Friday March 14 2014

What is the right way forward for Ukraine?

By Augustine Ruzindana

Africa has had bad publicity, what of the wars and conflicts in South Sudan, Somalia, the Central African Republic, Mali and Darfur in Sudan, the Boko Haram massacres in Nigeria, the endemic chaos in DRC and Libya and the persisting conditions of instability in Egypt and Tunisia.

The Syrian, Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts also continue refusing to go away. However, recently the problems in the Ukraine have dominated world media attention.

Should we be concerned about problems of a country so far in Europe? Definitely, because the West is going to impose sanctions on Russia and then prices of such commodities as oil will rise worldwide.

What then is the Ukraine crisis about? Henry Kissinger’s opinion piece in the Washington Post gives highlights on the Ukrainian way forward. He wrote that:

“Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.

“Russia must accept that to try to force Ukraine into a satellite status …. would doom Moscow to repeat its history of self-fulfilling cycles of reciprocal pressures with Europe and the United States.

“The West must understand that, to Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russian history began in what was called Kievan-Rus. The Russian religion spread from there.

“The Black Sea Fleet — Russia’s means of projecting power in the Mediterranean — is based by long-term lease in Sevastopol, in Crimea.

“The European Union must recognise that its bureaucratic dilatoriness and subordination of the strategic element to domestic politics in negotiating Ukraine’s relationship to Europe contributed to turning a negotiation into a crisis
“The Ukrainians are the decisive element. They live in a country with a complex history and a polyglot composition. The Western part was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1939.
“Crimea, 60 per cent of whose population is Russian , became part of Ukraine only in 1954.

“The west is largely Catholic; the east largely Russian Orthodox.
“The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other … would lead eventually to civil war or break up.

“Ukraine has been independent for only 23 years; it had previously been under some kind of foreign rule since the 14th Century.
“The politics of post-independence Ukraine clearly demonstrates that the root of the problem lies in efforts by Ukrainian politicians to impose their will on recalcitrant parts of the country, first by one faction, then by the other.

“A wise U.S. policy toward Ukraine would seek a way for the two parts of the country to cooperate with each other. We should seek reconciliation, not the domination of a faction.

“Leaders of all sides should return to examining outcomes, not compete in posturing. Here is my notion of an outcome compatible with the values and security interests of all sides:

1. Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.

2. Ukraine should not join NATO, a position I took seven years ago, when it last came up.

3. Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people with a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country

4. Russia should recognise Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea and Ukraine should reinforce Crimea’s autonomy. The process would include removing any ambiguities about the status of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.

“If some solution, based on these or comparable elements, is not achieved, the drift toward confrontation will accelerate.
“The test is not absolute satisfaction but balanced dissatisfaction.”

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP