Integration Rivalry with Moscow

KIEV/BERLIN | | ukraine

KIEV/BERLIN (Own report) - Because the German government-backed attempt to overthrow the government in Kiev has not taken place, foreign policy experts in Berlin are now discussing cautious changes of course in Germany's policy toward the Ukraine. Retrospective analyses are now admitting that, had the Ukraine signed the EU Association Agreement, serious economic and social damage would have been inflicted on that country. The foreign policy establishment continues to assert that Berlin should bring the Ukraine into its sphere of hegemonic influence. This therefore places Berlin in an "integration rivalry with Moscow." To integrate the Ukraine, new proposals call for either bypassing elite circles by fostering contacts to "civil society" or by compelling integration with targeted economic interventions. In any case, the rightwing extremist Svoboda Party has been able to enhance its position within the protest movement during the recent demonstrations. It could benefit from the cooperation also with German diplomats during the agitation against the current Ukrainian government.

The German's Man

In light of the fact that, more than a month and a half after massive protests began, the Ukrainian government is still sitting high in the saddle, foreign policy specialists have begun discussing cautious changes in the course of Germany's policy toward the Ukraine. Berlin did all it could, to help overthrow the government in Kiev. This culminated in the appearance of the then German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle at a demonstration in Kiev December 4. Westerwelle made his appearance at the side of Vitali Klitschko, the politician of the Ukrainian opposition, seen internationally as "the Germans' man." He has been systematically groomed by the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation.[1] In their efforts to support the overthrow of the government in Kiev, German diplomats have even met on various occasions with top representatives of the Svoboda opposition party, which has an extremist rightwing orientation and cooperates with the German neo-Nazi NPD. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2])

Crisis and Unemployment

In retrospective analyses, foreign policy specialists have begun admitting that, had the Ukraine signed the EU Association Agreement as demanded by Brussels and Berlin, it would have inflicted serious damage on the country. According to an analysis of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), "very few Ukrainian products" are "competitive in the EU."[3] The Association Agreement's trade facilitation measures would have benefitted German - European suppliers, but hardly Ukrainian exporters. On the whole, Ukrainian industry is out of date and "hardly competitive." If the "markets would be opened" this would lead "to enormous modernization costs and the unemployment would have shot up very high."[4] This would have been even more probable, since the association with the EU would have driven a wedge between the Ukrainian and the Russian economies - not only to the disadvantage of Russian companies: A "separation from the prevailing main customers of Ukrainian products" would have plunged "sectors, such as the air traffic or the petro-chemical industries into a deep crisis."[5] Specialists are parting from the premise that the economic crisis with its affiliated rise in unemployment, which could be expected in the case of a signing of the Association Agreement, would "in the course of a year, cause a drop in popular support" not only for Kiev's government, but also for integration into the EU."[6]

No EU Entry

In light of the difficulties that the signing of the EU Association Agreement would also entail in the future, foreign policy specialists reiterate that there should nevertheless be a possibility for the Ukraine to eventually join the EU. From the Ukrainian side, the Association Agreement would already cover "nearly all prerequisites for full membership," explained the DGAP recently. If one wants to force the Kiev government to fulfill all these obligations, one should then also permit the finance transfers associated with joining the EU.[7] Foreign policy specialists with government insider connections see no chance of this suggestion being accepted. The SPD foreign policy specialist and former State's Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gernot Erler, declared "there is zero consent in Europe for making new promises to other countries." "It would be unrealistic, to expect otherwise."[8] Berlin is not innocent, because it is not interested in an expansion of expensive finance transfers from Brussels to Eastern European zones of poverty.

Bypass the Elite Circles

There is wide-ranging consensus in the German foreign policy establishment that Berlin should continue its struggle to anchor the Ukraine within its hegemonic sphere of influence - at times referred to as an "integration rivalry with Moscow."[9] There are various suggestions for the means to be used. Stefan Meister, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, makes a plea for placing less emphasis on future contacts to Ukrainian elite circles. The "post-Soviet elite circles" are at least partially loyal to Moscow because of their economic and hegemonic interests. "Rather than elite circles, the population and civil society are the EU's natural partners for modernization," contends Meister. "The main element of the EU's strategy" should therefore "be the involvement of civil society in the implementation of reform processes."[10]

With the Oligarchs

The DGAP recently suggested that sectors of the Ukrainian economy be more closely linked to the EU. Brussels must try "to support the Ukraine's very important small and medium enterprises," according to a paper published by the DGAP.[11] "Strategies" must be "developed for those sectors of industry, where it is foreseeable that they would not withstand the competitive pressure of the European market." Examples of those industries include, to a large part, enterprises of Ukrainian oligarchs, with whom Berlin and the EU must establish a modus vivendi.

Leitmotifs

While the debate over a change of course in Germany's "Ostpolitik" is continuing, the recent protests have reinforced the most acrimonious opponents of a Ukrainian-Russian cooperation - the rightwing extremists assembled around the Svoboda Party. As political scientist Andreas Umland observes, slogans and symbols of the old Ukrainian Nazi collaborators around Stepan Bandera are much more prominent in the current protests than in earlier demonstrations - probably due to the engagement of Svoboda activists. Some "leitmotifs" associated with the Nazi collaboration are today, even "characteristic of the entire protest movement." This is "a remarkable success" for the "neo-Banderite ethno-nationalists."[12] The success has been measurable: the Svoboda Party reports having assembled approx. 20,000 in Kiev on January 1, for a demonstration commemorating Bandera's 105th birthday. German diplomats have also played a role in enhancing the reputation of this party - in the framework of the common agitation against the current Ukrainian government. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[13])

Other reports and background information on the current German policy toward the Ukraine can be found here: Other reports and background information on the current German policy toward the Ukraine can be found here: Problems of Eastward Expansion, A Broad-Based Anti-Russian Alliance, Expansive Ambitions and Our Man in Kiev.

[1] See also The Boxer's Punch and Our Man in Kiev.
[2] See also Eine Revolution sozialer Nationalisten, A Broad-Based Anti-Russian Alliance and Termin beim Botschafter.
[3] Ewald Böhlke, Maria Davydchyk: Die Ukraine-Politik der EU ist gescheitert. DGAPstandpunkt No. 9, November 2013.
[4] Stefan Meister: Verkalkuliert in Vilnius. Warum die EU ihre Östliche Partnerschaft jetzt neu aufstellen muss, in: Internationale Politik Januar/Februar 2014.
[5] Ewald Böhlke, Maria Davydchyk: Die Ukraine-Politik der EU ist gescheitert. DGAPstandpunkt No. 9, November 2013.
[6] Stefan Meister: Verkalkuliert in Vilnius. Warum die EU ihre Östliche Partnerschaft jetzt neu aufstellen muss, in: Internationale Politik Januar/Februar 2014.
[7] Ewald Böhlke, Maria Davydchyk: Die Ukraine-Politik der EU ist gescheitert. DGAPstandpunkt No. 9, November 2013.
[8] "Es war falsch, dass Westerwelle die Demonstranten besucht hat". Interview mit Gernot Erler. zeitschrift-ip.dgap.org 12.12.2013.
[9], [10] Stefan Meister: Verkalkuliert in Vilnius. Warum die EU ihre Östliche Partnerschaft jetzt neu aufstellen muss, in: Internationale Politik Januar/Februar 2014.
[11] Ewald Böhlke, Maria Davydchyk: Die Ukraine-Politik der EU ist gescheitert. DGAPstandpunkt No. 9, November 2013.
[12] Andreas Umland: Is Tiahnybok a Patriot? How the Spread of Banderite Slogans and Symbols Undermines Ukrainian Nation-Building. www.foreignpolicyjournal.com 01.01.2014.
[13] See also Eine Revolution sozialer Nationalisten, A Broad-Based Anti-Russian Alliance and Termin beim Botschafter.