Status quo best for both Ukraine and Russia

By Zhang Hong Source:Global Times Published: 2014-3-12 20:53:01

As the regime change in Ukraine has evolved into the "independence movement" of Crimea, it indicates that the Ukraine crisis has changed substantially. If a referendum takes place and the majority of Crimean citizens vote for independence, it will surely have an impact on the relations between the West and the East in this post-Cold War era.

The EU needs to realize that it has to bear high costs if it wants to change geopolitical situation unilaterally, especially the geopolitical spectrum of Ukraine. The dominating countries in the Ukraine crisis from the EU have been Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic and France.

But as the EU always lacks diplomatic reach, the US has been playing a leading role since the situation in Ukraine intensified.

Meanwhile, it remains uncertain how Russia's interests in Ukraine can be secured. Russia's military deployment to Crimea is a psychological move that tries to force the West to return to the equilibrium state between the East and the West in Ukraine and bring it to multilateral negotiations.

No matter whether the West actively intervened in Ukraine's domestic political crisis or whether it was forced to do so, the imbalance of regional situation and tension have already been generated.

There is a large Russian-speaking population living in Ukraine, which requires Russia keep a close eye on the political process in Ukraine and take part in it.

Russia doesn't necessarily have to wait until a US-determined humanitarian crisis or ethnic tensions break out.

China understands Russia's concerns. On March 3, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said that "China will uphold its long-standing diplomatic principles and basic norms governing international relations and take into account the history and complexity of the issue."

He also said that "China has been urging relevant parties in Ukraine to resolve their internal disputes peacefully within a legal framework so as to safeguard the lawful rights and interests of all ethnic communities in Ukraine and seek a political resolution through dialogue and negotiation."

On the evening of March 4, Chinese President Xi Jinping, when holding telephone talks with Russia President Vladimir Putin, pointed out that "the situation in Ukraine, going as it is today, seems to be accidental but has the elements of the inevitable."

He extended his belief that "Russia can coordinate with all parties concerned, to push for the political settlement of the issue so as to safeguard peace and stability in the region and the world at large." Xi also said "China supports the proposals and mediation efforts of the international community which are conducive to the ease of the tension."

As well agreeing to negotiations to solve the Ukraine crisis, China also supports Russia's advocacy of respecting the integrity of Ukraine's sovereignty. Russia's military deployment in the Crimea caused anxiety from the Ukrainian interim government as well as the Western countries. But at a press conference on March 4, Putin stated that he has no intention to split Ukraine.

In 2011, China and Ukraine signed a joint statement upgrading the countries' relations to a strategic partnership. Both agreed to support each other regarding the integrity of sovereignty. Putin's speech has to some extent eliminated China's worries over the Ukraine crisis.

China opposes regime change by violent means. China itself also faces separatism. If Crimea announces independence through a referendum, China may not offer support.

If Russia and the US can make a compromise, the splitting of Ukraine will be avoided and the Ukraine crisis will be solved.

Russia's actions have been in hopes that the West can enforce the reconciliation deal signed on February 21. Now the key is whether the West wants to compromise.

Russia does not want to take control of Ukraine, nor does it want Ukraine to be taken away by the West.

Keeping the status quo is best for the Russians.

The author is an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European & Central Asian Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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