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Europe, Ukraine, and Surrogates

war in Ukraine

No sooner had the war unleashed by Vladimir Putin against Ukraine moved to the first protracted phase – I do not rule out new big battles ahead – than Western leaders began to carefully drift towards their promises of institutional support for Ukraine. An image of a “new political community” has loomed on the horizon, which could unite both countries that want to join the EU but are not yet welcome and the countries that have already left the EU. President of France Emmanuel Macron was the first to announce the idea. Then positive remarks were voiced by European Council President Charles Michel, followed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

In my opinion, this idea is stillborn at its core. Who will agree to participate in the “political community”? Ukraine? It is an obvious national defeat for a country whose citizens are fighting for the right to determine their choice. President Volodymyr Zelensky already said this. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter just several minutes after a speech by the latest community supporter, Olaf Scholz, that the “strategic ambiguity” on Ukraine’s European perspective practiced by some EU capitals only emboldened Putin. The United Kingdom? After leaving the EU, this country claims its own geopolitical role equal to that of the European Union. How can a country with such ambitions, all the more after its citizens decided to leave the European Union, stay in one “waiting room” with those who aspire to join the EU? The Western Balkans countries? But they strive to join the EU, not its supplement, and are already engaged in respective negotiations. By the way, some sort of surrogate structures were supposed to be created for these countries a few decades ago, but it all ended in the status of candidates for EU membership. Why reinvent the wheel?

This is so because the European politicians are already getting ready to answer the question: why is Ukraine not granted candidate status? Why have negotiations with it been carried out for so long? Isn’t the bloody war a reason to speed up the process? And the answer to these questions is already clear: we offered them a wonderful form of coexistence, but they refused. Because they lack adequacy.

But the heads of the leading countries of the European Union should show their adequacy themselves. Of course, Ukraine needs to make a lot of effort to meet EU standards. It is not an easy task. But the war that began on 24 February 2022 proved a simple thing: while Ukraine – not only Ukraine, but also Moldova, Georgia, and the Western Balkans – stays outside the EU and NATO, European security is under threat. Because European security is guaranteed by peace.

By peace, not war. And peace is a common commitment, a willingness to defend ourselves together against possible danger, to build a transparent labour and capital market. Yes, one needs to help others in this situation, but this is done for the common good and this help will definitely pay off. If this still needs to be proven, let’s imagine that Ukraine had been in NATO by 2022. Would it have been attacked? Would the US, the UK, and the EU have been obliged to spend billions of dollars and accept millions of refugees? Would they have been forced to give up Russian energy? And these questions are only a concern for Europeans. Let’s not forget about the millions of Ukrainians who lost their homes. About those killed at the front and in their own homes. About destroyed cities and villages. About the fact that this is not over yet and it is unknown when and how it will end. And if Ukraine was in NATO, none of these things would happen for sure. However, Western politicians preferred to abandon this simple idea, though like many of my compatriots, I admit. Instead, there was another popular opinion: Putin could be “dragged” into a mutually beneficial energy partnership with the West (for example, to complete the construction of Nord Stream 2) and then he would not attack anyone because he would be interested in profits. I’m ashamed to ask: did the plan work out?

It is instructive to observe how representatives of the elites, who have shown astonishing political short-sightedness and persuaded a potential aggressor with their “constructiveness” and caution that he would get away with it, again try to invent something that has no real political meaning. Again, they cannot understand that it is not about the security of someone else, but about theirs, about their future. It is about Germany and France, not really just Ukraine.

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian journalist, political commentator, author and opinion-maker

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