On July 31st, 2014 GMF’s Berlin office hosted Ambassador John E. Herbst, director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council and former Ambassador to Ukraine, and Adrian Karatnycky, Atlantic Council senior fellow for a roundtable discussion on pressing issues for the transatlantic partners as a result of the Ukraine crisis. Participants included James Boughner, Embassy of the United States to Germany, Harald Herrmann, Federal Foreign Office, Walter Kaufmann, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Dr. Patrick Keller, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Heike MacKerron, GMF, Dr. Constanze Stelzenmüller, GMF, and Karl-Georg Wellmann, Member of the Bundestag (CDU/CSU).
While participants appeared appreciative of the new US and European sanction regime towards Russia, they also acknowledged that many questions remain open such as the odds of finding a political solution, how to cooperate with the oligarchs and Ukrainian civil society on stabilizing and transforming Ukraine and how far the western governments would be willing to go in order to avoid a military option.
Participants agreed on the need to provide greater support to Ukraine, and discussed whether it should include military assistance or be strictly humanitarian. There was broad agreement that delivering offensive armament to Ukraine would run the risk of being perceived as an aggression and lead to an arm race with Russia. Views on the question of NATO’s involvement in the crisis diverged, with some participants arguing that NATO should be kept out of the conflict as much as possible while others felt that NATO is already involved indirectly. One participant questioned Ukraine’s need for heavy weaponry on the basis that Ukraine itself is an arms exporter. Moving beyond the disincentives and the immediate goals to achieve, participants agreed that developing a longer term perspective for the future of Ukraine is critical.
Participants acknowledged that Germany’s evolving role in Europe has increased the need for a more proactive public diplomacy from Berlin. The early visit by German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier to the Baltic States was appreciated as an important step towards providing reassurance and to eastern European member states that are vulnerable to Russian pressure. Participants agreed that a unified European position is essential, and a new bilateral Germany – Russia dialogue would not be helpful.
In conclusion, participants stressed the importance of establishing a dialogue with Ukrainian civil society, and of countering Russian propaganda for stabilizing and modernizing Ukraine. A first step would be to find ways of keeping energy supplies safe from political pressure.