West’s response to Ukraine conflict: a transatlantic success story


Transatlantic cooperation in dealing with Russian aggression in Ukraine has been a surprising success story, according to a new report. European countries and the United States, together with partners such as Canada and Japan, have responded to that challenge with a high degree of unity and consistency, says Dr. Ulrich Speck, a Senior Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy in Washington, DC. Through that process, the idea of the West as an international actor, as the central pillar of the liberal world order, has experienced a renaissance, he contends:

By using coercive means such as sanctions coupled with diplomacy, the West has helped Ukraine to resist Russian aggression. At the same time it has sent a strong message to Moscow and other capitals that the West continues to support core international rules such as territorial integrity and sovereignty, and is ready to invest a considerable amount of energy in holding up these norms. German Chancellor Angela Merkel played a central role in building this coalition and keeping it together. Berlin and Washington, alongside Paris and Brussels, were the key Western capitals during the Ukraine conflict.

With the joint response to Russian aggression against Ukraine, Europe and the United States have set a precedent for a successful transatlantic cooperation on international conflicts. Whether this success story can become the starting point for a true renaissance of the West depends on the willingness of the central actors to move from crisis management to long-term strategic planning.

“What the Ukraine conflict demonstrated was that when fundamentally challenged, the West, as a grouping of liberal democracies that have signed up to a cooperative international order, is capable of responding resolutely when it has the political will,” Speck (right) argues. “While disagreements and differences dominate the often increasingly shrill media headlines, deeper down the West as community of values is alive and strong.”

The fallout from the Dutch vote rejecting the European Union’s trade and political agreement with Ukraine could have ramifications for the entire bloc, even though it isn’t likely to derail the accord itself, The Wall Street Journal reports (HT: FPI):

The practical effects of the vote will be limited, since the referendum is nonbinding and only 32% of voters turned out. But the warning is clear for European leaders and their allies. Europe can’t have an effective foreign policy if leaders won’t educate their citizens about foreign affairs—and the EU itself will struggle to be a reliable partner so long as doubts remain about its democratic legitimacy.

Dutch voters’ resounding rejection of an EU-Ukraine Association Agreement has sent shockwaves through Ukraine’s political establishment, exacerbating the country’s already deep political crisis, Politico adds.

Few, if any, conditions could be more easily fulfilled than the appointment of a decent government and prosecutor general. The question remains why the President and parliament have not been able to satisfy such elementary demands for two months. A further prolongation of the government crisis increases the probability of early elections. Meanwhile, the value of the hryvnia is being depressed because of political uncertainty. And that’s not good for anyone, the Atlantic Council’s Anders Aslund writes.

Although Ukraine has experienced setbacks along its path to democratic consolidation, we must not overlook the many local officials, civic activists, and reformers who—while they may not make it into international media—are working diligently to make a real difference in their communities and in their country, the Atlantic Council’s Michael Druckman and Katie LaRoque add:

According to the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) latest national municipal survey, which includes the perceptions of more than 19,000 Ukrainians from twenty-four major cities, more than 90 percent of Ukrainians believe corruption is a significant or serious problem in their community, and frustration with Poroshenko and the Verkhovna Rada stands at troubling levels.

But that’s not the full story. Ukrainians are more optimistic about their local government. Ukrainians told pollsters that they trust and approve of their local mayors more than in previous years. In the cities of Kharkiv, Lviv, and Ternopil, more than 60 percent approve of their mayor’s activities and reforms according to the municipal survey.

IRI is a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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