This month (April 2014) we are looking at the current situation in Ukraine that threatens to destabilize the region as well as serve as a reminder that Europe can still be an area of contention and uncertainty in global affairs. (Latest Update in the Ukraine Crisis)

If you are interested in issues of peace and negotation, European relations, and regime change, look into the following co-ops!

CANVAS (Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies) in Serbia

174 Trust (Reconciliation) in Northern Ireland

European Council on Foreign Relations in Germany

Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning and Dialogue in Cambridge, MA

We were able to interview Professor Ionnis Livanis for his thoughts on the issue, as he has taught several courses and is an expert on the European Union, which is a crucial player in the crisis today.


1. Do you think, considering new developments including Russian forces on the border, that Russia will continue trying to annex Ukrainian territory?

Well as a professor, a Greek, or….? I think that a lot of this is saber-rattling, which is what Putin or Russia is trying to do. On a personal note, it’s quite sad to see these two (Ukraine and Russia) split that much, especially as populations inside of Ukraine are of interest especially to myself as a Greek.

There is actually a good size population of Greeks within Ukraine, about 150,00, they’ve been moved around a lot from Odessa to Crimea and other cities. One of the leaders of the regional parliament of Crimea was actually of Greek descent as well. There is also that whole regional understand of what is happening, which causes me some sadness as well.

I think that it is definitely one of those wait and see situations. I don’t think that this can get any worse, but then again we don’t know. It could be that we have to wait for elections in Ukraine, or some other “provocation” on one side of the other for further events to happen. But I think it is highly unlikely that Russia would invade Ukraine. Not only because of Western reaction, but also because of historical and emotional reasons.

2. Do you think that the steps the EU has taken so far are appropriate, and what do you think they should be in the current situation?

The European Union is 28 individual member states. When we attempt to understand steps that the EU takes, we need to take into account that the EU often takes that into account as an excuse for inaction. It uses as, “well we have so many interests on the inside, we can’t really figure anything out”. It takes a long time, they use that as a tactic in negotations a lot, often against their opponent in a situation where they try to get them to give them some slack in a deal.

So when you talk about their response, you have to take that into consideration. Inactivity however does not mean that the EU is not working. Their way has been a way of negotation, a multi-layeral and multi-cultural way is how they were founded, if they didn’t focus on dialogue then it would not be focusing on its nature. The approach has been dialogue, and it is one that they have to live with.

It is easy for foreign partners, such as the United States, to accuse them of inaction because of their distance from the conflict. It might look slow, it might look not effective, but it needs to do that in order to get things done; it if didn’t then it would be challenging its own nature. It has done in its own things that Russia does not see as positive in it’s post-Soviet sphere of influence, countries like Croatia and Serbia before that. There are three actual steps to becoming an EU member, and Ukraine is only the the infancy stages. There are candidate countries, pre-candidate countries, association agreements, and so on. Its usually one step forwards, two steps back for Russia and its neighborhood.

3. In the Budapest Memorandum Ukraine gave up its nuclear arms in security agreements with Russia and the United States among anothers, do you think this will have an impact on future nuclear and disarmament issues, including Iran?

Wow, yes, why wouldn’t it? But then again not everything can fall under the exact same circumstances right? This was a regime in transitition. In fact, what you would call ownership of the nuclear weapons was again an issue of pre-existing entities (Ukraine breaking off from USSR). There are very few ways in which this can actually repeat, this could be a unique case from both legal and normative ways. It might not have an affect on proliferation or similar types of treaties. Unless we are talking about some kind of entity that the Soviet Union used to be, and it again would have to be very specific.