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As Ukraine stares into the abyss, where is Europe's leadership? | The Guardian Opinion - Apr 20, 2014 |

The Ukrainian crisis is not over. The four-party statement, reached in Geneva on Thursday, means several things. It is not, however, the end of anything.

It does signal that, despite their oppositional positions, Russia and the United States do have some overlapping interests, which require a degree of co-operation. What's more, the European Union continues to be in the back seat of a process that threatens to tear apart the largest country in the continent outside Russia and which fundamentally affects the EU's relations with Moscow. Today's Ukraine is a failing state, essentially an object of great power diplomacy.

What is also becoming clear is that the world of hardball geopolitics, unashamed political horse-trading and open economic pressure is "another world" for many in Europe. Are there any signs of proper European leadership? And can the continent continue to outsource its foreign policy to the United States?

Washington and Moscow accuse each other of interference in Ukraine, and profess their own innocence, but both are deeply involved on the ground, even if in very different ways. The United States supports and advises the government in Kiev, which it has helped to form, while Russia is clearly behind the activists, many of them armed, in Ukraine's eastern and southern regions. Washington seeks to deny Ukraine to the new Russian empire that it suspects President Putin is building. Putin, for his part, is determined to prevent Ukraine, under a pro-western regime, from joining Nato and thus offering to host US military bases virtually inside Russia's historical heartland.

A Ukraine that has joined the club of western democracies and US allies would be a good thing, from Washington's perspective. However, the path is long, messy and fraught with problems, even dangers, such as a direct clash with Russia. More important, it is not a priority for the Obama administration. The crisis in Ukraine, the White House could reason, has already sensitised America's European allies to the continuing existence of the danger in the east. Thus, it has given Nato a new shot in the arm, which it needs as the Afghanistan mission is winding down.

Looking from the Kremlin, a Ukraine that has joined the Customs Union would provide the Eurasian project with a critical mass in terms of demographic, industrial and agricultural potential. Yet Ukraine is very heterogeneous, with its pro-Russian elements more than balanced by anti-Russian ones. Fully integrating Ukraine would be not only very costly in economic terms, but impossible without cutting off its western provinces - attaching them to Soviet Ukraine was Stalin's big mistake - and pacifying or repressing millions of pro-Europe Ukrainians across the country.

Putin is no Stalin. Having corrected the "historical injustice" in Crimea, and shown the degree to which it can influence developments in eastern Ukraine, Moscow, too, may be ready for a deal.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Fri Mar 25th, 2022 at 08:03:24 AM EST

Website Yves Engler

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Fri Mar 25th, 2022 at 08:04:49 AM EST
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