Stepping out from behind international skirts – Unilateral assistance

July 14, 2014

Yesterday evening, Artis Pabriks MEP, former Latvian Foreign Minister and Defence Minister tweeted:

A very direct and unambiguous statement.

His claim that western dallying has cost lives, injuries and preventable hardships has some merit – at least and insofar as the stakes for The Kremlin have remained incredibly low when considering the illegal annexation of Crimea in defiance of international laws, treaties, protocols and memorandi  The Kremlin itself is a ratified signatory of. That is notwithstanding its actions – and/or inactions with regard to securing/controlling Russia’s own border – in eastern Ukraine and the flow of fighters, tanks, GRADs, artillery and cash etc, through its borders into Ukraine.

It is of course, Ukraine that must reassert control of its own borders with Russia on the ground.  Western troops are not about to do that for it.  Blood that will be spilled in doing so will be Ukrainian blood – and necessarily so in the current and contained theatre of a small part of eastern Ukraine.

One of the few benefits of producing this blog in English is that it facilitates never ending invitations to meet with international journalists (normally refused),  academics, politicians and the diplomatic community (normally accepted) to discus the issues of the day, or possible solutions to the problems of today/tomorrow/on the horizon.

The personal views of such people are never directly repeated or attributed from such meetings, but it is fair to say that they are not always the same as the “official view” of the establishments they represent.  Events, such as the on-going Odessa International Film Festival, tend to facilitate many such meetings “on the fringes” when such busy people are in town.

Suffice to say the point raised by Artis Pabriks MEP regarding a more robust response to encourage Russian control of its borders is not a point missed by most of the “western” resident diplomatic community in Ukraine either.  That their opinion is heard within their respective capitals, there is no doubt.  That is part of their role.

That their opinion is heeded and takes primacy in their relevant capitals is an entirely different matter.

So what to do, if once again, the Europeans in particular, fail to activate sector sanctions at the European Council meeting of 16th July?

It is then time, perhaps, for individual nations to stop hiding conveniently behind the EU skirts.  Whilst sanctions may be far more effective applied in concert and identified as sanctions – there are “sanctions” and there are sanctions.

Clearly something the UK is thinking about.  The recent refusal of all but 5 Visa applications for the Russian team that was to attend the international Farnborough Airshow being a superb example of “sanctions” that are not officially sanctions.

“Due to Russian actions in Ukraine, no representatives from the Russian government have been issued HMG (Her Majesty’s Government) invitations to FIA (Farnborough International Airshow) 2014,”

Whilst some may boo-hoo the fact 5 Visas were granted, they were granted to admin staff to the Russian presentation/delegation team.  All technical, government and contract negotiation staff were refused.  Therefore the admin staff had little to administer if they attended.

“The Russian embassy in Great Britain regrets the disruption of the visit of the main part of the Russian delegation for the Farnborough-2014 international aerospace exhibition hosted by the UK, important military-technical cooperation negotiations scheduled for Monday between Rosoboronexport and foreign partners have been virtually disrupted.”

The Farnborough Air Show normally generates about $70 billion in sales.

The same Visa issues were encountered by Russian business at the Info Security Europe 2014 exhibition in May.  Serious expenditure and losses incurred to Russia without any formal sector sanctions – despite defence and technology (together with finance) being the three proposed sector sanctions amongst the European nations (naturally not energy/gas).

Bravo the UK.  Ahead of the curve and acting unilaterally to impose costs without official sanctions.

Let’s see if any other nation will unilaterally follow suit should the EU Member States continue to shy away from their purported values.

But let’s take that thought process a little further with regard to unilateral support for Ukraine.

What do the NATO member countries do with their “retired” and yet fully functional military hardware?  Aircraft, helicopters, tanks etc?  Those that were and remain reasonably fit for purpose despite being replaced by updated models?  They have dropped off of the national balance sheets after all once “retired”.

Why scrap them or mothball them when the relevant national balance sheets no longer assign a value to them?  Why not give them to Ukraine for free – as Ukraine can afford free – with only maintenance bills to foot going forward?

It is not as though Ukraine is an expansionist power.  It’s armed encounters outside of its territory come in the form of mobilising to UN peacekeeping appeals.  As such any retired arms given would be for defensive purposes only.  There is no desire to create “NovoUkraine” in Moscow.

Yes Ukraine may end up with a pick ‘n’ mix military with regard to equipment for now, but such equipment may well be better than what Ukraine currently has – and the “now” is what matters.

Perhaps a little too far fetched.  Perhaps going beyond the always comfortable “non-lethal equipment” assistance is going too far.  Perhaps a little too lateral in thinking?  Perhaps though, food for thought when it comes to temporary and cheap assistance in defending territorial integrity in the immediate future?

If the supranational institutions are for whatever reason unable to act – it is time for unilateral action (cleverly per the UK example if necessary), or coalitions of the willing, to do what they can in defence not only of Ukraine, but of the international and regional order that has prevented the continent from turning in on itself since 1946.



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