in early August. Yushchenko now will look to the United States for support, especially after U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney played up Ukraine's bid for NATO membership ahead of the next NATO summit in December. But the European heavyweights will have to approve that bid — and countries such as France and Germany are already proving they are not ready to take that on in light of Russia throwing its weight around once again.