The crisis in Ukraine has been on the pages of newspapers and on the agenda of world leaders for more than a year. Yet, a solution is no way near despite several high level meetings and roadmaps developed during negotiations in Minsk. To provide a fresh viewpoint on the crisis and its possible solutions, Dr. Nelli Babayan and Dr. Julia Langbein organized a student debate on the topic as part of Lange Nacht der Wissenschaften on 13 June 2015 at Freie Universität Berlin. Four teams of students represented the parties to negotiations - Ukraine, Russia, the European Union, and the United States - and presented to the audience scenarios and strategies for the resolution of the conflict. While the students represented countries and institutions, and not their personal opinion, they also had the opportunity of reimagining official rhetoric and proposing creative solutions. The audience decided the winners of each round by cheerful applause after listening to the teams present the following proposals:
Team “European Union” emphasized the importance of further support for economic and civil society development of Ukraine and pressure on Russia, while maintaining dialogue. The team supported upholding sanctions, called to avoid deeper militarization of the conflict, and rejected propositions of arms delivery to Ukraine, popular in some circles, or the latter’s NATO membership.
Underlining shared history, culture and religion, team “Russia” emphasized Russia’s role as a loyal and stable partner for Ukraine. The team argued that Russia should not be seen as an aggressor but rather as protecting suppressed minorities. It advanced the federalist option for Ukraine, arguing that it would allow representation for all groups in the country, and, restore Ukraine’s position as an intermediary between Russia and the West.
In order to stabilize the situation in Ukraine and to ensure long-term peace within the boundaries of Europe, team “Ukraine” urged the European Union to acknowledge Ukraine as an essential part of Europe and to integrate it further into the European network. Moreover, the team’s main goal was to end the war with Russia. The team stressed the need to defend the Ukrainian population and prevent any further losses – if necessary with the help of arms supplies.
Team “USA” called for Russia’s complete withdrawal from Ukraine and effective termination of military actions. The team called upon Russia to repeal the annexation of Crimea and to respect Ukraine’s decision for a closer partnership with the European Union. In the case of non-compliance by Russia, team “USA” threatened to apply further sanctions, whereas in the case of cooperation, it emphasized its willingness to negotiate a solution and alleviate the sanctions.