How Europe can ease the Russian-Ukrainian crisis – POLITICO

Oksana Antonenko is Global Fellow at the Kennan Institute and member of the EU-Russia Expert Network on Foreign Policy. Paul Taylor writes the column “Europe at Large” for POLITICS. Its report “Troubled Waters – the Black Sea and European Security” will be released on January 26.

Europe cannot afford to ignore the growing crisis between Russia and Ukraine and leave it to US President Joe Biden to try and prevent a war at its doorstep.

The European Union has in its possession the tools to help Kiev defend itself and develop its economy. Yet despite all the talk about strategic autonomy, what is lacking so far is the political will to use the whole toolbox. This week’s EU summit Eastern Partnership, which includes Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan (Belarus suspended its participation in June), is the occasion for a more proactive European initiative in the region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to rewrite with his saber-strikes the Charter of Paris of 1990, which enabled the countries of central and eastern Europe to regain their freedom, security and prosperity. He seeks to make the EU and NATO appear powerless.

Europe stayed on the sidelines of the war between Eastern Partnership member Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh last year, leaving Russia to negotiate and maintain a ceasefire. It should not take the same passive path on Ukraine, which is directly at its borders and has a far-reaching association agreement with the EU.

Instead, here’s how the EU should react:

First, the EU should make it clear how it would raise the price for Russia of a military assault on Ukraine. Working in parallel with Washington, European governments could still change the math in Moscow – if they are willing to clarify what additional sanctions they would impose in the event of Russian aggression, including decisive steps to reduce Russian hydrocarbon imports .

For example, if the Kremlin were to unleash a firestorm over Ukraine, Berlin would face massive pressure to disconnect the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Chancellor Olaf Scholz would be wise to get ahead by voluntarily putting the pipeline – completed but not yet operational – on the table. Germany could face a potential energy deficit, but a clear warning that the future of the project is at stake may well make Putin think again.

The Europeans can also do more to offer security and economic support to Kiev, while pressuring both sides to implement the Minsk peace accords on eastern Ukraine. The EU should incorporate a security pact into its Eastern Partnership – at least for the so-called associated trio of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova – including assistance in military training, reform of military services. intelligence and combating hybrid and cyber warfare. To this end, it could also broaden the mandate of the EU advisory mission for civil security sector reform in Kyiv.

Germany is crippled by its own rules that prevent it from delivering weapons to crisis areas – although that hasn’t stopped it from supplying training and weapons to the Iraqi-Kurdish peshmerga fighting ISIS fighters. But France and Italy do not have such self-imposed constraints and could help strengthen the Ukrainian military as the United States, United Kingdom and Turkey already do.

Moreover, with the United States not providing any significant investment and Chinese interests not always welcome, only the EU can provide the Black Sea region with a more prosperous and economically stable future. Brussels should make it a much more important axis of its spending, of its diplomatic and political dialogue.

The EU should use its new Global Gateway infrastructure fund to develop transport, energy and digital corridors. It is expected to engage its Eastern European neighbors in major projects such as green hydrogen, offering to include Russia if it cancels military threats against Ukraine. The EU’s experience in promoting cross-border cooperation and people-to-people contacts in the Baltic Sea region should be used to strengthen economic and human ties in the Black Sea.

As the United States is determined to focus its attention on China and keen for the EU to materialize its stated ambition to take on more responsibility, the Ukraine crisis is a reality check of Europe’s ability to help. to stabilize its own neighborhood, and the new German government will “get real” about security threats.

It is also a test of the new cooperative relationship between the EU and NATO, both of which are expected to adopt new strategic directions in the coming months, as well as an opportunity for the EU to make the region of the Black Sea the center of a renewed strategic strategy. engagement with Turkey. Ankara has forged close relations with Moscow and Kiev, and a joint EU-Turkey initiative could be part of a way out of the current confrontation, if Putin chooses to take it.

The EU has always been divided over Russia. Germany, France and Italy oppose too much pressure on Moscow to safeguard their bilateral relations and economic interests, and members of Central Europe block any meaningful dialogue and cooperation between the EU and the United States. Russia, especially with regard to their common neighborhood. But now is the time to put those differences aside. Only by taking collective action can the EU facilitate lasting peace in the Black Sea region.

Christi C. Elwood