Thursday, December 15, 2016

Perhaps the Horse Will Sing

Coming to a deal with Russia in the Ukraine Crisis that centers on the prize jewel of the Crimea bases could be enabled by a better European Union (EU) attitude about relations with non-EU members.

I want a deal with Russia over Ukraine that preserves Ukraine's territorial integrity, reverses a border change precedent, yet gives something to Russia in order to halt spiraling tensions with Russia that could lead to war.

This attitude from the EU apparatchiki class could help if it can become EU policy despite the initial EU reaction of wanting to punish Britain for the outrage of rejecting the EU proto-empire:

The U.K.’s departure from the EU creates “an opportunity to reduce the complexity of the Union,” the European Parliament committee dealing with Brexit said in a [non-binding] report adopted Thursday. ...

Although the European Commission will lead Brexit negotiations, Parliament must give the nod to a final deal.

The report states that “a clear framework is required in the future for the EU’s relationships with non-members in our neighborhood.”

Pointing out that the EU’s “founding fathers” had imagined a type of “associate status,” MEPs called for “a partnership,” which “should be defined and developed in order to set up a ring of partners around the EU for states who cannot or will not join the Union, but nevertheless want a close relationship with the EU.”

One, that's a far more adult reaction to Britain's desire to leave the EU than the initial reaction in Brussels of wanting to punish Britain. Leaders shouldn't make things worse (from their point of view) out of spite.

So this is welcome in regard to Britain alone.

More broadly, such an associate status in the EU would complement similar partnerships between NATO and non-NATO states. So by making it easier for a non-EU Britain to have economic and other ties with the EU without political entanglement, the EU offers the possibility of doing that with states like Ukraine (or Belarus, for that matter).

If Ukraine can deepen ties to the West without formally joining the West in the big two of NATO and the EU, in the short to medium term Russia is relieved of the worry that Ukraine will be an outpost of the West. However much I think Russia's continued push for buffer states in the west is both counter-productive and counter to our values, that motive does linger on in Russian minds.

In practice, the West loses nothing in the short to medium term because Ukraine needs to make significant progress economically, militarily, and in regard to rule of law (corruption) to earn membership in either Western body.

So this type of deal with Russia over Ukraine buys time. Ideally, the time of reduced tension with Russia over Ukraine allows Russia to get over their paranoid sense of being under attack by any random thing the West does that affects Russia.

At worst, such a deal gives us a period of time with less risk of war until a much stronger Ukraine joins the West fully despite Russian objections.