The future of Ukraine has two most probable options — either as a modern, democratic state and part of the European family, or as a weak, dependent and failed quasi-country, an appendix to the Euro-Asian community.
Nowadays Russia is in fact trying to turn Ukraine into a failed state. It has already crossed a red line in Crimea. Ukrainians quite understandably get frustrated hearing from the West the same threats of economic sanctions against Russia in case of further escalation. It is not clear what constitutes “further escalation”: Deaths of thousands of people? Occupation of new Ukrainian regions? Russian troops at the European Union border? Meanwhile, Moscow continues foot-dragging tactics, deliberately failing to bring about real de-escalation and continuing Soviet-style propaganda.
Ukraine has never threatened Russia. The only “sin” of the Ukrainian people is their wish to live in a modern European country free of corruption, where the state exists for the sake of every citizen and not vice versa.
Russia isn’t only preoccupied with protecting its spheres of influence, but also feels deeply anti-E.U. It’s not a civil war in Ukraine, nor is it a bilateral conflict with Russia. It’s a confrontation of two civilizations, a fight for the European future of Ukraine and democratic European values as a whole.
The E.U. should not wait for new red lines to be crossed. The Russians have crossed enough already. A smart combination of actions is necessary.
Not just the threat but actual economic sanctions are the only thing that would stop the Russians, especially Iran-type sanctions cutting the state off from the global financial system.
What would be even more effective is generous, swift and well-coordinated political, economic, energy, trade and legal support of Ukraine, including a clear path to E.U. membership and a visa-free regimen for Ukrainian citizens.
The E.U. has consistently made clear that economic and trade interests cannot prevail in Ukraine-E.U. relations over common European values. The Ukrainian crisis is a good occasion to prove its commitment to this approach.
Ambassador of Ukraine
to the European Union
Brussels, May 21, 2014