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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“Creole syndrome”

Expert in conflict resolution speaks about the “psychological” features of the idea to hold tripartite negotiations on the fate of Ukraine between the EU, Ukraine, and Russia
6 February, 2014 - 10:54
Sketch by Anatolii KAZANSKY from The Day’s archives, 1998

Following a series of meetings with European leaders, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk stated that the union’s member countries had not given in to the temptation of holding tripartite negotiations with the Kremlin’s involvement. “All our partners have reaffirmed that they treat Ukraine as a sovereign state and have no use for any additional formats, in which Russia would be de facto allowed to determine the future of Ukraine,” the Polish leader said. When speaking about additional formats, the Polish prime minister commented on the proposal put forward by... Ukrainian politicians. It was our side who either on its own initiative, or on advice of a good “friend” had launched the idea to invite Russia as a referee or mafia-like supervisor to the table of EU-Ukraine negotiations on the free trade area...

Let us recall that the idea to voluntarily limit our sovereignty by inviting Russia to the table of EU-Ukraine negotiations on the Association Agreement was first voiced by the then Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in December last year. At a meeting with ambassadors of European countries and the United States, he urged the EU to join the talks between Ukraine and Russia to resolve trade problems that had resulted from Ukraine’s preparations to sign the Association Agreement. According to Azarov, it was precisely because Russia agreed (!) to hold such talks a few days before the scheduled date of the Association Agreement’s signing that Ukraine had to abandon its intention to sign it on November 29. Many political figures repeated the tripartite talks idea later on, including an official from the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine.

Europeans, of course, have not gone for such proposals. Moreover, they virtually subjected Ukrainian leadership to public ridicule for its “self-abasement.” “The days of limited sovereignty are over in Europe. We have negotiated and initialed a deal with Ukraine, and when you conclude bilateral agreements, third party intervention is unacceptable. A bilateral agreement between the EU and Ukraine cannot be trilateral,” President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Durao Barroso stated after the summit of Eastern Partnership in Vilnius, and he was right...

However, it was former director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute Roman Szporluk who offered the most biting comment on the tripartite talks idea. He said the slogan “To Europe with Russia” lost its relevance as Vladimir Putin seemed to have decided to restore the empire.

Many Ukrainian leaders were afflicted by inferiority. In particular, Serhii Tihipko and Andrii Derkach created inter-factional MPs’ group “To Europe with Russia” in April 2001, while the then president Leonid Kuchma declared in April 2004 that Ukraine and Russia had common goal as “we are going to Europe, European values, its standard of living and democratic values.” The final degeneration of this idea came about at a time when Ukraine, unlike Russia, came very close to Europe.

The Day asked Doctor of Political Sciences, conflict resolution expert, Professor of Kyiv Shevchenko National University Hryhorii PEREPELYTSIA to comment on the above-published statement by the Polish prime minister and explain what is behind willingness of Ukrainian authorities to involve Russia in discussing our agreements with the EU.

“It came because Azarov thought of Ukraine as part of Russia, in other words, as another Krasnodar Krai. Of course, this region may not sign an association agreement with the EU, because it is part of Russia. It is an example of Soviet-era thinking which cannot imagine post-Soviet Ukraine as an independent international actor, but only as a province of sorts. Of course, provinces should toe the center’s line. Therefore, this complex of Soviet-Russian provincialism was always heavily influencing Azarov and that former Soviet nomenklatura milieu which Azarov represented. For them, it is perfectly normal to see Russia negotiating on behalf of Ukraine with the US and the EU, but then the question arises, whether Ukraine should even be an independent party to these negotiations. Certainly, the EU’s stance is clear – they see Ukraine as a sovereign and independent state, and the agreement as a bilateral one. This means that the Association Agreement may be signed by two, not three parties, that is, the EU and Ukraine. There may be only a consultation with third parties, not their participation in the negotiations on signing the agreement.”

In his speech at the Munich Security Conference, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Europe made a mistake when planning the future of Europe without or even against the Kremlin. However, he clearly said that for its part, Russia had to decide what its common interests with Europe are. How would you comment on the new chief of German diplomacy’s stance?

“Where are their common interests? The main conflict between Russia and Europe is over the values, and values are above any economic interests. While Europe proclaims the values of democracy, Putin believes democracy to be a plague. What common interests could there be in this situation, with such antagonistic stances? Establishment of a German-Russian condominium over Ukraine could be such a common interest, probably. But where would such a settlement leave Ukraine? After the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism, Europeans put forward the vision of Greater Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. Previously, it was General de Gaulle’s idea, in particular. This illusion is still alive in public opinion in Western Europe, particularly among modern European elites who think that Russia is necessary for Europe, and there are no divisions in the continent. But we see that divisions have, in fact, reappeared, and rivalry, that sometimes turns into a confrontation between Russia and Europe for geopolitical sphere of influence, is on. The summit in Vilnius was a perfect example of it.

“Of course, the Germans want to exploit Russia’s energy resources. There is a big market there which is an opportunity for the German big business. But then the question arises, whether they share Russia’s authoritarian values. We see a comeback of the specter of Munich-1938, when Western countries went into agreement with Nazi Germany, and in order to protect some common interests and pacify Adolf Hitler, they sold Czechoslovakia to him. What were the common interests of the West and Hitler? There were no such interests at all, unless you buy in the story of trying to direct Hitler’s aggression against the Soviet Union. Of course, Putin today cannot be compared to Hitler. But I bring up this analogy as a situation in which it is important to have a common interest. Europe can overlook authoritarianism of Putin or Alexander Lukashenko, but still, Europeans are faced with it.”

EU-Russia summit only lasted 2.5 hours instead of usual two days, and coordinator of German-Russian cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany Gernot Erler said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk that the EU and the US would provide financial assistance to Ukraine only if the opposition formed the new Cabinet. We see European attitude towards Russia changing, do not we?

“Of course, by trying not to conflict with Putin, the Europeans have reached the stage where Ukraine is not just a partner of the EU, but a problem country, too, and the current conflict in Ukraine is a huge threat to Europe itself. In this sense, Europe is entering the Ukrainian crisis not because it wants to integrate Ukraine, but because it needs to remove this threat to itself that comes with Ukraine engulfed in its internal conflict. After all, a civil conflict in the center of Europe, which, of course, would see Russian involvement, would destabilize Europe at least as much as the Balkan conflict did. Having learned from the Balkan conflict experience, the EU is afraid of such a scenario. It all, as noted by the chief of the Polish diplomacy Radoslaw Sikorski, would have apocalyptic consequences for both Ukraine and Europe. Therefore, in this case the EU is involved, not because it wants to counter Russia, but to defuse the conflict, prevent it from escalating into armed phase, from growing into a civil war. This is the reason between the EU linking sanctions to the level of violence in domestic conflict. The EU is concerned primarily about its own safety.

“Thanks to superhuman efforts of the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who traveled across Europe and spoke about the importance of resolving the situation in Ukraine, the Germans, for example, began to react to developments in Ukraine in a relatively reasonable manner.

“Therefore, in order to ensure stability in the EU, Germany, acting on behalf of the union, demands a new Cabinet, which, of course, cannot represent the actor that produced this situation, that is, Yanukovych-led ruling circle. Europeans understand that Andrii Kliuiev’s appointment as prime minister will only complicate things. Therefore, there must be some balance between the government and the opposition, some basis for constructive cooperation. Under the current Constitution, the president can destroy this unstable balance at any time.”

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day