Kissinger in 2014: The Ukrainian question should not be a showdown

By Henry Kissinger

Public discussions about Ukraine are all about the conflict. But do we know where we are going? In my life, I have seen four wars that started with great enthusiasm and public support, for all of them, without knowing how they ended, and we unilaterally withdrew from all three. The test of politics is not how the war ends, but how it begins.

Very often The Ukrainian question is presented as a showdown: Let Ukraine join East or West. But if Ukraine is to survive and prosper, it does not have to be one-sided outposts against each other – it will serve as a bridge between them.

Russia must accept Trying to force Ukraine into satellite status, and consequently relocating Russia’s borders, would destroy Moscow from repeating the history of a self-evident cycle of mutual pressure with Europe and the United States.

Westerners need to understand That is, for Russia, Ukraine can never be just a foreign country. Russia’s history began as Kievan-Ras. From there the Russian religion spread. Ukraine has been a part of Russia for centuries, and their history goes back a long way. Some of the most important battles for Russian independence, beginning with the Battle of Poltava in 1709, took place on Ukrainian soil. The Black Sea Fleet – the Russian medium for energy transmission in the Mediterranean – is based on a long-term lease in Sevastopol, Crimea. Even the famous dissidents Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Joseph Brodsky insisted that Ukraine was an integral part of Russian history and indeed Russia.

The European Union must be recognized The discussion of Ukraine’s relations with Europe, its bureaucratic expansion and the subordination of internal politics to strategic elements have contributed to the transformation of a negotiation into a crisis. Foreign policy is an industry of prioritization.

Ukrainians are the determining factor. They live in a country with a complex history and polygonal composition. The western part was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939, when Stalin and Hitler shared the spoils. Crimea, with 60% Russian population, It became part of Ukraine only in 1954, when the born Ukrainian Nikita Khrushchev awarded it as part of the celebration of 300 years of a Russian treaty with the Cossacks. The West is largely Catholic; Originally Russian Orthodox East. Speaks Western Ukrainian; The Orient speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one side of Ukraine to dominate the other will eventually lead to civil war or disintegration. Considering Ukraine as part of the East-West conflict, any possibility of bringing Russia and the West – especially Russia and Europe – into a cooperative international system will fail for decades.

Ukraine has been independent for only 23 years; It has been under a kind of foreign government since the fourteenth century. Surprisingly, its leaders did not master the art of negotiation, much less from a historical point of view. The politics of post-independence Ukraine clearly demonstrates that the root of the problem lies in the efforts of Ukrainian politicians to impose their will on the volatile parts of the country, first by one party, then by another. This is the essence of the conflict between Viktor Yanukovych and his main political rival Yulia Tymoshenko. They represent the two branches of Ukraine and are not ready to share power. A wise US policy towards Ukraine will find a way for the two sides of the country to cooperate with each other. We should seek compromise, not party domination.

Different parties in Russia and the West, and at least in Ukraine, have not worked on this policy. Each of them has made the situation worse. Russia will not be able to impose a military solution without isolating itself at a time when many of its borders are already uncertain. For the West, Vladimir Putin’s demonicism is not a principle; This is an alibi for the absence of a policy.

Putin must understand that Whatever his allegations, the policy of military imposition will lead to another Cold War. For its part, the United States must avoid considering Russia a confusing issue in order to patiently teach Washington the rules of conduct. Putin is a serious strategist, even in the realm of Russian history. Understanding US values ​​and psychology is not his strength. Understanding the history and psychology of Russia was not the strength of American politicians.

Leaders of all parties should return to review the results, Do not compete regardless. Here is my idea of ​​a solution that is consistent with the values ​​and security interests of all parties:

  • – Ukraine should have the right to freely choose its economic and political associations with Europe.
    – Ukraine should not join NATO, a position I took seven years ago, the last time it was talked about.
    – Ukraine should be free to form any government that is consistent with the will expressed by its people. Wise Ukrainian leaders will then choose the policy of compromise between different parts of their country. Internationally, they should follow a position comparable to Finland. The nation has no doubts about its extreme independence and, in most cases, cooperates with the West, but avoids institutional hostility towards Russia.
    -It is not consistent with the rules of the existing world order that Russia annexed Crimea. However, it should be possible to annex Crimea to Ukraine on a less fragile basis. To this end, Russia will recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea. Ukraine should strengthen Crimea’s autonomy through elections in the presence of international observers. This process involves removing any ambiguity about the condition of the Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol.

These are principles, not prescriptions. People familiar with the area will know that not everyone is going to be appealing to all parties. The test is not absolute satisfaction, but a balanced dissatisfaction. If a solution based on these or similar elements is not reached, the flow towards the collision will be accelerated. The time for this will come soon.

* Written for the “Washington Post” in 2014 – translated by Arturo Delo

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