A very bad idea is making the rounds. The idea is conveyed by the ambiguous statements of the High Representative for the Union’s Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. The idea, in substance, is that the EU’s 27 member states would give up negotiations on Kyiv’s accession to the Union in exchange for an end to the war and Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine.
It is not that we should be averse to thinking about possible means of saving the face of the Kremlin arsonist if these might stop the bloodbath that he has provoked. But one cannot pretend to believe that the process of Ukraine’s accession to the Union – a process that would otherwise be open-ended and not concluded – might constitute a threat to Russia. Nor that the Russian president himself considers it more threatening than the EU’s heavy economic sanctions and the military assistance provided to Ukraine by the European countries.
Those who pretend to believe that an indefinite postponement of the EU accession process would be a security guarantee for Russia are not seeking to avoid “provoking” Putin. What they seek to avoid is for European countries to be involved in Ukraine’s future. That approach is not only wrong, it is impossible. The future of the whole European Union depends on how this war, which will change the geopolitical coordinates of the European continent, is ended.
Insofar as the security question also concerns Russia, as the Russian president has repeatedly emphasised in recent months, it is on this security question and not on the EU-Ukraine accession question that solutions must be found to satisfy both parties – on one side Russia; on the other, Ukraine, the EU countries and the USA.
It is a caricature to reduce such an approach to the concept of Finlandisation, a notion that is unjustly reviled when one considers that it allowed the Finns to avoid Soviet abominations and preserve most of their freedoms for five decades.
The demilitarisation of Ukraine demanded by President Putin is clearly a provocation and therefore unacceptable. Nonetheless, a decision by Ukraine to freeze its NATO membership application for a period of ten or fifteen years, together with a parallel decision by Russia not to station forces in Belarus for the same period, could constitute two initial elements of the embryo of a compromise that might save the Russian president’s face.
But, as President Putin’s actions over the past 15 years have taught us, security is not just a military issue – not for the Ukrainians, not for other European countries, and not for the United States. Hence the need for Ukraine and the European countries to create the conditions for consolidating what is essential: Ukraine’s freedom, the strengthening of its rule of law and democratic system, and its future economic prosperity. This is the primary reason to begin the process of Ukraine’s accession to the Union, urgently and without delay. The leaders of eight countries – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – have already spoken out to support it.
Olivier Dupuis, former Member of the European Parliament, Belgium
Carmelo Palma, journalist, coordinator of “Italia europa’
(Translation by Harry Bowden | Voxeurop)