The Situation of The European Security Structure during the Fifth Year of the Crimea’s Annexation

On the 21st March, 2014 Crimea, fall under Russian Soveiregnty in compliance with Referandum results. It has been exactly five years since the Referendum and Crimea’s legitimacy is controversial. With the current election situation in Turkey, international politics is not reflected in the media as much, however, the fifth year of Crimea’s involvement to Russia was celebrated with special events in Moscow and Crimea.

The Russian annexation of Crimea is the actual situation that is not recognized by international community -including Turkey- became crucial to the European Union security. The Crimean issue continues as a frozen problem, in the last months of 2018, Ukraine and Russia flared up again with the confrontation of warships. This development showed Russia’s initiative superiority and the inadequacy of the Transatlantic alliance to provide an agreeable solution to this problem.

Russia continues to put pressure on Ukrainian activities i.e. military economic and political aspects since 2014. Western countries stand by the Kiev administration against the pressure of Russia. Thus Ukraine has recently, turned its EU and NATO memberships into a constitutional goal. Nevertheless, neither the sanctions against Russia in the post 2014 period, nor the reactions to the reheated crisis in recent months were able to persuade the Moscow administration to take a step back.

In the Ukraine-Crimean Crisis, the West has not developed an effective strategy. Hence the Transatlantic alliance development strategy will be least expected by both Nations. The reason behind the crisis in Ukraine is the strategy which pushes and marginalizes Russia systematically outside the European security structure in the post-Cold War period.

Considering from Russia’s point of view, which has had the hegemony over Europe during the Cold War, is not an acceptable scene to be pushed into the periphery of Europe. It is unrealistic to expect Moscow’s administration to remain silent while the EU and NATO’s borders are constantly expanding towards Russia and NATO air defense systems being deployed against Russia. Thus, Russia’s reaction to these developments has been harsh.

The problem is not only the imbalance that occurs within the European security; Russians think that the balance based on mutual deterrence in nuclear competition is destroyed by NATO and tries to balance again. For these reasons, one of the main problems of European security is that the Transatlantic alliance has not been able to provide a solid response to the question of “What we will do about Russia.”

In the European security structure, the fact that Russia’s minimum-security interests were not taken into account while positioning Russia, has originated serious consequences. Russia is not defined as “partner” or at least “rival” in the European security. As it is suppressed out of this structure, is also becoming an “enemy”.

Russia, thinks that it is surrounded by both the new alliance policy and Western alliance, which results to a brutal response. In the immediate surroundings, the pro-Western regimes do not want to see and show that countries with high strategic importance will not allow them to enter the Western sphere. In this regard, Georgia and Ukraine form the red lines of Russia. The annexation, internal disturbance, and congealed crises that emerged after 2014 have transformed Ukraine to be a valuable ally for the Western alliance, turning it into a crisis bundle.

Russia holds the initiative in the Ukraine crisis. The latest crisis in the recent months, shows that Russia can escalate the tension at any time and push down it whenever it wants. The sanctions applied so far, have been inadequate to step back to Russia. The reasons for this, is not just about the dynamics of the process in Ukraine. Russia increased its weight in international politics through its activity in Syria. It evaluates the fractures within the transatlantic alliance. With new nuclear weapons, this acts as a rebalancing actor. That is to say, Russia follows a consistent and determined strategy. Western allies could not develop a consistent policy on Russia’s role in European security, nor could they follow a significant strategy against the Ukrainian crisis.

Furthermore, the Ukraine crisis has increased interest rates within the Transatlantic alliance. US President Donald Trump believes that Eastern Europe has entered the economic hegemony of the EU, however the security costs of this region is undertaken by his country. NATO European member countries are invited to spend more.

This situation also propounds the differences of interest within European countries. While Eastern European countries see Russia as a threat, Western European countries are more concerned about other security issues. They are also annoyed with the fact that the tension with Russia has created a new arms race in Europe. These ruptures within the transatlantic alliance allow Russia to move more confidently.

The atmosphere created by Russia in Ukraine has also drawn the limits of NATO enlargement. This border is the limit of endurance for Russia. In this context, the Ukrainian crisis will not be overcome by convincing Russia to a reasonable solution. The European security structure needs to be reconstructed in a way that, does not see Russia as an enemy and considering Russian security needs at a minimum. To solve the Ukrainian problem, the transatlantic alliance needs to respond consistently to where and how it will position Russia within the European security. NATO’s strategy against Russia has ceased to be sustainable, and the policies pursued so far have not produced any other result rather than marginalizing Russia.

Interpreting the Ukrainian question as whether a state should decide with whom to make an alliance and Russia’s need to respect the preference of Ukraine, ignores the factors underlying the problem. The views that address the issue in the context of the authoritarian regime in Russia and its expansionist foreign policy do not provide an adequate explanation even if they are not biased.

At this point, it is necessary to ask what options Russia has in the face of the Transatlantic alliance’s moves. Given the determinative role it played in European security, as one of the block leaders of the bipolar world in the past, and its military/political force today, it is not an acceptable option for Russia to allow Western countries to surround it. The fact that the EU’s establishment of an economic supremacy in the immediate surrounding of Russia, NATO’s based on the Russian border, US’s nuclear missile shield technology to disrupt the nuclear balance, is not a scenario that Russia would easily accept in the claim of great power. In this context, it should not surprise us that all these developments have created a new cold war.

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Dr. Öğr. Üyesi Emre OZAN
Dr. Öğr. Üyesi Emre OZAN
ANKASAM Türk Dış Politikası ve Uluslararası Güvenlik Danışmanı

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