From Kosovo to Crimea

Any diplomacy manual always recommends resorting to History and Geography as complementary sciences to extract a suitable diagnosis and thereby be capable of applying efficient policies to solve possible conflicts. However, it seems like nowadays everyone has turned deaf ears to this usual practice in the history of diplomacy as regards the Ukrainian crisis. I will not oppose the modernization and democratization of Ukraine and even less the fact that all the attention of Europe as regards this country is focused on it growing roots in Europe. I share the efforts of the European Union and its High Representative to make the strategic association of Europe and Ukraine a reality, and therefore reinforce a state governed by the rule of law and the freedom of so many Ukrainians who have denounced the corruption and political malpractice of President Yanukovich, but I also believe that any step forward and any progress in the relations with Ukraine must be made taking into account its relations with the Russian Federation.

Ukraine could be, and I hope it will be in the future, one of the nexus that unites the Russian Federation and the European Union, and not what is being shown to us in such a dramatic light: a battlefield, to see who will end up being the “owner” or “protector”, as if the Ukrainians were not sufficiently mature to create their own space that could encompass their duality, as necessary as it is enriching. In my opinion, both Western Europeans and Russians should be seeking a “status sui generis” for this country. On one of my visits to Kiev, in the aftermath of the failure of the “orange revolution” and during the new election process that would result in the victory of President Yanukovich, I suggested to my Ukrainian interlocutors some ideas for the future that could galvanize the opposing views of Europe and Russia. Sometimes, we seem to forget that the Russian Federation and the NATO have an institutional setting, the Russia-NATO Council, that is held on a regular basis on the fringes of the Transatlantic Summits and as long as they are not affected by crisis such as that of Georgia. In these circumstances, especially in times of confidence and reconciliation such as those of Yeltsin, or with Putin’s coming to power, we should have explored a way to promote a new path of cooperation and partnership. The naval base of Ukraine could have been the first milestone in the construction of a joint base pertaining to both the NATO and the Russian Federation with the goal of preparing for the new strategic and security challenges that emerge from the Euro-Central Asian region. Instead of installing antimissile shields in those countries formerly pertaining to the Warsaw Pact, the United States and the Atlantic Alliance could have imagined or promoted initiatives in which the joint armed forces could share security and defense systems against common threats.

Unfortunately, Crimea is proof that the spirit of suspicion from the Cold War continues to thrive. We will only be able to find a solution to the Ukrainian conflict if we decide to put an end, once and for all, to the Cold War and, as Georges Kennan in his lengthy telegram to Moscow in 1946 said, we start contributing to eradicate “the Kremlin’s neurotic view of world affairs is the traditional and instinctive Russian sense of insecurity…”. President John Kennedy understood it like this and, in his Peace Speech, he decided to bet on those who believed in a common destiny for humanity.

The situation in Ukraine has been further exacerbated by the decision of the Crimean Parliament to unilaterally proclaim its independence and request its integration in the Russian Federation. This resolution should remind us of others made not that many years ago that, in my opinion, led to unfortunate precedents. More specifically, I am referring to the majority of the Western countries recognizing Kosovo. Their unilateral declaration of independence was backed, and many of us opposed this decision despite the pressures we were submitted to. Today, we can calmly state that our decision was the appropriate one. I can still remember how the majority of my European colleagues, exalted and irate, demanded that the Russian Federation respect the territorial integrity of Georgia and how I reminded them that in the fields of international relations and International Law, we must be coherent so as not to create precedents that, later on, could be difficult to defend and explain. Today, once again, we are faced with a very similar case, and when the representatives of Crimea unilaterally declare their independence, what can those leaders who donned the independent flag of Kosovo possibly say? What legal arguments, based on International Law, make these two situations any different? Spain and its governments, despite the cutting criticisms of the alleged defenders of the politically correct school of thought, acted and continue to act in agreement to International Law and, above all, they know the history and geography of this region because, as the old Spanish proverb says: “You reap what you sow…”

In any case, the current situation of Ukraine can only be solved by diplomatic and political means, In the first place, we must reject the referendum in Crimea because it is illegal; in second place, the international community must cooperate to prepare the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine in May, in order to set up objective goals so that the Ukrainian people may decide their political future in total freedom and with full democratic guarantees. And lastly, the international community and the European Union need to reach a strategic understanding with the Russian Federation to avoid a second Cold War.