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5 January, 2014 01:14   ▪  

Joschka Fischer: if Ukraine loses its independence in one way or another, European security will be at risk

Putin cannot be faulted for skillfully pursuing his interpretation of Russian interests. The blame for the outcome in Ukraine falls squarely on the EU’s leaders, because if Ukraine does lose its independence in one way or another, European security will be at risk – a risk nowhere more keenly felt than in Poland and the Baltic states, Joschka Fischer, german Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005, says in his article for Project Syndicate.

As Joschka Fischer says, pretending by the Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukoych to negotiate an association agreement has been something that the European Union has probably never experienced before.

“From Yanukovych’s point of view, this agreement made sense in the short run: the gas deal would help Ukraine survive the winter, the loan would help keep it from defaulting on its debt, and the Russian market, on which the economy depends, would remain open. In the medium term, however, by rejecting the EU and embracing Russia, Ukraine faces the risk of losing its independence – on which the post-Soviet order in Europe depends,” former German Foreign minister says.

He thinks that the EU’s behavior demands explanation. “Yanukovych had always been the Kremlin’s ally. Indeed, his election in 2010 marked the end of Ukraine’s pro-European Orange Revolution, which had defeated his effort to steal the presidential election in 2004 and keep Ukraine in the Russian camp. So why did the EU press for an association agreement, without being able to offer Ukraine anything comparable to what Russia offered?” Mr. Fischer asks.

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After Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin as President of the Russian Federation, he followed three strategic goals, which he continues to pursue: an end to post-Soviet Russia’s strategic submission to the West; reestablishment of sovereignty over most of the ex-Soviet republics, or at least enough control over them to stop NATO’s eastward expansion; and gradual recovery of Russia’s status as a global power.

“The EU’s Ukraine initiative was supposed to be an attempt to provide such an answer. Europe played for high stakes, because if Ukraine does lose its independence in one way or another, European security will be at risk – a risk nowhere more keenly felt than in Poland and the Baltic states. With Yanukovych’s rejection of the association agreement, the EU has lost its bet,” Mr. Fischer points out.

“Putin cannot be faulted for skillfully pursuing his interpretation of Russian interests. The blame for the outcome in Ukraine falls squarely on the EU’s leaders, who represented European interests so badly. Grand gestures and paper-thin statements cannot mask Europe’s neglect of its own strategic interests, which will not be helpful in its relations with Russia. If Europeans want to change this, they will have to invest in their interests and devise an effective approach to ensure that these investments pay off,” Joschka Fisher says.


 


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