Professor and Chair, Department of International and Comparative Politics American University of Paris
Beyond Kissinger’s Principles for Ukraine, Russia and NATO.
One of the great ironies of human experience is that the voice of “wisdom” in old age is often considered “utopian” or “unrealistic” when the same counsel comes from younger voices with much less experience. Such is the case for the “wisdom” of Henry Kissinger who has raised a plea for “reconciliation” between Ukrainian factions in the wake of the furtive Russian intervention in Crimea. Kissinger likewise asserted his opposition to Ukraine’s full membership of NATO and has called for Kiev to formally adopt a “neutral” and non-aligned status similar to that of Finland. In effect, Kissinger has urged the new Ukrainian government to sustain the non-aligned status that had previously been accepted by the government of Viktor Yanukovich.
Beyond Kissinger’s Principles for Ukraine, Russia and NATO
One of the great ironies of human experience is that the voice of “wisdom” in old age is often considered “utopian” or “unrealistic” when the same counsel comes from younger voices with much less experience. Such is the case for the “wisdom” of Henry Kissinger who has raised a plea for “reconciliation” between Ukrainian factions in the wake of the furtive Russian intervention in Crimea . Kissinger likewise asserted his opposition to Ukraine’s full membership of NATO and has called for Kiev to formally adopt a “neutral” and non-aligned status similar to that of Finland. In effect, Kissinger has urged the new Ukrainian government to sustain the non-aligned status that had previously been accepted by the government of Viktor Yanukovich.
Yet Kissinger’s views on Russia, Ukraine, NATO enlargement, and Crimea appear to represent only a minority opinion among American elites. His “wisdom” is generally seen as being out of touch with “reality.” After Kissinger cautioned against annexing Crimea, Moscow did just that. With Russian forces poised on Ukraine’s eastern borders in late March, and with forces deployed in both Transnistria and Crimea, Washington feared that Moscow’s forceful actions might be intended to splinter the country, ultimately permitting Moscow to obtain a land link to Crimea through the ostensibly pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine . These threats to Ukraine have arisen at the same time as the Russian military opted to engage in massive nuclear war drills, said to have been planned months before .
Kissinger’s views on Russia, Ukraine, NATO enlargement, and Crimea appear to represent only a minority opinion among American elites. His “wisdom” is generally seen as being out of touch with “reality.”
In an effort to carve out a new form of Russian Monroe Doctrine in the north of the Black Sea and Russian Caucasus, President Putin consequently appeared to be using power-based strategic leveraging with a tacit threat to assert Russian interests in Transnistria, if not in the eastern Ukraine as well, if these two issues cannot soon be resolved diplomatically . Russian pressures consequently appear to represent a means to legitimize the Russian annexation of Crimea and to assert Russian hegemony over Ukraine (in part by seeking to “federalize” the country) – by using what Clausewitz termed “diplomacy by other means.” President Obama has demanded that Russian troops deployed on the frontier with eastern Ukraine be pulled back; for its part, Moscow has raised concerns about socio-political instability, violence and the rise of anti-Russian and extreme right movements in Kiev and within Ukraine.
In an effort to manage the crisis, Presidents Putin and Obama began to discuss what Putin called “ways in which the international community can stabilize the situation.” For his part, President Obama has stated that neither the United States nor NATO wants conflict with Russia, and that the world has an interest “in a strong and responsible Russia, not a weak one.” While warning that Moscow needs to thoroughly engage itself in diplomacy in order to avoid deeper international isolation, if not a total loss of international trust in Russia, Obama has likewise urged NATO allies to boost their defense expenditure .
Here, President Obama is being pressured by hardline U.S. Senators and Congressmen who want to strengthen sanctions beyond those already imposed by the U.S. and European Union, which include the suspension of Moscow’s participation in the G-8 . These hardliners want to show Moscow that the apparent domestic political benefits derived from annexing Crimea will soon be overshadowed by the significantly higher costs of international sanctions against Moscow, which could, for example, significantly impact Russian financial markets . These actions could include efforts to expand American shale oil and Saudi energy production in an effort to undercut Gazprom profits. A number of American Senators have urged the Obama administration to supply Ukraine with military equipment, cut American contracts with Russian defense firms, and revitalize NATO contingency planning and military planning .
For its part, Moscow has offered a counter-perspective. NATO’s “illegal” intervention in the war “over” Kosovo in 1999 against Russia’s ally Serbia, without UN Security Council backing, and without taking Russian interests into account, represents one of the major factors at the root of Moscow’s quarrel with Washington – as indicated in President Putin’s March 18, 2014 speech. Subsequent American backing for Kosovo’s independence in 2008 (not supported by states such as NATO-member Spain) led Moscow to support the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in opposition to Washington’s backing for Georgia. In an effort to check first NATO and now EU expansion, Moscow has engaged in what can be considered a preemptive act of “defensive expansionism” – in seeking to return Crimea to Russia and by at least threatening to move into eastern Ukraine .
Moscow justified its intervention in Crimea and the rapidly implemented referendum that led to Russian annexation as protecting Crimea’s pro-Russian population from “neo-fascist” and anti-Russian elements in the EuroMaidan movement after they ousted President Yanukovich in February 2014. But their primary strategic goal has been to safeguard the Russian Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol and prevent its eventual eviction by the new Ukrainian government. As will be discussed, in annexing Crimea, Moscow also hoped to check the efforts of a bankrupt Ukraine to forge closer political economic accords with the EU without Russian input – if not ultimately block Kiev’s efforts to join NATO.
Yet even if Moscow’s strong historical, social and cultural and economic arguments in favor of the annexation of Crimea, and in protest against “illegal” U.S. or NATO military interventions, do possess a degree of legitimacy, two (or more) wrongs on both sides do not make a right. The concern raised here is that the far more extensive, if not far more destructive, American and NATO interventions (whether or not backed by the UN Security Council) in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or elsewhere, plus those of Russia since the end of the Cold War, have taken place in different geopolitical circumstances and different socio-political contexts and have resulted in very different actions and counter-actions among all states and socio-political actors concerned. Most pertinently, both American and Russian military interventions have begun to destabilize ever-increasing regions from the wider Middle East, to the Balkans, to the Caucasus and Black Sea, and perhaps (in the case of Crimea) even beyond the Black Sea – as state leaderships throughout much of the world begin to assess their potentially dangerous ramifications of Russian actions.
In an effort to check first NATO and now EU expansion, Moscow has engaged in what can be considered a preemptive act of “defensive expansionism” – in seeking to return Crimea to Russia and by at least threatening to move into eastern Ukraine.
The question remains as to whether the U.S., Europeans and Russia can ultimately find a diplomatic formula that will permit all sides to step back from the brink. Will the annexation of Crimea (plus additional territory in eastern Ukraine?) result in permanent tensions between Russia and its neighbors? Is a Ukrainian civil war and a new NATO-Russia arms race, or worse, inevitable? Or is it still possible to establish a reconciliation process between the rival Ukrainian factions and between the United States, Europe and Russia over Ukraine? Specifically, the diplomatic question now appears to revolve around whether the United States and Europeans can accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a fait accompli in exchange for a larger accord – a grand geostrategic compromise – over Ukraine and Euro-Atlantic security in general.
The European Union, Ukraine and Russia
In pushing for a policy that emphasizes outcomes, not posturing, Kissinger has told us that he is offering principles, not prescriptions. The problem, however, is that he gets off on the wrong foot with his very first principle: “1. Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.” He says this even though he himself had previously stated: “The European Union must recognize that its bureaucratic dilatoriness and subordination of the strategic element to domestic politics in negotiating Ukraine’s relationship to Europe contributed to turning a negotiation into a crisis.”
The issue raised here is that Ukraine’s “right to choose” lies at the very roots of the current crisis which, as Kissinger himself understands, was sparked by the rivalry between the EU and the Russian-led Eurasian Union, when the Yanukovich leadership refused to sign the EU accord in late November 2013. This ignited the EuroMaidan protests, which ultimately led to Yanukovich’s own downfall in late February 2014. The issue here is that Ukraine’s “right to choose” needs to be balanced with appropriate economic approaches toward both the EU and the Eurasian Customs Union, and also needs to take into consideration IMF demands and WTO rules and regulations. In effect, if the EU had initially negotiated an accord with Russia first (something it had clearly needed to do since 1994) and then worked with Ukraine (or had it worked simultaneously with both sides) then the present crisis might not have grown to such disastrous proportions. In other words, an EU-Russia-Ukraine agreement on economic cooperation needed to be signed in parallel with the EU-Ukraine association agreement .
A woman holds a Russian flag as she casts her
ballot during the referendum in Crimea
One of the major background reasons for the current crisis is the fact that Moscow feared that a closer Association Agreement between the EU and a bankrupt Ukraine would, from Russia’s perspective, divert, not create, trade. Moscow also feared that EU goods could enter Ukraine, free from import duties, and then be re-exported to Russia, thus competing with Russian domestic goods. European and American transnational companies could also edge out Ukrainian firms linked to Russia, particularly in the military-industrial and high-tech areas, generally located in eastern Ukraine.
Rightfully or wrongfully, Moscow has tended to see the 2009 European Union Eastern Partnership that aimed to bring six eastern European neighbors – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine – into new Association Accords, as a way for the new Europe to draw former Soviet states away from Russian spheres of influence and security, thus twisting the political-economic allegiance of Ukraine and other former Soviet republics toward Europe. This appears to be a flashback to the past, when it was feared that the 1948 U.S. Marshall Plan would draw eastern European states away from Soviet influence – particularly if Moscow itself was not to be included in such an accord.
The EuroMaidan protest movement had, in fact, gained some momentum from fears the Yanokovich government would reject the initially limited European Union proposals to assist Ukraine financially, in favor of the much more substantial Russian assistance package. The dilemma, however, is that the Ukrainian financial crisis is so deep that Kiev needs assistance from both the EU and Russia as well as from the United States, China and Japan, not to mention the IMF. The fundamental problem is that the looming debt crisis is too big for either Russia or the EU alone to deal with – given that Ukraine has a total external debt of $140 billion .
It has been estimated that Ukraine will need between $12 billion to $13 billion for 2014 alone in order to pay for imports and service debt. This includes a $1 billion bond falling due in June, and arrears on Russian gas imports . It has been predicted that, by summer 2014, Ukraine might need as much as $60 billion to pay for public services, to repay part of its IMF debt, and to service various private loans and other interest payments. This colossal sum could grow even greater given the costs of socio-political instability since November 2013.
The diplomatic question now appears to revolve around whether the United States and Europeans can accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a fait accompli in exchange for a larger accord over Ukraine and Euro-Atlantic security in general.
The EU has now offered Ukraine financial assistance worth $15 billion over the next two years, in the form of loans, grants, investment, and trade concessions. The U.S. has likewise promised $1 billion in loan guarantees, and the World Bank has proposed infrastructure and social security projects worth $3 billion . In late March 2014 the interim government in Kiev obtained at least $18 billion from the IMF, causing controversy in the U.S. Congress due to U.S. sponsorship of IMF policies . The problem is that no country wants to throw public expenditure or taxpayer’s money into a bottomless pit: Ukraine needs to put an end to corruption; it needs deep structural reforms, wider trade options as well as development finance and assistance from as many states as possible.
One possibility is the eventual creation of a three-way trade and financial commission between Ukraine, the European Union and Russia, which could help resolve trade and financial issues and begin to harmonize norms and regulations between the three sides . In this regard, France’s former Minister of Defense, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a senior voice of “wisdom” (and one that literally arose from the dead due a medical error – too much anesthesia) has argued that it should not be impossible to envision links between the Euro and the Ruble . Evidently, these issues will require complex negotiations, but it should not be considered “unrealistic” or “utopian” to find a way for a new Ukraine (even without Crimea) to become a bridge between the EU and Russia – assuming that the country does not start to disintegrate.
After the Annexation of Crimea
The present tactical dilemma is that the EU may have boxed itself into a corner by threatening sanctions against Moscow, in that these sanctions include the cancellation of the very EU-Russia summit that would address these complex political economic issues . In response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, the EU rapidly signed the political chapters of an Association Agreement with the interim Ukrainian government. The EU then stated that it would only wait to sign the economic and trade aspects of a potential new Association accord until just after new Ukrainian presidential elections that are expected to take place on May 25 .
The EU-Ukrainian political accord is intended to enhance security and defense cooperation and to establish a joint decision-making body to facilitate the processes of democratic and economic reforms. The final Association Accord would impact issues ranging from judicial reform, energy issues, consumer rights and environmental protection to economic integration with the European Union. On the positive side, the political aspects of an EU Association Accord could actually work to disband a number of Ukrainian far right wing and extreme nationalist movements, which Moscow has branded “neo-fascist.” At the same time, the question remains as to how, and to what extent, these new EU political accords with Ukraine might impact pro-Russian interests within Ukraine. Will the upcoming Ukrainian elections bring new leaders that are truly representative of both western and eastern Ukraine? Or will the extreme nationalist Svoboda Party gain strength, as has been anticipated?
There is the additional risk that the political-economic aspects of EU policies could further splinter the eastern and western regions of the country if such political economic accords do not include pro-Russian inputs. From this perspective, in order to keep the doors to communication with Moscow open, it seems vital for Brussels to postpone those aspects of the Association Accords with Kiev that do not directly or indirectly include pro-Russian Ukrainian interests in those discussions, such as representatives of the Party of Regions, but who have disavowed the corrupt Yanukovych, for example . Moscow has consequently sought a more “federalized” system of governance for the country in order to protect pro-Russian movements, and its own interests, in the eastern Ukraine.
As threats and accusations mount, the Russian annexation of Crimea has risked creating permanent friction between Russia and Ukraine, the United States and Europe. Kissinger argued: “It is incompatible with the rules of the existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea. But it should be possible to put Crimea’s relationship to Ukraine on a less fraught basis. To that end, Russia would recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea.”  Yet, contrary to Kissinger’s preferences, it seems doubtful that Moscow will backtrack on its decision to annex the peninsula, even if the United States and Europe continue to challenge the legitimacy of the hastily implemented popular referendum with its limited two question alternative .
The present tactical dilemma is that the EU may have boxed itself into a corner by threatening sanctions against Moscow.
The dilemma is that attaching Crimea to Russia creates new geopolitical conundrums, given the historical fears of both Tsarist Russian and Soviet imperialism in Eastern Europe, Turkey and the southern Caucasus. As will be discussed, much more will need to be done to prevent the Black Sea and Caucasus region from becoming the focal point of renewed inter-state rivalries. Moscow appears to want to separate the Crimean issue from other areas of U.S.-European-Russian cooperation, but the United States and Europeans seem reluctant to do so, given the peninsula’s geostrategic and political economic importance. As will be argued, a “grand compromise” will need to implemented if peace is eventually to be achieved and the dangerous situation “stabilized.”
Claims to Crimea and the Russian Black Sea Fleet
Kissinger had noted in his 4th principle that it would be necessary to remove “any ambiguities about the status of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.” Moscow has argued that it has a legitimate and “vital” interest in protecting its interests in the Black Sea against the encroachment of “NATO sailors” as President Putin put it in his March 18, 2014 speech.
Evidently, no progress can be made if the Ukrainians cannot come to agreement among themselves.
Moscow’s preemptive move into Crimea was based, to a large extent, on the fact that nearly all members of Ukraine’s new EuroMaidan government, and most prominently the new Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, had been on the record as wanting to re-negotiate, if not scrap, the Kharkiv Accords . These were signed by Ukrainian President Yanukovych who agreed to extend the lease of Sevastopol to Russia's Black Sea Fleet beyond the 2017 expiration date by another 25 years until 2042, with a further five-year extension option through 2047. In opting to annex Crimea, which includes a special jurisdiction for Sevastopol, Moscow has consequently put to an end Kiev’s control over the region. This was intended to safeguard the Russian Black Sea Fleet in an effort to protect Russian security and energy concerns in the Sea of Azov and Novorossiysk, among other issues of dispute with Kiev.
Toward Peace and Development Centers in Lviv and Kharkiv
Kissinger has argued that “Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people, but wise Ukrainian leaders would then opt for a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country.” The future Ukrainian leadership should try to ensure it is as representative as possible and bring in those members of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions who have disavowed Yanukovych’s corrupt rule. The government should also consider revising the constitution and reducing the presidency’s power, much like the accord that was accepted, but suddenly rejected, on February 21, 2014. Evidently, no progress can be made if the Ukrainians cannot come to agreement among themselves.
Another problem is that the Russians and Ukrainians need interlocutors that they can trust; otherwise a Contact Group needs to mediate . Here, in order to get Moscow to recognize the new government (President Putin himself has publicly acknowledged that Yanukovych does not have any political future), the United States and European Union should press Ukraine’s government to replace any extreme Ukrainian nationalists in key positions that deal directly or indirectly with policies impacting Russia, where possible . Russia and Ukraine also need to discuss issues involving Russian language rights and the protection of the Russian Orthodox heritage, in accordance with the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN Charter. The EU needs to press Kiev to adopt strong laws to protect all minorities’ rights .
In order to achieve these goals, International Centers for Peace and Development could be established in Lviv and Kharkiv, and elsewhere (assuming Kharkiv is not overtaken by Russia). These centers could help reconcile Ukraine’s eastern and western regions by helping to create a new form of federalism, while also seeking to coordinate trade, financial and energy relations between Europe, Russia and Ukraine along the lines of the European Coal and Steel Community, which helped bring Germany and France into political-economic cooperation after World War II. These centers would also attempt to coordinate, not supplant, the activities and policies of differing international organizations and NGOs by working toward the social and economic development of Ukraine, thus serving as a bridge between Russia, Ukraine and Europe. In the longer term, both Ukraine and Russia could ultimately be brought into a new form of associate EU membership with limited voting rights, but this, of course, would require a rethinking of the entire European project .
In short, Washington, Brussels, Moscow and Kiev need to do everything possible to prevent the situation in Ukraine from degenerating further – and prevent the danger of purges and persecution of minorities throughout the country, if not the real possibility of civil war. The continuing danger is that the influence of extremist pro- or anti-Russian movements on both sides, coupled with deep corruption and the financial crisis, plus the implementation of tough austerity measures, will exacerbate socio-political conflict and undermine any new government that seeks to take control in Kiev.
Toward a Peace, Development and Conflict Resolution Center in Sevastopol
Washington, Brussels, Moscow and Kiev need to do everything possible to prevent the situation in Ukraine from degenerating further – and prevent the danger of purges and persecution of minorities throughout the country, if not the real possibility of civil war.
The problem is not just internal, but external. Powerful geostrategic and political economic rivalries have worked to tear the country into ostensibly “pro-European” and “pro-Russian” factions in accord with the “clash of civilizations” concept that has appeared to divide Ukraine between pro-Western and pro-Slavic populations in line with Samuel Huntington’s stereotyped political cartography. If the present crisis is ever to be abated, this geostrategic rivalry needs to come to an end through concerted U.S., European and Russian cooperation over the major political, economic and security issues that involve Ukraine and the Black Sea and Caucasus regions. In a globally interdependent world, such cooperation would greatly benefit all parties concerned—and Russia in particular. This will require the US, Europe and Russia to take profound re-look at the Russian annexation of Crimea and at Russia’s control of the Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol, as well as Moscow’s relationship to the Black Sea and Caucasus as a whole.
The Russian annexation of Crimea does not necessarily mean that Sevastopol (or even Crimea as a whole) cannot eventually enter into a new “internationalized” relationship with Ukraine, Europe and the United States, as well as with Turkey and the Caucasus, assuming the United States, Europe and Russia can reach a compromise. This approach would be intended as a step toward the implementation of something similar to the new European Security Treaty as initially proposed by Dmitry Medvedev in June 2008 prior to the August 2008 Georgia-Russia war – but as part of the creation of a new system of Euro-Atlantic security.
In an effort to prevent any future Russian-Ukrainian conflict and to ameliorate tensions and disputes in the Black Sea and Caucasus region, the establishment of an International Center for Peace, Development and Conflict Resolution Center in Sevastopol could help maintain the security of Black Sea trade, energy pipelines, shipping etc. This proposal goes beyond Kissinger’s: the United States and NATO would need to modify the “open ended” NATO expansion – at least for the Black Sea/Caucasus region. Such a significant modification of NATO’s open door policy would only take place in exchange for the formation of a new regional, yet internationalized, system of cooperative-collective security for the entire Black Sea and Caucasus region that would look toward bringing Russia into a larger Euro-Atlantic space.
What is proposed here is a grand compromise that goes well beyond Kissinger: the foreswearing of NATO enlargement to Ukraine and the Caucasus in exchange for the foreswearing Russian claims to predominance over Ukraine and the Caucasus.
Instead of extending full NATO membership to Ukraine, Georgia or other states in the Caucasus, and then attempting to integrate them back into NATO’s command structure, in potential conflict with Russian interests, the United States, Europe and Russia would extend overlapping security assurances for the entire Black Sea and Caucasus region under a general OSCE or UN mandate. This approach builds upon Turkey’s 2008 proposal for a “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform.”  The goal would be to eventually bring this entire area into a neutral confederation or “regional peace and development community” linked to Russia, Ukraine, and the EU among other interested countries, with U.S. support. This could, in turn, lead both Russia and Ukraine to forge new forms of memberships with a reformed (and renamed) NATO and the European Union given deeper security and defense and political economic cooperation .
This compromise approach would appear to legitimize Russian control over Crimea, but with one major nuance. On the one hand, this approach would not call for a new Crimean referendum , as it seems dubious that Moscow would accept any such possibility after having already gone to such great lengths to annex the peninsula . On the other hand, this approach argues that Moscow would retain control over Crimea , but Sevastopol would gradually be opened to international influence. In other words, Moscow would still play the key role in protecting its vital interests in the region from Sevastopol (such as protecting the key energy transit and trade port at Novorossiysk), but many of the security and defense activities in the Black Sea/Caucasus region could take place as joint international efforts.
Instead of engaging in a new and expensive arms and naval race, this approach would permit Moscow to consider downsizing its aging fleet, while helping restore trust between Russia, Ukraine, and its Black Sea neighbors, as well as between Russia, Europe and the United States. The “internationalization” of Sevastopol would allow Moscow to present a more positive image by opening up the city and making Crimea a “special economic zone” in order to attract international investment. This approach could ultimately open the entire Black Sea region to international security cooperation, and thus help reduce threat perceptions on all sides, thereby preventing a new arms and naval race.
And What about Ukraine?
More than that, this approach could mitigate the ostensible need for an exclusive Russian sphere of influence and security in the Caucasus region or what could be called a Russian version of America’s Monroe Doctrine. Instead of dividing the Black Sea between what are essentially Russian and NATO-EU spheres of influence and security, this approach would create a new cooperative/collective system of Black Sea/Caucasus security and development. As was the case for Bosnia after the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, international Partnership for Peace peacekeepers, alongside Russian forces, could be deployed in the so-called “frozen conflicts” in Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh.
While the initial focus (after Ukraine) would be on the South Caucasus, joint peacekeeping measures could eventually be taken in the volatile north Caucasus, with Russian agreement, of course. The aim is to build security for Ukraine, the Black Sea, and eventually the Caucasus from the ground up, not top down, through NATO-CSTO-European Union cooperation. A neutral, non-aligned Ukraine (with deep demilitarized zones on both sides of the Russian-Ukrainian border) could also participate in peacekeeping and joint security measures alongside Russian, European and U.S. /NATO Partnership for Peace forces, as well as with peacekeepers from states in the Caucasus region. This would help stabilize and develop the entire region.
Toward a Grand Compromise?
Sometimes, but not always, opportunities can present themselves, even in a major crisis. But such opportunities require far-reaching compromise over so-called “vital” interests. In this case, Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and Europe will each need to determine what their truly “vital” interests are and decide whether or not they can accept a mutual compromise. They must also be assured that those compromises are feasible and can be achieved – through the difficult process of overcoming the deep feelings of resentment for past injuries and injustices.
A “grand compromise” between the United States, Europeans and Russia that seeks to draw Russia into a new geostrategic and political economic relationship should be in all parties’ interests. But only truly engaged diplomacy will be able to implement such a proposal.
What is proposed here is a grand compromise that goes well beyond Kissinger: the foreswearing of NATO enlargement to Ukraine and the Caucasus in exchange for the foreswearing Russian claims to predominance over Ukraine and the Caucasus. This could be accomplished by implementing a neutral regional security system for the entire Black Sea and Caucasus region through establishing an International Coordination Center for Peace, Development and Conflict Resolution in Sevastopol. This would, in effect, open Russian-controlled Sevastopol to the navies and peacekeepers of all participants in that proposed regional peace and security community. This could, in turn, eventually lead Russia and Ukraine to forge new forms of NATO and EU membership given deeper security, defense and political-economic cooperation .
Is this proposal feasible? Or is it out of touch with the “reality” of hardcore geopolitics? Will the United States, EU and Russia see it as being in their respective interests to share what, in the past, have been considered “exclusive” spheres of influence and security? Is it possible to accept the wisdom of “reconciliation” at both the domestic Ukrainian level and at the international level between the United States, EU and Russia? Or will NATO, the EU and Russia continue to taunt each other in a dispute that will only serve to destabilize much of Europe, while playing primarily into the hands of China, despite the latter’s pleas for action to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control? 
Real politics is the art of the possible, but if each side sticks to its position there will be no compromise, only disputes, if not direct confrontation. Continuing social-political-financial instability in Ukraine – that could soon lead to civil war – is in no one’s interests. And in a time of deep financial crisis, a new NATO-Russian arms race, accompanied by political-economic rivalry and sanctions, would definitely not be welcome . The more the Ukrainian crisis prevents Russia from cooperating fully with the EU and United States, the more it will prove difficult, if not impossible, to cooperate on issues of common concern and true mutual interest.
Another dubious, but not to be entirely excluded, possibility after such a major act of preclusive imperialism would be to return the peninsula after a certain period of time. In 1903, the United States fomented a revolution in Panama, split it from Colombia – after Bogatá had refused a significant U.S. aid package, and then built the Panama Canal. The Canal Zone was controlled by the US from 1903 to 1979. The canal itself was the put under joint U.S.-Panamanian control from 1979 to 1999 after the 1979 Torrijos-Carter Treaties promised to return the Canal to Panama by January 1, 2000. In December 1989, George Bush, Sr. intervened militarily ostensibly to protect the Americans living there, but the real goal was to safeguard the Panama Canal – prior to its transfer to Panama.
For its part, Moscow has stated that it has no intention of reneging on START and other arms control obligations. In this regard, Moscow permitted a series of Ukrainian overflights under the Open Skies Treaty March 11, 2014, and it likewise granted Ukraine’s request to conduct an inspection of “non-declared military activity” in a border region . The major diplomatic concern is that Moscow appears to want to separate the Crimean issue from other areas of U.S.-European-Russian cooperation. Yet the United States and Europe have so far remained reluctant to separate these issues, given Crimea’s geostrategic importance – even if full Russian cooperation is clearly needed in Afghanistan (after NATO’s withdrawal), Syria, Iran, North Korea, plus areas such as nuclear and conventional arms control/reduction (including tactical nuclear weaponry), counter-terrorism and work against nuclear proliferation. This is not to overlook the real need for U.S.-European-Russian cooperation in preventing a possible major power war in Asia between Japan and China over islands and resources in the Asia-Pacific region .
It will evidently take some time to restore a strong degree of trust in efforts to establish a new Euro-Atlantic security system – when, and if, the dust settles. A “grand compromise” between the United States, Europeans and Russia that seeks to draw Russia into a new geostrategic and political economic relationship – by establishing a regional system of peace and development for the entire Black Sea and Caucasus region – should be in all parties’ interests. But only truly engaged diplomacy will be able to implement such a proposal so that the 'vital' interests of the United States, Europe and Ukraine – in dialogue with those of Moscow – are redefined and reconciled. And this proposal (as a starting point for the discussion) may represent one of the few options left – that is, if the United States, Europe and Russia are to avoid entering a new period of intense geopolitical and arms rivalry that could soon prove even more dangerous than that of the Cold War.
1. Henry Kissinger, “How the Ukraine Crisis Ends” Washington Post (March 5, 2014) …http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/henry-kissinger-to-settle-the-ukraine-crisis-start-at-the-end/2014/03/05/46dad868-a496-11e3-8466-d34c451760b9_story.html
2. American intelligence has anticipated that Russian forces could soon move toward three Ukrainian cities: Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Donetsk in order to establish land access to Crimea. Russian forces are currently positioned in and around Rostov, Kursk, and Belgorod. Barbara Starr, “U.S. intel assessment: greater likelihood Russia will enter eastern Ukraine” CNN (March 26, 2014) …http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2014/03/26/u-s-intel-assessement-greater-likelihood-russia-will-enter-eastern-ukraine/
3. “Russia Launches Nuclear-War Drill, Saying It Was Long Scheduled” NTI (March 28, 2014) http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/russia-nuclear-force-drill-saying-long-scheduled/?mgs1=b102fhYG7A
4. President Putin stressed that Russia stands for the fair and comprehensive settlement of the Transnistria conflict and hopes for effective work in the existing 5+2 negotiation format, but also warned against the “continued rampage of extremists who are committing acts of intimidation towards peaceful residents, government authorities and law enforcement agencies in various regions and in Kiev with impunity.” http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/6936; http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/putin-calls-obama-to-discuss-diplomatic-resolution-to-ukraine-crisis-white-house-says/2014/03/28/9b896ce8-b6bc-11e3-b84e-897d3d12b816_story.html?wpisrc=al_comboPEN_p
5. “Obama cites ‘moment of testing,’ urges Europeans to bolster NATO” http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/obama-urges-europeans-to-bolster-nato-to-help-deter-an-expansionist-russia/2014/03/26/9353797c-b4f7-11e3-8cb6-284052554d74_story.html?wpisrc=al_comboPN_p
6. On NATO measures now being taken, see Ian Davis, “Tit-for-tat escalation in the Crimea crisis: where will it end?” NATO Watch No 46 (19 March 2014) http://www.natowatch.org/sites/default/files/briefing_paper_no.46_the_ukraine_crisis.pdf; Carol J. Williams, “NATO suspends ties with Russia, urges international law compliance” LA Times (April 1, 2014) http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-nato-russia-ukraine-20140401,0,7353946.story#axzz2xZmzdmOj
9. Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 took place almost exactly 60 years after Nikita Khrushchev’s “good will gesture” on February 19, 1954. Khrushchev’s decision had been intended to help make amends for Stalin’s crimes during the Soviet collectivization of agriculture, resulting in the holodomor. His decision had little geostrategic impact while the Soviet Union was unified.
10. Hubertus Hoffmann, “Russia, NATO and the EU: A Plea for a True Partnership” (Berlin: World Security Network March 26, 2014)
14. Scott Morris, “Will Mr. Putin drive Congress into the arms of the IMF?” (March 7, 2014) http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/foreign-policy/200227-will-mr-putin-drive-congress-into-the-arms-of-the-imf
15. For a prescient analysis that forewarned of the crisis, see Rilka Dragneva and Kataryna Wolczuk, “Russia, the Eurasian Customs Union and the EU: Cooperation, Stagnation or Rivalry?” Russia and Eurasia Programme Chatham House (August 2012) http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/
16. Jean-Pierre Chevènement, “Sans la Russie il manque quelque chose à l’Europe”, Le Figaro (March 8, 2014), 22
17. Luke Baker, “EU finds complications as it pressures Russia on Ukraine” March 10, 2014 http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/10/us-eu-ukraine-agreement-idUSBREA291AE20140310
19. Anatol Lieven has proposed, “A five-year moratorium on offers to Ukraine of accession or partnership agreements with the Eurasian Union, the EU or NATO.” “A Peace Plan for Ukraine” The Globalist (March 5, 2014). In my view, however, this approach postpones the pressing issue of how to deal with both Ukrainian bankruptcy and security. The problem is not to foster any form of exclusive arrangements, now or in the future, but to begin to implement joint accords between the EU and Eurasian Union and NATO and the CSTO as soon as the dust settles (assuming the dust does settle!)
20. Henry Kissinger, “How the Ukraine crisis ends” Washington Post (March 5, 2014) …http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/henry-kissinger-to-settle-the-ukraine-crisis-start-at-the-end/2014/03/05/46dad868-a496-11e3-8466-d34c451760b9_story.html
21. Nicolai Petro, “Save Ukraine!” Moscow Times (March 18, 2014) http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/save-ukraine/496444.html
22. Interview of Nicolai Petro http://www.carnegiecouncil.org/studio/multimedia/20140304/index.html
23. See also, Des Browne, Wolfgang Ischinger, Igor S. Ivanov, Sam Nunn, Adam Daniel Rotfeld “Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall” (March 13, 2014) http://www.nti.org/analysis/opinions/ukraine-must-not-become-new-berlin-wall/?mgs1=06cafhLLec
24. As Anatol Lieven put it: Russia should recognize “the new government in Kiev as legitimate on a provisional basis — in return for placing the Defense, Security and Interior ministries under neutral professional officials.” See also, Marc Weller “Analysis: Why Russia's Crimea move fails legal test” BBC (March 7, 2014) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-26481423 On significance of the far right from a pro-Maidan perspective, see Anton Shekhovtsov, “A response to Cas Mudde’s ‘A new (order) Ukraine’’ Open Democracy (March 3, 2014); http://opendemocracy.net/anton-shekhovtsov/response-to-cas-mudde%E2%80%99s-Ukraine-Far-RIght-How-Real-Russia. Groups like Svoboda and Right Sector, who consider themselves “national democratic” and not pro-Western, see themselves as playing a fundamental role in helping overthrow Yanukovych, and in preventing Russia from “subjugating” the country, while more moderate members of the interim government believe they must “co-opt” such militant parties. Critics have argued these extreme rightwing parties hold more power behind the scenes than their numbers reveal.
26. See my argument, Hall Gardner, NATO Expansion and US Strategy in Asia (New York: Palgrave, 2013), Chapter 7.
For a proposal to place the “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform” in discussion of the European Security Treaty. See Eleni Fotiou, “Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform: What is at Stake for Regional Cooperation?” International Centre for Black Sea Studies (ICBSS) ICBSS POLICY BRIEF no. 16 (June 2009) Hall Gardner, http://www.natowatch.org/sites/default/files/NATO_Watch_Briefing_Paper_No.15.pdf
28. See my argument, Hall Gardner, NATO Expansion and US Strategy in Asia (New York: Palgrave, 2013), Chapter 8.
29. Hubertus Hoffmann (op. cit.) has called for a new Crimean referendum; yet an internationalization of Sevastopol would perhaps represent a more plausible option.
31. Another dubious, but not to be entirely excluded, possibility after such a major act of preclusive imperialism would be to return the peninsula after a certain period of time. In 1903, the United States fomented a revolution in Panama, split it from Colombia – after Bogatá had refused a significant U.S. aid package, and then built the Panama Canal. The Canal Zone was controlled by the US from 1903 to 1979. The canal itself was the put under joint U.S.-Panamanian control from 1979 to 1999 after the 1979 Torrijos-Carter Treaties promised to return the Canal to Panama by January 1, 2000. In December 1989, George Bush, Sr. intervened militarily ostensibly to protect the Americans living there, but the real goal was to safeguard the Panama Canal – prior to its transfer to Panama.
32. See my argument, Hall Gardner, NATO Expansion and US Strategy in Asia (New York: Palgrave, 2013), Chapter 8.
33. Along with the other BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries, Beijing has stated that hostile language, sanctions and force do not “contribute to a sustainable and peaceful solution.” http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=293849261 China abstained on the proposed UN resolution that called on states not to recognize the results of March 16, Crimean referendum. Yet is China thinking of Russian intervention in Crimea as an analogy to its own island disputes with Japan and claims to Taiwan?
34. Global Security Newswire, 10 March 2014 http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/russia-new-start-inspections-could-be-halted-over-ukraine/?mgs1=e3f4f07tma; Global Security Newswire, “U.S. Halts Military Cooperation With Russia Amid Ukraine Tensions” (March 4, 2014) http://www.nti.org/gsn/article/us-halts-military-cooperation-russia-amid-ukraine-tensions/
5. Pavel Podvig, “What the Crimea crisis will do to US-Russia relations” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (March 27, 2014) http://thebulletin.org/what-crimea-crisis-will-do-us-russia-relations7009
36. See my argument, Hall Gardner, NATO Expansion and US Strategy in Asia (New York: Palgrave, 2013), Chapters 6 and 8