Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Five Questions Western Leaders Should Be Asking Themselves about the Crisis in Ukraine -- But Don’t Appear to Be

Paul Goble


            Staunton, August 26 – The leaders of major Western countries declare that they are seeking to find an answer to the crisis in Ukraine, but in order to find an answer, it is important that they begin to ask the right questions.  It is all too clear that many of them are not doing so – and the consequences for Ukraine and the world may be dire as well.


            Below are five questions which none of these leaders appear to be asking and yet which should be addressed if this crisis is not going to grow into a more serious one:


            First, if any country other than Russia had invaded and annexed part of the territory of one of its neighbors, would the first thing that the leaders of other powers worry about is ensuring that the country that was invaded take into account the feelings and needs of the country that did the invasion?


            Second, why are Ukrainian desires for integration with Europe and the West viewed as things that Europe and the West should temper in order to meet Russian demands – or at least viewed as having a lesser claim on Western governments than do the demands, including those that are illegal under international law, emanating from Moscow?


            Third, if Russia’s Anschluss of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea is accepted as the price to pay for getting Moscow to promise to reduce its military backing of its agents in southeastern Ukraine, why should anyone think that Vladimir Putin would not employ the same strategy again, seizing one territory and destabilizing another to get the world to legitimize its first action?


            Fourth, as members of the United Nations, the Western leaders seeking to “resolve” the Ukrainian crisis are committed to the supremacy of citizenship over ethnicity. Vladimir Putin has proclaimed exactly the reverse with his stress on the importance of what he calls “the Russian world” over the citizenship of people in neighboring countries. If the West facilitates his actions by forcing Kyiv to bow to that idea, does anyone believe Putin won’t try it elsewhere?


            And fifth, given that the Russian government has violated its past undertakings to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, what basis is there for assuming that it can be counted on to respect any verbal commitments President Vladimir Putin or Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov make about the future?


            Unless Western leaders can come up with good answers to these questions – and doing so is likely to be impossible – they shouldn’t be rushing to help Russia with a solution to the crisis in Ukraine that doesn’t help Ukraine in any fundamental way.

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