Green Response to the Ukraine Crisis

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The crisis in Ukraine poses new challenges to Green peace-oriented foreign policy. Establishing an architecture of safety and peace that integrates the whole of Europe and resolves conflicts through dialogue has always been one of the most important aims of the Green party. The current Russian government has not only ignored, but also blocked and even counteracted all possible diplomatic solutions to stabilise the situation in Ukraine (for example the initiative by Fabius, Sikorski und Steinmeier in February 2014). By annexing Crimea and sending out militias to the east of Ukraine, Russia has also broken international law, despite having signed the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in 1994, which guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

By temporarily kidnapping military and civil observers, separatists in eastern Ukraine have massively hampered the work of the OSCE, the most important organisation for pan-European security cooperation. This could have been (easily) prevented by the Russian government. When basic European laws and norms are broken, this cannot be downplayed by referring to the importance of dialogue with Russia. Our goal is to return to an atmosphere in which a normal dialogue with the Russian government is possible, but in order for this to happen, both sides have to be ready to accept basic rules of conduct. The most important task right now is to persuade Russia to conform to international standards.

By holding (the first truly) democratic election, which resulted in the victory of Petro Poroshenko and his party, Ukraine has taken an initial and decisive step towards establishing democratic structures and laying the ground for possible economic reforms and growth. The only marginal success of right-wing parties in this election proved that the vast majority of Ukrainians rejects this kind of ideology. The Ukrainian people have proven in an impressive way that the propaganda of the Kremlin has almost nothing to do with reality.

Thus, we propose the following specific measures:

  • We welcome the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement, which now has to be implemented as soon as possible. Ukraine has to be able to rely on political and economic support by the EU in order to have a real opportunity for change.
  • Green policy has to continue to strengthen civil society. This is especially important in Ukraine, where activists are trying to implement the ideas of the Maidan movement into a long-term democratic improvement of political culture. Moreover, considering all the repression during the recent years, Russian civil society particularly deserves European support. While the Russian government denounces all NGOs that receive foreign financial support as ‘agents’, the peaceful protests against Putin’s inauguration in 2012 and against the aggressive policy towards Ukraine have shown that dissent against the authoritarian government and its policies is growing among the population of Russia.
  • Even if it is not yet possible to tell whether Russia will cooperate constructively on international level, we need to develop models suitable to include all states neighbouring the EU in cooperative structures, as long as they are willing to commit to work towards a more rule-of-law-based and democratic future. This does not only apply to Eastern Europe, but also to Central Asia and the Middle East. Cooperation has to include not only economic and political aspects, but also military and security issues, if the overall conditions permit this. In theory, we need to keep the possibility for a democratic Russia to join NATO, as long as we want to hold on to NATO as an institution. In this case, the entire subject of the Ukraine being ‘neutral’ (which is an outdated term from the Cold War period) would be superfluous. More security and prosperity for the EU should also mean more security and prosperity for neighbouring states as well. A first step towards these goals could be to establish the OSCE as a pan-European security organisation. We are strictly against thinking in terms of rigid spheres of military and economic interest which ignores the will of the majority of the people. If a majority of Ukrainians and their elected leaders prefer to join the EU, we should not deny this out of false ‘consideration’ for Russian concerns.
  • Energy policy will have to be dealt with on a European level, since it is simultaneously a question of security and defence policy. Our dependence on fossil fuels paralyses us politically. After the German ‘Ostpolitik’ during the 1970s we now need a comprehensive foreign and economic concept for the EU – including Ukraine – to minimise our energy dependence on Russia.
  • We as Greens are convinced that energy transition towards sustainable forms of energy is not only necessary to protect our environment, but also to promote a peaceful and democratic development in general. Therefore, we need to use energy more efficiently and eventually have to rely solely on renewable resources. In that respect neither coal nor natural gas acquired by fracking are feasible sources which guarantee an environment-friendly supply of energy. We are convinced that a European Energy Union should be created to pursue these objectives. Nonetheless, as long as Europe is still in need of fossil fuels, the EU should appear as a collective actor on the commodity markets and not as single states, in order to safeguard smaller states from excessive pricing. Furthermore, we should avoid being too dependent on any single gas-exporting country.
  • In Ukraine, applying military force is not an option for western states. Sanctions, however, are an instrument through which states can be obliged by peaceful means to follow international norms. Still, sanctions can have adverse effects, in particular if they have a severely negative impact on civil society. Given the current crisis, it is justified to threaten Russia with economic sanctions (such as restrictions for importing resources and restrictions to access European financial markets), if it does not immediately withdraw all its undercover units from Ukraine and starts to secure its border with Ukraine. Greens should engage for a deadline by which Russia has to meet these conditions in order to avoid further sanctions. At the same time, we want to facilitate the process of granting EU visa to Russian citizens to allow more exchange and encounters between Russians and EU citizens. The current EU travel bans for major Russian politicians should be maintained.
  • As soon as possible, the EU has to send financial and logistic aid to support Ukraine in dealing with their internally displaced people from the east of the country. Furthermore the EU itself should accommodate refugees.
  • Regular border controls conducted by forces of the Ukrainian and the Russian government should be reinstated as soon as possible. Otherwise, separatists might be able to threaten not only the people, but also might be able to attack natural gas pipelines and even nuclear power plants (of which Ukraine still has 15 producing about half of the nation’s electricity). To reach this goal, the EU and its Member States should (a) pressure the Russian Federation to start controlling its border, and considering the current dangerous situation in Ukraine, (b) help Ukraine to set up an effective system to control its own borders and (c) support the Ukrainian army by sending them non-lethal military products such as fragmentation vests or helmets. We reject the export of arms to Ukraine.
  • In terms of weapon exports to Russia, EU Member States should act coherently. The export of weapons and of dual use goods to Russia should be suspended immediately by all EU members. The export of two Mistral warships of a French company needs to be stopped.

*The original version of this article was published by the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung on 11 July 2014.