Western nations underwrite Ukraine’s transition

(By Deutsche Welle) Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the EU and US have promised billions in financial aid to shore up the embattled government in Kyiv. DW takes a look at how Brussels and Washington are using the funds.

As Ukraine’s cash-strapped interim government fights a costly battle against an armed pro-Russian uprising in the country’s east, Western nations have agreed to transfer billions in aid to help Kyiv survive its escalating economic and political confrontation with Moscow.

On Wednesday (07.05.2014), Ukraine’s central bank announced that it received $3.19 billion (2.29 billion euros) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the first tranche of a $17 billion international bailout. With the IMF deal concluded, Kyiv has successfully fulfilled the precondition for a European Union aid package totaling 11 billion euros.

Meanwhile, the US Congress has approved some $1 billion in loan guarantees for Ukraine. Additionally, Washington has signed off on tens of millions of dollars of broadly defined “security assistance” for countries in Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine. So far, the White House has said that it opposes delivering weapons to Kyiv.

“The United States has given some money but ultimately Ukraine is in the EU’s backyard; Ukrainians have protested under an EU flag; it’s up to the EU to support Ukraine in this process of transformation,” Amanda Paul, with the European Policy Centre, told DW.

“But of course it’s quite a leap of faith given Ukraine’s track record in carrying out reform[…],” Paul said.

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Putin’s power play jeopardizes Eurasian Union plans

(By Deutsche Welle) President Vladimir Putin aims to create an Eurasian Union where the Soviet Union once reigned. But Moscow’s intervention in Crimea could make former Soviet republics think twice about deeper integration with Russia.

During his annual address to the Russian parliament back in 2005, President Putin publicly lamented the collapse of the Soviet Union, calling it “a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” The former KGB man laid out his solution to this “disaster” in a 2011 newspaper editorial, in which he called for the creation of an Eurasian Union.

“First, none of this entails any kind of revival of the Soviet Union,” Putin wrote in the daily Izvestia. “It would be naïve to revive or emulate something that has been consigned to history. But these times call for a close integration based on new values and a new political and economic foundation.”

“We suggest a powerful supranational association capable of becoming one of the poles in the modern world and serving as an efficient bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region,” he continued.

Neighboring Belarus and Kazakhstan have signed up to join Russia in this integration project. In 2010, the three ex-Soviet republics formed a common customs union. Meanwhile, they have agreed to make the Eurasian Economic Union a reality by January 1, 2015.

“According to Putin, it has to be a political alliance, not only the customs union, with supranational institutions that will be hosted by Moscow and apparently dominated by Russia,” Lilia Shevtsova, a Russia expert with Carnegie Moscow, told DW.

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Bound by treaty: Russia, Ukraine and Crimea

(By Deutsche Welle) The EU and the US have accused Russia of violating international law by intervening in Crimea. DW examines the agreements that are supposed to govern relations between Moscow and Kyiv.

As successor states to the Soviet Union, both Ukraine and Russia are signatories to the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Adopted in Helsinki in 1975, the document sought to promote détente during an era of Cold War geopolitical tensions in Europe.

With the end of the East-West confrontation, the CSCE evolved into the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world’s largest security forum. The OSCE has 57 member states, including Russia and Ukraine.

The Final Act obligates its signatories to “refrain…from the threat or use of force” against each other. According to the act, participating states “regard as inviolable one another’s frontiers” and “will refrain now and in the future from assaulting those frontiers.” They “will respect the territorial integrity of each of the participating states” and “will likewise refrain from making each other’s territory the object of military occupation.”

In addition, the participating states agree to “refrain from any intervention, direct or indirect, in the internal or external affairs” of another participating state.

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Trade ties expose EU, US rift over Russia sanctions

(By Deutsche Welle) The EU and the US have threatened Russia with punitive measures if Moscow does not reduce tensions in Ukraine. But some European countries are reluctant to impose sanctions due to close trade ties with Russia.

Scrambling to react to the crisis in Crimea, the Obama administration has threatened Russian officials with visa bans and asset freezes, if the Kremlin refuses to roll back its military intervention in the Black Sea peninsula. But the European Union has proven reluctant to follow suit, holding out hope that diplomacy can resolve the Cold War-style crisis on its doorstep.

The White House has already suspended military ties and trade talks with Moscow, while the entire Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations have agreed to not participate in preparations for their summit in Sochi this June. Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers met in Brussels on Monday, where they strongly condemned “the clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by acts of aggression by the Russian Federation.”

Although the EU threatened to suspend bilateral talks with Moscow on trade and visa liberalization and “consider further targeted measures,” the bloc did not explicitly place the threat of economic sanctions on the table. The EU’s 28 leaders are scheduled to meet for an emergency summit on Thursday, where they will consider whether or not to impose punitive measures.

“It’s clear that everybody would like to see this crisis solved politically without imposing sanctions, because those would severely damage bilateral relations,” Paul Ivan, an expert on EU sanctions with the European Policy Center, told DW.

“Sanctions are the most serious measure you can take before going to war,” he said.

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EU, US unlikely to intervene on Ukraine’s behalf in Crimea

(By Deutsche Welle) With the immediate threat of a civil conflict in Kyiv averted, Ukraine’s crisis has now shifted to the Russian-majority region of Crimea. The region could become a flashpoint between Moscow and the West.

President Vladimir Putin placed combat troops in western Russia on alert Wednesday (26.02.2014), amid rising tensions between pro- and anti-Kremlin protesters in Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, where Moscow stations its Black Sea naval fleet.

Meanwhile, NATO defense ministers have reiterated their commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence.

“NATO allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers, as key factors of stability and security in central and eastern Europe and on the continent as a whole,” the defense ministers said in a joint statement after their meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US did not view the volatile political situation in Ukraine as a Cold War-style confrontation with Russia.

“This is not a zero-sum game, it is not a West versus East…,” Kerry said after meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Washington. “This is about the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians making their choice about their future,” Kerry added.

But there’s very little that the US and EU can actually do to help maintain Ukraine’s territorial integrity, according to Joerg Forbrig, an Eastern Europe expert with the German Marshall Fund. He cites the war between Georgia and Russia in 2008, in which Moscow’s military intervention led to the secession of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Tbilisi’s control. While the West engaged diplomatically, it was unable to prevent the division of Georgia.

“The West has very limited means of enforcing this message,” Forbrig told DW. “What we can clearly rule out is that the West would rush to the help of the Ukrainian government to safeguard this integrity.”

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