The first question in the ongoing crisis about Ukraine is not “What will Putin do?”, but “What do we want?” We, that is the European Union and its Member States. That is strategy: knowing one’s own interests and objectives, and choosing on that basis where and how to react, and when to intervene proactively oneself.
Our vital interest is clear: to safeguard our territory and way of life. Defending Ukraine’s territory and way of life is not a vital interest: our survival does not depend on it. But the continued existence of a democratic Ukraine as a buffer state between ourselves and Russia does help us to defend our vital interest – it is an instrumental interest. Ukraine is part of the neighbourhood that has to be stable for the EU itself to remain stable.
Moreover, we have encouraged Ukraine and offered it a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) when the country, of its own volition, set out on a western path. We do have a moral obligation towards it, therefore. One cannot offer support yet withdraw it just when it is most necessary. Nevertheless, one does not go as far for an instrumental interest as for a vital interest – in this case, we will not go to war for it.
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