Europe Not Unified on Ukraine Response

Sunday, 02 Mar 2014 06:13 PM

By Greg Richter

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European nations are conflicted on how to respond to Russia's invasion of the Crimea peninsula of Ukraine.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Eastern European countries such as Poland and Lithuania want to see NATO action, as they feel themselves more at risk, while Western Countries prefer to pursue diplomatic solutions rather than risk military confrontation with Russia.

"It's a difficult moment in our history," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said. "It's not just a dramatic situation that might be solved with this or that initiative. This is a serious crisis that can weigh on the history of Poland, Ukraine, and Europe."

Poland well remembers decades of communist oppression following World War II, and Lithuania was part of the old Soviet Union.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization requires all members to come to the aid of any member that feels threatened. But NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after a meeting of the North Atlantic Council that no country has invoked the clause.

European Union big guns such as Germany and France are reluctant to impose economic sanctions or commit military forces. NATO has a membership of 28 countries, including the United States.

"All responsible should refrain from taking further steps that could only be understood as an escalation," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. France's Laurent Fabius said military action was "not a hypothesis," The Journal reported.

France and Germany have been split on economic sanctions, with France favoring them and Germany opposing. American officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have said sanctions are on the table.

Kerry has announced he will fly to Ukraine on Tuesday to meet with leaders there following the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Yanukovych sparked protests that led to his ouster after rejecting a trade deal from the European Union late last year. Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, is divided. Some ethic Russians favor relations with the their neighbor to the East while others want to be a part of Europe.

European countries also are split over whether to boycott a June meeting of the Group of Eight set for Sochi, Russia, the location of the just-ended Winter Olympics.

The United States and France are among countries suspending plans to attend the G8 summit, but Germany sees the meetings as the only real dialogue the West is able to have with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Should we really sacrifice this only format?" Germany's Steinmeier said.

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