Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Failure of EU Foreign Policy on Ukraine.

From the outset of the Ukrainian Crisis, EU diplomats should have shown decisive rejection Svoboda and the Right Sector, a refusal to recognise them as part of an interim government as opposed to mealy mouthed "concern" would ensure EU politicians could take the ethical highground on events in Ukraine.

The hypocrisy of focusing on Crimean pro-Russia nationalists and ignoring the Ukrainian far right's key involvement in the violence in Kiev and stance against the dominance of new 'Judeo-Bolshevik' elites in Russia and ethnic Russians  has allowed Putin to play the protection card as regards Crimea.

It is bizarre that certain politicians in Warsaw are intent on showing 'solidarity' with the ethnocentic nationalists of Svoboda who venerate the guerrilla fighters such as Stephan Bandera of UPA who at the end of World War Two was responsible for ethnically cleansing 200,000 Poles from Volnyhia and Eastern Galicia

Others, such as far right Polish politician J Kaczynski made a point of marching in solidarity with the leader of Svoboda. The predominance of Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party and Svoboda does not, in fact, pertain towards Ukraine being better governed but for new competitions over which party is more nationalist.

True, but then again EU states will have to negotiate the future of Ukraine taking into account Russian interests, most obviously the determination that Ukraine will not be taken over by elites who exist only to do the bidding of oligarchs more favourable to the west, the IMF and NATO.

It is neither in the interest of the US, EU nor Russia to see the descent of Ukraine into civil war and ethnic irredentism nor is that inevitable. The takeover of Crimea by pro-Russian separatists is not one necessarily that will be recognised by Putin but one that could be used as a 'bargaining chip'.

The EU states are divided on how to approach the Ukrainian Crisis. Emphasis on future trade deals better than were on offer in November and involving Russia ,as well as reining in the aggressive and irresponsible diplomacy put forth by Polish politicians, is essential.

The continued attempt by radical neocons such as Radek Sikorski to tie trade agreements to accession to NATO since the Bucharest Summit of 2008 and the 'Eastern Partnership" initiative need to be sidelined as extremely dangerous and a factor in the Russo-Georgian conflict over South Ossetia.

Opinion polls in Ukraine have consistently revealed that two thirds of Ukrainians reject NATO membership and being forced to chose a definitive position of being for or against Russia or the west. Cautious diplomacy with Russia and shelving plans for Ukraine to be in NATO are essential.

Neutrality for Ukraine and a joint agreement on the future of Ukraine that involves both sides rejecting support for extreme nationalists and agreeing on an aid package for its tanking economy is vital for stability. The sort of IMF shock therapy approach touted by the US could make that worse.

A failure to agree on a shared diplomatic approach could lead to Ukraine fragmenting between west and and centre and southern and eastern regions if the west fails to put enough pressure on the interim government in Kiev and if it continues disregarding Russophone Ukraine and respecting local autonomy.

Despite the more generous aims of protest groups in Kiev since the start of the crisis in November, emphasised by Timothy Snyder, it seems as though those promoting true democratic reform are being passed over apart from the inclusion of a few token representatives about whom little is known as window dressing.

Andriy Deshchitsya, the foreign minister, is the only 'politically neutral face in the cabinet. Oleksandr Sych is deputy prime minister and from Svoboda, a far right Ukrainian nationalist party that attempts to pretend to the west it is 'centre right' in order to be respectable.

In fact, Svoboda favours an ethnocentric nationalism in which Russian speakers are systematically discriminated against. As EU diplomats have refused to distance themselves from one of the three leading parties-indeed the dominant force in Lviv-Putin was able to play on fears in Crimea as a counter measure.

Tetyana Chernovil may well be a brave journalist but her presence could be mere symbolism to appease the crowds in Kiev. The danger is that the takeover of Crimea by special forces aligned to the Kremlin could lead to the shaky new Ukrainian government taking rash actions to get it back.

The crisis over Ukraine is the consequence of shoddy realpolitik from both west and east whereby both sides, in this hyped up 'New Cold War', have been prepared openly to back extreme nationalists so long as it suits their geopolitical power games for control over Eastern Europe.

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