The EU seeks to gain influence to defuse the conflict in Ukraine | International

The High Representative for Foreign Policy of the European Union, Josep Borrell.
The High Representative for Foreign Policy of the European Union, Josep Borrell.Geert Vanden Wijngaert (AP)

The European Union wants a more active and influential position in the Ukrainian conflict. It rejects that, as happened in the Cold War, solutions are cooked between Washington and Moscow and is beginning to make movements to avoid it, also in the field of gestures, which count so much in foreign relations. On Tuesday night the high representative for EU Foreign Policy landed in Kharkov, in eastern Ukraine, and this Wednesday he will visit with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleva, the conflict zone, where exchanges of information are still common. shooting between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian military. It is the first time that the head of European diplomacy has approached that front line and the stay in the country will last three days, long for the usual codes in this type of travel. “If you want to go to a conference on security in Europe, you have to expand the number of actors [no solo EE UU y Rusia] and the topics to be discussed [no solo los que interesan a Moscú]”, Said the high representative in conversation with this newspaper.

The visit comes just after the Christmas break, which came after a European Council in which the heads of state and government of the EU member countries launched a forceful threat to Russia: there will be “huge” sanctions if Ukraine invades, something that will be He fears after learning that Putin has deployed 110,000 troops to the border. Before taking the plane to Ukraine, the High Representative had a conversation with the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, to discuss “the concentration of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine and the two draft treaties on security guarantees directed by Russia to the United States and the members of the Atlantic Alliance ”, according to a statement issued by the European External Action Service. The objective is to show that the European Union rejects the bilateral solution that Vladimir Putin wants.

But here the European Union clashes with the Kremlin, where they have no problem in recognizing that they only propose “bilateral negotiations with the United States”, as before the Berlin Wall fell and the two great powers shared their areas of influence with the rest like stone guests. “If we invite other countries to the talks, we will drown all this with debate and talk,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has declared. So much so that community sources admit that Moscow has not even sent its proposals to Brussels.

In the community capital, the Biden Administration is trusted not to be left out. “Americans seem to understand that the security of Europe is something that concerns Europeans,” diplomatic sources say. And so they have expressed it publicly in the White House. This will begin to be seen on January 10, when representatives of both powers – the United States and Russia – will meet face to face in Geneva to address the state of their thorny relations and how to iron out differences. Ukraine will feature prominently on the agenda. These talks will be completed with others in the Russia-NATO Council and in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a body that acts as a mediator in Ukraine.

Officially the objective of Borrell’s trip is “to show solidarity with Ukraine at a difficult time,” they say in his cabinet. Although it may be that, as happened last August to the former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the high representative has to hear some reproach from Kiev. “Europe and Germany support us, but we need something concrete and we know how they could help us,” said President Volodimir Zelenski at the time, referring to a request for the supply of arms. Those complaints can be mitigated by the fact that the European Union has recently approved funding of 31 million euros for the Ukrainian armed forces and to prevent cyberattacks.

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Precisely in that line of economic support to former former Soviet republics, this Tuesday the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen announced a 150 million aid package for Moldova “that will stabilize the country’s economy, put it on the path of recovery and will be accompanied by the necessary reforms ”. Moldova also has a separatist region in Transnistria, which declared itself independent in 1990 and has a Russian military presence.

The line of contact that Borrell visits is the scene of war. There are still exchanges of continuous shots and occasional news of victims in a conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives. Most of the crossings remain closed, even to OSCE observers, who on December 30 alone recorded 11 violations of the ceasefire despite being New Year’s Eve.

“The European Union has collectively been absent so far in this crisis,” says Paul Taylor, a researcher specializing in Security and Defense matters. think tank Friends of Europe. For him, this trip and the strong warning against Russia issued by the December European Council are a first step in twisting the will of Moscow. “Brussels could do more,” he suggests, pointing to a clear strategy in the Black Sea area, “the most unstable area next to Europe.”

Although an important element to be able to solve this question is also that the Twenty-seven share the same vision on the problem. Diplomatic sources point out that in the Baltic countries it has been very bad that Biden has agreed to talk about Ukraine with Putin. The German position may also be key and it will be important to know the position of the new German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, who, according to the German press, plans to visit Moscow at the end of January to seek “a new beginning” in his relations with the Kremlin. and approaches on gas supply and Ukraine.

The construction of Nord Stream 2, which directly connects Russia with Germany bypassing the rest of Europe, is a diplomatic headache for Brussels in which Washington has also played an important role by threatening these years with imposing sanctions on European partners. Ukraine, Poland and other countries denounce that the Kremlin can blackmail them now that the gas does not pass through their territory. For his part, Putin announced at the end of December that the pipes are ready to pump and thus lower the electricity bill to Europe. However, the European certification of the work is still missing, which could see its supply cut in half if the Russian state monopoly Gazprom does not cede control of the gas pipeline to third parties. And in this economic conflict, the United States last summer desisted from imposing sanctions against the Russian-German project if Berlin agrees to sanction Moscow in case of using the pipeline as blackmail.

Another key issue is the so-called Normandy Quartet, established in 2014 to end the war in Ukraine with the participation of this country, Russia, France and Germany. Its latest peace agreement, the Minsk pact of February 2015, has failed to resolve the conflict almost seven years later despite European mediation and both Kiev and Moscow accuse each other of boycotting it. For this reason, the possible incorporation of Washington into the format has been a recurring idea.

Ukraine prepares for the next NATO meeting in Madrid

Ukraine is the protagonist of the great game played in Eastern Europe, and its Government is in permanent contact with the members of NATO. Yesterday, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministers, Dmytro Kuleba, and the head of British diplomacy, Liz Truss, spoke by phone to coordinate their positions “in view of the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation and the negotiations that will take place in different formats in the coming weeks to through the Atlantic Alliance, the OSCE and the European Union. ” According to the Kiev communiqué, the ministers discussed the preparation of the next NATO meeting that will take place in Madrid in June, despite the fact that one of the Kremlin’s starting points to negotiate is that its neighbor has no relationship with the alliance. Likewise, London stressed the principle of “no decision on Ukraine without Ukraine” and promised its firm support to Kiev in the face of Russian aggression “at the diplomatic, economic and security level”, as contemplated in the containment package against the Kremlin proposed by Ukraine. in November.

A day before, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlüt Çavusoglu, also maintained “a good call” on the Slavic country, according to the American on Twitter, where he stressed his “close coordination with Turkey on the threat of Russian escalation in Ukraine “. Ankara is precisely one of the minor players in this recent crisis. The drones it has sold to Kiev, the same ones with which Azerbaijan defeated Armenia in the summer of 2020 in its conflict over Nagorno Karabakh, have been a cause for concern in Russia. And Ankara is also one of the main promoters of the Crimean Platform, an initiative launched last August by Ukraine to try to recover the Black Sea peninsula in the near future.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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