West’s democracies have ‘moral duty’ to aid Ukraine


Russia praised a Ukrainian law granting self-governance powers to separatist-held areas of Ukraine, a measure that faces a challenge from some politicians in Kiev who call it a giveaway to Moscow, the Wall Street Journal reports:

The Foreign Ministry in Moscow on Wednesday described the new Ukrainian law—which Kiev agreed to pass during recent cease-fire negotiations—as a “step in the right direction.”

Ukraine also needs far more assistance than it has received from the west, says Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

The $17bn package given by the IMF in May is tied to painful economic reforms, he writes for the FT:

US aid since the start of the crisis last year has fallen way short of the rhetoric – less than $250m, including technical assistance with reforms, an international conference on how to trace stolen state assets and election monitoring.

On paper, the EU has been more generous with its $14bn aid package but the sum looks better than its parts. It includes $2bn in loans and “up to” $10bn in reconstruction loans. There is also, of course, technical assistance to nudge Ukraine to implement the dreaded reforms.

The chances are that the EU will fail in any endeavor to support a democratic Ukraine, says Jan Techau, the director of Carnegie Europe, the European center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:

There is already a sense creeping into the foreign policy crowd that Europeans may have bitten off more than they can chew. Unity among 28 member states is extremely fragile. The remodeling of the European Neighborhood Policy-the instrument that guides EU relations with Ukraine and other Eastern neighbors-will be tedious and fraught with institutional infighting in Brussels. And money is scarce.

More significantly, there are severe doubts that the EU has the political will and the diplomatic toughness to insist on conditionality, the core piece of the neighborhood policy. But without a swift, watertight, and potentially brutal sanctions mechanism for neighbors that do not adhere to an agreed reform process, the transformative power of any new policy will be exactly what it was under the old one: close to zero.

The US and the UK have an overwhelming moral duty to provide military assistance to Ukraine. Two decades ago both countries and Russia signed the Budapest Memorandum with Ukraine in return for which they pledged to provide security guarantees and support Ukraine’s territorial integrity, argues Taras Kuzio, the former head of Nato’s Information and Documentation Centre in Kiev and a research associate at the University of Alberta’s Institute for Ukrainian Studies:

Corruption certainly bedevils Ukraine but it is hardly unique in this respect. Canada and the US cooperate on security questions with many countries with similarly poor records. Afghanistan, where 158 Canadian troops have died since 2002, has an abysmal record on corruption and democratic rights.

Millions of Ukrainians rose up in the Euromaidan to fight corruption and bring about democratic changes and integrate their country into Europe. On September 16 the Ukrainian parliament voted by an overwhelming constitutional majority to ratify the Association Agreement with the EU and a resolution supporting future membership of this body. Ukraine held an internationally recognized free and fair presidential election in May and will hold pre-term elections next month that will bring into parliament young western-educated deputies committed to fighting corruption and introducing European values.

By supporting Ukraine now, Kuzio argues, Putin’s ambitions will be “nipped in the bud before he turns on Nato members in the three Baltic states that would threaten European security on a scale unseen since World War II.” RTWT

Deeply entrenched corruption has been a profound challenge since Ukraine achieved its independence more than two decades ago,  notes Christopher Walker (right), Executive Director of the National Endowment for Democracy’s International Forum:

As the analyst Anders Aslund has observed, nearly $40 billion was stolen from the state while Yanukovych was in power. And this figure may well be an underestimation. This massive corrupt enterprise directed wealth primarily to the president, his relatives, and a limited circle of businessmen around the president.

The vast web of corruption used a variety of elaborate methods to divert state resources. These included lucrative schemes connected to the natural gas market. They also included the manipulation of large infrastructure projects, such as those connected with the Euro 2012 soccer championship. More generally, the government engaged in a range of other schemes to put public wealth into private hands.

The picture is further complicated by the fact that getting serious about being Ukraine’s guarantor will lead to permanent conflict with Russia, Techau writes for Carnegie Europe:

The EU wants Poroshenko to succeed with his reforms. Russia will do everything it can to make him fail. These two opposing approaches cannot be reconciled. Moscow can escalate its intervention in eastern Ukraine at will, including to the level of military action, knowing that the EU will not respond in the same way.

In the absence of a massive and sustained investment by EU member states to address these internal doubts and external threats, the EU’s attempt to be a guarantee power in Ukraine will fail. Until such investment materializes, the process will be an agonizing spectacle for all involved.

“The inherent problem is that the EU does not currently have the means to win the contest in which it is engaged with Russia, and yet it needs to compete in that contest,” he contends. “The EU is too weak for idealism-that is, to stand up for its values and principles. And it is already too deeply involved for cold-blooded realism-to accept Russian interests in Moscow’s sphere of influence.” RTWT – HT: Real Clear World

Russia is the greatest geo-political threat facing the US, a leading analyst suggests.

A Russian occupation of large parts of Ukraine would clearly threaten the stability and security of our NATO allies on Ukraine’s western border, the Atlantic Council’s Adrian Karatnycky writes for the New Republic:

Further, Ukraine is home to three gigantic nuclear power plant complexes, which could become dangerous battlegrounds with unpredictable consequences for nuclear safety. War could disrupt or destroy Ukraine’s energy pipeline network, which is the central mechanism through which more than half of Russia’s exports of gas and oil to Europe travels. Successful Russian expansion into Ukraine would increase the chances of further adventurism in energy-rich Kazakhstan, where an elderly President will soon physically fade from power. And Russia would be emboldened to exert even stronger influence over the policies of energy-rich Turkmenistan. Would these developments not be as significant in impact as the fate of Saudi, Iraqi, and Qatari oil and gas reserves?


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