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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

On Russia’s aggression and the responsibility of the West

Experts discuss security issues at a meeting in Kyiv and offer measures for the strengthening of the state of Ukraine
16 April, 2014 - 18:05

This year’s dramatic events in Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea by Russia, concentration of Russia’s troops near Ukraine’s eastern borders, where a wave of separatism was raised with the help of Russia’s special services, have for the first time emphasized the importance of our country’s security not only for the region, but for the entire world. Clearly, these were the major issues at the 7th Kyiv Security Forum (KSF), held on April 10 and 11 under the name “Security at a fault line.”

Prime Minister Arsenii Yatseniuk stated in his speech that seven years ago, when the KSF was founded, no one could predict that a new security system would be discussed in Kyiv, that dramatic events in Ukraine will show the nonexistence of security. “A military intervention of such kind was committed against us, that the world does not have an adequate response to it,” he said, adding that the beginning of the discussion of the new security system might be such a response.

“We appeal to our international partners to sit down to the negotiations table and work out a new common security model for Europe, which is not a mere written obligation, but a guarantee that a situation, when a country which was a member of the G8 and is a permanent member of the UN Security Council unprecedentedly violates international law, will never happen again,” the prime minister emphasized.

However, in his speech Yatseniuk noted that the only efficient collective defense system in the world is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. According to him, sentiments in support of NATO integration are growing in Ukraine, and the government intensifies cooperation with the Alliance. At the same time, he pointed out that even if we asked for NATO membership, we would have hardly reached a consensus. Perhaps, the government should ask better, as former foreign minister Volodymyr Ohryzko told The Day.


By the way, a specific question whether it was time for Ukraine to apply for NATO and the EU membership was asked during the Forum. Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine Jan Tombinski traditionally repeated: do not ask incorrect questions at a wrong time, and added that Brussels made it clear that the Association Agreement is not the last stage in the relations between Ukraine and the EU.

Acting foreign minister Andrii Deshchytsia noted in this regard: “We will take into consideration the change in sentiments, the situation, the changes in Ukraine and the world in general. We want to base our actions on judicial grounds and realities in the matter of submitting applications to the EU or NATO. We want these steps to be real and have a solid foundation on the level of Ukrainian society, legislation, and on the side of our European partners too, and only then will we implement these plans.” It should be mentioned that the chief of Ukrainian diplomacy received a round of applause answering a question from the audience: “Let me answer in the Ukrainian language and in the Ukrainian way.” Deshchytsia said in his speech that a complete overcoming of the Ukraine-Russia crisis can’t take place at the cost of values, and it is not the choice between Russia and the EU for Ukraine, but the choice between the past and the future.

Kyiv Security Forum could become a kind of campaigning platform for two presidential candidates: Petro Poroshenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, whose speeches were included in the program. It is known that in their programs, both candidates support the creation of a European collective defense system. However, only Poroshenko took advantage of this, and Tymoshenko did not show at the Forum for unknown reasons.

Nevertheless, Poroshenko did not add clarity to the image of the future collective defense system. In his speech he noted that there were twice as few people at the past year’s forum and nobody could even imagine that we would lead a discussion under such circumstances when a part of the territory is occupied. In his opinion, Ukraine and the world have to work together in finding a way out of the destroyed post-war global security system and try to bring Russia back to a civilized dialog. Poroshenko also emphasized: we have a stick from Russia, and from the EU we would like to see a carrot in the form of membership prospects.


On the other hand, representatives of European countries talked mostly about what Ukraine should do to become a flourishing country. Deputy prime minister and Slovakia’s foreign minister Miroslav Lajcak said that his country’s road to the EU and NATO took 10 years. As Ukraine’s friends, they think that firstly, it is crucial for Ukraine to include representatives of various regions in the government, so nobody feels left out. Secondly, everyone must unite, since there is no time for confrontation. Thirdly, there should be a responsible attitude towards the people’s priorities. Fourthly, the implementation of reforms is essential for achieving success. Then, communication is required: people must know what the government is doing. And the most important, finally: political and social stability must be restored. “Help us to help you. We want to see the resoluteness of the government’s actions, we wish Ukraine success,” he stressed.

Head of the EU Delegation to Ukraine Tombinski also emphasized that systemic changes, but not the changes of nameplates on office doors, must take place in Ukraine. According to him, an unprecedented situation took shape in Ukraine, and now Ukraine pays a dear price for procrastinating with the implementation of reforms. The sooner the situation is stabilized, he said, the faster the EU will be able to help Ukraine financially and with experience in the transformation of the state institutions and provision of technical aid. “What unites the 28 member states of the EU, will be given to Ukraine,” the diplomat promised.

Franz THOENNES: “It is necessary to bring Russia back to the table of the international negotiations, so it can understand that the order which was established after the Cold War and based on the cooperation, common security in Europe, transparency, and mutual development of trust, is in everyone’s interest, including Russia’s.”

All foreign forum participants were unanimous in that the Russian Federation’s actions towards Ukraine are unacceptable and violate international law. “It is necessary to bring Russia back to the table of the international negotiations, so it can understand that the order which was established after the Cold War and based on the cooperation, common security in Europe, transparency, and mutual development of trust, is in everyone’s interest, including Russia’s,” said deputy chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of Bundestag (Germany) Franz Thoennes. At the same time, he said that a lot of international conflicts would have not been settled without Russia’s involvement, like the issue of chemical weapons in Syria, nuclear weapons in Iran, or the transit of troops to Afghanistan.


But it is obvious for everyone now that with one hand Russia is creating a crisis, and with the other helps to solve it. And it is very strange that the West would not hear the Eastern European and Baltic states, which warned long time ago that Putin had started the re-Sovietization in Russia. In particular, Lithuania’s defense minister (2008 through 2012) Rasa Jukneviciene repeated Ronald Reagan’s words: “Do not be afraid of seeing what you see,” and stressed, “NATO member states should not make the mistakes that we made in Bucharest in 2008, since it was a signal for Putin that he could act in Georgia in a way he acts with Yanukovych’s help in Ukraine today.”

Head of the Swedish MFA Carl Bildt made perhaps the aptest remark when he said that the current events in Ukraine are related to the fundamental principles of the future Europe. “Will we be able to build a Europe which will integrate new countries and make the borders between them disappear? Or are we coming back to the Europe, in which borders and boundaries are growing, and armies are trying to change these borders and boundaries? After all, in case of the latter scenario, blood might be shed in Europe again. That is why what is happening in Ukraine now is so important for everyone,” he said.


Polish defense minister (2007 through 2011) Bogdan Klich supported the creation of the new cooperation programs with Ukraine by the EU and NATO. “After the lessons we received in the past months, it can be said that there can be no security of the West without a stable and sovereign Ukraine. You are fighting not for your security, freedom, and sovereignty only, you have taken the responsibility for the security of the West as well,” concluded the former minister and specified that by the West he meant NATO and the EU member states. “The most important is not what has been written down in documents and on paper, but the current policy, which can withstand Russia’s aggression on the international scene,” he said. In particular, the former minister thinks that the implementation of the Kremlin’s plans on the restoration of influence in the post-Soviet countries must not happen. “We need to develop a new policy of restraining Russia’s ambitions in at least three territories: Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and South Caucasus,” he explained. In his opinion, in the current situation, Ukraine must use all the tools: political, economic, security, and military ones. And in the first place, instruments incorporated in the NATO-Ukraine Commission must be used to develop the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at NATO, Croatian foreign minister (2008 through 2011) Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic talked in her speech about the importance of learning the lessons of Crimea. According to her, firstly, the security system in Europe must be strengthened instead of cutting NATO member states’ military budgets. Secondly, it is important to have good relations with countries that are not NATO members. Thirdly, the open door policy must be intensified and continued, it must be made impossible for some third country to veto another country’s joining NATO.


An indirect discussion took place at the Forum initiated by a German MP, who offered Ukraine to follow the example of Finland and Norway in cooperating with Russia, since both countries have good relations with the latter. In other words, the Finlandization of Ukraine. By the way, the subject was studied by such giants of diplomacy as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Arkady Moshes, director of the EU Eastern Neighborhood and Russia Program at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, stated that Finns hate the word “Finlandization,” which was imposed on them during the period of 1945-47. And talking about the “Finlandization of Ukraine” would mean offending both countries, he emphasized. At the same time, he said: if anything about Finns should be used as an example, it is this four-million-strong nation’s ability to defend itself.

The Finnish expert said that the West’s mistake in relations with Russia was that it did not listen to the Kremlin, which made honest and explicit statements, sending clear messages to the world. “In 2004 Putin in his message said that the weak should be beaten. In February 2013, it was clearly stated in Russia’s security concept that the West has entered the phase of decline. Therefore, we can add these two points and see: the West is weak, and the weak should be beaten. So, we have a result,” he said while commenting on the ideology of Putin’s Russia. For me, the expert said, everything became clear at the NATO Summit in Bucharest, when Russia’s president Vladimir Putin said that Ukraine is merely a combination of separate territories. And the fact that none of the Western leaders walked out of the hall in protest to this statement was a signal for Putin of “how far he could go,” according to Moshes. The expert is convinced that the West paid little attention to the issue of security in the Black Sea region, which has caused a security vacuum there. And using the West’s weakness, Russia decided to fill that vacuum.


Vice speaker of Georgia’s parliament, vice prime minister of Georgia (2006 through 2012) Giorgi Baramidze noted: if we do not want to be Russia’s slaves, we have to be under the umbrella of the civilized countries. There is no other option for Georgia. The question is only whether the West is ready to let it under the umbrella. They may think that the umbrella is too small and they would feel uncomfortable. But if the West wants to live in a stable environment, they must pay a price for it.

President of the Freedom House David Kramer agreed to that and said: “The West has a responsibility in providing aid in the form of political, financial, economic, advisory, military assistance and exchange of the intelligence data, for Ukraine to be able to protect itself and fight the threat and aggression represented by Putin and Russia.” He thinks that the West cannot stand aside in the case of Russia’s aggression and say that nothing is happening. “When we in the West say something is unacceptable, these are just words, and they must be filled with meaning, it must be shown why it is unacceptable. The two rounds of the EU and US sanctions have been a worthy answer, but they are far from what we need,” he added. “If we do not force Putin to pay a dear price, it is not only Ukraine that will end up in a crisis, we will have a much larger crisis of our own, our enemies will not be afraid of us and our friends will not have confidence in us,” Kramer thinks.

The president of the Freedom House stressed that there are no alternatives to the implementation of sanctions against Russia: “The time has come to show determination, and the West must stand as one and defend Ukraine from the threat created by Putin. We must not accept the annexation of Crimea either de facto or de jure.” We can only hope that the West has finally awoken and is not afraid to see what it sees, and most importantly, to make sacrifices to stop Putin’s revanchism.

By Mykola SIRUK, photos by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day