ecco la versione in lingua inglese del post EUROPA SÌ, NATO NO, pubblicata dall’American Institute in Ukraine (AIU) sul suo sito
The facts are frightening. In 2009, Ukraine’s GDP is expected to decline by 8 percent. Iron and aluminium exports, pillars of the national economy, are in free fall, the banking system is on the brink of collapse, and like Iceland and Latvia, the government has already requested help from the International Monetary Fund. In a nutshell, Ukraine is collapsing.
With pretty schadenfreude, former president, Leonid Kuchma, has compared the situation of his unlucky country to the tragic scenario of 1941, when the Nazis occupied Kiev (according to legend, the city brings its occupiers bad luck, prompting superstitious Polish Marshall Jozef Piłsudski to steer well clear of it).
The tremendous global recession seems to have inflicted a fatal blown on both NATO and the European Union’s hopes for Ukraine, a country in the Russian orbit. However, it would be a great defeat for the European Union to lose the former Soviet country, because if it’s true that Kiev desperately needs Brussels, then it’s also true that Brussels needs Kiev.
Why? Simply put, Ukraine, with its 47 million inhabitants (projected to rise to 54 million in 2025), its agricultural and mineral wealth, and its geographically strategic position, could be very useful to the European economy, which is afflicted by an ageing working force and is lacking in abundant natural resources. Therefore, the European Union could well suffer from the loss of potentially the richest country in the the whole of Eastern Europe.
Historically, Ukraine has often been a tempting presence for European powers: everybody – from the Austrians to the Russians, the Germans to the Poles – has tried to gain control of the region, because whoever controls the vast Ukrainian plains controls the gates of Eurasia. The Hun hoardes and the Mongol armies who terrorized Europe in the Middle Ages knew this, as did the Nazis when they invaded the Soviet Union.
Of course, Europe can’t ignore Russia’s interest in Ukraine. If the Soviet Union had won the Cold War, and if Texas had become an independent state and adhered to the Warsaw Pact, what would have been the reaction of U.S. government? After all, we must remember that after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Americans promised the Russians that NATO would not expand.
Even Jack F. Matlock, U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union between 1987 and 1991, stated that Gorbachev was given a “clear commitment that if Germany united, and stayed in NATO, the borders of NATO would not move eastward”.
Additionally, in April 2008, Vladimir Putin openly stated that “Ukraine is not even a state! What is Ukraine? Part of its territory is in Eastern Europe. On the other hand, we gave them the most important part of their country”. In other words, Europeans, Ukrainians and Russians must reach a compromise that is respectful of the will of the Ukrainian people, the worries of Russia and the needs of Europe.
It must be noted that most Ukrainians want their country to become a member of the European Union, like their neighbours Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Indeed, it seems that European aspirations unite Ukrainians of the Western regions and Russophones of the Eastern ones.
Through European funds, Kiev could modernize crumbling infrastructures and boost an economy that can’t depend solely on its iron, steel industries and chemical industries. Likewise, European institutions could strengthen the young democracy, thus stabilizing the whole country.
Regarding Ukraine’s NATO adhesion, the French, Germans and Italians are very cautious. After all, is it really necessary that Ukraine, a self-declared neutral country since 1990, should become a member of an alliance openly founded to “keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down”? If, during the short war between Georgia and Russia, the latter didn’t send its tanks to Tblisi, capital of a fragile country with just 4.6 million inhabitants, is it really feasible that there could be a Russian invasion of Ukraine, a country far bigger and stronger than Georgia?
Ukraine’s NATO adhesion would divide not only the Ukrainian people (deeply undermining local and regional stability), but also the Europeans, and would cause a serious strain in the relationship with Moscow, the main energy supplier of the Old Continent (and the biggest trade partner of Ukraine).
What is needed is a decent compromise, a “grand bargain” in the best European diplomatic tradition. Ukraine deserves the chance to enter the European Union, thus joining the world’s most successful community of prosperous and democratic counties. But, in order to respect Russian security and its own sovereignity, it should not join NATO.
Ukraine should learn from Finland, a rich, neutral democracy that has very good relations with its neighbour Russia. Because, as said by Ukrainian farmers, “if you chase two hares at the same time, you will catch neither of them”.