As this blog recently pointed out 10 challenges facing Ukraine, it is now time for those living in Western democracies to question their leaders and demand a new relationship between their countries and Russia:
1 As the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) continues to be carried out in eastern Ukraine, many Ukrainian citizens (including 200+ servicemen) have been kidnapped, tortured, and/or killed by armed militants. Strong evidence based on numerous reports of captured Russian citizens and informants in Ukraine suggest that Russia is supplying weapons to these groups
A recent video filmed in the liberated city of Slovyansk clearly shows new “made-in-Russia” weapons were seized by the Ukrainian army. As such, citizens should be demanding from their leaders to re-evaluate their country’s economic, political, and diplomatic ties with Russia as it continues to covertly and not-so covertly support terrorists while violating the sovereignty of an independent country.
2 French president Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both hesitated while responding to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and subsequent killings of Ukrainian troops by pro-Russian separatists and terrorists during the ceasefire initiated by the Ukrainian government.
For instance, both Hollande and Merkel have drawn “red lines” and have threatened so-called “third-level” sanctions against Russia but have ultimately not backed up their words with concrete actions. In addition, Ulrich Speck argues that “the annexation of Crimea by military means and the current threat of force along Russia’s border with Ukraine are massive attacks on the principles of international law as enshrined in the UN Charter. The attack on Ukraine is an attack on the very order that underpins Germany’s freedom, security, and prosperity. If international relations really are falling back into the logic of military aggression and territorial expansion, then alarm bells should be ringing in Germany.” Citizens of Germany and France must question their leaders’ hesitation to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, and government.
3 Economic links between France, Germany, and Russia are trumping Ukraine’s sovereign rights and determination to pursue closer ties with the EU. For example, France has sold two warships to Russia worth $1.6 billion, which could be potentially used in operations or conflict against NATO in the future. The first ship is to be delivered by the end of the year.
Moreover, German businesses are heavily invested in Russia while being aware of the level of corruption and lack of rule of law. According to The Economist, “Germany alone accounts for almost a third of the EU’s total exports to Russia. And Russia is Germany’s 11th-biggest export market, worth €36 billion ($48 billion) last year.”
Positions of Germany and France also seem to be weak when NATO’s response has been clearly critical of Russia. Christopher Sultan pointed out in Spiegel Online that Germany “can no longer hide behind others. Instead, Germany can lead Europe to an independent political role. It must offer an outlook to Russia in its yearning to become part of the West. But it must also set clear boundaries if Moscow reintroduces violence as a political tool and threatens allies.”
As NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently said, “There is no doubt that Russia is heavily involved in destabilizing the eastern part of Ukraine. They allow a flow of weapons and equipment and also fighters across the border into Ukraine. We call on Russia to stop supporting the separatist groups. And we call on Russia to withdraw troops from the Russia-Ukraine border. We have seen recently a new build-up of Russian troops in the border region.” Back in April, NATO released a fact sheet to respond to Russian propaganda machine. It is worth considering what NATO is saying regarding long-term security when dealing with Russia.
It is imperative that French and German citizens press their politicians by questioning what is to be gained in the long-term from arming a country, which has annexed a part of an independent state and could potentially be a threat to peace in Europe as a whole.
4The United States and Canada have been strong in their support of Ukraine through some financial assistance and targeted sanctions against Ukrainian and Russian individuals involved in Crimea’s annexation and violence in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, Canada continues to express its support for Ukraine as evidenced by a recent three-day trade and development mission led by Minister of International Trade Ed Fast. Yet, both countries can do more to help Ukraine’s government while it restructures and implements much-needed reforms. If both the US and Canada don’t agree with the European Union on how to deal with Russia in the long-term, however, the next conflict between the West and Russia could be potentially over the Arctic. What will the voters in Canada and the US say then?5 Last but not least, the United Nations has responded weakly to the crisis in Ukraine. Although the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 68/262 condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea with support of 100 countries, Russia continues to yield its veto power on the Security Council to prevent any meaningful resolutions that would allow the UN to assist Ukraine. This further illustrates the need for UN reform, and especially the archaic veto power that reflects the immediate post-World War II world. The world has the changed since then, and so should the UN.