Thursday

17th Oct 2019

Opinion

EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin

  • War-damage in Ukraine - a conflict that has now been dragging on for five years (Photo: Evgeny Kaplin)

In the war waged by Vladimir Putin's Russia against Ukraine, the objective reality is that Moscow is the aggressor, in breach of international law, and Kiev is the aggrieved party.

Unfortunately, this rather obvious statement has increasingly fallen on deaf ears in Washington since Donald Trump took office, most recently after the American president suggested he would support Russia re-joining the G7.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Worse, European enthusiasm for safeguarding Ukraine's security and territorial integrity has, at least in some European countries, waxed and waned under pressure from Russia's economic and ideological influence over the continent.

Can the trend be reversed?

While the EU was indeed quick to express its solidarity with Ukraine in the wake of Trump's G7 comments, with Donald Tusk remarking that the reasons for Moscow's exclusion are more relevant than ever and suggesting it would be more appropriate to invite Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, the European bloc has been comparatively slow to weigh in on another dispute pitting Kiev against the Trump administration.

That conflict, as surreal as it is brazen, threatens not only Ukraine but basic norms of diplomacy.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been meeting with Ukrainian officials - apparently with US State Department assistance - and pushing them to investigate Joe Biden, Trump's main rival in the 2020 presidential elections.

Giuliani's murky role

Giuliani has kept up steady pressure, even after the Ukrainian prosecutor clarified there is "no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden or his son".

Aside from the tenuous nature of Giuliani's claims, this exceedingly cynical overture has put Kiev in a problematic position.

Good relations with the United States are pivotal for Ukraine -particularly while the Trump administration is holding up security funds earmarked for Kiev.

Giuliani claims to be acting as a private citizen, but the New York Times recently suggested he conditioned a meeting between Zelensky and Trump on Ukraine prosecuting Biden.

Samantha Vinograd, who served in both Barack Obama's and George W. Bush's administrations, considers that there is a true risk that Giuliani will "politicise diplomacy with Ukraine" and that Giuliani's highly unusual - and "likely illegal" - actions are putting pressure on Kiev to "support Trump's 2020 campaign".

In a far cry from Obama's days in office, Trump seems to be using Ukraine as a battleground on which to fight for re-election, a callous move which threatens our common security.

The European bloc should express its concern about Giuliani's use of his bully pulpit to pressure Ukraine's judicial system.

But this is hardly the only way in which the EU risks falling short of fully supporting Ukraine. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a serious threat to Ukraine, as well as to European energy security.

In spite of the compromise reached between Germany and the EU to force the project to respect European energy law, the project itself is a strategic surrender to Putin's Russia, while the resources it's set to generate could be a godsend for the Kremlin to intensify its war on Ukraine.

Incomprehensibly, France and Germany pushed for Russia to return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) over Kiev strenuous objections and without securing concessions from Moscow.

Despite arguments that Russia needed to be allowed back in so that Russian citizens could bring cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Moscow's return won't necessarily help Russian human rights activists: a 2015 Russian law allows the Constitutional Court to declare that the ECHR's decisions violate the Russian constitution and are therefore "not-executable".

These renewed efforts at dialogue with Russia are likely part of a deliberate strategy to ratchet down tensions and aim to end the Ukraine conflict.

But it's unlikely to succeed.

The EU should not make the mistake of believing the Kremlin's narrative, which revolves around Moscow's alleged humiliation at the hands of Brussels and Nato.

Likewise, European leaders must not underestimate the willingness of the Kremlin, often expressed by Putin and his advisers, to destroy the EU, to spread illiberal values, and to undermine both international organisations and the very principle of international law.

Putin's Russia is a systemic threat and we should not waver as long as Putin remains in power. With Trump unable to fill the US's traditional role of standing up to authoritarian regimes—and his inner circle even putting pressure on Kiev to investigate the Democratic frontrunner - Europe should take a harder line.

'To Do' list

As the former Czech minister of foreign affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg, superbly stated, "The fate of Europe will be decided in Ukraine".

How Europe handles Ukraine says a great deal about the credibility of the EU of a geopolitical project.

Hence, the EU should clearly state that Putin's Russia can never be considered as a "normal" power as long as:

1.Russia doesn't withdraw from Donbas and Crimea, and the border between Ukraine and Russia isn't safe

2. the remaining Ukrainian political prisoners unlawfully detained in Russia are not released

3. Moscow continues to perpetrate war crimes in Syria

4. Russia continues its meddling in democratic life in Western countries

5. Russia fails to allow an international investigation into the downing of the MH17 flight. The end goal would be for a return to democratic practices in Russia itself, and full compliance with human rights principles.

We must not dissociate events in Ukraine from the unconventional campaign the Kremlin is waging against the West, the Balkans, the Middle East and in some parts of Africa.

The EU must continue to stick to its founding principles, which means not lifting sanctions, and passing Magnitsky Acts in all EU countries.

We cannot carry out 'business as usual' with Putin's Russia - this will threaten not only Ukraine's integrity and sovereignty, but the entire so-called free world.

Last but not least, the long-term perspective of Ukraine's adhesion to the EU and to Nato must not be decided in Moscow, but by Ukraine itself and the councils of those organisations.

Author bio

Nicolas Tenzer is chairman of the Paris-based Centre for Study and Research for Political Decision (CERAP), author of three official reports to the French government, including two on international strategy, and author of 22 books.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

France calls Russia peace summit on Ukraine

France has called an EU summit with Russia on the Ukraine conflict following a prisoner exchange - but the Dutch are unhappy that Ukraine freed a witness of the MH17 atrocity.

My vision for the upcoming Ukraine-EU summit

Former Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko writes on the prospects for Monday's EU-Ukraine summit - the first under his successor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and against a backdrop of ongoing Russian aggression

Polish election: analysing why PiS won

Support for democracy was particularly low in Poland with only 19 percent consistently supporting democracy - only Hungary and Bulgaria scored lower.

Threat to Unesco park mars Montenegro's EU bid

The site contains Europe's second largest natural pasture and hundreds of local families depend on it, but part of it has been slated to become a military training ground.

New Dutch terror bill must not target aid workers

A controversial counterterrorism bill could end up criminalising aid workers in the Netherlands if they enter conflict hotspots when assisting the world's most vulnerable people.

News in Brief

  1. Thousands die early due to dirty air in European cities
  2. Catalan protestors begin march to Barcelona
  3. Last-minute Brexit talks continue ahead of EU summit
  4. Energy chief counts CO2 cost of SUV car trend
  5. Poland to criminalise sex education
  6. Russia: US will betray EU allies as it did Kurds
  7. Merkel and Macron to align EU summit positions
  8. Germany will not ban Huawei 5G network

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Column

The benefits of being unpopular

Paradoxically, the lack of popularity may be part of the strength of the European project. Citizens may not be super-enthusiastic about the EU, but when emotions run too high in politics, hotheads may take over.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  5. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  6. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  7. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  8. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  10. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  11. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us