What to do about the Ukrainian Crisis?
Europe and the United States are intensively – and controversially – discussing how the West should respond to Russian troops being sent into Crimea, and the fact that this half-island may be leaving Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation following a March 16, 2014 referendum.
The proposals range from different soft or hard-hitting sanctions, to the exclusion of Russia from the exclusive circle of the Group of Eight (G8) or the Council of Europe, which it joined in 1996. In a clear statement, my long-time friend and Estonian hero of freedom, Tunne Kelam – also a member of the International Advisory Board of the World Security Network – expressed the great concern of the Baltic States, with their high proportion of Russian citizens. Read the statement of this member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament here.
In 1991/1992, I headed the International Advisory Board of the Eesti Komitee, the permanent standing committee of the first free Estonian grassroots parliament, which was chaired by Tunne Kelam. These were revolutionary and turbulent times in the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Our report – which you may read in French here – advocated the inclusion of the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast as a "Russian euro zone" in a prosperous "Hanseatic Baltic region" with the three Baltic states. We demanded the inclusion of Russia, to link East and West via a Hanseatic Motorway from Hamburg via Danzig to Kaliningrad, Riga, and Tallinn to St. Petersburg. Our group pushed for "radical reforms from the beginning" and the coupling of the Estonian Kroon to the German Mark. All of these fresh and inclusive proposals and actions added to the foundation for an integration of the three former Soviet republics into the EU and NATO in 2004, and its unique success story, from which Moscow can and must learn a great deal. Estonia today is a model EU member state – and exemplifies a best practice of how to reform a former Soviet state. The Russians in Estonia are better off than in the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
100 years ago, the Great War began in Europe, with the Second World War following very soon thereafter. Have we really learned from the mistakes of 1914? In the end, there were only losers. The glorious winners on the battlefield lost as well: the British Empire and a lot of blood and money. For the victors of Versailles, this war rapidly turned into a 'lost victory.' More than 50 million people died only three decades later. From 1941 to 1945, no country bled as much as Russia. As a young artillery officer, my father stood in sight of the lights of the Moscow trams on the night of December 2nd, 1941, near the airport of today, where I have landed. The subsequent generation, of which Vladimir Putin is a part, should heed the advice of their fathers: freedom, friendship and no more war!
A basic lesson of this bloody history is this: Europe needs a stable and just order of peace. This must take all interests into account – including those of Russia. In the West, we have successfully defended freedom through NATO, including the NATO double-track decision of 1979. The Harmel Report of 1967 demanded adequate defense capabilities, combined with diplomacy and detente.
At a meeting of our Eesti Comitte Committee Advisory Board in Riga, Latvia, in 1991, I proposed to NATO Secretary General Manfred Wörner the integration of Russia into NATO structures, such as the Partnership for Peace. We strongly supported protection of the language and identity of all Russians in the Baltic countries as much as possible, which was very controversial and not easy at all. The report placed particular emphasis upon the fact that the Russian minority in the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania should be treated "well and fairly and be able to retain their cultural identity." Only in this way can these former republics of the Soviet Union be incorporated into the EU and NATO, and join the European Council. Thus, these countries were able to achieve internal peace and reconciliation as well. The Russians living there are true Europeans and free, like in the rest of the EU. They are happy and live in peace. They are not threatened, but protected by NATO. This must be a model for what Ukraine's future should be.
The call for hard sanctions is understandable, but is historically and geopolitically short-sighted for today's realities. We instead need a good master plan. We must get to the roots of the problem, dig deep and plan for the long term. The "Putin bashing" so popular in the west is too simple-minded to me and unfortunately also conceals the major planning weaknesses in Washington and Brussels. It is not about weak or strong, soft or hard, but the foundation of a stable European order. We need a fundamental analysis of the situation in Eastern Europe, including Russian fears, perceptions and legitimate interests in the interest of maintaining peace and freedom in Europe. In the process, we need to tell the Kremlin clearly where the red lines are. Hard sanctions should only be the final resort, after all other options have been exhausted.
In general, we also need a more effective and creative foreign policy, which I like to call 'World 3.0,' which is not always running behind events with words, but using all soft and hard factors to proactively and creatively promote peace and stability. The West lost the window of opportunity after the Orange Revolution in 2004 through an vague and unclear policy, with no good planning and actions.
Ukraine could become a swamp and lost victory for Russia.
Observers claim that cool-minded Putin is playing chess while the West plays marbles without a clear plan. This may be true. But let us look at how many and what kind of chess pieces President Putin has on his chess board. It is easy for him to start the play with the first move on Crimea with his soldiers as prawns but like in any game it is crucial to have enough important figures like king, queen, rooks, bishops, knights and wins at the very end. Let us have a deeper look at the Russian chess board.
Protecting the Russian minority in Ukraine is legitimate and supported by a majority of Russians. But how? Politically or by military means? Not only protecting the naval bases in Crimea, but also involving soldiers in internal disputes at off-base checkpoints? Maybe even later by breaking off and effectively integrating Crimea into the Russian Federation and even parts of Eastern Ukraine or the establishment of proxy-states, like Japan did with Manchuria in the 1930s, in the face of the far larger China? By violating the Russian-signed Budapest treaty with Ukraine, which in 1994 guaranteed its independence?
Why not use international organizations, like the UN or the OSCE, to protect Russians in Ukraine?
Only to reunite a small part with Russia? Does this make sense for Russia in the long term? Or is it leading the country downhill?
The risks and price could in fact be much higher than the Kremlin may currently calculate. Ukraine could become a swamp and lost victory. These are minor entangling alliances, which in the end cost much more than they add to the power of Russia. A confrontation with the West will have long-term negative consequences for the stability of Russia, both from within and externally. Not even China or Kazakhstan support the deployment of Russian troops in Crimea.
As a first reaction, the Russian stock market went down, including the trading value of gas giant Gazprom, as well as the Rubel. How could Russia react to or how much would it lose from a series of small or later, stronger boycotts, including by the EU? Until now, the image of President Putin has mainly been negative in the West. In the future, Russia could soon come to be seen as a real threat. This will influence the perceptions of all of its neighbors, including China in Siberia, and affect the foreign investment needed for Russia as well. More Russian money will flee to safe heavens and not be invested anymore. It will be easy for the U.S. and EU to identify many sensitive chinks of vulnerability in Russia's armor, in a new Cold War II. Europe will quickly turn to other energy sources, like from Algeria. An isolated Russia cannot succeed in competition with a dynamic China – it must inevitably loose innovation and wealth, bit by bit. This will indeed destabilize Russia within a few years from the inside. Russia is sitting on thin ice – which this confrontation could break. Mother Russia may win something, but will loose the end-game.
Putin should study the many, many mistakes that Germany – which also had national minorities in France, Poland and the Czech Republic – made. It got too aggressive, too militaristic and in the end lost all. Only when Adenauer started his reconciliation policy with its former arch-enemy France after 1945 could Germany achieve peace and prosperity. Later reconciliation with Poland followed with the Chancellors Willy Brandt in the 1970s and Helmut Kohl in the 1980s.
Even worse for Moscow: In the past, controlling territory or so-called areas of influence was important. Now, countries have to control cyberspace, develop new industries and fresh ideas. They need talent, not tanks. They are only strong when they prosper (like China, the U.S. or EU), and weak when they don't. Land does not matter as much anymore, like it did in the 20th century. They also need friends around for stability. Otherwise, too much money is wasted on defense – one main reason that the USSR collapsed in the 1990s.
The perception of NATO at Russia's borders as a threatening or destabilizing force is totally wrong – it is an illusory menace. Next to the important St. Petersburg region, NATO has for ten years already been Russia's direct neighbor through Estonia. Did this threaten the Russians at the borders or St. Petersburg? Not at all! Does the NATO membership of powerful Turkey threaten Russia in the Black Sea? Or its operations in Afghanistan? On the contrary: NATO is a stabilizing factor for peace, even for Russia. Is the EU a threat to Russia, or a positive factor?
Also of note: NATO is and always will be much stronger than Russia in terms of numbers of soldiers, airplanes and ships etc., and superior in general by a factor of two to one. Moscow cannot win any war with NATO. Only the nuclear deterrence option is credible. Why confront rather than embrace NATO? The arms of NATO are wide open – the Kremlin should take accept the offer in its own interest.
Russian foreign policy is still stuck in the old thinking of the Stalinist era and the Cold War (the same is true for some Washington politicians as well). It sets the wrong priorities and thinks in black or white with regard to phantom enemies of the past. This is a ticking bomb below the Kremlin. In comparison to the threat by nationalists in Kiev, this one is far more insidious and could in the end make Russia sick and weak. Russia needs a fresh, 'Russia 3.0' policy to find a stable position for itself in the 21st century, beside the EU and NATO, not through confrontation but cooperation and friendship.
Deploy the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) as the primary focus and ideal organization to solve the Ukrainian crisis. Fully coordinate it and give it support from the U.S., EU and United Kingdom as guarantor states of safe borders through the 1994 Budapest treaty, which Russia also signed.
All European states, including Ukraine, as well as the Russian Federation and the United States are members of this Vienna-based body of 57 states, which in 2014 is chaired by Switzerland.
This international body was specifically established to overcome the East-West-separation and confrontation in Europe. It should become the main focus of efforts to solve the Ukraine crisis. The OSCE already discussed the Ukraine issues on March 3rd. It then sent a first delegation of ten observers to Ukraine on March 4th. The U.S. and EU must lead all actions in this body, and Russia should welcome the mission as well. It should now be expanded to 100 observers all over Ukraine.
According to its mission statement (see www.osce.org), the OSCE "works to address protracted conflicts in its region through agreed formats. These include negotiations in the "5+2" format aimed at achieving a comprehensive political
settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict and the OSCE Minsk Group, which seeks a peaceful, negotiated solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Along with the United Nations and the European Union, the OSCE co-chairs the Geneva International Discussions, launched after the August 2008 conflict in Georgia. Together, the different parts of the OSCE support participating states in building trust and working towards a free, democratic, common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community."
The OSCE follows "a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses politico-military, economic and environmental, and human aspects. It therefore addresses a wide range of security-related concerns, including arms control, confidence- and security-building measures, human rights, national minorities, democratization, policing strategies, counter-terrorism and economic and environmental activities. All 57 participating States enjoy equal status, and decisions are taken by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding, basis." OSCE Heads of State and Government, at the 2010 Summit in Astana, reaffirmed their dedication to realizing a "free, democratic, common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok," rooted in agreed principles, shared commitments and common goals. The OSCE traces its origins to the early 1970s, to the Helsinki Final Act (1975) and the creation of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which at the height of the Cold War served as an important multilateral forum for dialogue and negotiation between East and West. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, followed by the independence of the republics of the former Soviet Union, held out the promise of a "new era of democracy, peace and unity." In the 1990, in the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, the participating states called upon the CSCE to help them work towards that end. During the early 1990s, the CSCE acquired its first permanent structures, including a secretariat and institutions, and established the first field missions. After the break-up of the former Yugoslavia and the ensuing conflicts in the Balkans, the OSCE was on the frontline, helping to manage crises and reestablish peace.
One area of focus of the OSCE is the protection of minority rights. The OSCE should submit detailed proposals for a "Codes of Tolerance for Ukraine" and advise the new government on how to protect the rights of minorities, adopting best practices from Europe.
Whether one likes it or not, Russian President Putin and his foreign minister Lavrov have a point when they justify the increase of Russian troops on the Crimean Peninsula in terms of the protection of the Russian minority.
The extreme nationalist elements of the "Svoboda" (Freedom) Party are now represented in the new government. The anti-Russian nationalists are also anti-Semitic. Some in this obscure party glorify the struggle of the Ukrainian volunteers of a Waffen SS division for independence from Moscow. Svoboda is strong in the west of the country and the city of Liv and could even attain ten percent of the vote in the 2012 elections and more in the new elections. It cooperates with far-right European parties like the NDP in Germany. These are not partners for peace, but trouble-makers.
The new government in Kiev must make it absolutely clear that Russians are welcome in Ukraine, and that all citizens have rights and are valued for their own language and culture. This corresponds to Kiev observing the binding rules of the UN, Council of Europe, the OSCE and general international law. Without such commitments, there should be no financial support by the EU at all. Unfortunately, the EU failed to connect these issues at its latest summit. The World Security Network Foundation has repeatedly stressed the importance of minority protection as one of the vital 'soft' factors of peace creation (see www.codesoftolerance.com). The three Foreign Ministers, Steinmeier (Germany), Sikorski (Poland) and Fabius (France) insisted, agreed on 21 February 2014, on a "transitional government of national unity" with the involvement of Russian Ukrainians. Due to pressure from the nationalist Svoboda party, this has not been implemented though. It was also a provocation by the new, pro-Western leadership in Kiev to abolish Russian as a second official language. This was not only a breach of this agreement and the rules of the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the UN and the EU, but also a political attack on the many Russians in the country. That the Russians sought independence from Kiev under these circumstances is entirely understandable. Representatives from the Russian minority must be integrated into the new government soon.
Despite the disregard for the rights of the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine, there was no "imminent threat" that would have justified the use of force under international law. In this respect, an occupation of strategically important positions in Crimea was not permitted. Russia should have used the OSCE or the UN to demand respect and safety for the Russians.
The OSCE should now submit detailed proposals for a "Codes of Tolerance for Ukraine" and advise the new government on how to protect the rights of minorities, of both the Russians and Tatars in Crimea, along with Muslims and Jews. Elements of this new law should include: The appointment of a Minister for Tolerance and Reconciliation from the government in the east of the country with his own separate staff and budget, the annual presentation of a Tolerance Report by the Government, together with the OSCE in parliament, support for diversity and tolerance through a number of local projects across the country, the creation of national and local tolerance ombudsmen for complaints, as well as the convening of round tables of reconciliation and tolerance in Kiev, in the Donets Basin and in Crimea. The EU should offer USD 500 million for promoting tolerance in Ukraine now.
Financing and radical reforms are needed.
Ukraine is on the verge of bankruptcy and becoming a failed state. Mere words are not enough (see Benedikt Poettering and Hubertus Hoffmann, An EU Action Plan for Ukraine, from February 17, 2014). A lot of money is needed for the construction of Ukraine, as well as radical and widespread reforms from the start, as in Estonia, and a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Not only did the pro-Russian President Yanoukovych (2010-2014) ruin the country, but also the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko (2005-2010), who did not reform it in the manner that the the three Baltic states did so successfully. Media darling and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (2007-2010) filled her pockets as the "gas princess", while her people suffered from massive corruption, no rule of law and no jobs.
So far, the West has failed to draw up a detailed master plan. The EU and the U.S. missed that opportunity when pro-Western politicians ruled the country for many years – their main mistake. A precise and creative plan is needed along with radical reforms, including a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Ukraine needs a lot of money. The new government told the EU that it needs USD 35 billion for only two years. The EU has agreed to spend USD 15 billion and the U.S. another one billion, combined with reforms and an IMF-treaty. It is fair to estimate that the costs of stabilizing Ukraine will be between USD 70 to USD 100 billion over the next ten years.
The IMF and EU must present concrete, manageable and controllable reform plans, so that the money is not merely poured into the Black Sea through the corruption of the new rulers and bureaucrats.
Three areas should be the focus: The direct support of young people through a "Ukraine EU Mentoring Program" for 100,000 young people; the financing of 50,000 small businesses by direct, small EU-controlled loans of between USD 10,000 to USD 100,000, like the KfW bank has done in Germany with much success and a copying of the e-government initiative that Estonia implemented to strangulate corruption. Tallinn should transfer its know-how to Kiev soon.
The United States as well as the European Union needs a fresh and active new foreign policy – a 'World 3.0.'
I am frustrated by the mismanagement of development in Ukraine and the integration of Russia by the EU and U.S. over the last 23 years. Since its independence in 1991, Ukraine has been high on the agenda of European and American foreign ministers and heads of state. But a detailed European master plan, concrete proposals and smart actions remain missing. Mere vague, nice words dominate and top-level-meetings lack substance. This is pure mismanagement. This unclear Western diplomacy regarding Ukraine seems mostly to have consisted of the following developments, rather than the active shaping of appropriate change.
In our foreign policy in general, talking has replaced the performance of concrete deeds. In the end, Western foreign policy in Washington and Brussels has come too late, is mostly uncoordinated and costs taxpayers a lot of money. This is exemplified by the negative experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Ukraine.
We should never merely blame Mr. Putin alone and point the finger at the Russians. We must instead be self-critical, examining what needs to be improved to make us smarter, as well as stronger, than others.
Our own bureaucracies, including weak politicians in cabinets and parliaments, constitute our main adversary. Experience shows that at the end of frustrating, grinding decision-making processes, we usually burn too much money for little output and are too slow, uncoordinated and inefficient. This is also the case in Ukraine. The problems and competing interests have been known for decades – but neither Washington nor Brussels were able to act. This red tape monster is harder to fight than any enemy. It is our main Achilles Heel in foreign affairs, causing us to win on the battlefield but lose in the end and produce one "lost victory" after another. Mr. Putin is not the main threat, but rather our system's inability to deal effectively and creatively with Ukraine.
Worlds lie between the dynamics of the actual movers and shapers willing to risk their lives for freedom on the one hand, and the planning staffs of the U.S. State Department or the Foreign Ministries in Europe on the other. On the whole, the foreign policy establishment is unable to keep up with such rapid developments, barely understands the complex new world and hardly exerts any influence on the course of events. Foreign policy officials have become on-lookers. The powerful are attempting to shape the world with pep talks, international conferences and state visits, but mostly end up splashing in their own bathtubs. Political rhetoric carries the day, while actual plans and deeds are rare.
Most of the much vaunted international conferences produce nice TV images for the electorate, but no concrete proposals. They consist of exhaustive speeches, but an "action vacuum." Today, a nearly endless diagnosis replaces therapy. The usual discussions and international meetings dealing with foreign policy mostly end with the statement that "We ought to do something," but without mentioning consequences, plans or the precise means of implementation. Hardly any politicians or leading civil servants ask about the where, how and when. But this is where effective work starts. Success or failure is determined in this realm of plans and options. Where is the U.S. or European master plan for Ukraine? Where is that for the integration of Russian national interests?
Listening to politicians conveys the impression that they confuse their speeches with implementation under the motto: "But that is what I said." The subjunctive has taken over. Foreign policy is no longer shaped and conducted; instead, it is geared toward the media, saying what should, could and must be done. A growing number of problems are merely being described, but none are being processed and mastered. This creates a huge traffic jam on the foreign policy highway.
We are leaving the initiative to other activists – through our passivity – and creating in parallel an action vacuum full of active weaknesses. We are not acting, but instead the object of action. We are not shaping, but instead reacting to new developments. We are not actively stimulating and effectively supporting the silent majorities in specific countries, but remaining passive bystanders. We are not helping with deeds, only advertising our interests with words.
If you want to win the World Cup, you have to have your own game plan and implement it consistently. Whoever merely reacts has already lost. The West is intoxicated at summits with beautiful speeches and general communiqués, although these no longer have real influence and are effectively colorful media images of reality.
In view of today's paradigm shift in foreign policy, what is needed is a new preventive stabilization policy that transcends traditional deterrence. We must systematically neutralize the numerous time-bombs, both large and small, before it is too late and they get out of control. That was missed in Ukraine too. Pure crisis management no longer suffices. We must address the roots of tensions, such as ethnic conflicts, corruption, or unemployment. We must collect, evaluate, strengthen and implement best practices on a global scale. So far, this learning process appears to have been extremely bureaucratic, slow, without dynamism and unprofessional.
We must analyze well beyond the existing limits of military thought.
In an age of towering debts and limited budgets, we are obliged to calculate precisely what we can afford and which funding mix will enable maximum output with minimum input. We need better long-term planning and cost-control. This is needed more than ever, with a USD 35 billion plus financing of the Ukraine.
We must focus on finding and supporting the new elites in Ukraine and Russia. They are the future. We must train them and support their fresh thinking and creativity with mentoring programs.
We cannot solve the "problems of the world on the same level of thinking where we have created them" (Albert Einstein) and need fresh thinking with new ideas in Europe.
We need to pursue dual strategies of power and diplomacy, hawkishness and pacifism, integrating the Human Codes of Tolerance (see www.codesoftolerance.com).
We must shape reality. Our leaders should become more active and not just adapt to bad realities; they should initiate a moral, active and successful new foreign policy as part of a World 3.0.
World 3.0 depends on sufficient defense capabilities, which must be preserved. Without these, the shell would lack a core and the forces of progress would be naked and defenseless. World 3.0 rests on the classic World 1.0 of power and national interest, but continues its development. It provides a link between the indispensable hard factors and the important, manifold, and often overlooked soft factors of peace-making, aiming at tailored, innovative double strategies for peace and liberty. It is responsive to the will of local populations and does not force our values and ideas onto others. It activates the new global elites for a responsible improvement of the world in all areas on the moral foundation of the UN Charter and human rights. Its instruments are global networks, knowledge transfer through mentoring programs, creativity, passion, promotion of the Human Codes of Tolerance and Respect, the containment of radicals, improved planning and control, as well as large personal commitment. This newly designed foreign policy is preventative, action-oriented, extensive, profound, and widely responsible for the peaceful development of billions of world citizens.
Lenin, at the end of each meeting of the Politburo, asked the same question: "What to do?" Here are my first proposals for the next steps:
- Lets us look into the future and not merely the situation of today. Let us be optimistic as well and design a fresh Ukraine 3.0 and Russia 3.0 policy now.
- Avoid cross points-of-no-easy-return or red lines, avoid separation decisions and any further military actions by the Russian side – cool the situation down.
- Focus the needed reform process on large mentoring programs for the young, small businesses and e-government combined with radical reforms from the beginning and draw on the Baltic states as best practices. Detailed plans are needed and not vague words and hope. Financial support of more than USD 35 billion by the EU and U.S.
- Take the OSCE as the focus organization, with a high level contact group of the main foreign ministers a the top. Station 100 observers in all parts of Ukraine to monitor the situation.
- Allow Crimea a maximum degree of autonomy, but retain it within Ukraine.
- Start a nation-wide reconciliation process immediately, including integrating representatives of the Russians from the East and Crimea into a government of unity, as has been agreed before. Learn from the progress made on reconciliation in Western Europe. Isolate the radical nationalist elements on both sides. Agree now to a new first law by the Kiev government: the "Codes of Tolerance for Ukraine." This should be initiated by the OSCE through the establishment of a special minister of reconciliation and minorities.
- Guarantee the rights of the Russian minority, including the autonomy of Crimea by the OSCE and the EU in an international contract now. Any protest must be brought to a special OSCE committee for check. No use of force should be allowed.
- Withdraw the Russian and others soldiers to their barracks.
- After this step-back by Moscow, start EU negotiations to integrate Russia, including through free trade and visa-free travel. At the end of 2014, trade agreements between the EU with Ukraine and Russia should be signed, and a Russian-Ukrainian treaty forged.
- Support free elections in May 2014. Do not naively expect too much from them, as radical forces will win more votes after the severe confrontations. Promote the continuation of a government of unity and exclude the radicals.
- Make real, hard sanctions the final resort, in case Moscow does not agree to these fresh elements for Ukraine. Give diplomacy a chance.