Is neutrality Ukraine’s best option?

As the Russia-Ukraine war rolls on with little sign of reconciliation, one of the ways being discussed to bring an end to the situation is the notion of Kyiv becoming a neutral state. Although far from straightforward, DiEM25 co-founder Yanis Varoufakis has spoken of the merits behind the ‘Finlandisation’ of the country.

This would mean Ukraine becoming neutral to both the West and Russia, including demilitarisation, with the notion of ‘Finlandisation’ being in reference to the 1947 Peace Treaty with Finland and the 1948 Finno-Soviet Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance.

Responding to questions put forward in our recent ‘How to end the war in Ukraine’ discussion, Varoufakis explained why this could be a fruitful outcome.

“The first question is, ‘well, wasn’t Finlandisation a terrible thing for Finland imposed upon it?’ Well, it was imposed upon it as a result of a war with Russia, but was it terrible?

“Finland was a fully-fledged democratic country. Yes, they had to keep a little bit quiet regarding their criticism of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. They’ll have no doubt that if they had a choice between Finlandisation and no Finlandisation, they would have chosen the latter, all other things being equal. In other words, not being gobbled up by Russia.

“Let me tell you that I’m getting on a bit in life and I’m old enough to remember living in a NATO country that also had a fascist right-wing dictatorship here in Greece. And I can tell you that, back then, we were dreaming of being Finland.

“We [in Greece] were thinking of either Finland, or Austria, countries that were not in NATO, not in the European Union, as dreams come true for their people.

“And we were right because Austria, Finland, in a state of Finlandisation, of neutrality, achieved remarkable attainments, remarkable outcomes, politically, technologically, educationally, health-wise, in terms of a social democracy that will not be bad for Ukraine today.”

Some believe that, even if such an agreement for Ukraine were to be reached, Vladimir Putin could then quickly change his mind, rendering it meaningless.

“Well, that’s not my proposal. It’s not our proposal,” Varoufakis said. “Our proposal is that this should be the result of a summit between the United States of America and Russia, the result of an agreement, a binding agreement, including demilitarisation of the border areas of Donbass, one that would be guaranteed by both sides.

“And Putin would actually appreciate that because he would be able to show to his own people, to his regime, to his party, that he’s being taken seriously by Washington DC.”

Varoufakis insists that this should only come about through the will of the Ukrainian people, not something to be forced upon them.

“We are Democrats, but for the Ukrainians to decide, there are two prerequisites,” Varoufakis insists.

The first one is that they are told the truth by the West, by the European Union, not to be led up the garden path, because this is what the European Union is doing – it’s promising them things that it is not prepared to deliver.

“This thing about the entry of Ukraine in the European Union – they can promise it until they’re blue in the face. They don’t mean it. There is no way that Berlin is going to accept Ukraine as a member of the European Union even if they say that they will, not for a very long time. And certainly not while Donbass is occupied, and not while the economy is in tatters.

“So first you need to rebuild Ukraine before there’s any chance of entry into the European Union.”

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