• Foreign policy,
  • NATO,
  • peace,
  • Russia,
  • Ukraine

While alarmed by the rising tensions in Ukraine, the Europeans are the great absentees in the negotiations opened between Moscow and Washington DC.

By aligning themselves with the United States, Paris and Berlin have pushed Russia to deal directly with the latter. And they have allowed the Old Continent to become once again a battleground between the two powers. Europe was staring into the abyss of a new war between Russia and Ukraine, the price of which would be paid first and foremost by the civilian population. The key to overcoming this crisis, which threatens the entire European peace order, lay in diplomacy, de-escalation, and verbal and military disarmament from the very beginning.

This applies not only to the current efforts to secure peace but also to previous years in which relations between the West and Russia have systematically deteriorated. The exclusion of Russia from the G8, the cessation of NATO-Russia Council meetings, the cessation of Normandy format meetings, and the non-implementation of the Minsk Agreement reflect a failure of diplomacy on both sides. A new cold war has been superimposed on Europe, which threatens to become a hot war.

Today’s geopolitical reality makes multilateralism irreplaceable

In a remarkable article, a well-known German news magazine looked back to the time when the Western powers were negotiating with the then Soviet Union shortly before the Eastern bloc dissolved itself. And it detailed that quite a few of those involved made verbal promises to the Soviet Union that NATO would not extend an inch to the east. We know the reality. 14 mainly Central and Eastern European countries have joined NATO since 1990.

The geostrategic architecture of the world has changed in the last 30 years. All sides must work towards a peace order that recognises the multilateral nature of our world, is based on international law, and takes into account the legitimate security interests of the various actors. It is not NATO that is the international regulatory power. That role still belongs to international law and the United Nations.
The resolution of the current crisis requires an unconditional willingness on the part of all parties to keep the peace.

What it will take

Russia must guarantee peaceful development for its neighbours, just as Ukraine must clear the way for the implementation of the Minsk Agreement. The absurd idea of a further eastward expansion of NATO does not contribute to security in Europe, but to destabilisation. There will be peace in Europe not despite, but only with Russia.

But let’s be clear: an attack by Russia on Ukraine would be contrary to international law. In the long term, it would damage Russian interests as well as the idea of a new European peace order. The Putin government must know this.

However, we know from experience that successful détente cannot be based on the claims of secret services.

Rumours are already part of the escalation. Facts are the basis of peace. We also know that US gas companies are booming in the crisis. Profits are soaring and investors are celebrating, at the expense of European security. The lesson to be learned is that European security interests do not necessarily coincide with US interests. European interests must be determined by us here, without transatlantic obedience. European energy sovereignty is based neither on Russian nor US gas, but on the fastest possible expansion of renewable energies. Peace in Europe must be decided in the European capitals and not in Washington or at NATO’s headquarters.

Martin Schirdewan MEP, Co-President of The Left at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The full debate on Ukraine, including the interventions of all Left MEPs, can be found here (external link): Plenary debate 

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