Chatham House yesterday convened an expert roundtable to discuss Moscow's objectives in Ukraine and the policy options available to the West. The meeting, which drew together diplomats and leading experts on Ukraine, Russia and the EU, is summarised in a new paper, Western Responses to the Ukraine Crisis: Policy Options.
The expert panel make a number of recommendations, including that:
The most effective near-term pressure that can be exerted on Russia will be financial and economic. Much of President Vladimir Putin’s power is predicated upon Russia’s financial stability. Russia is also far more integrated into the world economy now than it was at the time of the escalation over Georgia in 2008. Its growth had already faltered prior to this crisis, and the markets immediately exerted their pressure on Russia as a result of its actions.
Freezing the assets of and denying visas to elite Russians suspected of money laundering or involved in the actions against Ukraine are likely to be measures that will influence Russian thinking and, possibly, the government’s behaviour. While retaliatory Russian measures are possible, more Russians need to travel to the West than those in the West need to travel to Russia.
The West should immediately ramp up its counter-narrative to the Russian propaganda operation. Statements by President Putin and other Russian leaders, and reporting by much of the Russian media, about Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Russia, violence in eastern Ukraine and there being no Russian troops in Crimea can easily be exposed as lies. This should be done publicly, forcefully and immediately.
The EU must not go back on its commitment to the Association Agreement with Ukraine. Conclusion of the agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with a newly elected government is essential for Ukraine’s future political as well as economic health.
The EU should convey the message to Russian energy companies that ‘business as usual’ is not an option while intervention in Ukraine continues. The West should also bear in mind that it is more energy-resilient today than in the last decade. Its process of diversifying its energy imports away from an over-reliance on Russia continues, leading to a more inter-dependent than dependent relationship.