Ukraine Crisis Recurs, US and EU Differ
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 11, 2015
Executive Summary: Ukraine finds itself caught between Europe and Russia. Taiwan can empathize. Today Eastern Europe. Tomorrow the Taiwan Strait. The international situation and domestic situation constantly impinge upon each other. We must learn a lesson from the crisis in Ukraine.
Full Text Below:
Europe now faces a triple crisis. One. Former Middle Eastern and North African colonies are experiencing outbreaks of terrorism. Immigrants are importing these conflicts to continental Europe. Two. The economic integration of Europe is being undermined by imminent Greek withdrawal from the Eurozone. Three. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a crisis in Eastern Europe and the resumption of fighting. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the most besieged. She must deal with the Greek debt relief problem, and convince Obama not to add fuel to the fire.
Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine will begin four party talks today in Minsk. They will redraft peace agreements on the crisis in Eastern Ukraine. Pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine recently launched a fierce offensive. They expanded their occupied areas. The Russians used the opportunity send troops. Ukraine was overwhelmed. Germany, France, and other European countries of course hope that the two sides can reach a ceasefire and establish a DMZ to maintain stability. But the United States is determined to provide Ukraine with arms, to bolster its military capabilities against the rebels and Russian troops. Europe and the United States disagree on how to handle the crisis in Eastern Ukraine. They agree on the ends but differ on the means. Both sides want to lend Ukraine a helping hand. But they hope to employ very different means.
Such is the tragedy in Ukraine. They lack the ability to resist either outside aggression or internal strife. They can only rely on assistance from other countries. Suppose US weapons stream in? At best they will enable the Ukrainian military to hold the line. They will not enable it to win. The result will be prolonged war and endless unrest. This is why Merkel opposes Obama's "no troops, only weapons" aid plan.
Two republics in Eastern Ukraine have declared their independence. Fierce fighting is taking place between the rebels and government forces. So far the unrest has caused the death of over 5000 people. Locally 1.25 million inhabitants have fled their homes. Last September the two sides reached a ceasefire agreement. But their armies continued fighting. The peace agreement was for naught.
The West has accused Russia of crossing the border and supplying the rebels with arms and troops. But Europe and the United States are reluctant to send troops to Ukraine. Before NATO's eastward expansion it dared not include Georgia. Now, if it includes Ukraine, Russia will inevitably react. Therefore some advocate providing Ukraine with defensive weaponry to counterbalance the Russian military. One US think tank recently proposed providing Ukraine with lethal weapons. Secretary of Defense Carter agreed with this proposal during a congressional hearing. At that same moment, US Secretary of State Kerry was in Kiev. The rumor was that final negotiations over the weapons were then in progress.
Some NATO countries, such as Poland and the Baltic states, have also agreed to provide Ukraine with arms. But larger European countries such as Germany and France think that providing only arms without sending US troops will merely intensify the conflict and widen the conflagration. Hardliners think that improving Ukraine's fighting ability will result in body bags arriving in Russia. Putin will then be forced to withdraw. But this approach is likely to be counterproductive. The Russian economy has deteriorated. But Putin's poll numbers remain as high as 72%. This is due to Ukraine. Putin says the Ukrainian army is merely NATO's "Foreign Legion". The arrival of NATO or US weaponry will merely confirm his allegation. Putin's plan is to escalate the civil war in Ukraine into a conflict between NATO and Russia. This will ensure Russian unity, drive up international oil prices, and resolve the financial crisis.
Europe and the United States now differ on the Ukraine crisis. Merkel of Germany and Hollande of France are worried about the situation deteriorating. On the fifth, they suddenly went to Kiev, then on to Moscow to meet with Putin. They proposed a "demilitarized zone". Once Putin agreed, German, French, and Ukrainian leaders met in Belarus for a four party summit. Merkel personally met with Obama, hoping to get him to agree. Merkel stressed that a peace agreement may not succeed, but the conflict cannot be resolved by military means, because this is not merely a civil war. It could well become a "regional disaster".
Frankly, Ukraine cannot win the conflict by itself. Kiev must freeze the conflict. It must buy time, then use economic means to win Eastern Ukraine. Therefore the Ukrainian government must withdraw from the rebel-occupied zones. It must govern East Ukraine using a decentralized "federalist" model. Only that will enable it to ensure its territorial integrity. As for Russia, it is selling its oil and gas to Mainland China, India, and Turkey. That however, is merely a temporary measure. The long-term solution is to set aside its Cold War mentality, and find a way to coexist with the European Union and NATO. Blindly insisting on "buffer states" is obsolete.
European countries dealing with European affairs is perfectly justified. The United States is on the other side of the Atlantic. It does not understand the sensitive and delicate nature of the situation. Merkel stepped forward, just in time. Europe and the United States have a long and special relationship. The United States accounts for half of the military in NATO. It cannot be excluded from the negotiations. European and US coordination is essential.
Ukraine finds itself caught between Europe and Russia. Taiwan can empathize. Today Eastern Europe. Tomorrow the Taiwan Strait. The international situation and domestic situation constantly impinge upon each other. We must learn a lesson from the crisis in Ukraine.
2015-02-11 03:56:12 聯合報 社論