In view of the continuing conflict with Russia, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for a joint EU army, as if such an attempt is possible. The army would defend ‘European values' globally
The situation in Ukraine is clearly getting out of hand. First, there is evidence that pro-Russia rebels, as they are called, are no other than the infantry of the Russian Army who fight without their uniforms. Second, the region of Donbass, under a precarious cease-fire, is not at all populated with people wanting to remain in the Ukraine. Most of the time, towns and districts held by the "rebels" are populated with Russian-speaking Ukrainians. How one can distinguish between a Russian and a "Russian-speaking Ukrainian" is altogether a very confusing story. Obviously, frontiers inherited from the defunct Soviet Union did not really take into consideration cultural and linguistic differences. At that time, this was not a real issue so long as "solidarity sister-Republics" existed side by side under the Soviet umbrella. Now that the Soviet Union has gone and some of the previous republics do not wish to remain within the Russian federation's economic and political hinterland, problems have emerged. Problems that will not be easy to solve.
The first issue is the fact that since its independence in 1993, Ukraine has not delivered anything to its citizens. The state apparatus is corrupt, the political leaders are prone to using Soviet methods rather than democratic policy-making, and a very rich and fertile country in terms of agriculture and energy resources has not been able to take off. So there is a constant atmosphere of despair among a much divided population. Western Ukraine wants to integrate into the EU Single Market in the hope that it might bring solutions to its dysfunctional state. The eastern regions are mainly populated by Russians who see the Russian Federation as a much better provider and a much more dependable partner than the EU. On the other hand, the Donbass area was one of the Soviet Union's finials with its industrial and energy infrastructure, not least the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station. Eastern Ukraine feels that its future lies in the partnership with Russia, rather than the EU.
The second issue is that the EU has, for the first time, taken an important initiative for foreign policy, this time led by Germany, which also is a first. The EU is not the only one that has placed sanctions against Russia, but in addition, these sanctions have been extended, due to persistent violations of the cease-fire as agreed in the Minsk treaty. Russia, meanwhile, revoked the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). The treaty between NATO and former Warsaw Treaty members entered into force in 1992 and was meant to secure a military balance in Europe. As a result of NATO absorbing the former Warsaw Pact states, Russia wants to renegotiate. The whole security structure established in the aftermath of the Cold War is breaking into pieces.In view of the continuing conflict with Russia, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for a joint EU army, as if such an attempt is possible. The army would defend "European values" globally. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the proposal and pledged their support. NATO officials did not really take this idea seriously, due to the fact that a "European" army has been in the pipeline since 1952 and has not seen the light of day yet.
Such a belligerent attitude is perhaps not likely to scare Vladimir Putin, but obviously the conflict is being deepened and the normalization of Ukraine sent to Greek calends. The EU is dependent on Russia for energey supplies and Russia is dependent on rich European countries to sell their gas and oil, among other things. This interdependency will prevent a new "iron curtain" from being erected, but for the time being, the situation remains unsustainable. The "German initiative" may backfire and it would again be business as usual, namely the U.S. and Russia obtaining a modus vivendi in Eastern Europe once more. That would be yet another blow for the EU's external policy.