Richard North, 21/02/2015  

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"One might have thought by now that the EU hierarchy might have learned some lessons from the experience, and backed off from "poking the bear", having realised that there could only be one outcome", we wrote in March last year.

The following September I noted, in response to a particularly feline piece of sophistry from Daniel Hannan that one does not have to support Putin or agree in any way with the Russian action towards Ukraine to posit that, given the behaviour of the EU in the region, we were going to see the very predicable responses that we have seen.

The point I then repeated was: don't rattle the bear's cage. If you do, there will be a very predictable result. The EU rattled the bear's cage – the result was predicable, and predicted.

This is the very essence of the Ukraine crisis, which we followed from the very start in November 2013, where it soon became evident that the EU was encroaching on a vital Russian sphere of influence, with all the subtlety and tact of a midget in size 10 boots.

As we know, it was seeking to agree an Association Agreement with the Ukrainian government which went far beyond s simple trade agreement, attempting to peel away Russsia's close neighbour and bring it into the EU sphere, with eventual membership on the cards.

Now, a full year after it was transparently obvious that the EU had blundered into a situation that has now sparked a costly and increasingly bitter war, we get a Select Committee Report which, effectively concedes that the EU is largely at fault for the events that have transpired.

"We observe", says the House of Lords European Union Committee, "that there has been a strong element of 'sleep-walking' into the current crisis, with Member States being taken by surprise by events in Ukraine". It continues:
Over the last decade, the EU has been slow to reappraise its policies in response to significant changes in Russia. A loss of collective analytical capacity has weakened Member States' ability to read the political shifts in Russia and to offer an authoritative response. This lack of understanding and capacity was clearly evident during the Ukraine crisis, but even before that the EU had not taken into account the exceptional nature of Ukraine and its unique position in the shared neighbourhood.
Having blundered into the Russian domain, however, what comes over from the report is that the EU set out to make things worse. To the Russians, the Association Agreement was clearly and unequivocally provocation yet, after Russian hostility to it became evident, the EU continued to push the Ukrainian government to sign up.

According to Elena Korosteleva, professor of international politics at the University of Kent, the EU undertook a "moderate but miscalculated campaign to accelerate or arguably compel Ukraine to a decision over the AA" at the Vilnius summit in November 2013.

Then, we are led to believe that the European Commission engaged in a "consultation process" with Russia on the economic effects of the Association Agreement, claiming that, when the level of opposition became clear, the EU was "open to discussion with Russia about its concerns". A "dialogue was begun, but Russia left it very late in the day".

But while the Russians were concerned that the Association Agreement was politically driven, the Commission responded by putting forward free-market liberal economic arguments relating just to the trade deal. Both sides were to some extent, "talking past each other", the Committee says.

According to Ambassador Yakovenko, though, the parties were not talking at all. When Ukraine decided to suspend signature of the Association Agreement, he says, Russia proposed to hold trilateral discussions with the EU, Ukraine and Russia. The European Commission refused to consider this proposal.

Instead, the EU did everything to facilitate regime change in Kiev. At this point, a witness told the Select Committee, "we [the EU] could have avoided everything that is happening right now". Only now, "after all the tragedies" is the EU inviting the Russians to discussions.

Yet, although this is damning criticism from a witness, it is not allowed into the substance of the report's conclusions. And the reason for that is, as Autonomous Mind points out, the Committee is chaired by Lord Tugendhat, a former Vice President of the European Commission no less.

To call the Russian reaction predictable, says AM is an understatement, yet the Lords Committee dodges this reality entirely. It merely notes that "disagreement" over the "shared neighbourhood" has given way to "outright confrontation and competition for political control", then observing that the creation of the Eurasian Union, a new political and economic entity, "could have significant consequences".

In terms of understatement, this is almost comedic, but so too are the recommendations. Nowhere is there any recognition that there is a bloody war in progress, with thousands dead and hundreds of millions in damage caused. Two armies are mobilised and the so-called cease-fire did not even last minutes. The battle will continue until Ukraine is formally partitioned, and there is a land corridor from Russian territory to the Crimea.

But all Tugendhat's committee can manage to say is that, "the EU must be guided by a robust assessment of its interests and a sober understanding of today's Russia".

After all the evidence adduced, the Committee struggles to recognise that "there is no prospect of a rapid return to business as usual" but, despite that, avers that " the EU and Member States still need to engage in dialogue, in the course of which the interests of both sides should be reconciled as far as possible".

This is fantasy – total, mind-numbing fantasy. Until the blood-letting is over, there is going to be no meaningful dialogue. By then, the region will have been irrevocably changed. Even the chance of normal relations between Russia and EU member state will have become a distant memory.

History will then record that, whatever Russia might of might or might not have done, the ongoing disaster of Ukraine was precipitated by the EU. It stands as testimony to the gross incompetence of an organisation which, ironically, was brought into being to prevent war – or so it claims.

With the Ukraine conflict the end result, the ultimate conclusion has to be that the European Union is a disaster we can no longer afford.

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