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June 5, 2008 |  6 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Heinrich  Bonnenberg

Ukraine's Future Lies in the EU, not NATO

Heinrich Bonnenberg: Germany and the EU must give stronger credit to Ukraine’s emergence as an independent democracy in the tradition of Europe’s historic liberal movements. The EU should quickly enable Ukrainian accession, but NATO membership should not be pursued, as this would likely exasperate tensions with Russia.

Today, Ukraine is no longer a subject that can be shoved around and made to follow the whims and pressures of greater powers. Rather, over the last few years, the country has acquired an increasing sense of national identity, something which history had prevented it from developing, also with respect to liberal democracy. Moreover, this finds its expression in the repeated elections, a phenomenon which should not be understood as the herald of Ukraine's division between East and West but acknowledged as an effort to live European civilization.

The Orange Revolution of Viktor Yushchenko - Ukraine's president in office - pursues the democratic ideals of the European Revolution of 1848, and thus ties in with this significant event in the path to today's Europe. Through this, Viktor Yushchenko has already acquired a proper place in European history, not just for himself, but also for his country.

Ukraine has a European background. This should also be made apparent by the colors of today's Ukrainian flag, blue and yellow. They are the colors of the Scandinavian Varangians, who once ruled from Kiev, as well as of contemporary Sweden, and they are the colors of medieval Galicia, which extended beyond the Dnieper River. The ordinances and privileges of Magdeburg were introduced, and at the end of the 18th century, Germans settled in the South of Ukraine. Add to this the Polish, and therefore European, influence over centuries, even after the division of Poland in 1792, 1793, and 1795.

Until the late 1930s, contemporaries - including the Galician born Austrian writer and journalist Joseph Roth - declare that fundamentally, Ukraine was a product of the Germans, an anti-Russian shield that was created at the end of World War I. This is not true, as the national movement in Ukraine had come about in the mid-19th century, especially in Western Ukraine, an area which had been annexed and was ruled by the Austrians, and which was influenced by the events taking place in Western Europe at the time. Yet, the fact that the Germans interfered in 1917-1918, especially in the fight against the Bolsheviks, is undisputed even in Ukraine. The atrocities committed between 1941 and 1944 by Germans and in the name of Germany, within the Reich Commission of Ukraine and against prisoners of war, obligate Germany; and connect the two countries.

In 1989, the Federal Republic of Germany is the first Western country to open a consulate general in Kiev. In October 1991, on the occasion of the German cultural week in Ukraine, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, is the first Western foreign minister to pay an official visit to Ukraine. After the Ukrainian referendum of December 1, 1991, which resulted in Ukraine's secession from the Soviet Union, Germany immediately recognizes Ukraine's national sovereignty. Early in 1992 Germany upgrades its consulate to an embassy, thus making a place for itself in the history of Ukraine as the first Western country to have opened up an embassy in Kiev. The first official trip of independent Ukraine's initial president, Leonid Kravchuk, is a visit to Germany in February 1992; he pays another visit to Germany shortly afterwards. During German chancellor Helmut Kohl's visit to Kiev in June 1993, a common declaration, setting the ground for bilateral relations, is signed. This declaration is exceptionally comprehensive and amicable, and has not lost any of its significance to this day. Helmut Kohl states, "Ukraine needs Europe, but Europe also needs Ukraine."

Today's German policies should give credit, in a much more visible manner, to Germany's historical ties to Ukraine. If Germany fails to do so, there is a great danger that it will lose its historical credibility. Burgeoning economic partnerships would also be harmed. It is Germany's responsibility to ensure that Ukraine is perceived the way it should be: as a European country. Germany should consider it its duty to enable the European Ukraine to become a member of the European Union. Ukraine can do without NATO membership, and should, out of respect for Russia's concerns. Ireland, Sweden Finland, Austria, Malta and Cyprus are not members of NATO, and France is not militarily, but all of the aforementioned countries are members of the European Union. This status should also be sought for Ukraine. The German political class should further work towards making this provision the basis of the transatlantic approach to Ukraine.

Dr. Heinrich Bonnenberg was advisor of the Administration of the President of Ukraine by order of the German Minister of Finance from 1997 to 2003.

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Tags: | NATO | EU enlargement | Germany | Yushchenko | Ukraine |
 
Comments
Nikolas Kirrill Gvosdev

June 5, 2008

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The problem that needs to be overcome is not where Ukraine belongs so much as what sort of relationship Europe wants with a Russia to which Ukraine at present is still very much connected in economic terms as well as in terms of cross-border migration. This question only gets settled if the EU wants to fundamentally reorient Ukraine away from Russia or Russia fundamentally reorients itself towards Central and South Asia.

As long as you have the current Russian-Ukrainian relationship in place--in terms of the economic ties--then there is no way to avoid the friction we've seen.

Now if the NATO-Russia Council worked as it was intended, where Russia had essentially most of the same rights as NATO members in terms of shaping policy, the question of Ukraine's membership would be less critical.

At the same time, Ukraine's membership in the EU only makes sense from Russia's point of view if Russia and the EU have an agreement that essentially extends the common market and Schengen to Russia--so that Russian firms continue to business in Ukraine and the millions of Ukrainians who are working in Russia continue to help make up for Russia's labor shortage. And my guess is that if Western Europeans still are afraid of the "Polish plumber", then perhaps they don't want the "Ukrainian bricklayer" to be far behind--so it wouldn't make sense from an EU perspective to want to block the flow of excess Ukrainian labor to Russia if the EU itself is not prepared to absorb these workers.

Finally, the pull of NATO membership, given a resurgent Russia, is only going to be diminished if the EU can demonstrate it can provide security. Cyprus is not a member of NATO, it is very true, but the EU has also not demonstrated that it has the ability to compel Turkey to withdraw its forces ...
 
Lukas  Vitalijus

June 6, 2008

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The debate over Ukraine (and where it belongs in Europe's security architecture) and in particular its prospects of joining NATO has become certainly become a controversial if not central issue. As Nikolas K.G. in the first comment has rightly observes the 'problem' (and there is a real problem in terms of visions and ideas over the fundamentals) lies not as much in Ukraine itself as it lies in Europe or precisely within the EU and the relationship between two power poles (Russia in the East and Europe in the 'West').

Two points have to be addressed:

The first is on the EU/NATO-Russia interaction.

The second one is about Ukraine's choice.

As for the first one, to make a long story short, the stakes are very high and whatever the outcome there will be concequences for all parts involved.

As for the latter, to claim that 'Ukraine is no longer a subject that can be shoved around and made to follow the whims and pressures of greater powers' is to underestimate the obvious - Ukraine lies in the contested part of Europe which traditionally has been considered and arguably remains an exclusive sphere of Russian interests. It matters for the EU as much as it matters for Russia; And more so it matters for NATO (which has been a key guardian of European security for more than 50 years and no doubt will remain present in the future).

While opponents to Ukrainian bid to join NATO are right pointing out that it still has a long way to go strengthening their democratic credentials (and the EU is better than any other organization equipped to deal with the problems countries like Ukraine face applying innovative and effective policy instruments) they are wrong to block or deny them right to join at all. To suggest that Ukraine should consider 'to trade' NATO membership over the EU hurt Europe, it hurts its allies across the Atlantic (United States and Canada) but most of all it hurts Ukraine. German and French o-position with regards to Ukraine at the most recent NATO summit are to be considered at great odds not only what today’s Europe stands for but also what it strives to represent for the rest of world, namely that countries are free to choose their alliances and their paths in a search for better models of governance.

Lastly, the argument that Ukraine can do without NATO just like Finland, Sweden or Austria (countries with long standing tradition of neutrality and very distinct historical reasons behind their particular foreign policies) is empty. It not only ignores the fact that all above named countries are getting closer integrated within NATO military structures but also that there is a re-newed and very lively discussion in particular in Scandinavia over the future prospects of joining the Alliance. And the reason is the same - as long as Russia will continue drifting between the East and the West (and as long as the EU will continue to send mixed signals), for countries like Ukraine or Finland to consider both strategic assets (membership in the EU and NATO) is not only necessary, it is also wise.
 
Heinrich  Bonnenberg

June 6, 2008

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I do not know, how many Ukrainians are working in Russia, how many in Germany, how many in Italy, how many in Spain, how many in Turkey, how many in China, how many anywhere else, mainly working in the building sector, as service for families, in nursing for the sick and elderly, and others sectors. I meet them nearly everywhere in the world, half of them women, having their communities, their newspapers, and so on. The Ukrainians are ready to work anywhere there is good pay. They are a very hard-working people and the only goal they have is to build a small house in their homeland. I’m guessing that more than 25% of the Ukrainian GNP is generated abroad. Ukrainians are cosmopolitan workers, also learning abroad how liberal democracy works, and they thankfully help in the understanding of nations, worldwide.
The best solution to stop their migration abroad is to enable Ukraine as soon as possible to become an even more prospering country. A membership in EU can bring this about successfully, as shown in the cases of Slovakia, Poland, and others. In the meantime Ukrainian workers are appreciated in the EU countries. They are intelligent and qualified people which we need.
The main argument of the opponents against membership of Poland in the EU was that Polish workers would overflow EU countries, mainly Germany. It was completely wrong. In contrary, Germans start to work in Poland and German industry is doing excellent business in all the newly joined countries. Be sure, with Ukraine the same mechanism will happen.
 
Andreas  Umland

June 8, 2008

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UKRAINE, NATO AND THE EU SHOULD OFFER RUSSIA THE PRESERVATION OF ITS NAVAL BASE IN SEVASTOPOL AFTER UKRAINE'S ENTRY INTO NATO AND EU

Living in Kiev, I can confirm that Germany is currently loosing its credentials as Ukraine's friend among some Ukrainian intellectuals and politicians. One hopes that Angela Merkel's visit to Kiev, in two weeks, will bring Ukrainian-German relations back to its normally excellent state. It will not fit well into post-war German history, if historians once say that Germany abondened a young European democracy out of its economic and other interests further east.
It would be great, if the EU could offer Ukraine the prospect of membership without NATO membership first. However, so far, the model for the former Soviet bloc countries has been: first NATO, then EU membership. This is the main reason why many Ukrainian politicians and pundits accept the necessity of NATO membership: they see it as an entry ticket into the EU. Otherwise, NATO is not particularly popular even among many pro-Western people here.
The question is whether this model necessarily applies to Ukraine's EU aspirations. My guess is that it does, and that the examples of Poland or Slovakia are more relevant than those of Sweden or Austria.
It currently emerges that Russia's naval base at Sevastopol may become the main problem. My advice to NATO's and the EU's power-holders would be to consider whether this naval base could remain there after a possible entry of Ukraine into NATO and the EU. Why not make Sevastopol a city of future Russian-Ukrainian-Western cooperation instead of kicking the Russians out, in an unfriendly manner?
 
Vitalii  Martyniuk

June 8, 2008

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Mr. Vitalii Martyniuk
analyst of the Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research
and the International Institute for Humanitarian Technologies

Yes, Ukraine's future lies in the EU. But why not in NATO? EU is a strong and powerful organization but its military component is not so strong. NATO is a military organization that is able to ensure security of the member-states. Ukraine needs them both.
Ukraine can’t guarantee its security on its own without international cooperation and without being a member of a security club like NATO. In other words, the retention of Ukraine’s neutral position is improbable. All Eastern European states have already entered EU and NATO or applied for membership, save Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Belarus and Armenia are under the influence of Russia. (for more details: http://www.ucipr.kiev.ua/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=arti...).
The EU’s military capacities have not yet reached the level of counteracting global threats. For the time being, the EU is not able to independently control large-scale military operations. The European Security and Defense Policy is only under way of developing.
Even in the near future, the EU will not be able to develop its own military capacities to the level of combating aggression against its Member States. Most of them, in particular, France, assert that oČnly the Alliance can be a guarantor of collective security. Besides, the 2003 European Security Strategy of, the fundamental document of the EU Security Policy, does not provide for a collective security system. Moreover, the European Security and Defense Policy is considered in Europe as the NATO’s stronghold in Europe. Speaking at the 44th Munich Conference oČn Security Policy in February 2008, Defense Minister of France HervÚ Morin stated, "Both the European Union and NATO are necessary and complement oČne another... For us NATO and the EU are two sides of the same security and defense policy". How can it be realized if an EU member-state is not a NATO member? Ukraine needs both organizations for further development of its security. (for more details: http://www.ucipr.kiev.ua/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=arti...).
As for Russia, Russia tries to keep Ukraine at a distance to prevent its integration into western structures and make it remain in the Russian shadow until the latter strengthens its international positions.
I want Ukraine become a member the European Union and a part of the Euro-Atlantic Community. I don’t want Ukraine become a card in the hands of others to attain their geo-political goals.
 
Marek  Swierczynski

June 10, 2008

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As noted by Dr Andreas Umland, the pattern of westernisation of the post-soviet bloc countries was a multi-stage integration and convergence process, in which NATO membership precluded EU membership, with entry to some other international organizations or treaty systems like the Council of Europe/European Tribunal of Human Rights being the prerequisite of NATO/EU bids. Should this pattern not be observed in case of Ukraine, we would face a „second class” westernisation process and very probably an end to any further serious NATO expansion. Of course, in western Europe and notably in Russia, many argue that NATO itself loses its relevance and faces early retirement at the age of 60 and will slowly be relpaced by the EU security system and other security agreements in the next 20 years. But nobody knows what will be relevant in 20 years time and now the viewpoint of post-soviet bloc states, like the new NATO and new EU members and very much the viewpoint of the USA seems to be that NATO, with all its problems, still offers the best security guarantees available as well as sets a satisfactory treshhold for democracy and rule of law. The EU does only the latter of the above as its security and defence policy is too immature to provide for a stable guarantee. What the EU offers is a potential leverage for the country’s international position and some financial rewards in return for a costly institutional refurbishment of the applicant state. Both require skill and effort on the applicant’s and member’s side. NATO offers an instant collective protection (perhaps illusive, but strongly appealing) from day one of the membership in return for a change of mindset and institutional democratic backbone apart from military input. To put it in simple Eastern European terms: EU membership is for the elite who understand the EU, who are able to claim the EU financial support and can take pride in calling themselves Europeans. But you have to do a lot to get a reward. NATO membership is for the everyman, who instantly feels safer with the might of the Alliance covering his country. And you are covered whatever you do or don’t do.
We should not expect the Ukrainians to be much different from Poles, Czechs or Romanians. Russia no longer stands behind them but neither does NATO, nor the EU. They’ve claimed their independence, extended their hand to the West but fell into security vacuum – and their hand remains hanging. For them, even if they feel strong enough on their own, NATO membership is a logical consequence of their pro-western choice. A refusal would increase internal tension and confuse the nation. And depriving Ukraine of NATO membership perspective would ultimately make the EU application only more difficult if not impossible.
Tags: | Ukraine | NATO | EU |
 

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