By Jacqueline Grapin, Chairman of the Board & Founder of The European Institute
At the conference on EU’s Eastern neighborhood policy organized by the Jean Monnet Foundation at the University of Lausanne on February 25, Aleksander Kwasniewski, who served as the President of Poland from 1995 to 2005, spoke openly about the situation in Ukraine. His testimony is particularly interesting because few people have his long experience and deep knowledge of how the Russian regime and Ukraine interact. While he believes that Crimea’s status is now frozen for decades, the outcome of the situation in Ukraine remains to be seen.
In the former President of Poland’s view, the reality is that US and European defense policies have evolved in such a way that they do not have “hard tools” at their disposal to make themselves understood by the Kremlin. “The hardest tool the US has is money, and that is not very hard”. The reality is that “sanctions are not a strong signal”. “Sanctions allowed only for the Minsk II agreement, nothing more”. The strength of this agreement comes from the unity of the 28, which surprised the Russians, who had expected some support from countries such as Germany and Italy.
The difference in the situation now and before Minsk II is that Ukraine is no longer headline news. “It is now more or less priority number five among the problems to be addressed,” he said.
In his assessment, the main question about the future of Ukraine and a possible compromise between Russia and Ukraine, is whether Russia is ready to accept shared sovereignty on Ukraine. It may be possible through some kind of federalist system, in which Donbass and Donetz would have a special status.
Irrespective, fundamental difficulties remain. Key among them:
- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, do not believe that win-win policies and situations exist. They believe that in any negotiation there is a winner and a loser.
- There is a lack of dialogue and confidence between Russians and Americans
- Ukrainians are not politically mature, neither institutionally nor psychologically.