EU seeks influence to defuse conflict in Ukraine | International

The High Representative for the Foreign Policy of the European Union, Josep Borrell.Geert Vanden Wijngaert (AP)

The European Union wants a more active and influential position in the Ukrainian conflict. He rejects that, as happened during the Cold War, solutions are cooked between Washington and Moscow and begins to make movements to avoid it, also in the field of gestures, which are so important in foreign relations. On Tuesday evening, the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy landed in Kharkov, in eastern Ukraine, and will visit this Wednesday with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleva the conflict zone, where the exchanges information is still frequent. shootout between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army. This is the first time that the head of European diplomacy has approached this front line and the stay in the country will last three days, long for the usual codes of this type of travel. “If we want to go to a conference on security in Europe, we must multiply the actors [no solo EE UU y Rusia] and topics to discuss [no solo los que interesan a Moscú]», Declared the high representative in conversation with this newspaper.

The visit comes just after the Christmas recess, which followed a European Council in which the heads of state and government of EU member countries launched a strong threat against Russia: there will be “huge” sanctions. If Ukraine invades, which will be He fears after learning that Putin has deployed 110,000 troops at the border. Before flying to Ukraine, the High Representative met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to discuss “the concentration of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine and the two plans of treaties on security guarantees addressed by Russia to the United States. States and members of the Atlantic Alliance, ”according to a statement issued by the European External Action Service. The objective is to show that the European Union rejects the bilateral solution that Vladimir Poutine wishes.

But here the European Union comes up against the Kremlin, where they have no difficulty in recognizing that they are only proposing “bilateral negotiations with the United States”, as before the fall of the Berlin Wall and that the two great powers share their areas of influence with the rest as guests of stone. “If we invite other countries to the talks, we will drown all this in debates and discussions,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. So much so that community sources admit that Moscow has not even sent its proposals to Brussels.

In the capital of the community, the Biden administration is no exception. “Americans seem to understand that the security of Europe is something that concerns Europeans,” diplomatic sources say. And that’s how they put it publicly in the White House. This will begin to be visible on January 10, when representatives of the two powers – the United States and Russia – meet face to face in Geneva to discuss the state of their thorny relationship and how to iron out the differences. . Ukraine will be high on the agenda. These talks will be complemented with others in the Russia-NATO Council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a body that acts as a mediator in Ukraine.

Officially, the goal of Borrell’s trip is “to show solidarity with Ukraine at a difficult time,” they say in his cabinet. Even if, as happened last August to former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the High Representative may have to hear reproaches from Kiev. “Europe and Germany are supporting us, but we need something concrete and we know how they could help us”, then declared President Volodimir Zelenski, referring to a request for the supply of arms. These complaints can be mitigated by the fact that the European Union recently approved € 31 million in funding for the Ukrainian armed forces and to prevent cyber attacks.

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Precisely in this line of economic support for the former Soviet republics, the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen announced on Tuesday a package of aid of 150 million for Moldova “This will stabilize the country’s economy, put it on the path to recovery and be accompanied by the necessary reforms. Moldova also has a breakaway region in Transnistria, which declared itself independent in 1990 and has a Russian military presence.

The contact line Borrell visits is the scene of war. There is still ongoing gunfire and occasional news of casualties in a conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives. Most of the crossings remain closed, even to OSCE monitors, who on December 30 alone recorded 11 ceasefire violations on New Year’s Eve.

“The European Union has been collectively absent so far in this crisis,” explains Paul Taylor, a researcher specializing in security and defense issues. thinking group Friends of Europe. For him, this trip and the firm warning against Russia issued by the December European Council are a first step in distorting Moscow’s will. “Brussels could do more,” he suggests, pointing to a clear strategy in the Black Sea area, “the most unstable area next to Europe”.

Although an important element to be able to resolve this question is also that the 27 share the same vision on the problem. Diplomatic sources point out that in the Baltic countries it was very difficult for Biden to agree to talk about Ukraine with Putin. The German position can also be decisive and it will be important to know the position of the new German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, who, according to the German press, plans to visit Moscow at the end of January to seek “a new start” in his relations with the German government. Kremlin. and approaches to gas supply and Ukraine.

The construction of the Nord Stream 2, which directly connects Russia to Germany bypassing the rest of Europe, is a diplomatic puzzle for Brussels in which Washington also played an important role in threatening those years with impose sanctions on European partners. Ukraine, Poland and others denounce that the Kremlin can blackmail them now that gas does not pass through their territory. For his part, Putin announced at the end of December that the pipes are ready to pump and thus lower Europe’s electricity bill. However, European certification of the structure is still lacking, which could see its supply cut by half if the Russian state monopoly Gazprom does not cede control of the pipeline to third parties. And in this economic conflict, the United States last summer gave up imposing sanctions on the Russian-German project if Berlin agrees to sanction Moscow if the pipeline is used as blackmail.

Another key issue is the Normandy Quartet, created in 2014 to end the war in Ukraine with the participation of that country, Russia, France and Germany. Its last peace deal, the Minsk Pact of February 2015, failed to resolve the conflict almost seven years later despite European mediation, and Kiev and Moscow accuse each other of boycotting it. For this reason, the possible incorporation of Washington into the format has been a recurring idea.

Ukraine prepares for next NATO meeting in Madrid

Ukraine is the protagonist of the great game being played in Eastern Europe and its government is in constant contact with NATO members. Yesterday Ukrainian Foreign Ministers Dmytro Kuleba and British Foreign Minister Liz Truss spoke by telephone to coordinate their positions “in view of the aggressive actions of the Russian Federation and the negotiations that will take place under different formats in the coming weeks across the Atlantic Alliance, the OSCE and the European Union. According to the Kiev press release, ministers discussed preparations for the next NATO meeting to be held in Madrid in June, despite the fact that one of the Kremlin’s starting points for negotiating is that its neighbor has failed. no relation to the alliance. Likewise, London underlined the principle of “no decision on Ukraine without Ukraine” and pledged its firm support for Kiev in the face of Russian aggression “at the diplomatic, economic and security level”, as envisaged. in the containment plan against the Kremlin proposed by Ukraine. in November.

The day before, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu had also maintained “a good call” to the Slavic country, according to the American on Twitter, where he stressed his “close coordination with Turkey”. on the threat of Russian escalation in Ukraine ”. Ankara is precisely one of the minor players in this recent crisis. The drones he sold in Kiev, the same drones that Azerbaijan beat Armenia with in the summer of 2020 in their Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, have been a source of concern in Russia. And Ankara is also one of the main promoters of the Crimean Platform, an initiative launched last August by Ukraine to try to reclaim the Black Sea peninsula in the near future.

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