Monday, January 22, 2018

Now is Not the Time for the EU to Become Ukraine-Fatigued

By Katherine Brown

They’ve been dealing with the ‘Ukraine issue’ for several years now, spent billions of dollars in aid and investment, and asked for reforms that are slow to appear. The European Union, and more specifically its people, have grown tired of the topic. ‘Ukraine Fatigue’ has been on the rise since September 2015 – less than two years after Euromaidan. The Minsk II Agreement has not been fulfilled and fighting continues in the east. Discontent with the glacial pace of reforms has frustrated the EU but is near boiling point with Ukrainians. For all the frustrations, now is not the time to grow weary and look away from Ukraine. Here’s two important reasons the European Union needs to drink a cup of coffee and wake up: Russia isn’t Fatigued.

Vladimir Putin is going to win another term, and he doesn’t show any signs of growing tired of the issue. The Ukraine issue is actually quite popular in Russia – Russians by in large have patriotic sentiments surrounding Ukraine and most believe former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukoyvch was illegally ousted in a coup. While sanctions certainly hurt, being relevant in the international scene feels pretty good. While its certainly up for debate how much control Vladimir Putin has over the separatist’s leaders, he’s contributed to the maintenance of a status quo in the East, preventing the implementation of the Minsk II and keeping the fighting going.

The US Might Want In…at the EU’s Expense

Is there room for the US in this fight? Some in the US government think so. At the end of 2017, US President Donald Trump approved a plan to send lethal arms to Ukraine to aid in the fight against Russia (something former President Barack Obama danced around and ultimately left office without doing).1 While current assistance is by no means enough to put Ukraine on the offense, it’s a step closer to offensive aid. That’s especially concerning for the European Union – particularly for France and German who have invested so much time and money into pursuing a non-violent end to the conflict. The prospect of US offensive aid naturally invokes concerns of a proxy war, and diminishes the EU’s ability to manage the conflict as a ‘European issue’. The EU should feel nervous about offensive aid…it would pit US-backed Ukraine against Russia. Both the US and Russia are used to sparing no expense on weaponry…and a full-scale conflict to end the conflict is probably too close to the EU border for comfort. It would also put Germany and France in an uncomfortable position – allies of the US but likely to be very offended and angry at such an undertaking near EU soil.

If European nations feel uncomfortable at the prospect of US involvement, they might want to wake up, smell the coffee, and pay close attention to Ukraine. They’ll also need to listen to the Ukrainian people, and ease their frustrations with the EU before Ukrainians turn to the US for help.




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