Ukraine war: 'EU will consider Ukrainian request for security guarantees after deal with Russia'

Ukraine war: 'EU will consider Ukrainian request for security guarantees after deal with Russia'

The war rages on despite the direct talks in Istanbul between Ukraine and Russia earlier this week, with no end in sight of the bloodshed and destruction in Ukraine.

In his speech yesterday to the Belgian federal parliament, Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeated his desperate appeal for a no-fly zone over his country but was again turned down.

He described the Russian bombardment of Mariupol as “hell on earth”. “Every day, we do everything we can to keep the humanitarian corridor, so that women, children and the elderly can flee. Sometimes it works. But in many cases, the Russians do not make it possible to leave the city.”

As earlier reported. the talks under Turkish mediation were suspended after only one day and were followed by less optimistic assessments of Russia’s intentions as to whether it was retreating or regrouping its troops in Ukraine. Jens Stoltenberg, the general-secretary of NATO, said on Thursday that the Russian troop are regrouping to reinforce its attacks against the Donbass region.

Russia has until now suffered heavy losses in the war but instead of changing course, Russia’s president Putin might escalate his war efforts to improve his position in any talks on a cease-fire and a political solution. Even Kremlin experts cannot read his mind or guess his intentions. There is no way for the outside world to force it to agree to a cease-fire to facilitate talks.

A quess good as anyone is that Russia is deliberately sowing confusion and giving and removing cause for hope by applying a policy of deception ("maskirovka") until it has exhausted Ukraine and inflicted such destruction in the country that it will have no choice but to accept its harsh conditions for a peace deal.

”I don’t think that Russia is finished with the war yet,” commented Katarina Engberg, senior advisor at the Swedish Institute for European Studies, in an interview (Dagens Nyheter). Russia continues the attacks against civilian targets in the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine.

At the talks in Istanbul, Ukraine hinted that it might give up on ever joining NATO and instead adopt a neutral status, like some EU member states (Sweden, Finland and Austria), in exchange for security guarantees from other countries. The Ukrainian negotiators reportedly mentioned among others Israel, Canada, Poland, Germany and Turkey as guarantor powers.

Some form of security guarantees against unprovoked Russian aggression is a condition for a durable peace solution but hardly any of the above-mentioned countries could give such guarantees. Israel has its own security problems and the other countries are members of NATO.

“It would be like NATO membership with collective defence by another name, so unlikely,” commented Ian Bond, a former British diplomat in Russia and the director for foreign policy at the Center for European Reform, London, in an interview (The New York Times).

According to another expert, Robin Niblett, the director of Chatham House in London, European membership would represent the largest danger for Putin. “If Ukraine joined now, the country would develop economically faster, in contrast Russia.”

The point is that EU membership takes years to negotiate and there is no “fast track procedure” to join the EU. “Ukraine’s EU application has set a process in motion,” said Eric Mamer, chief spokesperson of the European Commission at its daily press conference on Thursday. He declined to comment on anything related to the talks in Istanbul.

If security guarantees cannot be given by single NATO member states, they could in principle be given by the EU as whole thanks to the mutual defence clause in the EU treaties. Can the issue of EU security guarantees be separated from the wider question of EU membership?

“If there is a request for security guarantees, EU member states will consider it,” replied Peter Stano, lead spokesperson for the external affairs of the EU.  But he warned against jumping ahead of the talks between Ukraine and Russia.

“The priority right now is to stop the bloodshed and the destruction inflicted on Ukraine by the regime in Moscow and see a withdrawal of Russian troops. Ukraine is currently engaged in negotiations, mediated by Turkey and others.”

He added that application for EU membership is not only or primarily about security guarantees and not in the sense discussed at the talks in Istanbul. “EU membership offers much more, including guarantees, but it’s much wider. Let’s not mix the two things.”

Whatever the potential deal will look like and what will happen at the end of the negotiations will be up to Ukraine to decide, he concluded. However, for the time being the talks seem to be going nowhere and the EU continues to sit on the fences as regards the security guarantees it could provide.

M. Apelblat

The Brussels Times

Copyright © 2024 The Brussels Times. All Rights Reserved.