EU Told It Must Commit to Ukraine

BRUSSELS -- A European Union think tank said Monday that the bloc should make specific commitments to Ukraine after Russia sent troops into Georgia.

The European Council on Foreign Relations said the EU should respond to Russia's Aug. 8 military incursion with "stronger engagement for democracy, prosperity and security in the broader region" but keep "tough measures toward Moscow on the table if Russia resists."

Relations with Ukraine, with which the EU holds a joint summit on Sept. 9, should be a key plank of such a strategy, the council said. Ukraine, like Georgia, is a former Soviet state with a large Russian minority population whose leaders have irked Moscow by seeking closer ties with the West, including membership of NATO.

"The EU should ... make a special commitment to Ukraine," the think tank said in a policy brief.

"It should recognize the right to EU membership in future, agree to a more liberal visa regime, offer a solidarity clause backing Ukraine's territorial integrity, and move to integrate Ukraine into the EU's energy market."

Harsh actions against Russia would be counterproductive, the think tank said.

EU diplomats are considering the 27-nation bloc's response to Russia's assault on Georgia, which followed an attempt by Tbilisi to retake control of its separatist, pro-Russian province of South Ossetia.

A cease-fire -- signed by Georgia and Russia on Aug. 15 and 16, respectively -- ended the brief war, but Moscow has so far ignored Western demands that it remove its remaining soldiers from Georgia's heartland.

In its policy brief, the council said the EU should also strengthen its membership pledge to Moldova, which borders Ukraine. It should push for a mandate to supplement Russian and Georgian troops in South Ossetia and another separatist province, Abkhazia, with international peacekeepers, and contribute several hundred soldiers to such a force, the think tank said.

The EU should also back an international commission of inquiry into the Georgia conflict to establish its causes, it said.

The EU has taken a more cautious line toward Russia than the United States, which has said Moscow's actions could affect Russian membership of the Group of Eight industrialized nations and its bid to join the World Trade Organization.