Ukraine is putting together a team of international personalities to rally international support. Today, US Senator John McCain was added on an impressive public affairs team” that also features Carl Bildt, the former Prime Minister of Sweden, and the Swedish economist Anders Aslund. The team is headed by Georgia’s former President, Michael Saakashvili.
In a war with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Kiev’s team can summon the financial and military support required from the West, if the country is to overcome the current crisis. This approach is not uncontroversial. The common denominator of “Team Ukraine” is a kind of opposition to Moscow that ranges from “vocal” to “hawkish,” reflecting the mood in many EU member state capitals and in Washington.
Russia is conducting a war by proxy, supplying irregular forces with weapons, funds and “volunteers”. However, the standoff with former Soviet republics that Russia regards “Near Abroad” is becoming less indirect. The annexation of Crimea broke a taboo and there are those who argue that Kaliningrad could be next. The newest members of both NATO and the EU resent the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which forbids bases in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe. The Alliance, instead, holds “permanent exercises” in the region with Poland playing a prominent role. In reference to Ukraine, historical parallels with the Munich conference are becoming common.
How much support Ukraine can hope for is still unknown. Ukraine and Georgia were refused NATO membership in 2008, with Russia invading Georgia soon afterwards. Could NATO membership be considered in the near future? The extension of Article V collective security guarantees would have to address the question of the occupied territories. That kind of escalation is doubtful. At the same time, “team Ukraine” is divisive. Georgia’s former president. Mr Saakashvili, has lived in exile since 2013 and is a bitter enemy of Georgia’s current administration. Ukraine can hope for support, but a consensus over a “peace-making” approach is hard to reach.