The new nation has come into existence. This great event in world politics was predicted and aptly described by more than one European political analysts and writers, Eastern and Western alike. Suffices it to remember Andrei Piontkovsky, Vladimir Sorokin, or Alexander J. Motyl, to prove this to have been the case. Ukraine has engraved her name anew on the political map of the world.
This new nation has a difficult period ahead of her, since we should be incurably naïve to think that Vladimir Putin’s regime would leave Ukraine in peace in the coming years. Putin was defeated in Ukraine, and it is highly unlikely that he would risk another round of war on the ground followed by more severe sectorial economic sanctions from the EU; yet this regime will definitely try its utmost to make Ukraine’s life as troubled and uneasy as it can.
However, there is no force on Earth that would alter or weaken Ukraine’s resolve to change fundamentally the course of her history. I am saying this not to please my Ukrainian readership or otherwise make it up to people who read these words written by a Lithuanian columnist on New Year’s Eve. Too much blood was spilled in the Euromaidan, and too many sacrifices were made in Eastern Ukraine to question the course of the country.
Judging by what happened to the Baltic States over the past decades, I can predict the return of Ukraine to the family of European nations. We have to admit some differences between the Baltics and Ukraine in terms of the speed of the reforms, which paved the way for the Baltic nations to the EU and NATO, along with the consolidation of their political classes regarding the accession to Western blocks and alliances; yet Ukraine will be able to do it no later than in five years time.
Why? Because it is not only in the best of Ukraine’s interest to get more prosperity, safety, security, and predictability of her future; the same perfectly applies to the EU and the Western world in general. I would go so far as to assert that inclusion and accession of Ukraine could serve as a path of the EU to its own stability. The last thing I believe in and trust in politics and foreign policies in particular is benevolence and sentimentality; it is only the interests that matter there, rather than affection, love, or hate.
After the occupation and annexation of Crimea by Russia and after Russia’s invasion to Eastern Ukraine, Eastern Partnership as a programme is withering and dying before our eyes. Eastern Partnership appears to have been a German compromise after the Russian invasion to Georgia in 2008; it seems to have reached the dead end after the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Firstly, nobody believes that it still makes sense to compare Ukraine to Armenia, just like Georgia to Belarus, in terms of any coherent, unified and consolidated policy of the EU. Azerbaijan does not need to become part of the EU; nor does Armenia strive for it. Belarus appears as even a more difficult case and a more complicated ball game than that. There is nothing tragic in this, though. We can bid farewell to Eastern Partnership but not to Ukraine and Georgia.
Secondly, to the contrary of the cynicism of Western Europe’s political classes or the wave of regrettable populism in Central Europe, Ukraine preserved one of the most precious things in long-term policies – namely, a happy alliance of patience and idealism. In the present France, Britain, or Holland, you have to come up with the spectre of the EU to win the parliamentary elections or any other domestic political game; things are different in Ukraine. Self-confidence, patience, idealism, and pro-EU sentiment appear as the guiding force behind Ukraine’s reforms and policies.
The EU is an existential crisis now – let us call a spade a spade. It is a profound crisis of the entire raison d’être of the Union, instead of its structural or institutional crisis. Needless to say, the EU does not undergo a crisis for the first time. It never resurfaced after the crisis diminished and smaller. Due to the very nature of the Union, it can win an epic battle with its own anxiety and angst only as a larger entity, which would inexorably result in its enlargement.
The EU badly needs Ukraine, just like Ukraine baldly needs the EU. Visa-free travel for Ukraine and Georgia from 2016, a ground-breaking decision we all expect from the European Commission, is one of the serious indications that the EU is far from giving up on Ukraine. The newcomers are less cynical than the veterans who can afford whipping or shooting the horses they were riding with much success.
The Baltic States have already injected their share of optimism in the European project. The same happened with all Central European countries that are now as cynical as their Western sisters. Now the turn has come for Ukraine to cure the Union with her magnanimity and optimism.
What happened to the world? Ukraine was born anew.