Putin’s war awaits a new turn. After Kyiv proved to be an invincible fortress, the Russian armed forces are now regrouping in the southeast and preparing for the decisive battle for Donbas. Offensive shelter is oppressive. The Russian armed forces, which have failed to conquer Ukraine, have not fled war crimes: testimonies are piling up. In addition, new weapons are being poured on both sides of the front line. A new decline seems inevitable.
The lee is also a good time for the West to mentally regroup after fifty days of war, to test wisdom, to evaluate decisions. Given that war is at a turning point, the question remains: is the West doing enough?
After the invasion, Ukraine unexpectedly proved to be a great opponent of Russia in the fight against the ruthless, but not so smart military force. And in the weeks of war that followed, Ukraine continued to delight. Over the years, two clichés have settled in the head of a non-Ukrainian connoisseur. First: Ukraine is corrupt. Second: Ukraine is divided, because the population consists of the Ukrainian-speaking part facing the West and the Russian-speaking part oriented towards Russia.
In extreme conditions, the Ukrainian state is clearly functioning wonderfully
For weeks now, the West has been under the spell of a population struggling to survive as an independent state. A state that is obviously not yet so damaged by corruption that it cannot function. In fact, in extreme conditions, the Ukrainian state is clearly functioning excellently.
Corruption has not yet undermined popular solidarity, Serhiy Plochiy, a professor of Ukrainian history at Harvard, said this week during a video debate at the American Academy in Berlin. And with that division being nuanced, I learned. Zelensky won the majority of votes in the 2019 presidential election in all regions except Lviv.
The question of what kind of state Ukraine is important for Kiev’s desire: rapid membership in the European Union. As a non-Ukrainian expert, you gradually get the impression that Ukraine would qualify more easily than is often suggested. Research confirms this suspicion.
To become a member, Ukraine must meet EU standards in 26 areas. A survey by the Brussels-based CEPS think tank this week showed that pre-war Ukraine was already quite far behind on 19 documents. Seven files – including anti-corruption files – were still nowhere to be found. Ukraine has made good use of the time since the conclusion of the Association Agreement with the EU in 2014. CEPS analysts suggest a simple political order of things. First EU aid for refugees, then the European Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Ukraine and then membership.
Many countries are now blocking the opening of accession talks. You cannot bring the country into war, it is said, you do not know how Ukraine will be in the future, and membership is an unnecessary provocation of Moscow.
It is indeed an absurd idea to ask Kiev to adopt 88,000 pages of EU regulations now. And no one knows how the war will end, but there is a good chance that an independent Ukraine will remain. Opponents also insist in the debate that there is no urgent procedure for membership. That’s true, but you can speed up existing procedures.
And, should we really be afraid to provoke Russia? Isn’t the lesson of the whole war correct that the careful treatment of Russia has failed? Even a figure in that approach, German Federal President Frank Walter-Steinmeier (SPD), openly admitted his misjudgment of Russia: “We failed”. The extremely expensive Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was supposed to bring Russian gas to Germany from the bottom of the Baltic Sea and is not used now, is a painful symbol of this failure.
Apaizing and building bridges is no longer a strategy. Ukraine deserves support, without being reckless. That means more and heavier weapons (which are indeed being delivered now), but there is no combat action by NATO troops. This means that after the embargo on coal imports, bans on oil and gas imports must be announced. And it sends a clear political signal for Ukraine’s European future.
Editor of Geopolitics Michel Kerres writes here every other week about the tilted world order.
A version of this article also appeared in the NRC on the morning of April 15, 2022