March 3, 2014
The dramatic developments in Ukraine unveil some deep-rooted sovereign issues for this big and historic country. The fall of Yanukovich, while serving the demands of the majority of the people, was not properly prepared to address the issue of post-leadership crisis. None of the involving parts of the opposition have prepared the “next page” and atrocities were kept going during the following days. The military standoff and the economic shock Ukraine is faced with should be primarily considered as the side-effect of a paramount geostrategic game: that of bringing Ukraine in the center of power politics in the eastern part of Eurasia’s heartland.
The European Union, NATO, and the United States were mobilized immediately and put forth their diplomatic mediation to literally extract Ukraine form Russia’s geopolitical sphere of influence. Here comes the first diplomatic misconception of the European Union: that Ukraine could through this political instability be itinerated in the heart of the Union. In this respect, the resolution towards intitiating the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine is regarded a step closer to the integration of the country in the EU, but in fact there are many open issues to be resolved before that.
Number one priority for Ukraine is the return to political normality after the elections of May. In the months to precede, the EU should assist Kiev in preparing the best possible elections in terms of organization and fraud-confronting, in order to give citizens and candidates the chance to participate massively and in equal terms in the electoral process.
The second priority for Ukraine is the quest for a specific plan of economic recovery and stability. Given the deep financial issues that the country has to deal with, both the EU and Russia seem unlikely to directly finance Kiev through a multi-scale bailout plan. Most probably, Ukraine should assume the burden of negotiating with the International Monetary Fund which has already expressed its determination to access the current economic conditions of the country and prepare a study that will eventually lead to a vast rescue package. This is no good news for Ukraine, but for the time being, it seems to be the most possible scenario.
The third priority for Ukraine is to designate its future, foreign policy partnerships. To my perspective, Kiev should not decide to favor either EU’s or Russia’s inclination, but rather to evaluate the benefits of a common policy that would align both parts. Given the geostrategic position of the country and the historic ties with Russia, Ukraine should find a mutually accepted plan of incorporating partnership assets with both EU and Russia. At this stage, Ukraine has to be foremost independent.
In this latter priority comes the involvement of EU and Russia. During the previous days what we have witnessed is the rapprochement of both sides for the sake of Ukraine. This development has to be preserved and strengthened as it is certain that Kiev will seek assistance from both parts. No matter what this multi-faceted assistance will be, it is obvious that neither the EU nor Russia vie for a direct confrontation that could damage their geostrategic, economic, commercial and diplomatic interests.
Under such circumstances, I firmly believe that a possible diplomatic escalation could be appeased in Ukraine with reference to the Crimea peninsula. Conditions in Crimea are more of a “Chicken Game”, related to pre-emptive security measures by the side of Russia. Notwithstanding, we should also acknowledge that Kremlin has major interests to preserve in Crimea, and especially in Sevastopol, that are deep-rooted in the national and historic achievements of Russia from World War II. But even from this strategic perspective, Kremlin is not intented to plunge into a pride war with no certain outcomes, especially given that it is capable of preventing an escalation though diplomatic means.
For the EU, it is certain that Ukraine could be engulfed in a wider sphere of geopolitical leverage, re-ignited after the positive developments and the central role that the Union had played in the outcome of the Geneva Accord for the nuclear program of Iran. EU, and especially her excellency Baroness Catherine Ashton, feel powerful to negotiate the best possible terms for the Union in issues of neighborhood policy. Nonetheless, the EU should first respect the political leadership of Ukraine, the one that will come up after the presidential elections, and afterwards it should respect the role of Russia in its inner sphere of influence. Taking this into account, the Ukrainian crisis is not an EU crisis. It is a bit of a Russian crisis, but fundamentally a domestic and sovereign issue for Ukraine and its people.Dimitris Rapidis