Ukraine and Germany: would this friendship grow into serious relations? (Part 1)

Author : Serhiy Solodkyi Aliona Hetmanchuk

Source : 112 Ukraine

Berlin does not fully understand how seriously is Kyiv interested to invest in relations with Germany
14:16, 11 February 2016

Read the original text at Evropeiska pravda (part 1).

Relations between Ukraine and Germany are undergoing a kind of trial period: over the last two years, the two countries had many opportunities for skipping to a new level.

However, further obstacles may hinder the formation of a completely different interaction.

Ukraine has to demonstrate those things the Germans appreciated in other countries: the ability to adhere to strict rules and fulfill obligations.

It is unknown whether the parties would succeed situational partnership, which has been already established between Kyiv and Berlin, and convert it into strategic cooperation.

Ukraine Action Plan, created by the German government, as well as the actual strategy developed by foreign policy wing of the ruling CDU/CSU are the first steps in this direction, in which Kyiv should be interested as no one else.

Berlin does not fully understand how seriously is Kyiv interested to invest in its relations with Germany, not just use them tactically to counter Russian aggression.

Related: Poroshenko to hold bilateral talks with Merkel

Last but not least, Ukraine is responsible on how the new Ukrainian policy of Germany will follow a separate track, and does not depend on the policy of Germany towards Russia, as it was until recently.

Now the principle of "Russia first" is seriously questioned, but the chances of its return are high.

Especially, taking into consideration the co-operative, but not confrontational German foreign policy.

Related: OSCE and Ukraine: can Germany change the rules of the organization?

If you compile the interests of Germany to Ukraine that sound in Berlin, they look like this:

1) deter conflict in eastern Ukraine, because it can undermine the stability of other parts of Ukraine;

2) prevent destabilizing and disintegration processes in Ukraine, and the sharp deterioration of the socio-economic conditions;

3) consolidation of Ukraine in terms of politics and through reforms: Ukraine's future depends on its internal transformations;

4) support for Ukraine's European integration as the most powerful instrument of transformation of the country.

Ukraine’s interests concerning Germany have a vivid economic factor, while interests of it is not so obvious.

Berlin is interested in Ukraine’s security and reforms.

The Association Agreement put the issue of Ukraine’s European integration as inevitable one, but European capitals, particularly Berlin, still question whether it is irreversible.

Before Euromaidan Ukraine was seen as another post-Soviet country with a penchant for authoritarianism, with unclear priorities, catastrophically corrupted elites and the dominance of oligarchs. Currently Ukraine has managed to convince at least some of the German elite that Ukrainians sincerely want to change their lives and their country.

German politicians see that Ukraine seems to come out from the "blind zone".

All these perspectives are accompanied by opportunities and risks.

Germany is increasingly forced to be distracted by internal problems (especially - the crisis of refugees).

Berlin’s attention is also devoted to the effective functioning of the entire European Union (the Greek crisis, UK’s EU referendum).

And soon all German politicians will plunge into the election process, Ukrainian issues can take a back seat - in 2016 important elections in five German states to be held, in 2017 the parliamentary elections to take place.

We must not underestimate the strong Russian lobby in Germany and pressure on the part of the German business, which wants to turn the status quo in relations with Russia.

There are two scenarios, which would mean Germany’s high interest in Ukraine.

First one is pessimistic, if the security situation in the region gets worse, it will lead to an escalation of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Under such conditions, Ukraine without doubt will include at least one of the three priorities of the foreign policy of Germany.

Obviously, this scenario is not desirable neither for Kyiv, nor to Berlin.

Related: Russia started information war against Germany, - Poroshenko

Second one is optimistic: Ukraine will demonstrate rapid wonders of reform, fight corruption, and German politicians will use the example of Ukrainian as their own achievement, a kind of trump card.

Otherwise, Ukraine will turn to Berlin for important but not a prime eastern periphery of Europe.

And this is not beneficial for Kyiv.

Even now, there are lots of differences in positions of Kyiv and Berlin.

The biggest stimulus is the integration of Ukraine into NATO.

In Germany there is a consensus about the fact that the movement of Ukraine's membership in NATO is a destructive policy. This view is shared by politicians and voters. German public sentiment on this issue has beaten all records compared to negative sentiments in other NATO countries.

Thus, 57% of Germans do not support Ukraine’s joining NATO, meanwhile in France, 55% support it.

Currently, Germany lacks influential politicians or opinion leaders who could reasonably explain the importance of such a step.

The situation has even worsened as compared to the one that was in April 2008 when Ukraine was refused to participate in NATO Action Plan.

Obviously, new level of dialogue on the security and defense issues is required.

Ukraine and Germany pay a lot of attention to strengthening their own security, they are under intensive reform of the armed forces. Sharing experiences would be useful for reforms, and it would give a foundation for deepening understanding in the security sector.

Related: 59 percent of Ukrainians support the country’s EU membership, - survey

Related: European Parliament supports Agreement on Ukraine-Eurojust cooperation

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