The unelected President of the Ukraine is not in control of the country he took over with his supporters. He looks weak because he is weak. He is unable to govern the east of his country. He threatens strong action to evict armed people taking over police buildings and other parts of the administration in the Eastern cities, then fails to carry out his threats. On Monday he was not even able to stop a further occupation. Why can’t he control his forces? Why do so many people in the East of his country wish to disobey him? The interim government of the Ukraine clearly lacks authority in substantial areas of the country.
The European Union is also weak. It was keen to extend its influence by pushing Ukraine into stronger Association agreements with it in a way bound to provoke Russia, but feeble when it comes to responding to the problems it has helped create as a result. The idea that the Ukraine should become a western looking country which could join the EU’s Common Foreign and Security policy was always going to upset the Russian influenced part of the Ukraine. Mercifully still without a large army, the EU is not proposing to use its Rapid Reaction Force to intervene in the Ukraine, and still awaits the drones it seeks.
The President of the USA commands strong forces, yet he too is playing his hand in a way which is weak. He condemns Russia’s actions. He demands his allies in Europe intensify their sanctions, only to find Germany and others reluctant to do so. Germany has a lot more at risk – including its fuel supply – if sanctions get too lively. He has rightly ruled out the use of US force in the Ukraine, but the public announcement of this has removed all doubt or fear from Russia.
The result is a dreadful mess. Russian people in Eastern Ukraine fear the westward looking Ukrainian regime, and seek guarantees of their lifestyle, or seek improvements which they think might come from more Russian influence. The Ukrainian regime is unable to police the whole country and keep law and order. Russia is able to offer succour to Russian speakers, whilst denying western charges about an explicit Russian military intervention in East Ukraine. The West accuses Russia of bad faith but lacks a plan to sort it out.
The UK should stay out of this. The West does not have the military power to take on Russia without US leadership and whole hearted commitment, which is clearly lacking. The EU has done damage to the Ukraine and has jeopardised what were stable relations with Russia by its actions so far. It is more evidence of why the UK should not be part of the EU, and why we should reject the Common Foreign and Security Policy. NATO has not offered a guarantee to the Ukraine. NATO needs to make sure its credibility is not undermined by this crisis. It needs to check its defences elsewhere where it has offered a guarantee, to make sure NATO’s security pledges mean something. Russia has behaved badly, but the EU has behaved irresponsibly, and is hitched to a weak and unelected President who cannot run or unite his own country.