2015.09.08 13:45

J. Bugajski: do not rely on the EU’s noble rhetoric: build up effective defenses

War is taking place in Ukraine, on the Eastern borders of the EU. As observers in Ukraine have reported, troops and techs from Russia invade Donbas region. Kyiv asks the EU for real help. Germany refuses, and Finnish prime minister says the EU has no power to help. The annexation of Crimea seems almost forgotten. What do you think about this situation?

War is taking place in Ukraine, on the Eastern borders of the EU. As observers in Ukraine have reported, troops and techs from Russia invade Donbas region. Kyiv asks the EU for real help. Germany refuses, and Finnish prime minister says the EU has no power to help. The annexation of Crimea seems almost forgotten. What do you think about this situation?

Moscow calculated that EU sanctions in response to its attack on Ukraine would be limited and that most EU capitals would accept the fait accompli in Ukraine, as they did in Georgia's South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008.

However, it also miscalculated that both Brussels and Washington would restrain Kyiv from launching counter-insurgency operations against Russia's proxies in the Donbas. As a result, it has had to increase its supply of mercenaries and weapons to the pro-Russia forces in Donetsk and Luhansk.

While there is little immediate prospect of stricter Western sanctions, unless Moscow stages an overt invasion, Ukraine is steadily reclaiming the entire Donbas with Western approval. Unfortunately, Crimea is barely mentioned by Western leaders, and the Kremlin is banking that the annexation will be forgotten if not accepted.

– The EU used to speak about values. What about the value of human lives, taken by Russian mercenaries in Ukraine? What about the value of international treaties, Helsinki Accords? Let’s recall Helsinki 1975: inviolability of frontiers; territorial integrity of states; peaceful settlement of disputes; non-intervention in internal affairs. Are all of these of insufficient value for the EU?

– Despite its noble rhetoric, the EU's chief value seems to be "peace at all cost" and this is twined with "business at all cost." International treaties and principles are less important for most West European capitals than enabling Western corporations to invest in Russia and allowing Russian money to be invested in Western banks.

By economically enmeshing the EU in business, trade, and energy over the past decade, Moscow has contributed to neutralizing European reactions to Putin's expansionist policies.

– Recently Finland's president has met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. With tensions running high between Russia and the EU, Putin has not hosted any bilateral meeting with an EU leader on Russian soil since February's Sochi Winter Olympics. Do you believe in the EU’s capability to have an effectual common stance towards Russia? Why?

The EU does not have an effective common stance toward virtually any foreign policy issue, as evident in its weak commitment to the continent's security and its resistance to emplacing NATO infrastructure within the "front line" states, such as Poland and Lithuania.

As one Polish commentator recently quipped in Gazeta Wyborcza: Europe expects 300 million Americans to defend 500 million Europeans against less than 150 million Russians-

– Do you think Ukraine, abandoned by the West, is going to win the war in Donbass? What are the probable scenarios?

There is a new sense of national unity and determination in Ukraine not to lose territory to Putin's proxies. Ukrainian forces have certainly improved their capabilities since the invasion of Donbas and could retake both Donetsk and Luhansk within a few weeks unless there is a more massive Russian intervention.

However, Putin is unlikely to surrender all the enclaves he has captured in Donbas as this would mean reversing his nationalist ambitions about "protecting Russian compatriots" in neighboring states. He will continue to fuel a low intensity war in eastern Ukraine and promote the destabilization of the country through economic pressures and other means.

For Moscow, Ukraine cannot become a successful and integrated state moving toward the EU, as this would undermine the entire Eurasia Union project that envisages Russia as a major "pole of power" distinct from the West, and on which Putin has staked his legacy.

– The Budapest Memorandum of 1994 provides security assurances for Ukraine by its Western signatories: the United States of America, and the United Kingdom. What about these obligations that the US and Britain once undertook?

– There are different ways of reading the Budapest Memorandum. The signatories do not interpret it as an obligation to provide security assistance to Ukraine, as they try to avoid a direct military conflict with Russia.

In reality, the existence of the memorandum does highlights one key principle for all states neighboring Russia: do not be fooled or disarmed by paper agreements but make sure that you build up effective defenses and deterrents against foreign aggression, whatever form this takes.

T. Urbelionio (BFL) nuotr.

– Will Ukraine be given the non-NATO ally status by the US? What would be the consequences?

There is a bill to this effect introduced in the US Congress, but it is unclear whether it will pass as Congress is entering an election cycle. The Russian Aggression Prevention Act proposes to provide the status of a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) to Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

If passed this would entail closer links between the US and Ukrainian militaries through exercises, training, equipment, and other forms of NATO security assistance. If passed, it could significantly assist the Ukrainian military to better defend itself against ongoing Russian attacks.

– Is Lithuania staying secure believing in NATO’s 5th article and the defense plans for the three Baltic states?

– It is always better to be safe than sorry by verifying the pacts and plans that are vital for national security. Contingency plans for defending Lithuania and the other Baltic states are important. But even more important are concrete actions, including emplacing the infrastructure and equipment necessary to help ensure the mutual defense of vulnerable allies. In addition, NATO has to make better preparations for the kind of unconventional subversion and covert war that Moscow has launched against Ukraine and could try to emulate elsewhere in the region.

– Lithuania’s minor voice blaming Russia for imperial ambitions has been considered to be anti-Russian “hysteria” by the West almost up until now. However, Western partners are ready now to point out that Lithuania fails to reach 2 per cent GDP considering her military budget. I wonder, what is the way to persuade a society to sacrifice welfare for military spending while even your NATO partners say that your foe is a fake?

Lithuanians have to act for their own national interests whatever the delusions of EU countries that feel safe because they do not border Putin's Russia.

Lithuania should act in unison with its nearest neighbors in forging a new security concept about the Russia threat, it must canvass for NATO infrastructure in the region, and it should help develop a range of expertise in combating Kremlin subversion, whether in the ethnic, economic, energy, informational, or cyberspace "fronts." It is better to sacrifice some of one's welfare for security than to sacrifice one's security for temporary welfare. Ultimately, without security and freedom there is no welfare.