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Europe must be wise and prevent an all-out war in Ukraine Europe must be wise and prevent an all-out war in Ukraine
by Christos Mouzeviris
2021-12-09 08:38:27
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US President Joe Biden and Russia's Vladimir Putin will speak via video call on Tuesday (07/12/2021), the White House says, amid mounting tensions over Ukraine. It comes after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US had evidence that Russia had made plans for a "large scale" attack on Ukraine. But he added it was unclear if Mr Putin had made a final decision to invade. Russia has denied any such intention, and accused Ukraine of executing its own troop build-up.

The conflict in Ukraine is not recent. In fact, it has been going on for more than 7 years now, mounting to a loss of life in the thousands; around 13,200 people were killed in the conflict, about 3,350 of them civilians, as of today. It is evident that this war won't stop, unless there is a decisive action, or the will by all sides involved to end it. So if the Russians have indeed plans to terminate it by invading, it will be Pyrrhic Victory for everyone no doubt.

put000001_400I have written many articles on Ukraine in the past, so I will try not to repeat myself. I feel for the Ukrainian people, because their land is a territory that is being "pissed on by the big dogs of the world", in order to mark their territory and sphere of influence. Who are these dogs? In one hand is Russia of course and USA on the other, with Europe being America's little poodle, siding always with its big brother or master. To me both sides are on the wrong, and Ukraine's population pays the price.

As I have already mentioned previously, the West ignores that Ukraine's population is (before Crimea's annexation) 17.3% ethnically Russian. So if the West thinks that integrating Ukraine it is institutions would be easy, while being constantly hostile to Russia is deluding itself. Unless of course it uses Ukraine to annoy and black-mail Russia, but has no real interest in including the country in its own sphere of influence.

The one point in which the Russians are right, is that Ukraine must never join NATO, even if it wants to. If it does, the USA will no doubt install missiles and military bases in its territory, and that understandably is something that Russia wishes to avoid. Except naturally, if by a miracle the US and Russia ever become friends and allies, something that could have happened, if NATO accepted Russia as a member when Putin himself, in the early days of his Presidency, allegedly wanted. If that outcome ever took place, it would save Europe a lot of trouble and headache, but I guess what would be the need for NATO then, plus how would USA and Russia would cooperate, if they both saw themselves as leaders or equal partners of the block?

If Ukraine wishes closer ties with the West, an EU membership should suffice. But is this something that Russia really wants and is willing to allow? We have many examples of countries being technically neutral, whilst in the EU; Austria, Finland, Ireland and Sweden. So I really do not understand Ukraine's or the EU's insistence on the country joining NATO as well, if this aspiration is something that will ultimatelly split Ukraine, politically or territorially because of Russian objection and fear.

With around 7 million ethnic Russians approximatelly in the country- that is equal or more than the Baltic states population in the EU, how does the West or Ukraine itself, envisage its military participation against a potential conflict with Russia for example? But once in the EU, the Russian minority could act as a link between the two blocks, if the Russians of Ukraine are allowed to be voted as MEPs in the European Parliament. They could help mending relations, assist the West better understand Russia and vice versa, and kickstart a new chapter in the European-Russian relations, something that we all need, especially Ukraine right now. Plus, this could act as the carrot, which will entice Russia to allow Ukraine into the EU.

Naturally, if Ukraine wants to join either institutions (NATO and EU), Russia cannot really stop it. But it can sabotage it with from within, as it does and that is something that just needs to be accepted no matter how wrong it is. The West has its own legacy of meddling and intervention (the Greek Junta back in the'70s for example, supported by the USA), so how can it point the finger towards the Russians now and expect them to just back off? Instead, we should try and reach the root of what drives the Russian leadership to such actions. What Russia most likely and conveniently takes into consideration,is the 1990 conversation was limited to discussion about unified Germany’s status in NATO. There was no promise or even a discussion about countries like Poland and Hungary.

Part of the persisting confusion stems from that fact that what was said at the time sounds pretty clear in retrospect. On January 31, 1990, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher declared, “What NATO must do is state unequivocally that whatever happens in the Warsaw Pact, there will be no expansion of NATO territory eastwards, that is to say, closer to the borders of the Soviet Union.” In February, Baker then told Gorbachev in Moscow that “there would be no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east.” Gorbachev then stated “any extension of the zone of NATO is unacceptable.” Baker replied, “I agree.”

However, U.S. officials backed away from these statements during the negotiations that followed, and the discussions focused on what troops and infrastructure would be allowed in the former East Germany, not whether a unified Germany would be a full member of NATO. Even Gorbachev agreed later that the entire discussion was about Germany and the terms of unification, not about the rest of Europe. (From Jim Goldgeier) The Russian hardliners though who back Putin, empowered by the West's humiliation efforts of Russia and lack of credence towards their country, prefer to react negatively towards any aspiration of their former territories-now independent democracies, to join the West.

In other words, because the US and Russia do not trust or understand each other, countries caught in the middle of their aspired "spheres of influence" suffer and will continue to suffer. Consequently, we get accusations and counter accusation by both sides, threats and propaganda, thus if God forbid this escalates into a full-on conflict between NATO and Russia, I cannot see any winners. Europe notably will pay a high price, especially these nations which are already in NATO; they will have no option but to take side and participate, while others such as Sweden and Ireland, will once more stay neutral and watch us as we destroy each other. The impact won't be equal either in the aftermath, as the rich "powers" of Europe will be able to recover faster, while small NATO members, especially those to the East, will either be obliterated or financially cripled for decades to come.

Therefore, this is not just about Ukraine any more. After 7 years with no solution in sight, and with increasing military presence, the whole stability of Europe is at stake. I urge both the Russian and the American leadership, as well that of the EU and Europe, to be cautious and reasonable. Solutions that have not been considered until now, must be taken into account in order to solve the stalemate once and for all.

put000002_400A new pact between the West and Russia should happen, a renewed approach and compromise, if not a serious effort for permanent reconciliation and peace. Firstly, the West must accept that Crimea has been permanently lost to Russia. A poll of the Crimean public in Russian-annexed Crimea was taken by the Ukrainian branch of Germany's biggest market research organization, GfK, on 16–22 January 2015. According to its results: "Eighty-two percent of those polled said they fully supported Crimea's inclusion in Russia, and another 11 percent expressed partial support. Only 4 percent spoke out against it. The West always rejects elections and referendums in Russian territories, but this was conducted by a German organization.

Understandably, Ukrainians oppose this and plead to the West to never recognise Crimea's annexation, nor any further loss of territory. But we have been through this many times before, not just in Ukraine but other territories, when the West refuses to recognise an outcome that Russia approves and vice versa, so we end up in stalemates that last decades and hinder any progress and prospetity in those regions. The West was happy to let Yugoslavia fall apart, its fragmentation to mini states and territories that can never become stable and prosperous without European financial support or EU membership. It activelly took part to the complete disintegration of Yugoslavia in order to guarantee peace near Europe's borders and generally in the continent, however now it stands stubbornly firm against any loss of territory in Ukraine.

Russia won't change under Putin, we know this. Especially since the US insists like a child to keep reminding them that they lost and treat them as the losers. The more the West treats Russia as the enemy because of Putin, the more Putin or someone like him-once he eventually is forced to withdraw from the country's leadership (he will not live forever) will be a villain to the West and try to sabotage any plans for European expansion to the East. The solution either we like it or not, lies solely in colaboration and cooperation, or even reconciliation.

Depending the extend of the damage this conflict has done to Ukraine, we must consider the partition of the country, or its restructuring and reformation to a more federal political entity like Spain or the UK. If the Russian minority cannot remain citizens of their country, without retaliation by the Ukrainian majority, then we must accept partition like Kosovo and Serbia. Or sadly even the redrawing of the borders between Russia and Ukraine. If their differences can be solved by greater autonomy for the Russian majority teritories, then a Spanish/British model could work (assuming that "Spain" or the "United Kingdom" work); besides, aren't we all in Europe heading for a federal model? However they can never be part of Ukraine again, unless not only the country, but the West itself restore their relations with Russia.They will keep acting as Russian pawns indefinitely, to sabotage Ukrainian entry into Western institutions.

Of course, there are no guarrantees that even if Ukrainians accept the above radical and unpopular for them solutions, Russia will cooperate and let the country join the West. It is then when European and American diplomacy and change of attitude towards Russia must happen, to assure that Ukraine's entry into the EU can be of benefit to Russia, via the Russian ethnic minority, should they of course wish to stay Ukrainian citizens. NATO expansion won't happen and will not be a requirement for EU expansion in the future and potential Eastern European members. Unless of course Russia and the USA solve their differences and missunderstandings. Anything is better than an invasion or war. We should not let WW2 mentality and its aftermath, poison our future.

We have gone through a financial crisis and recently a pandemic, both which left European citizens tired, economically strained, angry and prone to euroscepticism. A war between NATO and Russia, or further sanctions and counter sanctions, instability in Ukraine will destroy all the progress we have made and test us even more, but not everyone equally. Some will be able to cope, others to stay neutral, few may gain but ultimately, nobody will remain the same. I believe the Russian citizens do not really want another generalized war, so Putin may find himself at odds with his own voters too, if the reason is Ukraine for their own suffering. So, leaders of Europe, Russia and America, can you please take into consideration that your citizens want no more wars, but peace and stability? I for one, have no interest in any country's supremacy,or to maintain the Cold War mentality and politics. What I wish is for Europe to be a united, peaceful and prosperous continent for everyone in it. 

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