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MILITARY TECHNOLOGY (MILTECH) is the world's leading international tri-service defence monthly magazine in the English language. MILITARY TECHNOLOGY is "Required Reading for Defence Professionals". Follow us on Twitter: MILTECH1

06 March 2014

Pushed by Russia, Abandoned by the West

To those manning the barricades, the Ukrainian crisis was about justice, democracy, and an end to corruption. But to the rest of the world, it is about the border between Europe and Russia. It’s still too early to say for certain where that border will be, but as this unfolds we are seeing another important development: The eastern leg of Europe is taking shape.

Until recently, Europe has been very much a Westerners’ club. Former Communist nations were allowed to join in 2004, but their influence was small. The European Parliament and Commission are in Brussels. The top jobs went mainly to the founding members of the Union, with some others, like the UK, also given a look-in.

It seemed likely that Poland and other newcomers would act more like the UK — sticking to the outskirts of the EU, securing opt-outs and never getting fully involved in the endeavour. But in the tussle over Ukraine, Poland in particular has emerged as a serious European power — if not equal to Germany, then on the same level as France, Italy, Spain, and other members of the old guard. Other Eastern nations have proven to be enthusiastic Europeans. Slovakia and Slovenia quickly joined Europe’s currency, the Euro. Latvia and Estonia both signed up even after seeing the mess of the Greek bailouts, exposing the common currency’s fundamental flaws. The Czech Republic also indicated that it would adopt the Euro within the next few years. Poland’s current government wants to join.

Eastern Europe’s pivot — its drive to be at the heart of Europe — has been a gradual but very important shift in world events.

A Europe with two legs? One in the east, one in the west? For years, only the western leg has been prominent, but the eastern one is now growing in power.

In this Ukrainian crisis, no European voice has been louder than Poland’s. As violence escalated on the streets of Kiev and the bodies began piling up, it was Poland and Germany that sent their foreign ministers in to forge a deal and end the bloodshed. Poland’s Radoslaw Sikorski and Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier came up with an agreement and got all the leaders sitting around the table to sign it. It was ultimately rejected by the protesters on the street, but it was still a partial diplomatic success. The negotiations showed that Poland, for years dismissed as a poor relation in the EU, has a place at the top table of European decision-makers, enjoying the confidence of EU powerhouse Germany, especially over policy in the East. The events in Kiev offer clues about the future shape of the EU, and the shifting balance of power that has seen “old Europe,” notably EU co-founder France, lose ground to the faster-growing states that joined the bloc after 2004.

For years, Central and Eastern Europe threw in their lot with the US and Britain. Their support for the Iraq War, for example, was striking. While France and Germany sat it out, Poland, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Moldova, Georgia, and others all sent troops — some in substantial numbers. They hoped that by being dependable partners for the US, they could expect the same in return.
They soon became disillusioned.

Russia was again becoming a threat, first cutting off Ukraine’s gas, then invading Georgia. But as Russia advanced, America did not. Much of Central and Eastern Europe signed up to NATO, but the alliance doesn’t maintain a significant presence there. Eastern Europe put its hope in America’s missile shield — an opportunity for America to demonstrate its commitment to the region, and to prove that if push came to shove, Eastern Europe could trust Washington to stand up to Russia. But America scaled it back.
Central and Eastern Europe decided that America was so undependable that they were better off throwing themselves into the European project — trying to make the arrangement more than just an economic agreement.

Another problem is, the US and NATO are ready to overlook the nationalism and racism of many of the groups that make up the Ukrainian opposition in Ukraine in order to have a pro-NATO and pro-US government installed in Kiev. The coalition government has now been formed with Neo-Nazis of the Svoboda and Right Sector parties in control of the Armed Forces, National security, Justice and Education. While Obama is accusing Russia of interventionism, the US and the EU are supportive of both the terrorist Neo-Nazi militia, as well as the Svoboda party. Meanwhile, the media is mum: Discussion of EU-US support to Neo-Nazi political formation is a taboo. Western media has casually avoided to analyse the composition and ideological underpinnings of the government coalition. The word “Neo-Nazi” is a taboo. It has been excluded from the dictionary of mainstream media commentary. It will not appear in the pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post or The Independent. Journalists have been instructed not to use the term “Neo-Nazi” to designate Svoboda and the Right Sector.

The existence of a Neo-Nazi party working in tandem with Brown shirts militia is casually denied. Those who dare raise the issue are accused of propagandising. We are not dealing with a transitional government in which Neo-Nazi elements integrate the fringe of the coalition, formally led by the Fatherland party. The Cabinet is not only integrated by the Svoboda and Right Sector (not to mention former members of defunct fascist UNA-UNSO), the two main Neo-Nazi entities have been entrusted with key positions which grant them de facto control over the Armed Forces, Police, Justice and National Security. While Yatsenuyk’s Fatherland Party controls the majority of portfolios and Svoboda Neo-Nazi leader Oleh Tyahnybok was not granted a major cabinet post (apparently at the request of assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland), members of Svoboda and the Right Sector occupy key positions in the areas of Defence, Law Enforcement, Education and Economic Affairs. The Neo Nazi party also controls the judicial process with the appointment of Oleh Makhnitsky of the Svoboda party to the position of prosecutor-general of Ukraine. What kind of justice will prevail with a known Neo-Nazi in charge of the Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine?

It is important to reflect on the fact that the West, formally committed to democratic values, has not only spearheaded the demise of an elected president, it has instated a political regime integrated by Neo-Nazis.
A scenario of military escalation leading to confrontation of Russia and NATO is a distinct possibility. The Ukraine’s National Security and National Defense Committee (RNBOU) which is controlled by Neo-Nazis plays a central role in military affairs. In the confrontation with Moscow, decisions taken by the RNBOU headed by Neo-Nazi Parubiy and his brown Shirt deputy Dmytro Yarosh – in consultation with Washington and Brussels – could potentially have devastating consequences.

Though it is difficult to predict precisely how events will unfold in the Ukraine over the coming days, the trajectory of developments is clear. The US is making a political, economic and military push against Russia that has brought Ukraine to the brink of civil war and which threatens a far broader conflict.

To conclude, the EU’s current large size and unwieldiness implies that the coming power will be smaller. Britain certainly won’t be a part of this power, though it is currently part of the EU. Scandinavia would not be part of this power either. There certainly doesn’t seem to be room for it in a club of 10 nations.
These excess nations could leave the EU. Alternatively, what could develop is a two-speed Europe, where 10 nations or groups form the core, and other European powers are less integrated. We already see something similar with a more dedicated group of EU nations adopting the Euro.

Until recently, Poland and the other former Communist countries seemed more like the UK and the Nordics in their attitude to Europe. When analysts spoke of a two-speed Europe, they assumed these nations would be in the slow lane. That has now changed. They are moving to the heart of Europe, or striving to be there. If Europe splits even further between a core and fringe group, they will do everything they can to be part of that core.

The Ukraine crisis is providing plenty of motivation for Eastern Europe to further unite. After Vladimir Putin invaded the Crimea, before the West had even noticed what was going on, Eastern Europe was shaken. Estonia has called on its National Defence Council to increase its military spending.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius invoked Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty — where NATO members must meet if “the territorial integrity, political independence or security” of a NATO member is at risk. This provision has only been invoked four times before. Poland’s prime minister said that the “world stands on the brink of conflict.”

Meanwhile America’s response has been weak ….up until yesterday’s laughable remarks by Clinton!
Poland has been a leading voice calling for a combined European military. After the Crimea, that call will become even louder.

Europe is the last hope for this part of the world. These nations can’t defend themselves against Russia. They don’t believe the US will. So now they will try harder than ever to get Europe to take defence seriously.
We can already see a rough outline of this Eastern leg. In the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, expect that leg to come into even clearer focus.

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