Staunton, August 31 – Vladimir Putin’s effort to block Ukraine’s integration with Europe by trying to spark a civil war in the former Soviet republic has failed, Leonidis Donskis says; and consequently, Kyiv despite its current difficulties can look forward to becoming a full member of the European Union sometime within the next ten years.
Moreover, the former European Parliament member and scholar at Vitautas the Great University in Kaunas says, he will not be surprised if Ukraine also becomes part of NATO as well.
What is regrettable he says, is that Ukraine was “not integrated into NATO and the European Union earlier.” Had that been the case, “almost 7,000 people would not have lost their lives,” although their sacrifice, Donskis says, is hardly in vain. It has woken Europe and the West up to the threat that Putin constitutes.
The Kremlin leader’s “honeymoon” with the West is over, he continues; and Europe and the US will never react as they did when he attacked Georgia in 2008 and say that “’Georgia was not without sin.’” “Now, it has become entirely clear: Ukraine is absolutely innocent, and all the fault lies with Russia.”
Unfortunately, Donkis continues, more people are likely to die in Ukraine because “military actions will continue. But there will not be a global war [because] Russia does not have the economic strength for that.”
Today, he argues, “Ukraine is a large, strong and consolidated country. In the Donbass, a kind of new Transnistria or frozen conflict has appeared.” That is a defeat for Russia because it means the rest of Ukraine can develop in its European direction much as Moldova has rather than be blocked by a Moscow-controlled “fifth column.”
To be sure, the continuing conflict in the Donbass is “technically” something that blocks Ukraine’s entrance into NATO, he says, but this is not the case in the US. “I am certain that Europe will not leave your country but will integrate it. And certainly within ten years, [Ukraine] will be a member of the EU.”
“The North Atlantic Alliance can say that first this territorial conflict must be resolved. That will slow the move to membership for five or ten years but not more,” the Lithuanian analyst argues.
Ukraine needs to focus on domestic reforms and to recognize that it will be able to achieve more than it expects more quickly. After four or five years of hard work, Ukraine will be a totally new place just as Lithuania was. Not all the problems will be solved, but people will have gained a sense of self-confidence that will make additional reforms easier.
NATO is critical. The Baltic countries know that it is “a real force in the world” and “the only thing which now saves us.” NATO has displayed its solidarity with its members in the east and “sent the Kremlin a very clear message: ‘don’t touch or you will face an entirely different scenario.’”
As for Europe, “it prefers soft power” and economic leverage. “That is a good thing, but if we want to establish a real European architecture of political life (of course, together with Ukraine), this is impossible with such approaches. Other institutions are needed.”
“The West is hardly weak, but its institutions are really inadequate,” Donskis says. The UN must be immediately reformed” so that Russia can’t use its veto to block findings against it. And the EU must be transformed as well. Whenever there is a crisis, “who solves the problems?” Not Brussels but Berlin and Paris.
Ukraine can play a big role in the revival of the European Union, he argues. “Euroscepticism is a good which is traded in France, the Netherlands and England but not in Ukraine. You believe in the EU and Brussels just as we believed in 2004. This faith will give a new chance for the European Union itself.”
Indeed, he suggests, “only Ukraine is capable of bringing with it the new energy and faith” needed to revive the aging house of Europe.