The Ukraine Crisis and the Need for Codes of Tolerance

Posted in Ukraine , Russia , NATO | 30-Jul-14 | Author: Hubertus Hoffmann

The killing of 298 innocent people on board of flight MH-17 by a BUK anti-aircraft missile used by Ukrainian rebels in the east without radar, marks a game changer for the international community. It should become a point to rethink peace options and look for an end to violence and reconciliation from all sides.

The U.S., the EU and especially influential Germany, with its strong relations to Moscow, should pursue a more active double strategy of power and diplomacy, including hard and soft factors of peace keeping. I call this fresh approach World 3.0. and will name some elements later.

Not the only, but one important aspect for the population leaning towards Russia in the east and south of Ukraine is the protection of their culture and dignity as well as economic prosperity. Since the people suffer economically, many hope for better times through joining the Russian Federation. This is not propaganda from Moscow, but the reality.

It is the Achilles heel of the transition government and the new president. They act ad-hoc without clear long-term-planning. We should not only criticize Mr Putin, but the West for not filling the vacuum on this delicate playing field for years.

As the Kiev government now pursues military actions in the east, it as well urgently needs at least a safeguarding mechanism through the very important soft factors within a credible double strategy. So far, this wise approach is missing.

The Kiev government should learn from the wisdom of a peace maker like American philosopher Eric Hoffer who said: "A war is only won after you turned your enemy into a friend."

The focus on Mr Putin as the bad guy is too narrow-minded. Indeed, there may be 100 to 200 Russian specialists among the 1500 rebels, but Kiev must win the hearts and minds of the Eastern Russian population -now- and not later. There is no action plan yet.

The transition government and the President without much political training are unable to cope and do not possess the know-how: it can only come from the West. Brussels and Washington cannot leave it to Kiev - that is naïve. The EU has all soft power knowledge necessary, but utilizes it inadequately and hence remains passive. The same is true for Washington.

The maximum protection of the Russian population and their identity and all minorities (as well the Cossacks and Tatars on Crimea) must be ensured according to international law, the European Council or OSCE through several measures.

It seems to be necessary to once again name soft-factor-proposals to cool down the situation in eastern Ukraine, using our long term know-how from the Baltic States and promoting Codes of Tolerance for Ukraine.

1. The OSCE should immediately publish a Tolerance Report for Ukraine 2014 with clear references to the protection of all minorities according to rules of the Council of Europe, the UN and the OSCE. It should be discussed in Vienna very soon.

2. The transition government with the President should appoint a Minister of Tolerance and Reconciliation from the Russian population. The EU could provide € 50 million for the purpose of reconciliation and its own experts.

3. After the publication of the OSCE report, the government in Kiev must produce its own annual Ukrainian Tolerance Report, with discussions in the parliament and openly confess to the protection of its Russian population and promote fresh Codes of Tolerance for Ukraine (see our main project

4. The President could invite Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa to establish and chair a Ukrainian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This wise concept has been copied by more than twenty states so far with much success.

5. Several local Round Tables are to be established, parallel to the security measures, in Donetsk and the main cities in the east to enable discussions about the future between all participants.

6. Germany, Poland and France should guarantee the protection of the Russian population in Ukraine with a Guarantee Declaration according to the guidelines of the UN Charta, the OSCE and the Council of Europe and appoint a Special Representative. The transition government should accept this guarantee. This move is similar to the Austrian guarantee of the protection of the Germany minority in South Tyrol in its treaty with Italy in 1972.

7. The transition government should declare its appreciation of Russian as second equal language as part of its codes of tolerance and diversity program and contain anti-ethnic activities with a mix of many clear and small signals. Just one example: all city singposts in Ukraine should be written in two languages. It has already been done in Kosovo, South Tyrol, Slovakia and Austria (Kärnten), or in Northern Germany next to the Danish border (Schleswig-Holstein). This is a gold standard and best practice in Europe- why not in Ukraine?

8. Naïve bureaucrats in Kiev and in Washington propagate myths about a 'weakness of Kiev by autonomy and de-centralization'. They are contradicting historical experience in Europe and continuing the poor planning exhibited by the White House and the State Department in Iraq and Afghanistan. This fixation of U.S. planners on centralized rule has blocked the progress needed in these countries which became failed states. After many years, billions wasted and too many people killed, nothing functions mainly because the corrupt centers in Bagdad and Kabul hinder the flourishing of the diverse regions. This core error must be avoided in Kiev. The ignorance of regional and cultural diversity in Washington's inner circles must end now. Europe needs diversity and regional responsibility to be peaceful. Switzerland, Austria or Germany are best practices.

The aim should be maximum autonomy for the Russian parts of Ukraine within a federal state. The federalization of Ukraine and a fixed protection of the long-established Russian identity and culture in the east are needed. It must be included in the new constitution. Just use the best practices from Western Europe. It will make Ukraine stronger, not weaker. This is the core concept in Europe: regional autonomy from Norway to Sicily where the locals decide on their own and the capitals in foreign-and defense affairs, currency and the big national issues.

9. Can you talk to "terrorists"? Yes, you can and should. Include all and exclude no one. Stop talking about 'terrorists'- learn from the Northern Ireland conflict and other best practices and the reconciliation of the Germans with 'archenemies' France and Poland. Start talks without pre-conditions now.

10. The right-wing Svoboda-party must be kicked out of the Kiev government now. This should become a precondition for support from the EU and the U.S.. To cooperate with them indirectly via the government, is not exceptable in a democratic Europe. Like a rotten apple, these ultra-nationalistic elements (which the Russians call 'fascists') infect the whole basket of democracy in Kiev, breed mistrust with the Russian speaking Ukrainians, discredit the whole government and are a main argument for the separatists and the Kremlin as well. In the presidential elections their candidate got only 1,16 percent, which shows they are not needed anymore.

11. To keep the Russians within, the EU must propose a concept for Ukrainian-Russian economic relations and incorporate it into the free trade agreement. Just to cut all economic ties with Russia is madness. The EU needs creativity and flexibility to find a wise solution.

Lets us be more self-critical as well: Until now, the NATO, the U.S. and the EU have no real Ukraine strategy. Day-to-day crisis management prevails. Pure words, calls for moderation and more sanctions against Mr. Putin are more a sign of a lack of a coherent strategic plan, creativity and actions on the ground – only this way can the West win the end-game. Washington and the European capitals need a well-reasoned, long-term Ukraine strategy. This homework has to be done first.

It must always be a fresh dual strategy of power and diplomacy, including reconciliation. That was the winning strategy of the Cold War, as manifested in NATO's Harmel Report from 1967, which established credible defense and détente as the fundamental strategy of the alliance, or NATO's Two Track Decisions from 1979 regarding the Russian SS-20-threat to Western Europe with the combination of Pershing II and cruise missiles deployment combined with a zero solution implemented in the INF Treaty later.

Most probably, NATO needs to deploy troops in the Baltic states and Poland as part of its double-strategy to contain threats there. Make no mistake: an infiltration by the Russians in the Baltic states will not be tolerated and may even lead to war in Europe. The guarantee for the three Baltic NATO members is solid like a rock. A new Strategy for Ukraine must contain fresh elements of an active, World 3.0 foreign policy. (read all details at This includes a detailed action plan (500-plus pages) with a monthly control report, much more creativity, pro-activeness instead of mere reaction, the implementation of the Codes of Tolerance ( towards all minorities and a focus on the elites.

Russia must be included – and not excluded – in this Ukraine strategy. Only with the inclusion of the legitimate- not imperialistic- interests of Russia can Ukraine be stable.

These include: proposals for a new and balanced Ukraine-Russia trade agreement and an EU-Russia trade agreement. The survival of the Ukrainian economy depends heavily on the continuation of trade with Russia. Even if Putin resigns tomorrow, a new Russian leader will have an eye on the Russians in Ukraine. This is the reason why 80 percent of Russians supported the annexation of the Crimea.

Do not forget 100 years later, that the Czar's support for the orthodox Serbs triggered World War I, while the German Kaiser did not believe the Russians would protect its cultural ally in the Balkans. Misperceptions on all sides and no true dialogue allowed Europe to slip into this disaster – mainly out of fear of the adversary. Let's learn and not repeat 100 years later.

We need a more intense dialogue about the combining values of NATO and Russia and look for a partnership for peace in the common European house as well. Until now the perception of NATO in Moscow is far from the reality.

Stability includes solid finances and economies. Ukraine will cost more than USD 100 billion over ten years. The costs of the rehabilitation of Ukraine have, like a state secret, been concealed from the populations of the U.S. and Europe until now. This contradicts the rules of open democratic societies. The recovery costs of rotten Ukraine is estimated to be around 8 to 12 billion USD per year. That's approximately 100 billion in ten years. The U.S. has pledged just one billion, which is only one percent of this. The total support by the EU, IMF and the U.S. adds now to USD 30 billion (only on paper) – more than two thirds are still missing.

The country must be restructured from the ground up and needs radical reforms such as those followed in Estonia from 1990 onwards. This includes e-government, deregulations, support for start-up-companies, anti-corruption tools. Time is of essence.

Where are the 500-page plans for radical reforms and their implementations and cost control? Will billions just end on Swiss bank accounts like over the last ten years and never reach the villages?

The obsessive fixation on polls and elections is naïve – just as it was in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are important, but solve almost nothing. The focus must be radical reform proposals, laws and control by the West. Where are the concrete proposals to reform Ukraine, which can only come from the IMF and EU? Too many general and nice words, but few concrete plans. If this continues, Ukraine will fail.

With the implementation of actions in accordance with the points mentioned, Moscow will – hopefully – loose its appetite for further destabilization of Ukraine.

To send former FBS/GRU colonel Igor Strelkow (alias, Igor Girkin, Russian Passport No. 4506460961) to Eastern Ukraine undercover, as a leader of the armed separatists with 100 to 200 more specialists from Russia, which are involved in the murder and torture of unarmed Ukrainian civilians, echoes Russia's style in Chechnya.

This Russian colonel even praised the shooting of the Malaysian airliner MH-17 on his propaganda website in "VKontakt" including photos, as he thought it was a Ukrainian AN-26 military aircraft. This crosses the red line and cannot be tolerated. The governments of Malaysia, The Netherlands and Germany should, after the investigation, issue an arrest warrant with a bounty of USD 10 millions for Mr Strelow for the killing of 298 civilians. The GRU should call back its colonel and his team for reserve duties to Russia now. He smeared the image of President Putin and Mother Russia.

Russia is much more vulnerable as it thinks now in its emotional wave of joy. It has dozens of weak spots the West has not pressed upon yet, including offshore technology for gas and oil drillings or the financing of the USD 65bn pipeline to China and other larger investments. The discussed sanctions are mild compared to real actions that could be taken if the conflict goes one.

The Russian President and his team are about to become victims of their own propaganda war as well. Russia is about the win the little battles, but lose the war – and its last real friend in the West, the German people who want peace in Europe.

Wehrmacht Field Marshal Erich von Manstein titled his memoirs Lost Victories. As a general, he commanded the German invasion-troops in Crimea in WWII. Ukraine could easily become a Lost Victory for Russia.

This will be the fate of Mr. Putin if his aggressiveness continues. He and the Russian elites will be branded as outlaws, as in the old Wild West movies.

Estimated USD 240 billion have been lost in withdrawal of investments, decline of stocks and credibility until now - with much more to come. The oligarchs lost 20 percent of their values within few months.

Putin and his comrade underestimate the iron will in the West – like in Afghanistan. The West looks soft, emasculated and weak, but when it comes to defending its core values, it will be united in a rolling consensus. Europe is core, as well for the U.S. The hope for a new Munich treaty on Ukraine is in vain.

My advice for all: give peace a chance.

This is better for the West, Ukraine - and Mr. Putin and Russia as well - than all other options.

How could a compromise look like?

Leave the east with Ukraine and offer maximum autonomy and the protection of Russian culture guaranteed by Germany, Poland and France. Keep Ukraine outside of NATO. Build bridges between both Ukraine and Russia and the EU. Start an intensive fresh dialogue about NATO. Impeach the radicals on all sides, call back the 200 Russian specialists to Russia and give common sense a chance

Presentation at the "EU-Russia Dialogue" of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, July 18, 2014.