Just before his election Ukraine’s President Poroshenko remarked:
“Russia is our biggest neighbor and taking into account that we have to stop the war and bring peace to Ukraine and stability to the eastern part of the country, it is impossible to do without Russian officials, without meeting with the Russian leadership in the first half of June”.
So, whether or not President Poroshenko makes an early visit to Moscow, his election could bring a resolution of the Ukraine crisis — provided he has the full backing of the EU and an end to United States intervention. For Russian foreign policy has always had two strands — isolationist and nationalist; and pan-European. And President Putin’s is no exception. The West has done much to get Russia — not just Mr. Putin — to act on the former, despite an overall preference for the latter, which is now on ‘life support’. There was real regret in the remark on May 23 of Russia’s exceptionally able Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov: “Our Western partners rejected a truly historic chance to build a greater Europe”.
The importance of crisis resolution
This lamentable confrontation over the Ukraine is in the interests neither of the EU nor of Russia. And this is certainly not the time for ‘Putin bashing’ which so fashionable right now — even (as Prince Charles appears to have done) comparing him to Hitler! For, as President Obama observed when he was attempting to ‘reset’ US/Russia relations, very little can be done in today’s world without Russia. And the world needs Europe, east and west, to speak with one voice on the important issues where the interests of both coincide, particularly on the existential challenges mankind is now facing.
The West’s contribution to the crisis
The Ukraine (‘the border’) is Russia’s Near West and the EU’s Near East — of Europe, whose culture and history both share. Sadly the West has offered nothing but confrontation to Russia since then US Secretary of State James Baker on 9 February 1989 famously declared in the Kremlin that there would be “no extension of NATO’s jurisdiction for forces of NATO one inch to the east” (of a reunited Germany). Poland and the other East European countries — including the Baltics — did join NATO in 1999, but by then Russia’s concern had largely been met by the formation of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council in 1998.