Sunday

9th May 2021

EU 'missed warning signs' in run-up to Ukraine crisis, report says

The European Union and its national governments made “important analytical mistakes” and “missed the warning signs” in the run-up to the crisis in Ukraine, a report by a group of members of the UK's House of Lords has concluded.

The authors, members of the upper parliament's EU committee, wrote that the EU lacked proper intelligence-gathering and misread Russia's intentions.

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  • The EU's enlargement policy in eastern Europe has created “unrealistic expectiations” says the report (Photo: European Commission)

“An element of ‘sleep-walking’ was evident in the run-up to the crisis in Ukraine”, said the report, published Friday (20 February).

Part of the sleep-walking was a result of a lack of Russia experts in foreign ministries, the authors write.

“A loss of collective analytical capacity has weakened Member States’ ability to read the political shifts in Russia and to offer an authoritative response.”

The EU did not accurately judge the combination of factors that led to the crisis in Ukraine, which started when the then Ukraine president Yanukovych unexpectedly refused to sign a trade agreement with the EU.

Pro-Russian president Yanukovych’s fled Ukraine following mass protests. Following Yanukovych’s exit, Russia annexed Crimea and Russian-backed separatistst have waged war in eastern Ukraine.

A ceasefire accord struck last week is unravelling, while Russia continues to flex its muscles.

“Collectively, the EU overestimated the intention of the Ukrainian leadership to sign an Association Agreement, appeared unaware of the public mood in Ukraine and, above all, underestimated the depth of Russian hostility towards the Association Agreement.

The authors also criticised a “decline” in national governments' ability to oversee the evolution of the EU-Russia relationship, which was "based on the optimistic premise that Russia has been on a trajectory towards becoming a democratic ‘European’ country”.

“EU enlargement, as it has become conflated with NATO enlargement, has also taken on the aspect of a security threat. These views are sincerely and widely held in Russia, and need to be factored into Member States’ strategic analyses of Russian actions and policies.”

The report said the EU's enlargement policy in eastern Europe has created “unrealistic expectations” in former Soviet Union states that are part of its Eastern Partnership programme, and “complicates Russia’s relationship both with these countries and with the EU”.

The report suggests that the EU assess its stategic interests in the eastern neighbourhood, and subsequently “put forward a strategy to communicate the EU's future policies to Russia”.

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