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Friday, March 21, 2014

Groundhog day for the EU and Ukraine? (minus Crimea)

EU NATO other?

Ukraine has now signed part of its Association Agreement with the EU, 3 out of 7 chapters - general principles, institutions and the somewhat controversial "political" chapter. The chapters on trade have been postponed (though the EU has unilaterally removed tariffs on Ukrainian goods).

The political chapter includes provisions on defence including promoting "gradual convergence in the area of foreign and security policy, including the Common Security and Defence Policy" the (CSDP). 

This raises two questions. Firstly, is the EU repeating the same mistake again? It's now accepted that it was a mistake to effectively try to force Ukraine to choose between Russia and the EU - an impossible choice for Kiev. As we argued in our recent briefing on this topic, the EU's "all or nothing" approach to its neighbourhood is no longer a suitable model for dealing with countries that don't have an immediate prospect of full EU membership. Both in terms of how it risks draw new dividing lines and create new geopolitical hotspots (the opposite to what EU enlargement has always aimed to achieve - and due to the very high barriers to EU membership existing as a result of decades of "ever closer union".

But by maintaining a clear security element in the AA at this sensitive time, isn't the EU effectively cementing Ukraine's Russia-or-west choice given that Russia won't want to accept anything that smells of security integration? Would it not have been better to sign the less threatening trade chapter first? Moreover, would it not have been better to wait a couple of months until after the Ukrainian elections and sign the AA with the new Ukrainian government, which would have an explicitly democratic mandate to do so?

EU diplomats say such fears might be over-stated given that the foreign policy/security chapter is actually quite mild in nature not committing anyone to anything else than dialogue, but is this how Moscow sees it?

Secondly, could neutrality be a way to square Ukraine's European ambitions with its Russian dilemma? Austria has suggested that Ukraine could remain neutral, as indeed Austria sees itself, in order to calm relations with its large angry and increasingly isolated neighbour. But is this possible and how neutral is Austria in actual fact?

Is the EU a military alliance?
While NATO is obviously a military alliance, the EU does have its own defence policy; it sends troops into conflict zones and runs missions such as Operation ATALANTA in Somalia and missions in Bosnia and Africa. It also has a mutual defence clause inserted via the Lisbon Treaty. Not all EU members, including Austria are in NATO but Austria has sent troops on EU missions. The EU and NATO are not synonymous but they do work closely together under the Berlin Plus Agreement, setting out terms of engagement. The difference between the two even for neutral states is now blurred.

So is it possible to "gradually converge" with the EU and remain neutral? Well in a technical sense yes. Ireland and Sweden will consider themselves neutral - or at least "non-aligned". But Ireland and even Sweden have committed troops to international missions. Norway has also sent troops on EU missions while remaining outside of the EU. If the current accession procedure is followed, it is therefore unlikely that Ukraine would join the EU and be able to remain outside of all EU defence agreements, unless special provisions would be made.
EU NATO can you spot the difference

Should this all worry Russia? Logically is should not because the EU, as we have seen with regards to Ukraine, is hardly a bellicose giant and poses no threat to Russia's Black Sea Fleet. But viewed from Russia's paranoid perspective, "ever closer union" might lead them to draw the wrong conclusions.

Again, a less integrated, less political and less over-reaching deal with Ukraine to carefully absorb it into Europe might be the most sensible option.


Jesper said...

Looks like the outcome has been decided.

The EU gets a rather meaningless piece of paper with an agreement worth about as much as the paper it is written on. Russia will not lose control over anything. In other words, nothing changed.

Might be that there'll be some strong calls to centralise power to Brussels from nations to better handle similar situations. In that sense the rather strange handling of the situation might have the desired outcome for some.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the EU and MananaZone where everyday since 2008 has been a Groundhog Day.

Except now the EU has turned into a warmongering club with illegal secret drones and a dark agenda.

Bring on our Referendum. UKIP for me.

Free trade and no to sovereignty.


Denis Cooper said...

There's the EU, which has wide-ranging territorial ambitions but at present lacks the military muscle to ensure the defence of the new territories it acquires.

Then there's NATO, which willingly provides the military muscle that the EU still lacks, and the intimacy of the link between the two is revealed when Eurocorps describes itself as "A Force for NATO and the European Union".

And so then there is the US, which provides most of the military muscle to NATO and not only supports the territorial ambitions of the EU but apparently still harbours a Cold War desire to finish off Russia for good.

I refer to this combination as the "EU/NATO/US troika", because the three of them are all in close harness side by side pulling in the same direction.

And for a long time one planned direction of travel has been around and across the Black Sea and across the Caucasus to the Caspian Sea, and then across the Caspian Sea to Central Asia; once again I offer a handy map showing that once Cameron had achieved his stated, insane, objective of the EU stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals it would not just be a case of Russia being encircled to the south it would be Russia split into two along the line of the Urals and the greatly enlarged EU, for which also read the UK, having borders with China and Iran and nearly with Mongolia, and no doubt later with Afghanistan:


And of course the British people would never be asked directly whether they wanted any of this to happen, because when he wrote his "referendum lock" law Hague deliberately exempted all treaties for the accession of new countries to the EU.

Nor indeed would they be asked whether they wanted to put their country at risk of being obliterated in a nuclear exchange with Russia for the sake of defending remote countries about which they rightly care little but which form part of EU plans to extend its "non-imperial empire".

Denis Cooper said...

I see here:


that Cameron has put his signature on this deal.

So once again we have the spectacle of a British Prime Minister using Royal Prerogative to sign a treaty which may further the objectives of the EU but is not wanted by most of the British people, cannot do them any good and has the potential to do them immense harm.

Jim Kemeny said...

My view of the EU is that it is a much more bellicose giant than the impression Open Europe has of the EU. I can't agree that the EU was as blue-eyed and innocent as this post gives the impression of. The EU commissars have met innumerable times with the US President. You cannot expect the EU to absorb all of Ukraine without any Russian reaction. The EU will add millions of Russians to it subject population. And is it OK to pump billions of dollars - our money! -into Ukraine, the most corrupt country in Europe and a state governed by oligarchs who are all super-wealthy?

The EU is the US arm in Europe and we have to see it as such.

One of the reasons the EU has wanted to include Turkey is that it is the only state, apart from the UK, with armed forces that make it possible to deploy them eastwards against Russia.

Freedom Lover said...

The EU claims that its existence makes another European war very unlikely, & then idiotically starts poking the Russian bear over Crimea & Eastern Ukraine. These are places which have for centuries looked eastwards towards Russia, rather than westwards - like Western Ukraine has - towards Western Europe.

But an East/West split up of Ukraine is something the ham-fisted EU very definitely needs to avoid. In Ukraine's case, the East is the industrial pearl, while Western Ukraine is agricultural & economically backward - a bankrupt basket-case where corruption is pervasive. Is that what the meddling EU wants? You would have thought the buffoons of Brussels would have learnt from the ever-present eurozone mess-up. Now they want to grab territory for the EU in Ukraine which will be as a useful as the Chinese boot torture, while at the same time stirring up an always dangerous Russian bear-like response!

christhai said...

If Russia keeps its head and is calm then the EU's adventures in the Ukraine may not lead to nuclear war.

But what foolish men the vanity driven High Princes of the EU and the new Junckers in Berlin are.

Let us hope that better brains than theirs prevail - or it could all be over.

David Harcombe said...

Dear OpenEurope
I've just read this in Zerohedge, & it should be required reading for everyone in Brussels & who supports the EU in what it choses to do - ALWAYS on its behalf, but SELDOM on ours! Here is the article in brief:
"Ukraine Leader In New Leaked Recording: 8 Million Russians In Ukraine 'Must Be Killed With Nuclear Weapons'

After a month ago a leaked phone call between US assistant secretary of state Victoria Nuland and the US envoy to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt confirmed that it was the US that was pulling the strings in what was about to be a violent coup overthrowing Ukraine's president Yanukovich, "someone" has just leaked another phone conversation, this time between parliamentarian Nestor Shufrych and former PM and ideological leader of the Ukraine "revolution" Yulia Tymoshenko and most probable future president of West Ukraine, in which Tymoshenko makes several new threats but the the smoking gun, and where Putin once again shows just how masterful of a chess player he is, is the following statement by Tymoshenko, after asked, rhetorically, by her counterparty, "what should we do now with the 8 million Russians that stayed in Ukraine. They are outcasts"... to which she replies: "They must be killed with nuclear weapons." And just like that Putin has his provocation carte blanche - because the second something, anything happens to any ethnic Russian in east Ukraine, Putin can point to precisely this conversation as proof of how Ukraine's "government" feel toward the ethnic minorities in the east, and why "they deserve to be protected." Which has been precisely Putin's ploy all along."

See: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-03-24/ukraine-leader-new-leaked-recording-8-million-russians-ukraine-must-be-killed-nuclea

May I ask OpenEurope to bring these outrageous coments to all who at Brussels & all who support Brussels elsewher in its ever-increasing outrages, how dangerously mistaken so many of its claimed-to-be well-meaning, but in truth, quite evil, policies turn out to be!