On 7 February, Foreign Minister Steinmeier issued the following statement on the margins of the Munich Security Conference on the endeavours to establish an agreement with regard to the crisis in eastern Ukraine:
In light of the latest developments, we are now at a crossroads. It seems to me that the parties to the conflict must now decide whether to give the military escalation free rein in Debaltseve, Mariupol or other places, thus seeking an open military conflict that could claim thousands more lives, or to show willingness to do their part in bringing about a possible ceasefire, acting in concert and making the political compromises needed to do so.
However, it is not only a crossroads with regard to Ukraine. Instead, if we look at the situation more closely, the crisis in eastern Ukraine could also be a crossroads for Europe, for the security architecture in Europe and for the entire European peace order as it has become established over the course of decades.
If the wrong path is now chosen – a path that veers away from the tenets of European cooperation and towards lawlessness and confrontation – then it might take us decades, not merely years, to repair the damage brought about by this misguided policy and wrong path. And it would be difficult to repair a rift that would split Europe. There would be a danger of a new division of Europe, and that is what we are all trying to prevent.
In the final analysis, it is not for us to decide which path the parties to the conflict take. The necessary decisions must be made in Moscow and Kyiv, not in Paris and not in Berlin. However, we regard it as our duty and as part of our responsibility to do everything we can to break the deadlock and prevent further military confrontations.
This is the thinking behind the new endeavours that Germany and France have undertaken with the backing of the EU. This is the thinking behind the trips to Moscow and Kyiv: to now urge the parties not only to talk to each another, but above all to take the necessary steps towards implementing the Minsk Protocol.
The crisis in eastern Ukraine is not only extremely dangerous – it is also part of an economic downturn that we are currently seeing both in Ukraine and Russia. Apart from the victims, whom I mentioned at the start of this statement, the price the Ukrainians and also Russia are already paying now is a high one. And this price will continue to rise if the wrong decisions are taken at this crossroads.
Our hope – and indeed our expectation – is that Kyiv and above all Moscow are aware of how dramatic the state of play is and recognise the danger of the situation in which we currently find ourselves. Our hope is that that reason will now prevail after all. Whether or not this will be the case is by no means clear yet been decided. Some might say it is not even likely. All those who say it is certainly difficult are right. But I say it is an attempt that we owe to our joint responsibility for this European peace order, to the people who want to flee and to our shared European values.