Trying to Rhyme with Orange

It isn’t working, and Ukraine’s parliament has 30 days to form a new ruling coalition. Good luck with that, too. If not, elections in December.

The long-simmering feud between Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko has, again, reached its breaking point. Tymoshenko, the current premier, has a month to engineer a new coalition, which would have to be with parties from outside the Orange bloc. So she would have to team up with Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions, or other, less mainstream parties. I’ll bet on new elections.

Russia has a lot of levers to pull, especially on a winter-time election, and I can’t see Medvedev or Putin having too much need for restraint. Prices on natural gas, export and import restrictions, pipeline transit fees, and much more will probably all be on the menu of blandishments. The Georgian example will also be very much on everyone’s mind.

Eastern policy has not been one of France’s priorities within the EU, so it is ironic that the country’s once-every-two-decades tenure in the EU presidency will likely be bracketed by eastern questions: Georgia at the start and Ukraine at the end. Without strong friends in Europe’s west, Ukraine’s medium-term future looks less like candidacy and more like Finlandization. Maybe Yulia just figured this out faster than the rest of us.

(On the other hand, if the Russian consulate in the Crimea starts handing out passports willy-nilly, something other than Finlandization could be in the cards.)

16 thoughts on “Trying to Rhyme with Orange

  1. Pingback: Orange blues (2008) « The 8th Circle

  2. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Ukraine: The End of the Orange Coalition

  3. Doug,

    You are one of the only voices out there talking about this crisis and framing it in a realistic way.

    Most of the Western discussion on Ukraine is still way these behind recent developments. Western politicians and media organizations have still been focusing on whether or not — and should or should not — Ukraine join NATO. In fact, as you point out, this recent crisis could result in a pro-Russian (and therefore anti-NATO) Ukrainian government.

    At the very very least, Yushchenko and the Orange Revolution are nearly over. According to a poll by the Kiev International Sociology Institute, only 4 percent of Ukrainian respondents said they would vote for the sitting president’s party in elections. Support for Blok Yulii and pro-Russian Party of Regions was polled at 24 percent and 23 percent respectively.

    Even if Ukraine comes out of this crisis with a neutral (neither pro-Washington, nor pro-Moscow) government, then NATO membership will probably be taken off the table in Kiev given the prospect’s unpopularity among the Ukrainian populace.

  4. Hi Nicholas, thanks for the props. I don’t think that NATO is really the great prize for these countries; it’s more the antechamber to the EU. Of course EU membership is much harder and takes much longer to attain, since you have to have state machinery that functions at least as well as Italy’s to get in. Given the ten- to twenty-year time period from when transition begins in earnest to membership, it’s good policy and politics to have something in between. That’s NATO membership, and it functions as a marker that the more basic aspects of a modern state are functioning at a level high enough that the country in question can interact as a peer with other states.

    (It helps to remember that this is not your Uncle Ronnie’s NATO, mainly tanks to try to plug the Fulda Gap until either the crisis or civilization is over. On one level, it would have made sense to rename the organization in the mid-90s when it changed so dramatically; on the other, a lot of continuity would have been lost, and plenty of people were trying to abolish it altogether.)

    Naturally, NATO was not designed as a precursor to the EU, but it is working out that way. On the other hand, what worked for the 2004/07 enlargement may not be the way to go for points further east, and EU leaders will have to come up with something creative. (Non-NATO EU members point out one route, but they were all pretty well functioning states, depending on what you think about Austria and Ireland, before the accession process.)

    More than four years ago, I wrote that I expected Ukraine’s citizens to vote in the 2019 elections to the European Parliament. That’s looking unlikely now, and mostly because Ukraine doesn’t have enough friends in the western parts of Europe. I think that Europe has been ignoring an important opportunity for too long, and the window may be closing for quite some time.

  5. I’m not sure that I agree with the statement that the NATO is regarded in the post-communist countries and former Soviet republics as an “antechamber to the EU”. In fact, I think I disagree with it quite strongly.

    For example, the political elites and the populace in both Poland and Estonia treated the NATO membership and the EU membership as separate issues, and were visibly more interested in the first one. In fact, there was considerable opposition against the EU membership among the same people who supported the NATO most vehemently.

    I may suffer from some blinkers due to my Finnish background, but public or political conflation between the EU and the NATO? Can’t see it.

    But if this really does play out differently in Ukraine, I’d be curious to know how.

    When it comes to the comment of “EU leaders having to look for something more creative as a precursor [instead of the NATO]”, there would be alternatives available. The problem is that they are not used.

    For example, Finland was able to become a member of the EFTA during the presumed high point of the so-called “Finlandization”. The association still exists, now integrated with the EU through the EEA institutions.

    The problem is, since EEA was not originally designed as an “antechamber” (except for some EFTA states), no one in the EU has so far come up with the idea of offering EEA membership as the first step to Ukraine (or Turkey). I’m not sure how it would have worked out in practice, but an “associated membership” through the EEA would have probably been a better option also with Slovakia and Romania.

    (And yes, I believe they’d have taken the deal, especially if it had been offered as the first step towards full membership in the EU. It’d still have been better than nothing.)


    J. J.

  6. JJ, you’re quite right, NATO isn’t seen as an antechamber — that interpretation may be unique to me — but nevertheless I think that is a significant part of how it has functioned over the last 10 years.

    Gotta run now, maybe those half-baked thoughts will rise into a blog post in a bit.

    The institutions are obviously separate, the functions, too (though there is overlap) and thus they have also been evaluated separately. Yet people also talk about Western institutions, the transatlantic community, transatlantic institutions, European institutions, and so forth. There are quite a number of institutions, and each of those terms of art can (though doesn’t always) refer to a specific subset of the whole. But the two that matter most are NATO and the EU, with the EU as the presumed end-state. After all, once your country is a member state, it is actively engaged in defining Europe and the European institutions. But how to get there?

    The process has been different for each enlargement (as has the set of European institutions the states joined in each), but for the 2004/07 round, admission to NATO has been a practical prerequisite for, and in many ways a stepping stone to, EU membership.

  7. In answer to Jussi, here is one blogger from Eastern Europe on NATO:

    Since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, joining NATO has become a prerequisite — the prerequisite — for joining the EU. No Eastern European country has become an EU member without first becoming a NATO member.

    I believe that Ukraine’s nonalignment puts us in the danger zone. I want Ukraine to join NATO and, ultimately, the EU while remaining a good neighbor of Russia, not a good banana republic of Russia.

    It’s tough not to draw such a conclusion by the non-NATO countries. Unless…unless of course the EU (end-goal) offered some kind of steps, mechanism, framework that these countries can use to integrate with the EU in the long-term.

    Right now this is missing; Brussels and interested states go through the motions, attend summits and sign pieces of parchment, but ultimately there is no mechanism that is an alternative to the function that NATO has served over the past decade and a half.

    Those that are proposed, like the Eastern Partnership Plan by Poland and Sweden, are relegated to secondary importance. That’s too bad. The EU has a lot to gain from engaging with its neighbors, if only it stepped up to the plate.

  8. I checked the arguments on the blog. So, the writer is arguing that some Ukrainians still tend to view tremember the NATO as the “enemy”, because of the Soviet-era indoctrination? But these same people have nothing against the EU membership?

    Okay, I can see that. Ukraine had a longer history as a part of the USSR and the communist bloc; so, I guess that it makes sense that the locals would view the NATO in a different light than people in Estonia or Poland – many of whom supported the NATO, but opposed the EU.

    But of that other matter, I still think that he’s wrong. The NATO membership is not, and has never been any kind of a prerequisite for the EU membership, not even for the East European countries. And I don’t understand how one can somehow draw that kind of a conclusion.

    When it comes to the 2004 round, countries such as Estonia and Slovenia joined the NATO and the EU practically _simultaneously_. The membership applications proceeded completely separately of each others, and there was an interval of few weeks between their accession to the NATO and the EU. Assuming that the spring term of the NATO calendar ended in June instead of April, those countries would have become EU members first, and East European bloggers would presumably be arguing that hey, an EU membership is obviously a prerequisite to the NATO membership.

    Besides, that was a period of a cold spell in the Euro-Atlantic relations, so I really, really can’t understand the conclusion that the NATO membership and the EU membership were somehow part of the same package.

    The fact is that the NATO is not a stepping-stone to the EU, even if some (apparently misinformed) people now insist on seeing it as such. How well has it worked for Turkey?

    So. Ukraine can negotiate with the EU quite independently of the NATO, and even forget the NATO membership completely if the population so desires.

    And I’m willing to bet good money that the Serbian public will accept the idea of the EU membership a lot sooner than the idea of their NATO membership.


    J. J.

  9. Thank you for the link, Vitaliy! And thank you for making your point, Jussi!

    While NATO membership has its intrinsic security value, it also has its instrumental value: common values and governance standards.

    1. Of the 27 EU members, 21 are NATO members, including all major European countries;

    2. Turkey joined NATO during the Cold War despite civilizational differences;

    3. No former Eastern Bloc country has joined the EU without first joining NATO;

    4. Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania are unlikely to join the EU prior to joining NATO.

    For Ukraine, the values/governance bootcamp is NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP). If NATO brushes Ukraine off on MAP, it will encourage Russia to redraw Ukraine’s map.

    This means NATO will have to spend more on defense, gas, and humanitarian aid.

  10. I may be sounding redundant, but really, that third point still doesn’t mean that the NATO is viewed as a stepping-stone to the EU.

    No former Eastern Block country has joined the EU first without first joining the NATO? As I said, that just proves that those countries were more interested in the NATO instead of the EU; also, it proves that the NATO procedures for accepting new member states are (slightly) faster than those of the EU.

    Of the fourth point, of the countries mentioned at least Bosnia-Herzegovina seems likely to entre the EU before the NATO. The country has been a de facto EU satrapy since forever, and is already on its road towards candidacy. At the same time, the erstwhile occupation authority has offered Bosnia only “intensified dialogue”.

    There’s no link between the EU and the NATO; there’s not even a _working consensus_ between these two institutions. This fact was rather painfully demonstrated during the Yugoslavian wars of successions, and even more recently in the case of Cyprus, where the interests of one NATO member and one EU member continue to clash openly.

    When it comes to Ukraine, the NATO is obviously not going to brush the country off the MAP, so there’s no need to worry about that. But I have to say that even if the NATO did that, the idea of “Russia redrawing Ukraine’s map” would still seem rather unlikely. Unless, of course, the Ukrainians themselves allow it to happen.

    There are countries right next to Russia which manage quite nicely without the umbrella of the NATO. Half a million trained reservists, a territorial defence policy and a working dialogue with Moscow seem to be a sufficient security guarantee.


    J. J.

  11. Russia redrawing Ukraine’s map? Using what excuse? This isn’t like South Ossetia at all. I clearly don’t remember Kyiv sending tanks against Crimea. Hell, I never remeber Crimea figthing a separatist war.

    For now, I see this whole “reicorporating Crimea” business as nothing more than ultranationalist chirping.

  12. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland joined NATO in 1999, and were first invited to do so in 1997.

    “There are countries right next to Russia which manage quite nicely without the umbrella of the NATO. Half a million trained reservists, a territorial defence policy and a working dialogue with Moscow seem to be a sufficient security guarantee.”

    Finland, and …?

  13. Finland, yes. I see no reason why the same arrangement couldn’t work elsewhere. I have no sense of national superiority or uniqueness, and I’ve always maintained the position that there’s nothing extraordinary about the country that I live in.

    Obviously, some other countries have different historical experiences, and in that light, their decisions are understandable.

    Still, it’s difficult for me to understand why Ukraine would somehow be dependent on the NATO. Considering the hardware and manpower in their disposal, the possibility of Russia “redrawing the map of Ukraine” should be rather marginal.

    (What, there are national and regional cleavages within Ukraine? Smooth them over. Other nations have managed it, with far worse handicap.)

    As for the NATO membership and its importance to the East European states in general; one could ask the purely pragmatic question why the NATO membership was so important to countries such as the Czech Republic, Bulgaria or Slovenia. None of these countries share a border with Russia, nor have they been facing any other plausible security threats.

    The only reason that I can think for their membership of is the desire to prove that “we’re _western_”… which, incidentally, also happens to be the emotional argument posed by the Finnish pro-NATO faction, and one that I personally disagree with.

    There are valid reasons to support the NATO membership, but lack of self-confidence and problems of self-identification are not valid reasons.


    J. J.

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