Berlin will not save Kyiv at the expense of its own interests

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2014/09/23 • Politics

Article by: Adam Lelonek

The meeting in Minsk, like the previous summit in Berlin, can be analyzed on a number of planes. What draws particular attention from the geopolitical point of view is the increased political role played by Germany. The point is not only that all this happens at the expense of Poland, and it is understandable that Warsaw does not have such financial and diplomatic capabilities as Berlin. Nevertheless, it is naïve to assume that the FRG will pursue Ukraine’s strategic goals at the expense of its own interests with Russia.

The recent summit in Berlin, in which Ukrainian, Russian, French and German Ministers of Foreign Affairs participated, excluded Poland as an active player in the events in the East. It is understandable that this could have been Kremlin or even Germany’s will. Yet our media presented also a version that this had been also a decision of Petro Poroshenko, who had been afraid that Polish involvement could be used for achieving Polish geopolitical goals. So the result was a reversal of perspective – it is not Germany that reduce Poland’s role but Ukraine itself, which we have so strongly supported.

No matter how naïve that seems, it meets with a favorable response – not only due to the Russian propaganda but also incomprehensible attempts for self-limitation on the international arena. A certain role here is played by the fear of Russia and its “punishment” which prevails among a portion of the society or the fear among certain politicians of long-term consequences related to the risk of brave and independent decisions in foreign policy. What follows is the message: the only thing on which Poland should focus is efforts to bring about the deployment of NATO (or the US) forces within its territory and in the Baltic states. In other words, it ought to concentrate on confirming and establishing the status quo in Central and Eastern Europe.

This is obviously extremely dangerous. With the assumption that this goal is not achieved and Ukraine becomes an element of games between Berlin and Moscow, the role of Poland and Ukraine in the region will be reduced even more. An alliance between us will also be out of the question.

Although currently the majority of financial decisions are formally made by Angela Merkel, the European Union is more than Germany. Similarly, a strong pro-Russian lobby is present not only in the FRG, and it is not the only country where some people are afraid of confronting the Russian Federation. In practice, this means that even if Berlin supported Ukraine by theoretically giving up some of its interests (which is currently abstract), it could do so merely for the sake of image – knowing that certain undertakings will be blocked by other EU member states. This pattern is similar to the postulate of freeing Tymoshenko before the summit in Vilnius as a condition of signing the association agreement. Thus, in terms of image, Merkel would remain “a friend of Ukraine” but the latter would not benefit from that in any way. Interestingly, that would not interfere with German-Russian relations in any respect. The issues of credit lines or financial support at the EU and only German level look similarly – there might be more to all that than meets the eye, i.e. they could be granted on condition that Kyiv reaches an agreement with Moscow at all costs or simply to make Ukraine strategically dependent.

The geopolitical choice made by Ukraine that is displayed by the today’s authorities is the Western direction. It does not mean, however, that there will be automatically no complications. Germany, despite being the most powerful country in Europe, is not that strong and independent in military and strategic terms, which has been proved for instance by the recent espionage scandals. Its true power can manifest either in a close alliance with the USA, like it has been to date, or just the opposite – by reducing the American presence in Europe. The latter variant, in turn, can be pursued only… in cooperation with Kremlin. Ukraine should bear that in mind and make efforts not to become a stake or a tool in this geopolitical power play but benefit from favourable circumstances in a flexible manner as an independent entity without losing the big picture. From Kyiv it is closer to Warsaw than to Berlin, and not only Russians but also Germans do not like this.

Source: Commentary for “Українська правда”: Берлін не врятує Київ коштом власних інтересів

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  • Jim

    The territorial integrity of Ukraine is in Berlin’s interest. If Russia succeeds in dismembering Ukraine, no country in Europe will feel safe. If this was not the case, Merkel wouldn’t so staunchly support sanctions.