Anyone who underestimates the West
Dr. Karen Donfried, the president of The German Marshall Fund of the United States, spoke with Südwestrundfunk, a German broadcasting station, on December 17, 2014, on how relations within the West and between Russia and the West have developed and changed over the past year, especially in relation to the on-going Ukraine conflict.
The program moderator initially framed the dispute in Ukraine as a revival of the Cold War with it being part of an ongoing and growing power game by the Russian and U.S. superpowers. Donfried, however, denied the assumption of a global reversal to that era and specifically highlighted the strengthened transatlantic relationship as a positive consequence of the past year’s events. She said transatlantic partners have been working in unison to address Russia’s violation of international law and continue supporting Ukraine. Donfried agreed that every state has own strategic interests in this global issue, but pointed to the agreement between the United States and EU partners on the use of economic sanctions against Russia as evidence of an ever-stronger transatlantic relationship.
As an example, Donfried cited when Germany used its strategic partnership with both the West and Russia to organize an essential call between Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Ukraine’s Petro Poroshenko and France’s François Hollande explaining that an armistice would benefit each country and explored possible options for humanitarian aid in Eastern Ukraine. Despite these glimpses of communication and cooperation, however, sanctions and a decreasing oil price have caused a steady decline of Russia’s economy. That is why she underlined the importance of Putin needing to show more willingness to compromise than the West has ever thought possible. She noted, though, it is obvious that Putin’s domestic popularity is holding strong, despite the delicate game he is playing by increasing pressure on dissidents and restraining the freedom of the press.
Donfried also clarified that Ukraine cannot only count on transatlantic support efforts but it must show a higher commitment to reinforcing its own economy. The transatlantic partners within the IMF have agreed to give a sizeable “rescue package,” but it requires Ukraine to take steps to bring the economy back into the line. After two democratic elections in the country, she said, Poroshenko should receive the needed support of the international community to tackle political and economic reforms of his government.
Donfried closed by pointing out that even though international cooperation on addressing the Ukraine crisis started with deep frustrations on all sides, it has transformed into a unified effort — to Russia’s surprise — resulting in a strengthened transatlantic partnership for future cooperation.