'Ukraine should be neutral between the West and Russia'

'Ukraine should be neutral between the West and Russia'
Ukraine should remain independent and go back to its original policy of neutrality between the European Union, NATO and Russia, Robert Oulds, chair of the Bruges Group think tank, told RT.

RT:NATO members are supposed to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense, but very few of them do. Why?

Robert Oulds: One of the reasons is that many European countries are quite pacific. They do not really want to get involved in conflicts, they don`t have very strong armed forces. The days are long gone when western European states have been aggressive militarily in a major way, after that it was left to the United States. Of course there are a number of notable exceptions such as Iraq and Libya. But after that it is against public opinion. Of course there is the issue that European countries have severe economic problems, they just cannot afford very high levels of defense spending. Countries are running serious deficits across Europe, mainly Western Europe. And the US’ own crisis has not gone away, it is still here with us. The main reason is major unemployment. Defense just cannot be afforded. They are not ready to stomach high levels of defense spending when basic social services can`t be properly funded in many countries let alone advanced weapons developed.

RT:German media suggest NATO thinks that Kiev's losing its war against the anti-government fighters. But are allied forces likely to step in and help Kiev?

RO: The current Ukraine regime has called on many occasions for NATO to intervene, they have been trying to in some senses to provoke Russia. There have been some cases where a mortar was fired across the border into Russia. There were many times when they were calling on intervention from NATO. The prime minister in Ukraine, after the Malaysian plane was shot down, was calling for a meeting of NATO to use the article five declaration to consider the attack on all NATO members to try and draw them into the conflict, which in a sense they started by killing anti-government, anti-regime protesters in the east of Ukraine. Of course NATO will not get involved; there is actually no stomach for that. And even less so amongst the European Union countries - there might be lots of bellicose talk coming from NATO particularly, and some from the European Union, but despite the Ukraine regime has come up with the best efforts, forces from the EU and NATO will not be getting involved that is quite clear. They have seen that their chances of drawing western European countries and the United States directly into their conflict have failed.

The fight back from the anti-government forces, anti-regime forces, because the common people in charge of Kiev have very little democratic legitimacy, has been successful and the common Ukraine government has lost the war. They have recognized this; they tried for a military solution, to try to fit those that have stood up to the takeover which happened in February this year. That has been unsuccessful, that is quite clear to all concerned. They have not won; they cannot militarily defeat the rebels or the people in the east of Ukraine, of Donetsk, Donbass people. Now they are going for the political solution and it seems that it is something that should have been done from the start. But all this time the Kiev regime has been taking part in, we can call it, a racial war. Because the people of the east and the west of Ukraine are essentially the same people, they are the same sort of ethnic heritage. But there was a deep division within Ukraine. We saw it how these people of the Right Sector and police that killed anti-Maidan protesters in Odessa when there was a building set on fire. People tried to escape from that building but were shot by police and Right Sector forces. That was before the military conflict started, actually one of the reasons why the conflict started, and became a hot conflict rather than a call to protest. It is clear that there cannot be a military solution. The Ukraine government has tried to militarily defeat them and that is now unsuccessful. So of course they are turning to political means, it has become quite clear to them that the European Union and NATO are not going to come and drive out the remaining people of the East that are resisting the current war of the Kiev government. Poroshenko and his government must now go to the negotiating table.

AFP Photo / Anatolii Stepanov

RT:The alliance says it will bolster its presence in Eastern Europe. Doesn't that contradict the statements of western politicians about attempts to de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine?

RO: So this is one of the key things which have created this crisis. Certain people, certain civilians in the east of Ukraine do not want to be part of Russia or the western orbit of the European Union, NATO and part of that bloc. So to push more, NATO will actually aggravate more people and will provoke Russia even further. This is one of the key things in this conflict is that Russian security concerns have not been taken into consideration, and the neutrality of Ukraine which was meant to be guaranteed by an agreement with NATO has been clearly breached by the West, particularly by the Association Agreement with the European Union. So having more NATO build up on the borders of Russia will actually create more instability, will not help the situation, it will not alleviate Russia`s concerns and it will actually be insulting to Russia this time which of course doesn`t want to be encircled on its borders by the United States and other NATO countries. This is the wrong approach. They should be trying to reach out to Russia, trying to reach a political settlement, trying to reach an agreement that all can live with rather than trying to force Russia back in the causeless game, a stupid political game, where they are trying to limit the Russian influence within the countries that should be neutral.

RT:Is NATO ready to accept Ukraine?

RO: NATO cannot really expand into Ukraine according to its common rules, because for that to happen according to the constitution of NATO there needs to be no ongoing conflicts, no territorial disputes within a country that would be an applicant member. Clearly that is not the case in the circumstances of Ukraine because people of the East, people in the Donbass region want to restore their historical independence. For some periods throughout the history there were independent. In fact the Donetsk region was independent very briefly during 1918 after World War I. Even before Ukraine became a state it gained independence for the very brief period of time in the early 1920`s. People of that area want self-determination. So they should not be forced into an agreement that they do not want to be part of, it doesn`t really represent their interests.

Now of course with the whole of Ukraine, this land between Western Europe and Russia should remain neutral and not part of any particular block. That was in the agreement that was reached and signed about the status of Ukraine back in the early 1990`s. It should not be part of NATO that should not work; it would just provoke people within Russia. It is just a step too far, so it should be independent, it should keep its non-aligned status. NATO can cause nothing but damage to Ukraine. It encourages protesters to illegally remove a democratically elected president, it has then given them a blank check to attack civilians in the east of the country where as we now know a million people had to leave their homes because of shelling from the Poroshenko government's armies, artillery fire, and thousands of people have lost their lives because they have been given a green light from the West to conduct a war largely against civilians which has now backfired at the common authorities in charge in Kiev. It has done nothing but damage to Ukraine; it has actually created deep divisions within Ukrainian society which really can never be resolved. We really need to recognize that Ukraine is indeed actually a failed state and there needs to be some kind of partition. That was always inevitable when the Maidan protesters ousted the democratically elected president. Ukraine should go back to its original policy, neutrality between the European Union, NATO and Russia. And then perhaps there can be some degree of healing the deep divides that have emerged. But because the things have gone so far that is looking quite unlikely now.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.