What is Ukraine expecting from the visit of the German Chancellor? The answer is simple – a lot. However, if Merkel confines herself only to calls for the peaceful settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, this will be the dead-end of European diplomacy on Ukraine, writes Bohdan Sumenko.
Bohdan Sumenko is co-founder of the Information and Analytical Center Content and Consulting in Ukraine.
Scheduled for 23 August, on the eve of Independence Day, the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Ukraine will spoil the mood of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. As of late, he has preferred to communicate with the former president of Ukraine Yanukovych on his own terms.
We could imagine Putin and Yanukovych observing together the official part of Merkel’s visit to Kyiv. And then Putin will calm Yanukovych down and will explain to him that it is the US to blame … and, once more, he will promise to him that Russia will declare a war against Ukraine…
In this context, the words of Strobe Talbott, America’s former Deputy Secretary of State, are significant: “Russia invaded Ukraine early in the spring,” Talbot told the Huffington Post. “They started with the so-called “little green men” — Russian soldiers without insignia on their green uniforms — then proceeded with uniforms with epaulets and the annexation of Crimea. Russia has been the force behind, and on the ground, with the separatists in eastern Ukraine. It is an invasion that is already well in place.”
The symbolism of the visit to Ukraine of the most influential leader among the European countries is an issue in itself. Putin is unlikely to be able once again to ignore, at the international level, any agreement reached between Chancellor Merkel and President Poroshenko. There is a hypothetical possibility that Merkel has a present in stock for Ukraine, which will make the Russian leader more compliant on the Ukrainian issue.
Undoubtedly, the visit is important, first of all for Ukraine. Merkel is a great leader of a great EU country, perhaps the most important.
At the same time, it cannot be ruled out that Merkel, as an extremely experienced European politician, would not openly take the side of either in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict over her visit. The list of the priority questions to be discussed by the leaders of Germany and Ukraine is well known. On the one hand, the international agenda, with Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian territories and the outbreak with the support by Russia of the military conflict in southeastern Ukraine. On the other hand, Ukraine could become a test case for the territorial ambitions of Russia, which with the EU’s quiet consent, may lead to drastic changes of the geopolitical and energy maps of Europe. Nobody would possibly dare to blame Merkel for her desire to protect the business of her fellow countrymen who may suffer from the EU sanctions against Russia. Besides, there are still too many pro-Russian lobbyists for the South Stream gas pipeline project in Europe.
Germany has taken the leading role for the diplomatic settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict since its very beginning. Until Merkel’s scheduled visit to Ukraine, the effort has failed to come to fruition. As it is known, “a war begins where diplomacy ends”. No one is willing to believe that this is the last chance for so called “crisis diplomacy” and the rule of international law in the Russian-Ukrainian dispute.
The main question for the “financial engine of the EU”, Germany, is whether Europe is interested in the transformation of Ukraine into the pro-European leader on the continent’s east. Europeans should realize that Ukraine received a historic chance to become the last stronghold on the way of Russia’s imperial ambitions.
The situation in Ukraine has revealed that the analysts of the Russian secret services miscalculated and “set up” their colleague Putin in these forecasts. They didn’t allow for the main factor – waging a war against Ukraine’s ruling regime is one thing but waging a war against the Ukrainian people – is an absolutely different thing. They didn’t take into account that it is characteristic for the historic memory of the Ukrainian people to revive. No one could have forecast that the Russian army, trained in various international conflicts, could be efficiently opposed by the volunteers. Indeed, “Yanukovych and his team” made maximum efforts for the Ukrainian army to deteriorate. And Putin had an instantaneous blitzkrieg in his plans. It succeeded in the Crimea, but failed in all Left Bank Ukraine [eastern Ukraine]. The ability of the Ukrainian people to mobilize efforts (unfortunately, at the expense of many lives) against a clearly defined enemy strongly and unpleasantly surprised the Russian “strategists”.
What is Ukraine expecting from the visit of the German Chancellor? The answer is simple: a lot. However, if Merkel confines herself only to calls for the peaceful settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, this will be the dead-end form of imposing European diplomacy on Ukraine. It wasn’t Ukraine that started the hostilities. Moreover, sentiments in Ukrainian society don’t accept the format of the “negotiating table” any more. The ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] must be brought to its logical end, and the enemy must be forced out of the territory.
That’s exactly why Ukraine today, as never before, has something to offer Europe. First of all, this is the concept of the new state with the quickly trained, combat-ready and in the future, strong armed forces. And here Ukraine can’t possibly do without the EU (including the US). It is not a question of some NATO membership. World history is full of examples when these issues were resolved within the framework of international law. It only takes the will of certain politicians and farsighted statesmen. In this respect, Merkel has been given a historic chance to launch the process and consolidate all the EU countries around this idea. However, the results of Merkel’s visit will soon show what mission the EU has prepared for Ukraine. The military Russian-Ukrainian conflict obviously can’t last for long due to the growth of patriotic sentiments among Ukrainians, disastrous for Russia…