A climate of “Cold Peace” has been around Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The two major European centers of power, the European Union and Russia have developed two opposing approaches to international politics: the normative and the Realpolitik. It is that confronting vision which has been a determinant factor in handling the situation in Ukraine, particularly in Crimea.
While Russia has exhibited a more assertive foreign policy through its hard power -labeled as a neo-revisionist power in search of great power status-, the role of the EU has taken another turn. It has been pictured as a civilian power whose unification ‘is not directed against anyone, nor is it inspired by a desire for power’. However, this is an ideal depiction, especially regarding its relationship with Russia. Bearing in mind the context and positions, two interrelated factors can be identified when trying to understand the EU’s response in Ukraine, starting with Crimea.
1.No possible war on European soil
Firstly, the lack of preparedness for conflict within the European territory. Crimea’s annexation was something the EU was not ready for, although some could argue that Georgia in 2008 was a warning sign. The situation in Ukraine and Georgia have similarities regarding their location as post-soviet space, but in Georgia, unlike Ukraine, the conflict ended by a ceasefire promoted by France, and Russian troops mostly pulled back.
2. EU’s dualism of identities
As mentioned elsewhere, the fact that the EU has a dualism of identities reflected in a European vs. State disjunctive has consequences in Ukraine. In this regard, most of the Central Eastern European Countries (CEEC) have pursued a confrontational approach towards Russia, to the point of being labeled as “new cold warriors”. Furthermore, their push for NATO intervention in the area vis-à-vis other EU countries wanting to pacify the situation has made the EU’s response to Ukraine mostly passive, as reflected in the only cohesive action taken by the EU: sanctions.
Finally, the EU is aware that to avoid conflict in Europe, the situation can’t be solved through military means. It can’t force Russia to give back Crimea. But the EU doesn’t want to participate in negotiation efforts either, such as the Minsk Agreements. The dilemma remains: should we take steps for a European warmer peace or keep dragging the same Cold War dynamics?