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【Diplomat Magazine】Revisiting the Ukraine-Russia-EU triangular dynamics

The following content is provided by Diplomat Magazine

(By Tanvi Chauhan, Tanvi Chauhan is a global studies scholar from the US-based Troy University. She is specialist on the MENA and Eurasia politico-military and security theaters)

 

編輯摘要/ 香港國際問題研究所研究員陳子謙

大眾對「烏克蘭危機」一詞的印象,大概就只會引申到克里米亞,卻不會聯想到其他烏克蘭東南部地區(如頓涅茨克、盧甘斯克)的相關問題。因此,在探討如何解決烏克蘭危機前,必先清楚釐清「烏克蘭危機」所指的究竟為何物。

 

需要解決甚麼?

 

1. 膠著的談判狀態

雖然《明斯克第一協議》於2014年9月開展,然而烏克蘭政府並不視分離份子為和談對象,更將其標籤為「恐怖組織」。若然烏克蘭政府依然拒與分離份子坐於談判桌上,烏克蘭危機則不可能解除。

 

2. 分離地區的政治前景

頓巴斯(頓涅茨克盆地的稱呼)地區政府在危機爆發時,曾與俄羅斯商討成為其聯邦國的設想。然而自危機升溫以來,地區政局的發展逐漸偏離分離份子的願景,向著兩個極端邁進:完全獨立,或者將領土歸於俄羅斯——前者,烏克蘭並沒可能允許;後者則不符俄羅斯所願。

 

如此看來,烏克蘭與分離份子雙方均無法在如此困局下,磋商出解決危機的可行而受雙方接納的方案,皆因雙方都對預期的結果不感滿意。因此可以預期的是,烏克蘭方面將會因為分離份子的反抗影響,催生更大的國族主義及身分認同。如若分離份子的俄羅斯民族性繼續被漠視,同時其收復國土的主張壓過對烏克蘭的歸屬感,此危機亦會延續下去。而解決方法應為政治手段而非透過軍事手段,因此烏克蘭需要認真考慮如何制定出一個合適的解決方案,才可完善地釋除頓巴斯地區的危機。

《明斯克第一協議》早於2014年9月展開,但烏克蘭政府不視分離份子為和談對象令談判膠著 (圖片來源: Wikimedia Commons)

烏克蘭危機與歐洲安全

 

烏克蘭危機的事態發展,為歐洲安全作幾個啟示:

 

1. 地區穩定與秩序

普京往往被認為是地區危機的始事者,卻忽視了基層反抗力量的崛起,如克里米亞危機般,最終導致整個地區響應而一同起義的情況。

 

2. 低估反抗勢力

頓巴斯分離勢力顯示出他們擁有不遜於正統軍隊的動員能力、戰爭技巧和經驗,反映出地區防禦的不足,也顯示歐洲諸國對此均為預料之外。如此的非和平反抗手段,更會促使抱有相同理念的反抗者聯合起來,激起更大程度的反抗。歐洲諸國應該重新審視各個地區的民族性及其抱持的信念,從而理解這些特性如何影響該地區的局勢,而非盲目歸咎於「俄羅斯的策劃」。

 

3. 俄羅斯的角色

烏克蘭危機的解決方案,無可避免地會有俄羅斯參與其中。而敵視俄羅斯並不會令親俄地區變成親歐。因此俄羅斯在地區安全的協作中扮演著重要角色。不斷的敵對行為(如經濟制裁)只會令俄羅斯遠離與歐盟的協作關係,也令親俄份子同樣地對歐洲更為反感。

歐洲諸國沒有預料頓巴斯分離勢力擁有不遜於正統軍隊的動員及戰鬥能力,因而令更多反抗者聯合起來發起更激烈的抗爭 (圖片來源: Wikimedia Commons)

烏克蘭危機與俄羅斯安全

 

1. 對俄羅斯的訴求

在克里米亞危機後,俄羅斯境外前蘇聯地區的人民都有可能因為親俄而踏上反抗之路,而俄羅斯並沒有統一對待親俄份子的政策(如克里米亞與頓巴斯地區)。因此,焦點則落在俄羅斯如何處理這些地區的武裝衝突。參考獨立國協(Commonwealth of Independent States),俄國能透過多國聯合組織,並以共同磋商安全政策甚至武力介入,以維繫歐亞大陸中的國家,就如俄國在集體安全條約組織(Collective Security Treaty Organization)中的所為。然而,俄國有考慮到地區性的衝突會演變為內戰嗎?俄國一直對「新俄羅斯主義」崛起與成形袖手旁觀,若然是因為希望在國安措施上保持神秘,地區安全的前景則是堪虞。

 

2. 俄羅斯需同時考慮烏克蘭方面的利益

雖則俄羅斯需要回應提倡「新俄羅斯主義」的民眾,然而俄方不能因此而挑戰歐洲甚至西方的價值與論調,烏克蘭亦不會再就此讓步。頓巴斯地區爭議因而可能在充滿不滿的協議上解決。

 

如上述所言,若然解決方案無法滿足各方利益,烏克蘭危機則無可能完全釋除。俄國與歐洲均需明白這場地區危機如何影響他們的國家安全,雙方均需要平衡自身及各方利益,方可重建地區穩定。

 

With the narrative that floats around, one is tempted to think that the Ukraine crisis is all about Crimea; that it started and ended there. So what about the internal oblasts like Odessa, Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Donetsk (the South- Eastern regions) where a protracted conflict broke out? Are they not part of the resolution to the Ukraine crisis? But before any party decides on how to resolve the Ukrainian crisis, it is crucial to understand what needs to be resolved.

 

What needs to be Resolved?

 

First, the negotiating status. Formal peace talks began with the Minsk-I ceasefire in September 2014 but Kyiv refused to engage with rebels as negotiation partners, even while Kyiv’s negotiators had no official status, proceeding to brand rebels as ‘terrorists’ (Matveeva, 2018, p. 260). For as long as the insurgents are not considered cohorts in negotiating a peace deal and power sharing arrangements, the Ukraine crisis will not resolve. Second, the political fate of the insurgent territory. At the crisis’s outset, Donbas seemed to concord with Russia about the federalization idea (Davies, 2016, p. 737), but as the conflict progressed, rebels’ aspirations were geared either towards complete independence or irredentism with Russia – the former, Ukraine would never give, and the latter, Russia did not want. The ‘Special Status’ option running into a political impasse coupled with Ukrainian civil activist efforts against Minsk agreements meant that the crisis was not ripe for peace from Kyiv’s side. On the split side, the Donbas rebels’ dissatisfaction with Moscow and Kyiv for neglecting rebel wishes also meant that the crisis was not ready to be resolved from their side either. All parties were dissatisfied with the outcomes. It is not wrong therefore to say that Ukrainian nationalism and monist identity approach was only becoming stronger with rebels’ resistance to Kyiv’s biddings. Thus, for as long as the rebels are not awarded some sort of autonomy or freedom to live their “Russianness,” the crisis will not be resolved. At the same time, for as long as the rebels are firm on irredentist motives instead of attributing some form of loyalty to Kyiv, the SE-Ukraine crisis will prolong and cannot be resolved. It goes without saying that the resolution needs to be political, not military. As with any conflict, ceasefires are only temporary arrangements for until a greater political plan is formed. As the many (failed) ceasefire attempts indicate, Ukraine needs to seriously determine a political solution for the conflict to truly stop.

 

Ukraine Crisis and European Security

 

No matter how the Ukraine crisis is resolved, some things from the crisis serve as important notes for European security. First, the Donbas conflict is a strong reminder that for regional stability and order, it is necessary to devote attention to grassroots rebellions instead of single-mindedly fantasizing over the “all-Putin” narrative. Crimea was the tip of the iceberg; it is possible that such dormant grassroots rebellions could foment and induce a regional domino effect throwing the fragile balance off the continent. Second, it is unreasonable to take insurgent groups’ military organization and political aspirations for granted. Within Ukraine, rebels have showed the skill and experience needed to spontaneously mobilize and acquire modern warfare methods, which means, that such revolutions can very much happen despite state defense methods. Was (is) Ukraine prepared for this? Are Kyiv’s European friends prepared for this? Furthermore, when grievances are addressed in the form of violent conflict, a pro-war culture unites people with similar ideologies. How can Europe stop European fighters from fighting in Donbas? The moment that a cultural war becomes war-culture is indeed tricky – so Europe needs to take into account the strength of identities, symbols, and beliefs, and how that can affect the fragile security in the region, instead of brewing the ‘Russia-orchestrates-all’ beverage. Lastly, with whatever political resolution that Ukraine comes up with, European security and stability is only possible with Russia’s cooperation. Antagonizing Russia will not help integrate pro-Russian factions within pro-West states like Ukraine. This would mean not only cooperating with Russia for further regional stability, but also not isolating it. Russia’s past attempts of halting the Novorossiya project in Donbas, postponing elections in rebel territories, enthusiasm for peace prospects including suggesting UN peacekeeping troops cannot be simply rewarded with more economic sanctions. That defeats good faith from Russia. This causes Russia to turn away from cooperation with the EU, and with it, induce its pro-Russian supporters (scattered all over the FSU) to imitate the same.

 

Ukraine Crisis and Russian Security

 

If a political-military resolution is found to end the Ukraine crisis, it has some implications on Russian security too. First, Russia needs to be prepared for calls to the ‘Russian World.’ A population who was driven to go to war because they had faith Russia would repeat Crimea means that such dormant attitudes maybe present within other FSU populations. Matveeva (2018, 286) states that “Russia does not have a universalist approach to regional conflicts,” and Donbas is a clear example of that. Whatever the resolution is agreed upon for Ukraine, a big question that looms over Russian security is about how it would take care of regional military confrontations. Russia uses a bilateral and multilateral approach in order to bind states into a regional order, but the aspect about a military confrontation remains unanswered (Slobodchikoff 2014). Whether we look at CIS or some other multilateral organization, there needs to be some forum which either addresses collective security operations (actual military confrontations) or allows Russia to intervene as necessary. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has been a good tool for Russia in integrating Eurasia against external threats (Hansen 2013), but has Russia seriously considered civil and transnational (internal) conflicts which can turn into full-blown civil wars if allowed? Even if Russia finds it pointless to entertain civil skirmishes like the one in Donbas, how can it ignore the fundamental drive – Novorossiya – which served as the rebels’ motivational catalyst? All this indicates that Russian security is invariably a matter of regional stability, very much taking into account Ukraine. So, it is only in Russian security interests to mollify such uprisings using support from mainland governments and/or a multilateral security architecture, thereby standardizing its approach to such regional hostilities. Unless, of course, it is Russia’s wish to stay mysterious with its security approach. If that be so, such an approach does not bode well for regional security. Secondly, for any sort of crisis resolution to sustain, Russia will have to understand Kyiv’s perspective. Although it has to rush to aid its Russian World when she summons her, Moscow cannot overplay this cultural dimension so much as to explicitly challenge the West and thereby feed into the Western normative discourse. Ukraine will be more than unwilling to make any more concessions past Crimea, so Donbas’s resolution (when it happens), would require sacrifices on both fronts and acknowledgment of bitter history.

Of course rebels in Donbas or Kyiv, the governments in Moscow and Kyiv, as also the wider continents of Europe and America would appreciate a true peace, but ‘peace’ cannot be viewed as an absolute dichotomy: either my way or the highway. A ceasefire may bring about a transient military resolution, but without a political one unanimously agreed by involved parties, it is unlikely that the Ukrainian crisis will end in spirit.

In order to avoid such future conflicts, both Russia and Europe must understand how overlooked conflicts such as those in Donbas have security implications for both of them. For Russia, it means acknowledging the dormant (but very potent) society within the Russian World, as also Russia’s obligation as leader of that world – and while doing all of this, maintaining a delicate balance between itself and the West. For Europe it means acknowledging indigenous uprisings, giving due value to cultural enthusiasm uncontaminated by political conspiracies that feed in the all-Putin perspective, and faithfully cooperating with Moscow to attain regional stability.

 

So as we see, there is much theoretical resolution to the Ukraine crisis and how that will affect Russian and European securities, but practically, one has to wait to see. As Matveeva (2018, 298) writes, “we can only hope humanity survived in those who went through it,” to which it would do well to add: I hope some foresight and rationality is present in those who are to resolve it.

 

References:

Davies, L. (2016). Russia’s ‘Governance’ Approach: Intervention and the Conflict in the Donbas. Europe-Asia Studies68(4), 726–749.

Hansen, F. S. (2013). “Integration in the Post-Soviet Space.” International Area Studies Review 16(2): 142-59.

Kofman, M., Migacheva, K., Nichiporuk, B., Radin, A., Tkacheva, O., & Oberholtzer, J. (2017). Lessons From Russia’s Operations in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.

Matveeva, A. (2018). Through Times of Trouble: Conflict in South-eastern Ukraine Explained from Within. New York: Lexington Books.

Slobodhikoff, M O. (2017). “Challenging US Hegemony: The Ukrainian Crisis and Russian Regional Order.” The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review 44: 76-95.

 

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