The EU has contributed to the development of the Ukraine crisis and has done little to resolve it, says Peace Report 2014 published by five leading German research institutes last week. Does it point to mistakes, or rather - a strategy aimed at creating the crisis? Radio VR discussed it with Dr. Dushan Janjic, Senior Researcher of the Institute for Social Sciences in Belgrade, Serbia, and Dr. Tatiana Romanova, Associate professor at the School of International Relations of St. Petersburg State University.
"When the EU sided with the opposition on the Maidan - against the regime with which it previously wanted to sign an agreement - it increased internal political polarization and excluded itself as a mediator and conflict manager," one of the authors of the report, Ines-Jacqueline Werkner of the Protestant Institute for Interdisciplinary Research in Heidelberg, told DW. And that is hardly a single mistake made by the EU policy makers.
Says Dushan Janjic, Senior Researcher of the Institute for Social Sciences, and coordinator of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, in Belgrade, Serbia:
"Usually, when you have an armed conflict, you could say that is the result of the wrong policies. Talking about the EU and particularly the US, they supported the Ukrainian crisis, some political groups, some oligarchs thinking about only one thing – how to stop the Russian interests and delete the communists. Generally, the West has been trying from 1990’es until today. They place a sign of equality between anticommunism and democracy. In the case of Yugoslavia, Serbia in particular, they supported extreme chauvinists who were anticommunist.
I think that they made this big mistake from the beginning and after that, there came the Orange Revolution that resulted in corruption, and basically disloyal partners to the society of Ukraine and its development and loyal partners to the West. But the EU lacked understanding of what the new Russia means, the Putin’s Russia.
Basically, it is a strong state which has established control over the natural resources. And we has established effective control of the natural resources, especially gas and oil, and we have on one side Putin who controls the natural resources, and from the other side we have NATO - and not the EU. The EU is dependent on the Russia’s resources, it is weak.
The West was not able to recognize one lesson, which is – you could love or hate Russia, but when it comes to cool houses and supplying economy with energy, you must love it. And that is their second basic mistake.
And finally, from my knowledge about the similar movements in Serbia and around, I could say that Maidan just gave the control to the West. And that was the beginning of the disputes between Washington and Brussels. You know about the video and audio records of the telephone calls between the America’s officials in which they openly say that EU is not able to manage the Ukrainian crisis, that the Maidan leaders or some of them, like Klitschko, are not able to lead the country and be partners.
I think that according to the today’s level of the crisis, the EU will pay a huge price for their mistakes and it cannot be the main actor in the negotiations with Moscow. I suppose that at the end of the day Washington should directly discuss with Moscow how to solve the problem not only in the Ukrainian crisis, but also the problems around the European security and energy security and economy thanks to the Ukrainian crisis".
Dr. Tatiana Romanova, Associate professor at the School of International Relations of St. Petersburg State University:
"I think it is an important report, because, first of all, the experts of the EU go back to the European tradition of being self-critical and for the first time they say that Europe and the West in general are not right by definition, that they actually did something wrong, that they put Ukraine in front of a very difficult choice “either\or” instead of being constructive in Ukraine and in wider Europe in general.
In that sense, it is a very important report, although we couldn’t say that it is complementary to Russia, because it is also critical of Russia and, therefore, it is in a way balanced.
Right! But when we are talking about certain mistakes which the European policy makers have made, including, and mainly, the signing of the political agreement between the EU and Ukraine, why do you think that would be a mistake?
It was wrong to put Ukraine in front of a choice – either Russia or the EU, because, in fact, on the one hand, it gives trump card to the Ukrainian elite that would like to sort of play Russia against the EU in order to extract the benefits rather than to improve the situation in Ukraine itself and in wider Europe in general.
So, what is important in that report as well is that, in fact, they call for a constructive solution. And they make this point very clear that any long-term solution in Ukraine requires the participation of both the EU and Russia, and as well requires taking into consideration the security interests of Russia in the form of non-membership o Ukraine in the NATO.
However, it becomes more and more obvious that EU decision makers are not independent, and it was the US which was pushing them to certain decisions, which were not in Europe’s interests.
You know that the US is a very important security guarantor in Europe and in the EU. In that sense the policy makers in the EU have to take into consideration the priorities of Washington and what Washington says. In fact, it is not only in politics, it is also in economics. And we see it very clearly today, for example, with the South Stream, as Bulgaria decided to stop the construction of the South Stream after the visit of the US Congressman. So, it is a clear pressure due to political reasons, where the economic interests of the EU and the EU member states are affected.
But do I get it right that the decision by Bulgaria has not been exactly in Bulgaria’s national interests, has it?
Clearly not in Bulgaria’s national interests and not in the interests of the EU either, if it wants to secure a stable supply of natural gas or constructive relations with Russia. We see that any solution can be found only if it involves Russia and takes Russia into consideration.
Look on the current negotiations on the transit of natural gas through Ukraine, again, that involves Russia, the EU and Ukraine. So, there is a need for constructive engagement. And any solution that doesn’t take into consideration a constructive engagement, first of all, challenges the stability in Europe and, secondly, it does affect economic interests of the EU and its member states.
And it is clear that some of those decisions that are not in the interests of the EU are promoted by the US. And also, we have to realize that, first of all, the US is far away and the instability in Ukraine does not immediately affect the US. Secondly, the US does not have that many economic interests in Russia. So, they don’t really challenge their economic interests and they are not affected by any of the measures that they encourage in Europe.
So, do we need to understand that Washington is prepared to sacrifice Europe for its own strategic goals?
I don’t think they would put it in these terms – sacrifice – but, certainly, they are not that concerned about the economic interests of the EU and that is not the first thing they think about when they encourage those decisions.
But what about the Europeans? Do you happen to get a feeling that the Europeans are growing frustrated with the secondary role the US is attributing to them?
Well, I think they have been frustrated for a number of years. At the same time, there isn’t much they can do about it, especially if you think about the security and defense, because the priority is still with the US and not with Europe. The EU is certainly an economic power, but not so much a political and military power and, therefore, they have to rely on Washington. But, at the same time, they also understand that the stability in their region, in their immediate neighbourhood, as well as their economic interests depend on the constructive relations with Russia.
And therefore, they try to sort of forge a line of, on the one hand, being with the US in their criticism of Russia and, on the other hand, trying to involve Russian partners to create some sort of stability in Europe. In that sense, this report is a very good illustration of that tendency.
Of course, the report is written not by the official representatives of the EU, but rather by NGOs. But then, we also know that these NGOs have an impact on the institutions of the EU and they definitely have an impact on the public opinion in the EU.
And when we are shifting the focus of our discussion a little bit more to Ukraine, there have been a series of very significant statements made by the European leaders and the European policy makers vis-à-vis Ukraine. And one of these was that Ukraine has not been secured a seat in the EU as of now. Does that send a signal to the new Ukrainian authorities that, perhaps, their hopes have been a little bit overestimated?
Again, the European neighbourhood policy is very confusing, because, on the one hand, it puts a lot of demands on the partners of the EU and then, at the same time, the EU has never been prepared to give carrot of enlargement to the partners.
Of course, technically, signing the association agreement doesn’t change much in the status of Ukraine and in its current relations with the EU. It is more symbolic than anything else and puts a lot of demands on Ukraine with fairly little that Kiev can get in exchange.
So, what is your forecast? How do you see the future European policy regarding Ukraine? What are the next steps they are going to take? Would they be able to somehow modify their position in relationship with Russia over Ukraine?
I think what we will see in the coming days is certainly the signature of the association agreement. Poroshenko has in fact promised that. We will also see some economic assistance of the EU to Ukraine. It will not necessarily be in the form of financial support, it will rather be more of a symbolic thing in terms of credits, in terms of some guarantees.
And then, of course, we will see warming up of the relations with Russia, but not the defrosting of the relations, definitely not at the intergovernmental levels. We will see more extra discussions but it will take a while before the EU will be officially prepared to in fact change its position on Russia and on the role of Russia in Ukraine.
And then, of course, the question of Crimea will stay in the official agenda of Russia and the EU, but we will probably see it discussed less and less. So, it is kind of a contested item, but a contested item that is not discussed and will be taken on the table only when there is a need to sort of put extra pressure on Russia".