The West must save Ukraine

Russia’s actions against Ukraine, the international order and the values ​​of the EU system in question. The West must respond appropriately to the conflict finally. A guest post by Andreas Umland
ZEIT ONLINE | July 16, 2014

No crisis affect European security structure as much as the escalating confrontation between Russia and Ukraine. Although many other conflicts in Europe, Asia or Africa require attention. But none is the global non-proliferation regime for weapons of mass destruction in such a question.

When the Ukraine 1994 Budapest Memorandum signed , she confided naive the security commitments of the United States and Great Britain. The nuclear powers secured Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, to – in return renounced Kiev on his inherited from the USSR nuclear weapons. Among the signatories of the agreement, Russia belonged. The real aim of the document, it was that Ukraine before Russian irredentism to protect and neo-imperialism.

Even if the former Ukrainian arsenal of nuclear warheads was not ready, it was the mid-nineties but greater than the amount of nuclear weapons China, Britain and France together. As a result of the Budapest Memorandum was from the Ukraine as agreed within a few years a completely nuclear-free state.

Russia, as the fourth signatory of the memorandum, has its core agreements injured in the past ten years many times. By 2013, Russia has repeatedly – exercised economic and political pressure on Ukraine – in violation of the appropriate Memorandum paragraphs. Earlier this year, eventually annexed the Crimea Russia by military means. For several weeks, Russia has also instigated a separatist uprising, armed and last but not least support personnel. The Western response to these apparent violations had been subdued.

This has to change. Because Russia’s behavior in the post-Soviet space is worrying.

The dangerous "Ukrainian lesson" 

From the annexation of the Crimea, from the thinly disguised invasion of Donbass and also from the ambivalent reactions of the West to these challenges can leaders from all over the world an learn "Ukrainian Lesson": "Want to sustainable security for your land, you need the bomb and if you have the bomb, they never give forth again – like whatever you important politicians from Washington, London and Brussels, not to mention from Moscow promise ".

Not only the Budapest Memorandum has been overtaken by developments: The Istanbul OSCE document on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Transnistrian region of Moldova from 1999, the Sarkozy plan of 2008 on a military withdrawal of Russia from the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Declaration of Geneva of 2014, the evacuation of public places by the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine – all these multilateral agreements are now meaningless. Signed by both Russia and the U.S., from European countries and / or international organizations, they have become worthless paper.

The world is now aware that even insurance companies leading western powers or by organizations such as the OSCE and the European Union have little meaning. At the end of the following applies: As long as a country has no nuclear umbrella – either his own or that of a close ally – are its integrity, its territory and its independence into question; only weapons of mass destruction can back full sovereignty when it comes to confrontation with an aggressive neighbors.

What makes the Ukrainian case

With its neo-imperial policy towards Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, Russia has undermined the principle of sovereignty for years. The Ukrainian case is especially dramatic in many ways. This is with a view to

  • the severity of the violation of international law by a de jure annexation of the Crimea, and not only the de facto inclusion as in Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia;
  • the viciousness with which the Kremlin terms such as "fascism", "junta", "genocide" and "Nazis" used to describe the Euromaidan revolution and so to justify his invasion of southern and eastern Ukraine;
  • the audacity of Moscow’s public lies, media manipulation and diplomatic faux pas regarding which Europeanizing Ukraine;
  • the outspoken role of the Kremlin in the provocation, and brutality escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s political, diplomatic and military attack on territory, identity and culture of Ukraine, the international order of states, the global non-proliferation regime for nuclear weapons, diplomatic standards after the Cold War and the EU’s system of values ​​into question. For the security of Europe and the world an adequate response to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is just as important as the commitment to the solution of other major crises in the EU neighborhood.

Despite these features, the West acts against the Russian subversion of Ukraine cautious, vacillating and confused. Russia has completed the annexation of the Crimea, against all warnings from Washington, Brussels, Berlin.

The limited sanctions of the West in the following weeks, not only have a negative impact on the arrangements for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons in the world. The restrained Western reaction was also the background for Russia’s subsequent policy towards the mainland Ukraine and of further fractures of security commitments that have been given to the Ukraine for the delivery of their weapons of mass destruction.

Destabilization as a target

Russia’s policy in recent weeks shows that his government is not interested in a solution to the crisis and wants to get the rebellion in eastern Ukraine alive. Obvious target of the Kremlin is to use the eastern Ukrainian separatism to destabilize not only these relatively russian imprinted region, but the Ukrainian state as a whole.

At the core is likely to Moscow’s strategy not only be a military-political but also a socio-economic: Putin wants to poison the investment and business climate in the whole Ukraine. Thus, not only the financial foundation of the Ukrainian state would be undermined, but also the partnership and association policy of the EU in Eastern Europe would be discredited. The anti-authoritarian Ukrainian revolution would also be delegitimized as Brussels’ policy to establish European values, laws and practices in its eastern neighborhood, and to strengthen the general Western policy, democracy in Russia’s "backyard".

The extent of the Russian confrontation with the West over Ukraine is a novelty of the post-Soviet era, but should not be surprising. What in Ukraine is at stake for Russia, are not only territorial, identitarian or geopolitical issues. 

Concern about Russia’s domestic policy

Putin and his entourage drives rather the internal politics, so the effort to secure their power in Russia and legitimize the manner of their exercise of power. The competition between the Russian and Ukrainian an alternative model of development is fundamental: Liberalism against patrimonialism, an open to a closed regime, a pluralistic against a monistic society. A comprehensive and effective reform of Ukraine and its European integration would provide the Russian regime in question.

To prevent this, the Kremlin is willing to sacrifice peace in Eastern Europe to provide the social stability of the Ukraine and the rule of international law into question.

[My personal translation from German – RD]


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