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    BRAMA News and Community Press

    BRAMA, Dec 3, 2004, 12:00 pm ET

    Op-Ed

    An Opportunity for Europe
    By Timothy Snyder

    More than Yugoslavia in the last decade, more than Turkey in the decade to come, Ukraine today is the test for Europe. The European Union and its member states must take a clear stand for a peaceful resolution of this conflict that endorses the will of the Ukrainian people.

    It is alarming for Europe that Moscow apparently believes it can intervene in Ukrainian politics, and in effect choose the president of Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin intervened openly in the election campaign, twice visiting Ukraine to back his candidate. Putin has in effect told the world that only elections won by his candidate would be democratic. But democracy is not about the preferences of outside leaders, it is about a process. This process was abused in Ukraine, in all likelihood with Russian funding, and certainly with the help of Russian advisors.

    Russia is about to make a big mistake. Such interference in Ukrainian affairs will require, sooner or later, the use of military force. Russia cannot control a country of fifty million people, the vast majority of whom care of about their own independence, without destroying itself. Russian soldiers in a foreign country shooting foreign civilians would be a catastrophe for all concerned, especially Russia.

    Rather than supporting his man come what may, President Putin should join the call for peaceful discussions and negotiations. He still has time to take a position in line with this international consensus. The European Union and its member states must insist on precisely this. Those who care about the future of Russia should be the first to argue for a Ukrainian solution that respects the will of Ukrainians.

    The European Union is a center of democracy in the world. If Europe wishes to be a power, it must have some influence upon its neighbors, especially its immediate European neighbors. It must translate its enormous economic power and cultural appeal into foreign policy. If not now, when?

    To secure democracy in Ukraine is in the interest of the European Union, because democratic neighbors are peaceful and prosperous neighbors. It is also a test for a Europe that wishes to play a role in the world. Yet above all democracy is also a goal which Europe must pursue if it is to be true to itself.

    Timothy Snyder
    Associate Professor, East European history, Yale University
    Visiting Fellow, Institut fьr die Wissenschaften vom Menschen, Vienna

    English translation of "Eine Chance fьr Europe: Die EU ist in der Ukraine als Schutzmacht der Demokratie gefordert," Der Standard, Vienna, 26 November 2004, p. 35.



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