April 17th 2015

Ukraine Caught Between Russia and Europe.

Ukraine, Europe’s Moral Dilemma
HE Olexander Scherba, Ukrainian Ambassador to Austria

As part of the “MCI Alumni & Friends” lecture series, His Excellency Ambassador Olexander Scherba discussed his views on the difficult situation facing Ukraine, caught as it is between Russia and Europe.

It should be the supreme goal of every country, he said, to strive for peace, prosperity, and justice. This was something that Ukraine’s previous leadership had failed to do in his view, triggering a revolution and, ultimately, the downfall of the government. What the people wanted was freedom and democracy. He believed that Europe had misunderstood the situation if the US was seen to be behind the revolution.

Europe was still talking in terms of a “crisis” or of “tensions” in Ukraine, he said. However, given that over 6,000 Ukrainians have died and more than two million people have been made refugees, Dr. Scherba felt that the region is actually in a state of war. He thought that the revolution marked a step toward extending the reach of democracy and freedom, which Russia saw as a threat. The Ukrainian ambassador said that the revolution had been peaceful and had been crushed for no reason in the most brutal way possible, with the identity of those who ordered its suppression still unknown.

The ambassador also declared that parts of Ukraine had been virtually paralyzed. Russia’s annexation of Crimea had most certainly been neither voluntary nor free of bloodshed, he said. It would appear, he continued, that all the key roles during the Crimean takeover had been filled by men with Russian citizenship who had only recently left their jobs in their country’s secret service. The ambassador described this as a “covert operation” geared toward covering up any links of this kind. He said that the press was continually reporting lies, giving Russians a distorted picture of the Ukrainian people.

The big question now, he added, was how to stop the shooting. He believed that the solution is in some respects easy but on others very difficult: The war had been born out of lies, which had fomented hatred. This had brought about death, which had led to more lies and more hatred. And these lies, he said, were emanating from Russian TV channels controlled by the Kremlin. The Russian media had to stop these lies if the Ukrainian conflict was to be resolved.

Ambassador Scherba stressed once again that a state of war existed between Russia and Ukraine – a war that could open up a new chapter in the history of Europe that would be significantly less rosy and peaceful than the previous 20 years. The Russian government had been contemplating this war for many years, he believed.

Dr. Scherba felt that the West was still too afraid of Russia, which was understandable. Although the country was undoubtedly an important partner, it was also one that scorned European values. Russia was spreading lies about Europe, he said, and many people were swallowing them. This was why the country wanted nothing to do with Europe. This made the situation in Ukraine a war of values, he concluded. What Russia wanted was a different kind of Europe with different ideals. There was now no way back to the Europe of old. Instead, there were political, economic, and moral choices that needed to be made as to how Europe should handle Ukraine, with the moral decision-making process set to go on for some time yet. The Ukrainian ambassador finished by calling on European leaders to consider carefully the decisions they would be making on his country’s future.

The stimulating debate that followed, chaired by Prof. Dr. Siegfried Walch, ensured the event also ended on a successful note.