Amanda PAUL, political expert, program director of the European Policy Center, Brussels
So much time has passed since the Russian annexation of Crimea, and Russian security services are now operating in eastern Ukraine, inciting the so-called separatists who are actually armed terrorists aiming to destabilize the situation in the country and eventually make the Ukrainian government to submit to the Kremlin’s will. It seems, though, that Europeans and especially Europe’s business community do not understand how dangerous the Putin regime is. Why? Is it mass media’s fault or leaders of the EU are incapable of explaining it?
“At a time of austerity much of the EU business community does not want to sacrifice business and trade with Russia for Ukraine. Many people do not believe that EU economies should have to suffer because of what many view as a problem between Ukraine and Russia. The business community wants to maintain and even deepen its investments in Russia. There is a sense that Ukraine should be able to resolve its crisis with Russia without EU member states having to become involved. There is a serious lack of understanding about the severity of this crisis and what it means for European security and the future geopolitical map of Europe.”
What can the West do to, quoting US President Barack Obama, force Vladimir Putin to abandon his intention to subdue Ukraine?
“Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the tens of thousands of troops amassed on the border of eastern Ukraine have brought what was believed to be a thing of the past back to Europe: territorial conflict and the change of borders by force. The West needs to stop pussy footing around and move to what they have been talking about and threatening for weeks – tough economic sanctions including in the financial and banking sector, that will strike those people who are part of Putin’s inner circle, begin to strangle the Russian economy and further erode investor confidence in Russia. When Russia’s economy starts to be flushed down the drain, Putin may find himself in deep trouble. However, whether this will be enough to stop his action regarding Ukraine is not clear as Ukraine is a very personal issue for Putin.”
What do you think about German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s initiative, offering to organize a roundtable between the EU, the US and Russia to resolve the Ukrainian crisis? After all, we have already had the Geneva Declaration on de-escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and on its eastern borders, bearing the signature of Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“Russia never had any intention of implementing the Geneva Declaration. This diplomatic paper tiger just allowed Russia more time to move around pieces on the chessboard while at the same time allowed the West more time to drag out diplomacy. Russia has lied since the beginning of this process and Foreign Minister Lavrov’s commitment to implementing the Declaration was simply a continuation of these lies.”
It is often said that Putin uses the tools of the 19th century, and the question arises how the West can do business with the Russian president using the tools of the 21st century, which have not affected the policy of the Kremlin so far. What would you say to that?
“Until now the EU/US strategy towards Russia has been based on the belief of a number of principles including respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty. Russia has challenged this in a very aggressive and ugly way which has shocked the world. However, the West will not turn back the clock and fight Putin on a 19th century playing field and Putin knows this. There will be no military intervention into Ukraine. The West needs a new strategy, it needs to find a recipe that will prevent Russia from threatening and bullying its neighbors. So far they did not find this recipe.”