Withdraw promise to Ukraine that it can join NATO

4 September 2014

Withdraw promise to Ukraine that it can join NATO

The question of how the military alliance should react to the rapidly growing tensions in and around Ukraine will take centre stage in this week’s NATO summit in Wales. And while what ought to be at the forefront is the taking of de-escalating measures, fears are growing that instead, more fuel will be added to the fire.

Harry van Bommel and Emile Roemer

De-escalation no longer seems to figure in the vocabulary of NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen, who advocates a rapidly deployable intervention force and has stated emphatically that Ukraine remains free to work towards membership of the organisation. There are also plans to establish new NATO bases in eastern Europe.  Russia sees both developments as a breach of earlier agreements with NATO that the alliance would not pursue further enlargement to the east. These policies were complemented by hefty new sanctions against Russia.

Extensive propaganda means that in times of war it is for many people taboo to look too closely at the standpoint of the opponent. Nevertheless, this must be done. The matter is far too important to be left to the warmongers.

It is understandable that sanctions are being imposed on Russia as a response to its involvement in the conflict, which has included the annexation of Crimea. In the end, however, sanctions lead nowhere and are, moreover, a way of shooting yourself in your own foot. They can also easily contribute to further escalation and to a trade war.

Russia sees NATO expanding ever further in the direction of its borders. The Baltic states became members of the alliance in 2004 and in 2008 Ukraine and Georgia were offered the prospect of future membership. For Russia, this confirmed the threat of being encircled by NATO.
The Russians see the coup-d’état early this year in Ukraine not as a fine example of democratisation, but as a coup orchestrated by the West under the leadership of, amongst others, right wing extremists against a democratically-elected president.
Delving into the Russian viewpoint is not the same as supporting its policies. On the contrary, the SP opposes Russia’s annexation of Crimea and any further interference in the conflict over the border. Military interference is unacceptable. Russia must cease its attempts to bring Ukraine into its own sphere of influence.

The West must do the same, which means no closer cooperation between NATO and Ukraine, no enlargement of NATO in eastern Europe and no new economic sanctions against Russia. In addition, Kiev’s military offensive must be condemned.

The NATO summit in Wales provides an opportunity, which must be seized, to de-escalate. Immediately withdraw, therefore, the promise that Ukraine will ever become a member of the alliance. It is our hope and expectation that such a signal can make an important contribution to a political solution, which should begin with a ceasefire. In relation to the huge historical, cultural and political differences between eastern and western Ukraine, a decentralisation of power in the country could help further.
Emile Roemer, Member of Parliament and leader of the SP

Harry van Bommel, Member of Parliament and spokesman for the SP on foreign affairs

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