One of the biggest errors the pro EU advocates advance is the idea that the EU prevents war in Europe. As we are now seeing, there is the opposite danger. The EU’s actions and words in the Ukraine have helped create a dangerous power vacuum which Mr Putin is exploiting for Russian advantage. Whilst it is Russia which today threatens the peace and has acted illegally and rashly, we do need to study carefully the origins of this flare up.
The intervention of the EU in the break up of the former Yugoslavia also failed to prevent war, and some would say made that conflict more bitter and damaging.
The EU was all too ready to encourage those who wished to overthrow the elected President of the Ukraine because he had declined to advance the interests of the EU in the Ukraine, preferring a stronger relationship with Russia. I have no time myself for the evicted President, nor for the way Russia is behaving. The main threat to peace comes today from the Russian army, which seems to have taken control of Crimea on the pretext that they were invited in by the Crimean government, against the wishes of the Ukrainian government. Russia has violated the sovereignty of the Ukraine against international law.
I do however, think the EU should be more careful in how it proceeds. The President of the Ukraine might well have been evicted in an election quite soon if as the EU thinks enough people in the Ukraine prefer the EU to Russia. A little patience would have allowed an orderly transition to a newly elected person with more moral and political authority than the present interim government of the Ukraine.
Instead, pre-emptive and illegal action against an unpleasant regime led to the deaths of protesters, and the deaths of some police, before enough police defected and the regime fell. There is now a power vacuum, with a new unelected government who cannot command the support of the east of their country. This has allowed Russia to enter, claiming an invitation, with a wish to win a referendum to split the country. The west has been wrong footed. The Russians have taken the initiative and have gained a stranglehold over the Crimea well before the interim Ukrainian government or its friends in the west could organise any response on the ground.
The EU does not have the military power to take on Russia. The west will have to look to the US President to lead its response, as only his words are backed by overarching military power which even Russia respects. It looks as if the western response will be controlled, and based on imposing sanctions against Russia all the time she has troops occupying parts of Ukraine. Russia is likely to press on with its plan to hold a referendum and secure the consent of the Crimean people to the return of Russian government. If the west is lucky from here the limit of Russia’s ambitions will be the Crimea.
The UK should stay well out of this conflict. We should also make it clear that the UK does not want to be part of a common EU approach on this matter, and certainly has no wish to commit troops to any common purpose EU force to intervene. The UK has never signed up to the concept of a common EU army. We must make sure this type of crisis does not lead to one by stealth that involves us. The world does not need another large power seeking to enforce its views of the political future on smaller states.