Entrenched in Kantian thinking, many Europeans have convinced themselves that war has become impossible – in Europe at least, if not in Syria. They are wrong. By occupying Crimea, a small part of European territory, Vladimir Putin has declared war – not just on Ukraine, but also on Europe and the global community of democracies. The fact that he has done so without a war declaration, using forces in plain clothes, only makes his action worse.
Of course, Europe could re-enact the infamous story of the “Phoney War” (September 1939-May 1940). Just like during that time, various stories hit today’s headlines: scandals, fashion shows, large companies merging, upcoming elections, major sports events, unemployment… as well as pieces of news from the far boundaries of our land. Sudetenland yesterday. Ukraine today. Ukraine is far away. Brussels-Kiev: 1284 miles. Brussels-Athens: 1723 miles.
The EU could pretend not to hear all the sabre rattling. However, in a matter of days or even within a few hours, the Russian troops could cause death and devastation. They are lurking at the eastern and southern borders of Ukraine, ready to invade the cities of Kharkiv, Donetsk, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, Mykolayiv…
It is no longer a question of what prevails for the master of the Kremlin – a fear of losing his power and seeing his regime collapse, a will to give it a new life by restoring imperial power or pursuing massive economic interests in Ukraine and the Black Sea area. Now all these issues are one.
The EU and its member-States must stop doing “too little, too late” and admit that their failure to set up a real common foreign and security policy was due to a lack of political responsibility. They must side with NATO and the USA, and help members of the Senate to nudge the American President into taking a stronger stand.
The stakes are high: safeguarding ground rules that allow a common international life based on respect of law; containing the anti-democratic Russian regime; protecting Russia’s neighbouring countries; and last but not least, helping Ukraine maintain its sovereignty and consolidate the rule of law and democracy.
Vladimir Putin has declared war – on Ukraine by invading part of its territory; on the USA and the UK, who signed with Russia the Budapest memorandum (1994) guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for dismantling its nuclear weapons: on the whole of Europe by crossing the borders and invading part of a European sovereign State.
Can European States and the USA tolerate this military intervention on the pretence that there is no mutual assistance treaty binding them with Ukraine and merely stick to economic and diplomatic sanctions for the annexation of Crimea and the probable invasion of eastern and southern Ukraine by Russia?
Get real, Mr Putin
Absolutely not. Russian authorities should be aware that any military action in Ukraine would lead to a military response from the USA and European countries. Not just by providing support to Ukrainian forces but by taking action with NATO. Similarly to Mr Sikorski’s warning to Viktor Ianukovych, Vladimir Putin should be told the truth: any solution other than a return to the situation that was before the invasion and occupation of Crimea will be unacceptable.
In Europe, nothing will ever be the same again
Whatever Vladimir Putin finally decides – annexation of Crimea, annexation of most of Ukraine or a return home for the Russian troops – one thing remains certain: nothing will ever be the same again.
The EU has not sought to make enemies but it has got one now – no less than the largest and most populated European State. And not just any State. An imperial and imperialist dictatorship and the world’s second largest nuclear power.
The EU has failed to put into place a real common foreign, defence and security policy. In today’s context, this is no longer viable. EU States in the monetary union and those seeking to enter it should immediately increase their military expenditures of at least 25% and mutualise these new funds by creating a common European army along the lines of the Community method.
Weapon sales that have been agreed between EU member-States and the Russian Federation (Mistral warships, Iveco military transport, etc) should be cancelled and transferred to the common European army according to its needs and capacities.
The Dassault group should be divided into two branches: civilian activities under the control of the Dassault family and military activities under the control of Airbus. EU States or aircraft manufacturers would be free to become shareholders of this Airbus branch if they so wished.
On March 21, at the ceremonial signing of the political chapters of the EU/Ukraine Association Agreement, the EU must announce the immediate start of Ukraine’s integration process as soon as it is signed.
The USA, Canada, the 28 States and Switzerland must urgently set up a committee charged with gathering information about assets held by Vladimir Putin and his frontmen so that they can be frozen.
Finally, let’s stop thinking that we have humiliated Russia. Russia is a big country which has already humiliated itself. It didn’t need any help falling headlong into the historic tragedy of “real” Marxism-Leninism. It was Russia alone, unable to revamp itself after the fall of the USSR, which has fallen back into the clutches of the heirs of the KGB who carried out the old regime’s dirty work, allowing itself to be stripped of the legal and democratic advances that were introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Its regime simply cannot understand that imperial times have come to an end. That same regime sacrificed its own people during two wars in Chechnya (over 100,000 deaths). It invaded Georgia in 2008. And it is with the – implicit or explicit – blessing of that same regime’s leading figures that Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova, Sergei Magnitsky and hundreds of other journalists, human rights activists, political activists, businessmen were murdered, “poisoned”, “accidented” or “suicided”.