Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Ukraine in no man's land – and the annexation of Crimea

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Flemming Splidsboel Hansen. Flemming Splidsboel Hansen. Photo: Olena Yanykh.

About «Plan Crimea», poor Ukrainian politicians and no idea what can get Crimea back to Ukraine – by senior Flemming Splidsboel Hansen.

Here is part 2 of research coordinator, senior fellow for international security Flemming Splidsboel Hansen's lecture «Hybrid War and Peace in Ukrainian», held in the Danish-Ukrainian Society.

If you look at the map of Europe, you see, according to Flemming Splidsboel Hansen, two normative centers. There is a normative center, which is from Brussels, and it is largely based on the standards in the EU, and then we have a normative center, which is Russian based, and which has some other normative standards. Between these two normative centers, there is a number of countries, which are pinched. All countries of the Western Balkans can join the EU, but countries that are in no man's land, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova, and in Kaukasus it is Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan – are squeezed in a different way. These countries have tried alternately to maneuver in this field, and one of the former Ukrainian presidents talked about it as a multivektor policy, that sounds specious and indicate that you are friends with everyone. It ended up that they had fallen out with anyone because they could not deliver anything anywhere.

Ukraine in no man's land

The idea that one can be in a normative political no man's land, and have good connections to both sides, is very very difficult. The challenge is that EU has not made up its mind what they really want with the territory. All the countries have in principle member perspective, but it has also been made clear that EU will not admit them at this time. On the other hand, we have Russia which is willing to invest. They have not the same resources, but they are willing to invest more both absolute and relative in these countries, and they also have a completely different patience with these countries. This means that Russia has been able to go in and influence in different ways, and it has been extremely difficult for Ukraine to navigate in that field. That's something of what underlies the whole conflict that we see now – first with the annexation of Crimea and then with the outbreak of war in eastern Ukraine. In proportion to the Association Agreement with EU Yanukovych decided not to sign it, which led to the riots that led to his downfall, and that led to the other events.

Epoch-making event

The events of February and March 2014 contributed to define the Europe that we have now. When we get further away and looking back, it will be evident how epoch-making it was in many ways. Some of it is the break-up of the European security order, which has been after WW2  and some of the rules that have been. It's much debated, what is the legitimate demands in relation to it.

In three cases Russia approved Ukraine's territorial integrity. This has been done in connection with the dissolution of the USSR, in connection with the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States and in the context of bilateral friendship agreements from 1997. In all these three agreements Russia recognizes specifically Ukraine's territorial integrity as it was after the Soviet collapse. On that background the annexation of Crimea in February / March 2014 was notable. Flemming Splidsboel Hansen believes that when we get a little further ahead and looking back, we will see it as a landmark - a truly remarkable episode in modern European history – even more than we perceive it today.

Inability to make decisions and bad politicians

There is Ukraine's status between the West – especially the EU – and Russia. There is also nådt to look inward in Ukraine – particularly in connection with the peace agreement. Ukraine has been plagued by incompetence and inability to make really tough strategic decisions, as well as huge corruption and neputisme. They have never been able to make decisions in relation to the EU, nor in relation to the CIS. Ukraine has never decided to ratify the agreement on the CIS. They never decided to join or not to join. So they have really put themselves in a no man's land, which they now also partly have paid the price for. This does not mean that it is reasonable to pay such a high price, but they have been plagued by lack of competence and ability to really take the big tough decisions. And they have had bad politicians. Viktor Yushchenko, who after the Orange Revolution was the great hero, got a presidency that has been enormously bad. He was enormously troubled by alcohol problems and was unable to make decisions at the end. It was really unfortunate, because there was really the germ of something big and positive, but it just ran out.

Putin had «Plan Crimea» lying in the drawer

The entire process in February-March 2014 is, according to Flemming Splidsboel Hansen, interesting. At the time when it happened, it was his assumption that Russia had a plan for Crimea. They had a plan in the drawer. What happened in connection with the riots in Kyiv, where Yanukovich packed his suitcases and ran to the airport and flew away was that the Russians looked into Ukraine at the time. One should be aware that the Russians have insanely good intelligence on Ukraine. They know a lot about what is happening. They were well aware that there was no stop-gap in connection to Yanukovych. It was known that he was not in a state - either mental or physical – so he could be sent back to Ukraine and begin to reign again. So the Russians quickly gave it up and they did not have another that could take the place, so they looked into Ukraine and said: «Everything is falling apart, let's save the bits as we can». There was a window that was open, and it was Crimea. They could draw the Crimea through the window quickly. Putin opened the drawer and took «Plan Crimea». It had been there for some time and then he pressed the button and put it into action. That the plan was there, is the reason why they could do it so quickly. We now know that the decision to first send troops into Crimea and then subsequently to annex Crimea, was taken by a group of only 5 people. We know that Putin meet with people informally – not necessarily people who sit in official positions. It shows something about the decision making process in Russia and that in this way decisions can be made quickly without consulting others.

Russian disinformation

Around the annexation there was a large element of disinformation. Flemming Splidsboel Hansen is disappointed that Russia with its military traditions and history would engage militarily kinetic in Ukraine without making themselves known. They sent troops into Crimea on 20. February, and we know this because medals were given to some of the troops afterwards, and on the back of them it says that they are awarded for the effort to get Crimea back, and they are dated 20. February. Subsequently, it was said that the operation began on 22. February, but the troops were there on 20. February. But it was in an interview as late as 17. April, 2014, Putin admitted that it was Russian troops. And everyone knew it. In fact, some Russian media already documented it, after they had been in Crimea and talked to the troops.

Russian concessions are completely out of question

If you look at the big picture, you will see that Crimea is gone. Crimea is part of Russia. Even if you can not recognize it, you have to relate to, it's going to take decades to get Crimea back - if it will happen at all. There is no Russian politicians who will say: «Let us return Crimea to Ukraine». It is totally out of question. There has been created a tale of Crimea and reunification with Crimea, which means that they can not make concessions. Flemming Splidsboel Hansen can not imagine anything that could get Crimea back to Ukraine.

You can also read part 1 «Hybrid War and the current situation in Ukraine».

Read 997 times Last modified on Saturday, 01 July 2017

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