Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

West should not decide Ukrainians' fate

By Fu Jing (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-13 07:42

The European Union deserves respect for its economic and social expansion eastward. But the same cannot be said about its military designs, driven by the United States. In fact, things seem to have taken an ugly turn with five NATO members, some of which are also EU member states, deciding to supply weapons to Ukraine to tackle the rebels in its eastern region.

This is shocking because last month the EU imposed an arms embargo on Russia, against whom the weapons supplied to Ukraine are apparently targeted. And more shockingly, the EU has threatened to impose more sanctions on Russia to restrict its trade.

NATO has decided to supply weapons to Ukraine at a time when Kiev and the Ukrainian rebels have reached a cease-fire agreement. Instead of responding positively to the cease-fire, which was agreed to before the NATO summit was held in Wales, the alliance's leaders announced a series of measures to boost NATO's presence on Russia's doorsteps.

All NATO members have pledged to increase their defense budgets - to spend at least 2 percent of their respective GDP - for collective security and reassuring the bloc's allies in Eastern Europe. The Sept 4 NATO summit also said there will be an increase in air patrols over the Baltics, additional forces will be deployed in Eastern Europe and naval patrols in the Black Sea will continue.

The Ukraine crisis, which escalated last November when the country decided against joining the EU, has been a cause for worry for Europeans, especially because the world is observing the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War II and 100th anniversary of outbreak of World War I. For many, the Ukraine crisis brings back the dark memories of WWII.

International efforts are urgently needed to prevent the Ukraine crisis from worsening, but supplying weapons to Ukraine is certainly not the solution. Ukraine is not a NATO member or part of the EU. So it should not be treated as one. Western leaders know that NATO's core principle, "an armed attack against one ... shall be considered an armed attack against all", does not apply to Ukraine, and any attempt to do so will infuriate Russia, which does not want an important neighbor to become part of NATO or the EU, which has been moving eastward toward Russia since the end of the Cold War.

The problem is that the EU is unwilling to let Ukraine be associated with the Russia-led regional bloc, Commonwealth of Independent States, and Washington is desperate to restrict Moscow's influence in East Europe and other regions.

In such a complicated geopolitical background, US President Barack Obama recently said that Russia is trying to change the postwar world order. That NATO's membership has grown from 16 to 28 since the end of the Cold War shows who actually is trying to change the world order.

Differences in today's world can be resolved through peaceful talks. Sanctions or flexing of military muscles can only worsen the situation and could lead to conflicts. The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia to ruin its economy. What if Russia stops supplying gas to European cities?

Since nobody wants to see this become reality, NATO and the EU should let the Ukrainian people decide without hanging the proverbial carrot in front of them, whether they want to ally with Russia or the West.

The author is China Daily's chief correspondent in Brussels.

(China Daily 09/13/2014 page5)

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