Why Ukraine is important for all of us
From East to West strong and insistent raises the cry to lift sanctions on Russia. But it would be a huge mistake. And we all would pay the consequences.
- Tuesday, 14 February 2017
No matter if you support the Maidan and everything that came after it; if you considered the annexation of Crimea something well-made or not; if you really believe in Donbass there’s a grass roots separatist movement: in any case, sacrificing Kiev on the altar of good relations with Russia is nonsense.
Almost everyone, from Trump to Le Pen, from Prodi to Orbàn is asking it. But this is not enough to suggest that it is the right way to follow. Since the new US president took the office, the international anti-sanctions front has had a boost that really puts at risk the only (and possible) Western response to Russian violations of international norms.
Seem good intentions: going back to deal with Moscow, solving the Ukrainian crisis, implementing the Minsk agreements; and finally, limiting the damage –a severe damage– caused by the Russian counter-sanctions on European goods. But then one day it happens to hear on TV that in a village of a few souls, submerged by snow in Ukraine's eastern plains, artillery is thundering again. And people die. Today it happens in Avdiivka yesterday in Peski, before Debaltseve. And so on.
Because Ukraine is still there. Because what we journalists have labeled as a "low intensity war" is nothing but a war like the others that continue to kill, at "low intensity." The conflict is not frozen. It is a remote controlled hotbed, whose commands are found in the Kremlin rooms (and also in Kiev). A kind of huge electric prod handled in Moscow, with whom Putin gives a shake occasionally to the Ukraianox. And with it to all of us.
And then, Crimea remains under Moscow illegitimate control. Illegally annexed after a military occupation, clumsily disguised as a popular uprising. As long as that international crime won’t be restored, there is no reason to ease pressure on the Kremlin. Indeed, the more time passes without the Crimea turns back to Ukraine, the more sanctions must be tightened. Because it is a crime that is perpetuated every day.
A danger for Europe
It also seem a good intention to link relations with Russia to the implementation of Minsk agreements. Except that Minsk is a bluff tailored on Putin’s needs. Due to Hollande and Merkel sloth, and to the advantage we have so far granted to Putin. But also, it must be said, for the clumsy negotiation of the Ukrainians. Choosing Leonid Kuchma as negotiator with the separatists was the best move to go in favor of the latters. The long time President of Ukraine in the early years of independence is the direct responsible for the economic decline and the rise to power of the oligarchs; he was the one who hold the post-Soviet Ukraine into the orbit of Russia and the one who paved the way to years of pre-Maidan kleptocracy. One more detail: his son-in-law, the oligarch Vyktor Pinchuk, is the same who a few weeks ago stirred up a hornet's nest by claiming that the only solution to the war is making broad concessions to separatists and Russia. Perhaps Kuchma was not exactly the ideal man for the trilateral contact group.
Europe has made many mistakes in handling the crisis in Ukraine, since the days before the Maidan. It’s time now not to make more mistakes, and more serious ones.
Making concessions to Russia on its violations of international law means giving Putin the green light to commit others. To pass the annexation of Crimea and the military aggression in Donbass with impunity can have catastrophic consequences in other regions of Europe, from Kosovo to Latgale. Nothing can be ruled out.
No, the sanctions not only must not be lifted, but must be further strengthened. Until Russia has restored the damage it caused. And before it causes bigger ones in Europe.