Event ReportsPublished on Oct 13, 2015
President of Germany's Green Party affiliated Heinrich Boell Stiftung, Ralf Fuecks, thinks that Ukraine has to "return to sovereignty within certain safeguards" and that "an agreement with Russia is possible". He hinted this could be in the form of a free trade zone and a more comprehensive economic cooperation.
Ukraine is about the future of Europe

Will we live in a world order that is based on international law or will we return to the law of the jungle? According to Ralf Fuecks, President of the Heinrich Boell Stiftung, a political foundation affiliated with the Green Party in Germany, this is the alternative that Europe is facing after Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the stalemate that followed the Euromaidan movement, the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych and the Russian military intervention in Donbass.

His talk at Observer Research Foundation in Delhi was critically commented by C. Raja Mohan, Distinguished Fellow, ORF. Fuecks, who was also a Co-President of the German Green Party, is one of the European intellectuals who have been actively supporting the democracy movement in the Ukraine. He travelled several times to Ukraine in 2013 and 2014 and his organisation that has an office in Kiev, works closely with partners from the democratic spectrum in the country.

His assessment of the situation in the Ukraine is based on his interactions with civil society there as well as a principled interpretation of the Ukrainian crisis. Referring to the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this month, he cited the Joint Statement of the Third Inter-Governmental Consultations between the two countries from October 5, 2015.

"There is a paragraph that says: ’Both leaders underlined their strong support to upholding the sovereign equality of all States as well as respect for their territorial integrity. They reiterated their full support for ongoing efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.’ And that’s it. We could stop here. This is about sovereignty."

Fuecks said when Crimea was "overrun by the Kremlin", Russia broke all international understandings that had been achieved before and after the fall of the Soviet Union, such as the Helsinki Accord (1975), the Paris Charter (1990) and the Budapest Memorandum (1994). While this is a view that is widely shared, among others also by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Raja Mohan pointed out that European dealing with Russia had forgotten that "19th century geopolitics has not been taken away" and "Hobbes (the philosopher who coined the term: a war of all against all) is not dead".

Raja Mohan explained that "the annexation of a country is nothing that India likes" and "a normalisation between Europe and Russia was good for India", but he also criticised the EU for a lack of "statesmanship" that would have dealt differently with the crisis. He pointed out that there are lessons from the crisis that could be learned in India. "How do we deal with these things, for example if we look at our relation to Nepal vis-a-vis China?", he asked.

Fuecks replied that "Raja is right. Europe has to look for an arrangement with Russia." He described the various steps that had been taken by Europe "to include Russia into a security cooperation" but he lamented that these efforts had eroded since 2000 and the country "has established itself as a new authoritarian order that supports anti-liberal alliances in Europe".

Answering a question from the audience, Fuecks ruled out that a division of Ukraine could be a solution. "The Ukraine is a subject by itself, not simply an object of power politics. These times are over", he said. Raja Mohan supported this saying: "If partition would solve problems, we would have no problems in South Asia.".

Fuecks expressed his view that the Ukraine had to "return to sovereignty within certain safeguards" and that "an agreement with Russia is possible". He hinted that this could be in the form of a free trade zone and a more comprehensive economic cooperation". In the long run, he believes Russia needs economic cooperation with the West and that this could not be replaced by China, as Russian President Vladimir Putin might hope. Fuecks also pointed out that neither the EU nor Germany would support an inclusion of Ukraine into NATO.

Based on his experiences of the Euromaidan movement, where "Hundred-thousands of people demonstrated in Kiev under European flags" Fuecks remained convinced that Ukrainians had "chosen to be Europeans" and must have the right to this choice. In this context, he passionately defended the policy of democracy support, although he acknowledged certain "faults of Western democracy promotion", such as narrowly focussing on elections instead of a more holistic view of the development of societies.

Nonetheless, Fuecks insisted that "it is legitimate to support democracy" because it is rooted in the Declaration of Human Rights and these are "commonly agreed norms". Raja Mohan remained sceptic about this point, interpreting democracy support as a political instrument that "might have petered out", and that a post-modern world order based on shared norms and values might be nothing that is on the cards any time soon.

(Report prepared by Britta Petersen, Senior Fellow, ORF Delhi)

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