Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

Can the European security exist without Europe?


Having found itself in a position where the security situation on the European continent depends on negotiations between The United States of America and The Russian Federation, without the participation of the EU, the European Union is trying to join the process of forming a new security order and restore its subjectivity. At the end of December, when the planned negotiations between the US and the Russian Federation, the Russian Federation and NATO, as well as the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna, had been already announced, EU High Representative Josep Borrell stated in a telephone interview with Die Welt that the EU should join the negotiations on new security architecture in Europe. Following this statement he went to Donbas, in early January, when diplomats take a break in their activities. For the first time since the start of Russian aggression against Ukraine, the EU High Representative visited the war zone in eastern Ukraine. Josep Borrell at a press conference held in Stanytsia Luhanska stressed that this is a good time to visit Donbas, given the changing geopolitical landscape.

The trip to the East of Ukraine was a demonstration of the EU's intention to solve the problems on the continent more actively, while the crisis caused by Russia's aggression against Ukraine was described as a problem for all of Europe. The topic of geopolitics was raised several times by the High Representative of the EU, noting that the issue of Ukraine's security should be discussed exclusively with Ukraine, and the security issues of Europe should be discussed with the participation of the European Union and Ukraine. Thus, there has been a fundamental change in the pan-European position on the conflict in the East of Ukraine, which is a positive signal for Kyiv, because the issue of the subjectivity of the EU is made conditional on the resolution of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. At the same time, however, European countries still have a different vision of the ways of interaction with the Russian Federation. Before the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of the countries of the European Union, which took place on January 13-14 in the French city of Brest, Josep Borrell wrote an article in which he emphasized this aspect, writing that the EU countries should strengthen their unity and determination, to defend their security interests and that of the continent as a whole.[1]

The countries of the Baltic-Black Sea region, which are directly adjacent to Russia, categorically opposed the proposals, the so-called «security guarantees» put forward by the Kremlin to NATO. Sweden and Finland, which currently are not members of the North Atlantic Alliance, have for a long time observed a policy of neutrality, loudly declaring their right to independently determine their foreign policy. Finnish President Sauli Niinostiio stated Russia's demand for NATO non-expansion contradicts the European security order and his country might consider joining the North Atlantic alliance. Both countries are in fact already integrated into the European security architecture, have a high level of cooperation with the United States and NATO, as well as with other Nordic states with which Sweden and Finland carry out military cooperation within the framework of NORDEFCO. Therefore, Sweden and Finland membership in NATO is a very likely scenario in the event of a full-scale Russian offensive against Ukraine.

Germany has a somewhat different vision of interaction with Russia than the countries of the Baltic-Black Sea region. Germany's foreign policy largely depends on internal political bargaining and political compromises. That is why the leadership of Ukraine hoped that the appointment of Annalena Burbock from the Green Party as Minister of Foreign Affairs would change the policy of Germany, which at the end of Angela Merkel's term actually acted as a partner of Vladimir Putin. However, the new chancellor Olaf Scholz has different from Burbock views on foreign policy, and the position of chancellor allows him to maintain the current German foreign policy course. According to the Bild, Germany and Russia are actively preparing a meeting between Olaf Scholz and Vladimir Putin in January. The Russian Federation is one of Germany's largest trading partners and the largest military power in Europe, so the need for a meeting between the newly appointed chancellor and the Russian president seems understandable. However, given the geopolitical situation and the circumstances that have developed in Europe as a result of the Russian ultimatum, Germany must assume the role of a central power uniting the European states. Berlin remains on the sidelines, trying to balance between partnership with the US and the Russian Federation, neglecting the interests of the Eastern European countries, together with France, which put forward the idea of ????the strategic autonomy of the European Union, without supporting its intentions with practical measures. As a result, Germany, France and the EU as a whole are losing their subjectivity in this security situation.

Besides Josep Borrell's diplomatic efforts, France and Germany are likely to work to restore the Normandy format. It is this platform that gives European leaders the opportunity to take part in negotiations on European security. In addition, Emmanuel Macron must show the French people that his country remains an important player on the European continent ahead of the upcoming elections in France this April. Olaf Scholz confirmed the relevant work towards the quadrilateral format resumption is underway.

If the Normandy format resumes its work, given Russia's threat and Europe's weak stance on Moscow, it is likely that France, Germany and Russia will try to force Ukraine to implement the Minsk agreements as interpreted by Vladimir Putin. Such a development would suit all parties except Ukraine. Emmanuel Macron would demonstrate France's role in resolving the «Ukrainian crisis». Vladimir Putin would achieve his goal by non-military means, effectively limiting Ukraine's sovereignty and laying the groundwork for the destruction of its statehood. Olaf Scholz, in turn, can see the possibility of returning subjectivity within the paradigm of Russia's vision of a European security system, as well as further peaceful coexistence with the Russian dictator. The implementation of the project and the desire to launch Nord Stream 2 testify to Germany's rather pragmatic approach to economic and security issues on the continent.

In the face of dramatic geopolitical changes and transformations, European countries are looking for ways to regain subjectivity and the right to participate in the formation of a new security architecture on the continent. However, there is a weak position behind the high-sounding words of high-ranking officials of the European Union. The lack of unity in approaches to cooperation with Russia and the unwillingness to jointly and harshly oppose Vladimir Putin remains one of the EU's main problems. At the same time, the recognition of Ukraine's security as a security issue for the whole of Europe was a significant change, caused primarily by the maximalism of the Russian leadership. Vladimir Putin has put forward demands that limit not only Ukraine's sovereignty, but also the sovereignty of European countries. After limiting the right of the Eastern European countries to choose their foreign policy, one can expect a limitation on the sovereignty of the countries of Central and even Western Europe. Therefore, the fate of not only Ukraine, but the whole of Europe depends on how the current crisis is resolved.