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On the “Ukrainian question” again

What the President of Ukraine left out in his speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs
20 April, 10:44
Photo by Mykhailo PALINCHAK

On April 19, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko thanked the UK for its support and solidarity with our country while delivering a speech at the British Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). He also stressed that “this is not just our fight against Russian aggression and against ‘deliberate territorial grabs.’ This is our common fight for the future of Europe and the future of the Free World, one, which is based on the ‘rule of law,’ not ‘the rule of force.’”

The Ukrainian president, who was on a two-day official visit to Great Britain, aptly quoted famous British prime ministers. Early in his speech, he quoted Winston Churchill, who stated in January 1940, at an early stage of the Second World War: “Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their turn comes to be devoured. But I fear greatly that the storm will not pass. It will rage and it will roar ever more loudly, ever more widely.” According to Poroshenko, the British prime minister’s words are clear and true today as well. Ukraine is now in the place once held by the UK, and there is a crocodile, whom some – if not many – would love to feed today to be safe tomorrow.

The Ukrainian president stressed that Russia does not believe in things like democracy and human rights, but rather in things like “world domination” and “zones of influence,” and it does not play by the rules.

We must pay attention to pretty good arguments put forward by the president as he was making the case for supporting Ukraine.

“First,” he said, “it is not a ‘clash of civilizations,’ like Russia likes to put it, but a clash between the world of rules and the world of blunt force. We chose to be a part of the world of rules – and get punished for it,” Poroshenko stressed.

“Second, Ukraine is an investment into security of all, but it can become successful only with the help of its allies.

“Third, Ukraine is a test, whether the West is indeed in decline (as Russia claims).

“Fourth, Ukraine is an invaluable asset in nuclear non-proliferation.

“If the Budapest Memorandum’s guarantees to Ukraine are forgotten, what is the lesson for the nations contemplating whether to go nuclear?” the president asked rhetorically.

“And the fifth, Ukraine is a fighter, which spends annually five percent of our GDP on defense – more than some NATO members. It is the only army that not only faces the Russian aggression, but also is capable to contain it, effectively.”

But equally important, in our opinion, is what the president of Ukraine left out in his speech, even though it could have actually enhanced the impression of the importance of the “Ukrainian question” for the UK. In particular, he should have recalled the statement of the famous British journalist Lancelot Lawton, who believed 82 years ago that the success of British policy in Eastern Europe hinged on including Ukraine in the Western European system. “Independent and autonomous Ukraine,” he wrote, “is essential for European economic progress and world peace.” He said it on May 29, 1935 on the premises of the House of Commons of the British Parliament, where public hearings devoted to the situation around Ukraine were held at the initiative of the Anglo-Ukrainian Committee. Lawton gave there an address which was eloquently titled “The Ukrainian Question” and was later published on behalf of the committee. Asked what should be the stance of Great Britain, he said: “What should be the attitude of Great Britain? Our attitude, I think, should be the Ukrainian attitude. We should stand on the side of Ukraine and of any nation who is ready to help her on terms she is willing to accept. In other words, we should strive to bring about a solution such as Ukraine herself desires.”

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