Blog AnalysisRussia Caucasus Ukraine

Neutrality a hope for Ukraine?

Swiss flag(BRUSSELS2) Ukraine should, perhaps, think twice before multiplying gestures and demands towards NATO and Euro-Atlantic security. The strong declaration of General Mykhaylo Koval, Minister of Defence, yesterday wanting " join the European collective security system appears more like a "brain of honor" to Russia than a geopolitical reality. A risky gamble more likely to anger the Russian neighbor and cause internal unrest than to elicit help. Because if it is possible that different member states of the Alliance could provide it, more or less discreetly, with some military equipment, send some "experts", there is a geopolitical reality. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, not ready to become one, and NATO will not guarantee its defence.

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, not ready to become one...

American President Barack Obama, when he came to Brussels in March, reaffirmed this. " Neither Ukraine or Georgia are currently on a path to NATO membership and there has not been any immediate plans for expansion of NATO's membership. (...) I think it would be unrealistic to think that the Ukrainian people themselves have made a decision about that, much less the complex process that's required in order to actually become a NATO member. »

NATO will not ensure its defence.

Although the military Alliance has set up a mini-device to reassure its members on the eastern border (Poland, Baltic States), no “direct” threat exists against NATO and its borders. And no European country - even supported by the United States - wants to risk the lives of its soldiers to maintain order on the territory of Ukraine, in the event of a risk of destabilization, or to defend it directly against troops Russians, in case they are tempted by a more direct military intervention. Before expecting any support, the government in kyiv should study its history books and revise its geopolitical fundamentals.

The lesson of history

If Westerners have often supported freedoms and opponents of the Moscow regime, this support has never gone beyond political, economic and even technical support. Whether in Budapest 1956 or more recently in Georgia 2008, there was never any question of an intervention by Western armies beyond the "Eastern" borders of the Alliance. In other words, NATO will not send a soldier to die for kyiv or Donesk. On the annexation of the Crimea, very recent, past the cries of orfaie, no one already really disputes this coup by Moscow. And all the European measures that will be put in place - within the framework of the association agreement and the liberalization of visas - will not take into account the Ukrainians residing in Crimea.

The Austrian Solution: Neutrality

That Kiev declares itself militarily neutral would therefore be interesting, if we listen to the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz. " If Ukraine wants to have a peaceful future, that would certainly help. It would have a chance, on the one hand, of getting closer to the European Union; on the other, to continue to work together with this strong regional partner, Russia. (...) The neighborhood policy should not mean that countries will have to decide between East and West”. And add "  Austria is a good model. It does not belong to any military alliance and is militarily neutral »

Europeans who hesitate to recommend the model

Indeed, Austria is a good model: the proclamation of neutrality, guaranteed by a constitutional law of 1955, made it possible to liberate the country after the Second World War from the military occupation of the allies while preserving the integrity of the Austrian territory. But this solution of neutrality does not really gather massive support at European level, at least until recently. A senior European official even mocked this solution. " As soon as we have signed an association agreement, we are no longer neutral. » European diplomats want to be more cautious, refusing to set an opinion. " We have no comment on an idea that is circulating explains a spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the EU. And "neutrality" does not figure, at least not yet, in the possible recommendations that European experts will make to Ukraine in these various reforms.

Comment: Any wait-and-see attitude is a mistake. A proclamation of neutrality, clear, without possible challenge, in a constitutional law, recognized by Ukraine's various partners (Russian, American, European) would have an immediate advantage — reducing the tension by one degree — and long-term consequences. medium term — allow economic and political ties to the Ukrainians. This would thus be a first way out of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Because there is a reality that it is better not to forget: if Russia is ready to intervene in one way or another to destabilize the power in question in Kiev, the West is not ready to intervene at the same degree. And it is always known that destabilizing a region is always easier than stabilizing it. CFQD

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).