Like in a wave of magic wand European media stopped intimidating people with the threat coming from the East as the presidential election in Ukraine wound up. The threat looked especially ominous at the time Europe marks the 100th anniversary since the start of World War I. It remembers how the «Long Shots of Sarajevo» pushed the caldron was to the boiling point by assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
Chancellor Angela Merkel opened a major exhibition marking the centenary of the First World War in Berlin on May 28. In her speech there she avoided mentioning the rise of tension in the heart of Europe. The European elite have other headaches than the after-Maidan Ukraine. This is the time of redrawing the Brussels political landscape and it’s much more important than cleaning out the Poroshenko Augean Stables…
Who will become the next President of European Commission that is the question! Will it be Jean-Claude Juncker or the Socialists’ candidate Martin Schultz? Will Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Energy, remain to be a member of the European Commission and if so, in what capacity? All told, the results of European election and the following events make pale in importance the Ukrainian crisis which is turning into an endemic problem. The Maidan coup brings to mind the «Arab Spring», and Egypt in particular. No way could Ukraine clean the mess and leave the crisis behind any time soon. Besides, how long will Poroshenko keep his position as the country is balancing on the verge of political and economic collapse?
The «chocolate President» outlined his vision of the situation and the steps he deems necessary to undertake. The West promised support. Madeleine Albright said in a condescending way that the Ukrainian President should be «given a chance». The US hubris is nothing new and the Ukrainian media is not embarrassed either, to the contrary it all sounds rather like a blessing by former US Secretary of State.
US experts are all at one saying the Ukrainian election results bring stability to the country. Germany is less optimistic, it hopes the legitimization of Kiev regime opens an opportunity for launching a dialogue between Russia and Ukraine. «Ukraine needs diplomatic adroitness, the readiness to compromise and flexibility. Poroshenko cannot turn the clock back and return Crimea. But it can use Moscow to prevent the further disintegration», writes Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung (1). The newspaper gives Poroshenko credit for being an educated person. His background is in international relations. He graduated from the elite Institute of International Relations at Kyiv-based Taras Shevchenko University, with a degree in International Economics in 1989. The President – elect has a record of being a successful businessman. Handelsblatt (2) is more restrained. It describes Poroshenko as a lesser evil. It says Ukraine cannot do without oligarchs, no matter how deplorable this fact may be. Those who wanted a «new Ukraine» and took part in the Maidan protests say the old well-known personalities have come to power. The coup and the following election have simply substituted one oligarch with another.
If there had been any expectations that the Kiev authorities may display readiness for a compromise, the election dashed all the hopes. Kiev believes that the May 25 vote gives a carte-blanche for continuation of the punitive action in the south-east. German media outlets immediately saw the possible implications and moved the press-offices from Donetsk and Lugansk to Kiev. They believe it’s much safer there because, as Poroshenko said in an interview with the German Bild newspaper, a civil war is raging in the country’s south-east.
Kiev appears to underestimate the importance of the gas issue and the debt it has to pay to Russia. Instead it plans to refer the issue to the Stockholm Arbitration Court (?). It has also started to raise the question about the «compensation» for Crimea.
Germany does not perceive the threat of cutting gas supplies to Ukraine and a corresponding threat to gas transit to Europe as a tragedy. It does not depend on this transit being supplied straight by Nord Stream and through Belarus and Poland. In case of short-term disruptions as in the winter of 2009, Germans may become Europe’s saviors reselling gas from its storages. But there is little time left for games, the storages should be filled this summer to guarantee supplies in autumn-winter. Berlin knows it all too well. Just before the three-party meeting it tried to reason with Ukrainian politicians. Meeting acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Angela Merkel made the interlocutor listen to new arguments. On May 29 the Ukrainian PM said that according to the European Energy Charter Treaty and the obligations imposed by the membership in European Energy Community, Ukraine is ready to provide Russia access to Ukraine’s natural gas transportation system. Does Russia need it? It’s an idle question. President of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said that opposition to South Stream is the first real biting sanction against Russia, but he his tenure is over and the construction of South Stream is in progress.
There is one more aspect to mention here. Europe is affected by the crisis in Ukraine, it’s a serious problem. The country has 15 nuclear power reactors in operation, accounting for nearly 44 percent of its electricity production in 2013, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEAs). In March Ukraine asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for help in case attacked by Russia. Ukraine's envoy to the IAEA said in a letter to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano: «Illegal actions of the Russian armed forces on Ukrainian territory and the threat of use of force amount to a grave threat to security of Ukraine with its potential consequences for its nuclear power infrastructure». He added, «Potential consequences of a military invasion would be a threat of radiation contamination on the territory of Ukraine and the territory of neigbouring states». The request was heard. On May 19 NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a press conference in Brussels that NATO had dispatched a team of civilian experts to enhance the Ukrainian nuclear power plants’ safety standards. Germans are sensitive to nuclear energy safety issues, so the statement became a matter of concern. In 2012 during the tenure of President Yushenko Ukraine tried to use US-made fuel for nuclear stations. As a result, the units had to be stopped for safety reasons.