Europe at the crossroads between conflict and peace

Europe at the crossroads between conflict and peace

Final results are not yet in from Ukraine's parliamentary elections on Sunday, October 26, although we assume the new parliament will strengthen President Petro Poroshenko's position, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.

The Crimea did not vote. The so-called People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk will vote separately in November. This demonstrates the divide with the two areas of eastern Ukraine.

The elections also affect relations between the West and Russia because Ukraine is a bone of contention over deeper causes.

GIS summarised the background and scenarios in our report of October 24, 2014.

Russia is not interested in incorporating Donetsk and Luhansk into its orbit as it has with Crimea. Keeping these two areas as more autonomous parts of Ukraine, protected by Russia, provides Russia with great influence on decisions in Kiev. This demonstrates success for the Kremlin.

Ukraine faces the following alternatives:

- Internal ‘Europeanisation’ with the ceasefire bringing peace. This sees President Poroshenko succeeding in meeting his targets for Ukraine by defeating corruption and accountability problems and relaunching its economy. Ukraine would have efficient free trade agreements with the European Union and the Eurasian Union. This would be the best-case scenario.

- Ukraine fails to reform its governance and remains ‘piggy-in-the-middle’ between east and west.

- Internal Ukraine conflicts remain with strong Russian influence in the east. A Bosnia-like situation arises.

But the bigger picture leaves unresolved differences between Russia and a disunited European Union and a somewhat differing US. These differences have existed for a long time but only surfaced during the Ukraine crisis which began in November 2013.

- The best-case scenario would see Europe and the US negotiating with Russia. This should be done at political not bureaucratic level, with the objective of shaping future relations in mutual understanding. This would respect the sovereign rights of countries such as Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Trade would be opened between the blocks and these countries.

- A renewed Cold War with the crisis in Ukraine continuing and likely to spread to Moldova, Georgia, the Balkans and the Arctic, Black and Baltic Seas. Everybody would lose and Russia would be driven closer to China.

This second scenario could lead to a third one, a real military conflict between Nato and Russia on a war footing, particularly if conflicts emerge in the Pacific. This could only be avoided by a credible European defence.

Europe, in reshaping its relations with Russia, has to support the sovereignty and independence of Russia’s neighbours. But it has to understand that Russia's concerns, feelings and interests cannot be ignored.

It also has to understand that clear, strong and united long-term European policies, have to be defined by Europe and coordinated with the US. America is crucial, as Europe has no credible defence on its own.

It is unlikely in the current situation that the EU can shape and negotiate a credible strategy. Relevant European countries, including Germany, France, the UK and Poland, and hopefully Sweden, would be needed to do this. For its part, the US would have to stop the harsh statements against Russia which emanate from its internal political squabbles between Republicans and Democrats.

There is a lot of homework to be done by European governments and the US to overcome the lack of statesmanship and foreign policy strategy.

There is nobody at the helm at the moment and it is five to 12. But it is not yet too late to act.

Related reports

Ukraine elections could resolve its dependence on Russia and Europe

Russia contests Nato's Black Sea strength

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