The European Crisis and Dilemma

European Union (EU) and NATO countries are in a crisis.

No, I am not talking about the economic problems of the EU caused by the Greek debt crisis.

I am referring to the apparent threat posed by Russia. Europe seems to have been shaken to its core by the Ukraine crisis at its doorsteps. The casual but formal (!) annexation of Crimea by Russia has threatened the EU and the NATO like none other over the past three decades.

Russia wants to become the “Soviet Union”.

Mr Vladmir Putin is apparently not scared of the economic sanctions imposed by the West. He is clearly not going to bite, and over the past 6 months or so, has demonstrated his resolve to protect “ethnic Russians” in Eastern Ukraine at whatever cost. The West does not understand “passionate”, “emotional”, “driven by nationalism” and all these terms that have been applied to Mr Putin. The West wants a rational response from him, compatible with their definition of rationality and reason. Mr Putin would not give that to them, come what may.

The situation is getting worse day by day. The ceasefire between the Russian rebels and the Ukraine army is not holding. The U.S. is not demonstrating its “power” and “global leadership”. Its closest European ally, the U.K., is rather quiet, with Prime Minister Mr Cameron not playing much of a role in the peace negotiations with Mr Putin. May be Mr Cameron cannot stand the sight of the Russian leader.

The negotiating positions of Germany and France are very different from the intent of the U.S. and the U.K. Germany would not agree for supply of even defensive weapons to Ukraine. How will Ukraine defend itself with outdated weapons ? Of course, the rationale here is not to aggravate Mr Putin and provide him added reason to take the battle to the next level, citing Russia’s vulnerability at its borders with Ukraine.

In my analysis, what the U.S. should have done long ago is to call for a summit meeting between Mr Obama and Mr Putin with a clear purpose of defusing the crisis, and if Mr Putin had not agreed then provide defensive weapons to Ukraine. The U.N. is keeping mum, and that is not unusual and with respective global powers’ veto powers, nothing much can be accomplished at the U.N. Security Council either.

So, what does EU do now ? What does NATO do ? Just keep useless negotiations going on the next ceasefire ? Impose more sanctions on Russia ?

None of these actions are going to solve the problem on the ground. If no defensive weapons are going to be provided to Ukraine, then its only alternative is to provide regional autonomy to Eastern Ukraine under its federal constitution with the provision that all arms and ammunition should be surrendered to Ukraine authorities.

Hope they solve the problem instead of keeping all of Europe on an edge. The EU and NATO cannot go head to head against Russia with thousands of nuclear warheads sitting right at their doorsteps. There is no military alternative.


Vijay Srinivasan

20th February 2014


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