Ukrainian Crisis: Merkel, Biden and Obama see militarization differently

Ukrainian Crisis: Merkel, Biden and Obama see militarization differently

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  • Peace summits with Russia.
  • Munich Security Council
  • Merkel and Obama divided.


During the annual Munich Security Conference this weekend, the Ukrainian crisis remained an important topic. While Chancellor Angela Merkel feels diplomacy is key, U.S. officials push for more military weapons without placing American soldiers on the ground.

At the annual Munich Security Conference on Saturday, February 7, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that weaponizing Ukrainians in the east would not solve the nation’s problems. The declaration comes amid Washington’s decision to not eliminate the idea of backing those fighting pro-Russian separatists.

Deutsche Welle reports the German politician was clear on the next phase of handling the Ukrainian crisis. “The problem is that I cannot imagine any situation in which improved equipment for the Ukrainian army leads to President Putin being so impressed that he believes he will lose militarily.”

She also reminds conference goers that Russian President Vladimir Putin has no responded to any initiatives set forth by the rest of Western society. “I have to put it that bluntly.”

Earlier in the week, Merkel and French President Francois Hollande visited the Kremlin in Moscow to present a peace initiative meant to replace the seemingly ignored Minsk deal from September. “This is why we have decided to focus our efforts on seeking a diplomatic solution.”

The declaration came on the heels of US Air Force General and NATO military commander Philip Breedlove recommendation to not rule out arming the pro-Ukrainian fighters. While refusing to place “boots on the ground” in Eastern Ukraine, he replied that “I don’t think we should preclude out of hand the possibility of the military option.”

Germany and the U.S. consistently find themselves on opposites of military might spectrum on how to handle the insurgence around Donetsk and the Russian border. American foreign policy previously circled around supplying weaponry and under-the-table help in toppling a former regime, like Afghanistan in the Reagan era, or military intelligence when helping defend potential allies who later turned into enemies.

However, the German official does not feel as if the peace talks will result in any actions at the moment. After all, Western society is attempting to not push for another international war while clamoring for peace. Admitting “we have not yet had sufficiently good experiences” tells fellow government officials that Russia is not ready to cease openly defying requests from other nations.

However the open defiance does not stop hope for peace. “It is from my point of view and that of the French president in any case worth making this attempt.”
This was the first time Chancellor Merkel has publically communicated about the peace talks in Moscow. And there will be a telephone conference with the leader, along with Putin, Hollande, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at some point on Sunday.

Both Poroshenko and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden attended along with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Biden, Merkel, and Poroshenko expected to meet to debrief and discuss the Ukrainian situation at the conference.

NPR reports that meanwhile on Saturday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest gave little indication on what President Barack Obama /4/do. “The president is going to make a decision that he believes is in the broader national security interests of the United States” while paying attention to decisions directly affecting allies.  To that end, Merkel will be visiting the U.S. capital in an attempt to prevent a further push to weaponized Kiev even further.

Vice President Biden spoke at the conference on Saturday as well—providing an American viewpoint to the volatile situation in the Ukraine.

“We have moved from resetting this important relationship to reasserting the fundamental bedrock principles on which European freedom and stability rest.” Previously, the U.S. had attempted to find common ground with Russia, especially as the last vestiges of the Cold War are starting to fall away.

He also emphasized what constituted stability requirements. “And let me state clearly what is our collective objective, or at least what I believe is our objective and should be our collective objectives: to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine; to reassert the principle that the borders are inviolate and nations have the right to choose their own alliances.”

The rather no-nonsense politician also bluntly stated that “America and Europe are being tested.”

Merkel agrees, but wants a more solidified, long-term commitment. “If we don’t manage to find not just a compromise but a lasting peace agreement, we know perfectly well what the scenario will be. It has a name, it’s called war.”

War is not something many countries currently desire. The world has been rocked with instability in the past several years, mostly recently in Syria and with Islamic terrorist groups, and funds are not available to fight on multiple fronts at the moment.

Biden went on to name the three biggest threats from Russia. “First, the attempt to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty; second, the use of corruption as an instrument to try to undermine governments; and, third, the use of energy as a tool of coercion.”

Referencing the redrawing of countries after the end of World War II and the Cold War, he hammered home agreements made by Western society. “Together, we agreed that countries would never again be able to redraw the map of Europe by force.”

In the end, political discourse that “corruption is a cancer” provides little recourse but action. What kind of action remains to be seen as international discussions with Russia quickly disintegrate and nations look to find a balancing act of pressure and preservation.

Speaking of meetings “with the men and women who braved the snipers’ bullets in Maidan” in the past several years and how “their courage has given Ukraine a chance to leave behind its history and recent history of corruption and finally build a genuine democracy,” the Vice President wants Europe to remember what it was like starting out in a newly-redefined nation.

Calling the transition difficult, he also wants people to remember that it was the international exposure of Russian actions that lead to the current situation, and such action does not fall on those looking to defend Ukrainian sovereignty.

“Let me be clear: We do not believe there is a military solution in Ukraine. But let me be equally clear: We do not believe Russia has the right to do what they’re doing. We believe we should attempt an honorable peace. But we also believe the Ukrainian people have a right to defend themselves.”

How Ukrainian citizens will defend themselves is another matter entirely. And how the U.S. responds to Merkel’s plea for a more politically binding, less physically aggressive measure will begin to draw more decisive lines on the new era of presidential and national foreign policy after decades plagued with unrest.

President Obama will meet with Chancellor Merkel later Monday after the conference. And on Wednesday, Putin, Hollande, Poroshenko, and Merkel will hold a summit to discuss peace talks.


Source: Deutsche Welle, NPR, White House

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