Russia, NATO and the EU: A Plea for a True Partnership

Posted in UN , Russia , NATO , Europe | 26-Mar-14 | Author: Hubertus Hoffmann

The U.S. as well as the EU and its member states need a new foreign policy design. The events in Ukraine have once again illustrated that the current methods of shaping foreign policy are largely ineffective and insufficient. The crisis in Crimea is part of a series of failures: instability in Iraq, where hostilities between Shias, Sunnis and the Kurds persist after 11 years. In Afghanistan, NATO still waits for a troop agreement with President Karzai. The integration of Pakistan into the peace talks is still missing as well as serious progress. The West was unable to stop the mass killing in Syria. The democratic opportunities created through the Arab Spring have not been utilized. Western foreign policy is marked by more failures than success stories over the last 10 years. It is not well planned, vague, rather bureaucratic and too inflexible. It always comes too late. Poor crisis management dominates, instead of strategic planning. Therefore, we need a fresh foreign policy, which I label World 3.0, that includes better planning, more creativity and pro-active behavior. You can find the details of this fresh approach here.

Hubertus Hoffmann Kremlin
Dr Hubertus Hoffmann, President of the World Security Network Foundation: "Mother Russia can only be strong after radical reforms towards more democratic freedoms, less corruption, integration and friendship with Europe and the U.S. It is easy to start and win a tiny battle. But statesman Vladimir Putin still has to win this real Great Play and war inside to safeguard the future of his country. This alone, and not Crimea, is the real trophy for the Kremlin."

In general, we need a much better and detailed Russia strategy by the EU and U.S. For now, there seems to be a dangerous vacuum of thinking and creativity. The basis would be a clever double strategy of power and diplomacy. 

In the match for Ukraine, the EU behaved like a poorly trained soccer team that does not have its own game plan and does not know the opponent’s team, nor its strengths and weaknesses. That is why the current score is 1:0 for Russia.

If we want to build up a stable fundament and order of peace in Europe, we have to take all of the justified interests and worries of all actors seriously and look for a broad consensus. This has nothing to do with appeasement, nor with pleasing Mr Putin, but with the wisdom of a clever foreign policy strategy.

Washington, Brussels and the European capitals have to work on this pan-European understanding. The main task is to plan for the long term until 2030, including and not excluding Russia. Let us start negotiations for an association of Russia as well the Eurasian Economic Union with the EU. Why do we offer this to the culturally dislodged Turkey, but not to the European-shaped Russia?

From the outset as early as 1994, the advantages of the association of Ukraine with the EU would have had to be negotiated with Moscow. On the contrary, the President of the European Commission, Mr Barroso, has marked the beginning of the end with his “either-or” approach regarding Ukraine’s association with the EU or the Eurasian Economic Union. Ukraine is economically valuable for Russia. This country, on the other hand, needs the Russian market and natural resources like discounted gas as well. Unfortunately, the bureaucrats in Brussels and their hardly convincing Commissioner for Enlargement, Stefan Füle, as well as High Representative Catherine Ashton and Mr Barroso forgot the key ingredient for a peaceful enlargement: an EU-Russia-Ukraine agreement for economic cooperation to be signed in parallel with the EU-Ukraine association agreement

The EU has as well forgotten to secure the details of a fair treatment of the strong Russian minority in Ukraine – this was gross negligence. It repeated its mistakes at the EU summit on March 20, 2014 and again only included highly general and non-binding declarations of intent regarding the protection of minorities into the 1,500 page treaty of association with Ukraine (EU-Ukraine Association Agreement). A clear action plan and focus on this real problem is missing. Because of the involvement of the radical Swoboda Party in the transition government and its expected strengthening following the next parliamentary elections on May 25, 2014, this is perilous and a weakness that is a provocation to the Russian citizens of Ukraine and the Russian Federation. I plead for clear and immediate regulation that clarifies the rights of the Russians in accordance with the requirements of the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN Charter. The EU and Germany, the latter of which is highly appreciated by the Russian people, should organize and join an “Ukrainian Contract for the Protection of Minorities” as guarantors. Other important options to smooth out the ethnic tensions are: the appointment of a “Special Minister for Tolerance”, an “Annual Tolerance Report” of the government and of the guarantors before the Ukrainian Parliament, the OSCE and the European Council. National and local ombudsmen for any complaints, the propagation of the Codes of Tolerance (see in schools, the media and in local politics, the protection of all languages and cultures. A broad national reconciliation following the models and best practices of the German-French and German-Polish reconciliations is needed as well.

All parties involved should aim at a “Friendship Treaty” between Ukraine, Russia and the EU with guarantees for the existing borders and a demilitarized zone of 200 kilometers at the Eastern border.

What must happen with Crimea? The so-called referendum, under the pressure of a military presence, was neither fair nor efficient. Thus, the annexation of Crimea was a violation of international law. The OSCE should, six months after the signing of the “Friendship Treaty”, conduct a new, internationally supervised referendum. The result would be binding for everyone. The status of Crimea with its large Ukrainian and Tartar minorities should be modeled on the best practice of the Austro-Italian treaty of 1971. At the time, autonomy was granted to the region of South Tyrol with its large German minority. It belonged to Austria and is now a part of Italy. In case Crimea were to stay with Russia, Moscow should compensate this loss with long term heavily discounted gas supplies for Ukraine - as in the past. Crimea and Ukraine could then agree on a “small border traffic” law. This EU instrument already enables the freedom of travel for Russians and Polish in the zone of the Oblast Kaliningrad area in a corridor of 60 kilometers in Poland and this Russian enclave.

Washington should revive its progressive proposal from 1996 to invite Russia into NATO. Then, even U.S. President Clinton approved the idea from the State Department to admit Russia into the alliance within 10 to 15 years. Unfortunately, this plan was stopped by some European bureaucrats, who feared that after joining NATO, Russia would also have to be invited for EU membership. Since 1992, I have been advocating to integrate Russia into NATO - the missing link for a stable peace order in Europe. The Russia-NATO Council is not enough. We also have to highlight to the Kremlin that NATO is no threat at all. For 10 years, NATO and the Russian military have been standing border-by-border in the Baltics without any problems.

Within a double strategy of power and diplomacy, NATO has to strengthen its capacity and credibility to defend its Eastern European partners, especially the Baltic States. This may imply the installation of an anti-missile defense system in Poland and Romania or joint manoeuvres.

How to stabilize Ukraine for the long term is another core task. Unfortunately, Ukraine is a huge failed state in the middle of Europe. Where were and where are now the concrete reform proposals of the EU, integrating the best practices of the IMF? Brussels is about to waste billions of Euros. The provisional government estimates financial necessities of USD 35 billion for only two years. Realistically, we can estimate the financial needs between USD 100 billion to USD 150 billion over the next ten years. Do Europeans, Americans, or the IMF want to pay that much? The EU association agreement contains many nice wordings, but no precise or well-reflected and controllable reform program. If this is implemented as planned, the tiny elite and oligarchs will once again steal billions, like they did in the past 20 years. Billions will be burned without much effect. The EU, U.S. and IMF need a detailed program for radical reforms urgently. Both EU role models should be Estonia with its efficient E-Government system and Poland. 

Crimea most probably will be “A Won Battle and Lost War” for Russia. The support of Crimea is estimated to cost Russia at least USD 3 billion per year. Even without considering any sanctions, I estimate the costs due to the erosion of trust around USD 150 billion to USD 300 billion. These losses arise through deduction of Russian as well as foreign capital, the slump of the Rubel, lower valuations of Russian stocklisted companies, a lack of foreign direct investment and reduced know-how transfer. Europe will reduce its dependence on Russian gas as well. China will relentlessly exploit Russia's isolation, while not supplying much know-how. The young elite, essential for prosperity, will leave and brain drain mother Russia, if there are no real reforms and freedom. By 2050, Russia's population is projected to have declined rapidly, and maybe consist of a Muslim majority.

Famous German writer, Heinrich Heine, once said about stagnant, reform averse Germany of the 19th century: “When I think of Germany at night, I can sleep no more”. After the flush of victory has faded in Moscow, we certainly will hear similar remarks from Russian intellectuals. 

Mother Russia can only be strong after radical reforms towards more democratic freedoms, less corruption, integration and friendship with Europe and the U.S. It is easy to start and win a tiny battle. But statesman Vladimir Putin still has to win the Great Game and war inside to safeguard the future of his country. This alone, and not Crimea, is the true trophy for the Kremlin.