They were not doing their bit to keep the free world, of which they are a part, free.
They were not grasping the central importance of Ukraine.
The Americans said so in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, where over the past weekend Victor Pinchuk, one of the very wealthy oligarchs who are the not-well-hidden wiring of the Ukrainian state, put on his 12th Yalta European Strategy (YES) forum, inviting a galaxy of the past and present mighty to debate the future of his imperiled state.
The first 10 of these conferences were, indeed, held in the Livadia Palace in Yalta, in the Ukrainian province of Crimea: but Russia invaded Crimea in 2013, and thus only the name remains.
The loss of Crimea, Russia’s backing of the breakaway militants in Ukraine’s eastern industrial provinces of Donbass and Lugansk, the further impoverishment of the already poor country, shorn of 25 percent of its industrial capacity and unable to attract international investment, is again the backdrop to the YES forum.
And the fact that this should be so, and that the country is no nearer to recovering its lost lands or beating back the invading neighbor, is the cause of the Americans’ frustration.
Full-scale fighting has stopped and a ceasefire is, formally, in place.
In fact, on the first day of the conference, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that, for the first time since fighting broke out, not a shot had been fired for 24 hours.
But no one has much faith in its lasting.
Larry Summers, a former U.S. treasury secretary, lauded the “extraordinary effort” made by Ukraine to improve its financial position (painful cuts have been much of the cure) — and demanded a matching effort from the Europeans.
“The European Union has a huge strategic stake in Ukraine, as a buffer (against Russia), and they have not delivered half of what they promised two years ago.
This is not charity.
It’s a security investment.
There is no better investment than the provision of $5 to $10 billion a year to aid reform.”
Strobe Talbot, former U.S. deputy secretary of state and now head of the Brookings Institution, said he believed that, on the Russian side, “the cease fire is not an attempt to get peace, but to lull the west — perhaps especially Paris — into dropping its guard.”
President Francois Hollande of France, a guarantor with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the truce, is keenest that the Western sanctions against Russia be lifted, citing observance of the ceasefire.
And the military man, General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, voiced skepticism that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was up to the tasks it had shouldered, saying that “it must be a credible military entity — must be ready and able to do the things it promises.”
Asked if he thought Europeans were doing enough to ensure that, he said — “No, Europe is not doing enough. You must have forces that can work together — instead you have a number of pieces that don’t provide synergy for each other. It will take more effort.”
There are Europeans who think the same.
Also present in Kiev were two former foreign ministers, Radek Sikorski of Poland and Carl Bildt of Sweden, who had pushed the European Union into bringing Ukraine into an association agreement, the largest reason for the breach with Russia.
Bildt said that “we (the EU) just gave another 86 billion euros to Greece! We must support Ukraine — it will take a lot — but if we do it, it will be a shining example.”
Sikorski said that “I don’t think the EU is serious about its eastern strategy. We must tell (Russian President Vladimir) Putin he cannot win — and if he moves further into Ukraine, we will deliver arms.”
But neither Sikorski, nor Bildt, are in power now.
The Ukrainian government talks tough. Poroshenko said that Ukraine is “fighting for European values,” and that “the sanctions must stay as long as the Russians occupy Crimea and support the Donbass.”
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said “Putin has put 40,000 troops in the Donbass. But he’s made a trap for himself. If he withdraws them he’s dead in Russia. If he tries to get more Ukrainian territory he’s dead in the world.”
But the Europeans, struggling with a migrants’ flood, the euro crisis unsolved, now wish for an end to sanctions which hurt their exporters and freeze relations with Russia.
Hollande is in the lead:
He’s under pressure from industrialists and the agriculture lobby to open up the Russian market again, and with Merkel has called for a meeting with Putin and Poroshenko in Paris, probably on October 2.
Sensing a withdrawal of support and the permanent loss of Crimea and the Donbass, the Ukrainian press has reacted fiercely.
At the weekend, the Kiev Post wrote that Hollande “might as well build a replica of the armistice railway carriage in which France surrendered to Germany in 1940.”
The Kiev government is weaker than it was last year, however.
One of the members of the coalition government has pulled out.
Poroshenko made former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili governor of the Odessa region, and last month he launched an attack on Yatsenyuk, accusing him — on Channel 5, owned by the industrial group Poroshenko created — of favoring certain oligarchs, blocking the dismissal of corrupt managers and refusing to allow Saakashvili to reform Odessa’s notoriously bribe-taking customs’ service.
There’s been tension between Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, since the president semi-publicly toyed with replacing him with Saakachvili.
The reforms are slow, the bureaucracy venal and obstructive, tariffs on energy are rising sharply and war may break out again.
Summers is right.
Europeans, collectively, have not grasped how strategic Ukraine is; how much support it needs to remain an independent state and start the long haul to economic growth.
That is in part because, while Ukraine is a weak state, Europe isn’t one at all: yet is called to act like one.
And, when push comes to shove, it can’t.
Source: Google News