The Euroatlantic Integration of Ukraine
On September 12, GMF’s Berlin office hosted Eugene Czolij, president of the Ukrainian World Congress, for a roundtable discussion on the future of Ukraine.
In his opening remarks, Czolij reminded participants that the Ukrainian people“showed courage, strength, and determination” in their fight for a European perspective. Czolij said that he wishes Germany to step up and lead the way in the conflict with Russia as it is the only country that is able to properly negotiate with Russia. While he acknowledged that Ukraine has a long reform agenda to work off, he also suggested that Germany might think about creating an equivalent to the Marshall Plan to assist Ukraine, notably in the fight against corruption. Czolij argued that Putin wishes to rebuild a Soviet Union and that the West is ill-advised to follow a purely defensive approach to the situation. He argued that sanctions would be more efficient if they targeted Putin’s inner circle.
Discussants agreed on the increasing importance of the EU’s role in the Ukrainian crisis. However, there were doubts about the ability of the West to formulate a unified strategy in the EU-Russia negotiations. Some argued that a strong position carries the risk of escalating the conflict while others felt a strong position is necessary for the conflict to deescalate. Participants agreed that the “contact lines” with Russia must remain open and that the West’s policy towards Russia should not remain purely reactive. Participants also perceived the recent ceasefire as a positive factor.
The debate revealed that details about the shape and form of a stronger Russia policy remain controversial, especially concerning military support for Ukrainians and who should be targeted by sanctions.
Participants also discussed Germany’s leading position in the negotiations with Russia. The wish of the German public to have a good relationship with Russia was acknowledged. At the same time, disillusionment has set in reinforced by the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH17. As a result, divergences are appearing between Chancellor Merkel’s conscious and serious approach to the conflict and a still volatile public opinion.