20/03/2015 15:54


Hannes Swoboda, March 20th 2015


The crisis in the Ukraine and the conflict between Ukraine and Russia or between EU and Russia is far from over. Therefore, the discussion of how to exit this stalemate is continuing. Some politicians and "experts" just concentrate on the situation in the Eastern Ukraine. This military conflict is certainly the core of the present crisis. But it does not offer the key to any longer lasting solution. And that seems especially true for the (US) proposal to deliver arms to the Ukraine with its badly trained and inefficient forces. As Rajan Menon and Kimberly Marten demonstrated recently in a contribution from 22.02.15 to Foreign Affairs: “To deliver weapons, may only continue and escalate the war”.


Reforms inside Ukraine


Certainly the Ukraine itself must achieve some basic political and economic changes. One of them is a thorough reform of the Ukrainian army to improve its efficiency. But even more important is the basic reform of the state structure and the de-oligarchisation. Because, even if after the Maidan revolution we can recognize some shifts in the relative power of several oligarchs, there still exists a strong influence of a few persons on politics and the economy. Either they influence political decisions or very often non-decisions directly or via "their" members of the Verhovna Rada, the Ukrainian Parliament.


Ukraine needs drastic reforms to exit their unsustainable economic and political situation. Decentralization is one element of the necessary reform strategy. It is surely not sufficient. Even when we have to recognize that such reforms can be implemented only slowly and step by step, Europe needs to justify the huge amount of money which should be spent by the EU and EU member countries. But the internal reforms and economic aid as such will not solve the bigger issues, especially the conflict with Russia.


European orders


Historically the construction and establishment of European orders always have been achieved via negotiations between the big (and sometimes smaller) powers without too much respect and regard to the citizen’s interest. This was the case with the Westphalian peace treaty and with the new order agreed at the Vienna congress. And it was especially true for the agreement between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin in Yalta in 1945.


This agreement, which was necessary after the destruction of the old order by the war, which was started by Hitler Germany, laid the basis for the division of Europe. It was slightly changed 30 years later at the Helsinki Conference (KSCE) in 1975. And with the OSCE an organization was founded which should help to respect and implement the Helsinki Charter. In connection with the so called third basket, basic human rights have been introduced into the new European order. With the agreement of Paris 1990 an even broader basis for an all European cooperation on common values of democracy and economic liberties has been created.


New European Structures without Russia


Unfortunately the end of communist rule and the Soviet Union itself were interpreted by the West as a final blow to Russia's power and had the exclusion of Russia from the construction of the New (Western-) European order as consequence. Russia was defeated and was not to be included into the new European order - this was the overwhelming opinion of the "West"! There are many understandable reasons why especially the Eastern European countries were not very keen to include their former oppressor and colonial master into any viable new structure. The liberation from the Nazi - domination has been unfortunately overshadowed by the longer lasting Soviet and communist domination. And this fact should also be recognized by today's Russia, but unfortunately is not. As Putin expressed it, the breakdown of the Soviet Union is the most tragic event of recent history.


So the West (Europe and the USA ) concentrated on the enlargement of the EU and NATO. And although these two enlargements are not directly connected, there was and is a strong pressure from the USA and some NATO countries of the EU especially by many political forces in the former Warsaw pact countries to join more or less parallel EU and NATO. Fact is that Russia was not asked to be part of a wider European economic and or security structure. That does not justify the annexation of the Crimea and the support of separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine. But we should recognize the exclusion of Russia from viable strong European structures and offer a comprehensive new strategy, if we want to find a peaceful solution for the future.


The extension of NATO and finally also of the EU was more and more seen critically by President Putin. In addition the EU developed the philosophy that also any agreement with Russia has to be concluded on the basis of European rules. In consequence basic conflicts appeared between EU and Russia and this created new divisions between EU and Russian political and economic systems. The negotiations on the energy sector made things very visible. The liberal economic approach of the European Energy Charter, the formation of an Energy Community in addition to the third energy package was and is not compatible with the state controlled energy system of Gazprom etc. Alternative concepts proposed by President Medwedew of an International Energy Convention were rejected as the proposal of an All - European Security System equally put forward by President Medwedew. 


There are many good reasons for the comprehensive European approach, but it more and more widened the gap with Russia and its policy of state capitalism and "directed democracy". And Russia did not want the "European way" too close to its borders. Maybe the alleged threats to its security have been only an excuse. Certainly Robert Kagan in a comment for Brookings on February 19, 2015, is right, when he says, that Russia could feel itself never as secure as after 1989. At least from the West there was no invasion considered or planned, as it was the case when Napoleon and Hitler were in power and invaded Russia. But beyond Russian propaganda and Putin's fear of ideological influence from the liberal West, there was and is a wide feeling of exclusion from the new European order by the Russian population. And the strong security and economic reliance of the EU on the US enhanced that feeling.


However the West sees and interprets the reality, the view and the feelings of Russia have to be taken into account if a viable and long - term European order should be constructed. And for the time being the Westphalian principle of national sovereignty cannot be discarded out of EU's relations with third countries. What we reached at least partly inside the EU by introducing national sovereignty into a common and shared sovereignty cannot easily be used in designing and developing our international relations.


A New Start will be Neccessary


This is also the basis for the proposal of Markus Kaim/Hanns W.Maull/Kirsten Westphal - in SWP-Aktuell from February 2015, when they argue for a new start for establishing a European order including Russia. One should agree on both sides (!) on the principle of non- violation of borders and non-interference into internal affairs and that includes refraining from any regime-change from the outside. The basis of cooperation should not and cannot be common values but only common interests. It is not about exporting the Aquis Communitaire into Russia, but finding solutions on the basis of mutual interests. Energy relations should be one of the major elements of these new approaches. Concerning security issues a new OSCE, an OSCE 2.0 should be considered. We can only hope that the already existing Eminent Persons Group will come forward with some constructive proposals.


Yes, this is a deviation from the policies of the EU so far, as our values - or let's say our values expressed by our rules - were also the guiding principles for our Neighbourhood Policy and our policy vis a vis Russia. And it is not an easy step to refrain from having our rules as measuring rod for countries like Russia, as we regard human rights as universal rights. And many progressive forces in Russia want us even to be stricter with Putin and his policies and that is also true for many political forces in Ukraine but also in Georgia and Moldavia.


And while some insist on the universality of human rights and democracy, others in the West see the liberal, even neo- liberal economic system as the decisive globally unifying denominator. And for many of them these "values" are even more important than human rights. But would such a policy based on the universality of human rights and /or on free market forces of neoliberal economies help our neighbours to solve the disputes with Russia and convince Russia from intervening in its neighbouring countries?


Geopolitics are not Out


One would have to find a difficult balance in sticking to our values and rules inside the EU and in relation to countries wanting to come closer to the EU and finally joining it and to have the traditional state to state approach towards Russia. Europe should also deny Russia a special influence zone - which is reducing the sovereignty of countries inside that influence zone - on the one hand but should accept special security concerns of Russia on the other hand. Politics and diplomacy could find such a strategy, if the will exists to include Russia, independently from its internal political order and structure. Geopolitical considerations may have been declared outdated. But they still play a role in today's world.


The new European order should include the political security and economic field. Even those, who are interested in political change should recognize, that including Russia is much more effective and instrumental for change and respect for human rights, than excluding and sanctioning Russia.


One complication for our relations with Russia is the formation of the Eurasian Union. This is a union, which is dominated by Russia especially in relation to Belarus, Kazakhstan etc. The EU should not refrain from cooperation with that Union, but we should also take into account the interests of the other member countries of that Union and not strengthen Russia vis a vis them. Unfortunately the so called Central Asia Strategy formulated by the EU some years ago was not followed up by some concrete agreements and actions. It could have resulted in stronger alliances between them and the EU instead of them with Russia.


Of course not all the developments of the past months could have been foreseen. But now we have to prevent, that we dig ourselves deeper and deeper into the present crisis without thinking about an exit strategy. Especially if we are not considering a military solution, we have to have the courage to develop an inclusive solution which is creating a new European order. Realistically we cannot do that without consultation with the USA. But we should be strong enough to have our own ideas and proposals. The present situation could also be a chance for an effective Common European Foreign and Security Policy, in alliance with but not dominated by the US.


It is this framework - we could also find solutions for the Ukraine but also for Moldavia and Georgia. Military neutrality of these countries is one possibility; a strong trilateral cooperation between EU, Russia and the countries concerned is another one. And they do not exclude each other; in the contrary they could support each other. This strategy would have to include the possibility of Ukraine, Moldavia and Georgia joining the EU, which realistically is at best a long term possibility. But in any case it would also be useful to look for close economic cooperation of these countries with the EU and Russia, where joining the EU and the Eurasian Union could be seen even not exclusive.


Certainly it would need a lot of phantasy and creativity to develop such a joint strategy. It could not be made above the heads of the countries concerned and they should not be treated as buffer zones or part of a "cordon sanitaire". No, they should be seen as countries which are connecting two different parts of Europe, parts which cannot reasonably be united under one organizationally strong roof, but should be cooperating closely. The supply and transport of energy would, in any way, be much more secure and reliable, if we could come to such cooperation. It may also include joint ownership of the relevant pipe line infrastructure. Military cooperation, even if today the minimum of such cooperation in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council is interrupted could also follow and contribute to security in the region.