Interview with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin for UA: Ukraine Analytica
What are the main challenges to the current security system in Europe?
Nowadays, we are facing a gloomy situation. The international order, which was set up after World War 2, has been shaken. Russia, a nuclear power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has violated the very fundamental principles and norms that this order rests upon. Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol as well as its direct military aggression in Donbas did bring a conflict onto the Ukrainian soil. Yet, these outrageous acts challenged the entire democratic world and instigated global insecurity.
By prompting violence first in Georgia and then in Ukraine, the Kremlin seeks to substitute the rule of law with the rule of force and revive the concept of spheres of influence as an organizing principle of the international order. This throws the world back to the gloomy Cold War epoch where big states were clashing over global control while small states were deprived of freedom to make independent foreign and domestic policy choices.
Looking to obstruct Ukraine’s European integration choice, Moscow also showed its opposition to the entire European project and apparently the core of democratic values behind it.
Today, Ukraine and the whole democratic world have joined efforts to resist Russia’s aggressive policies and make it honour the fundamental principles enshrined in the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act. It is our ability to maintain unity and resolve, which Russia persistently tries to undermine, that will determine, which rules of the game will prevail, civilized or barbaric, and which paradigm will succeed, progressive post-modernist or backward Realpolitik.
To outright repetition of such aggressive actions in the future, Ukraine has proposed a number of ambitious and badly needed measures.
First of all, the international community must apply all efforts to uphold the UN Charter’s Purposes and Principles. It is important to reaffirm their universal and unconditional validity as a basis for peaceful relations.
Besides, we must develop and put in place the mechanisms to ensure verification of compliance with the UN Principles against clear benchmarks as well as to ensure that the states that violate the UN Principles are brought to justice. The concept of the international responsibility should be reinforced with a clear set of sanctions on the offenders.
Moreover, we must jointly upgrade the security and defence policy instruments to effectively counter Russia’s hybrid warfare. It is crucial to keep up with this urgent threat and promptly translate assessments into decisions and decisions into actions.
To be implemented, these initiatives clearly require time and efforts while Ukrainian military and civilians have been living under heavy artillery barrages of the joint Russian and militants’ forces every day and every night for over a year now. Under these circumstances, we need continued comprehensive support of our international partners. We believe that this support should take a form of a “three mores” policy: more restrictive measures against the aggressor state with clearly defined triggers; more humanitarian visibility in Donbas; and more international presence on the ground via, in particular, deployment of the EU CSDP operation to support implementation of the Minsk agreements.
We also rely on our partners maintaining sanctions on Russia until Ukraine regains de facto sovereignty over Crimea, Donbas, and its border with Russia.
Furthermore, strengthening Ukraine’s military capabilities could serve to illustrate NATO’s readiness to respond to potential threats posed by Russia. At the same time, a delayed response to its challenges in the region, especially in Ukraine, may undermine NATO’s credibility. We are convinced that only in this way trust and order in the world will be restored.
Is Ukraine an object or a subject of the world politics?
Neither nor. Today Ukraine is an important and active part of the international network, and not just at the state level, but also at the level of people-to-people contacts.
During the Revolution of Dignity the Ukrainian nation demonstrated not only its aversion to the authoritarian rule but also their pursue of the European model of development. They decisively rejected any foreign dictate. After Russia unleashed an invasion to punish them for this independent and freedom-loving choice, the Ukrainians proved that they were ready to fight for it and spill their blood. It is not an exaggeration to say that the European security and the European project’s endurance are being tested in Ukraine now and heavily depend on the Ukrainian people’s resistance to Russia’s attempts to disrupt both. I believe that Europe has already recognized Ukraine’s existential importance to this end.
Moreover, Ukraine is clearly capable not only of being a prominent regional power but also of serving a role model for many countries in the region. Ukraine matters for the world, as the world matters for Ukraine.
European integration is chosen as a priority of the Ukrainian foreign policy, what other priorities and regions of interests does it see for the world politics?
Indeed, European integration is our fate. Whether someone likes it or not, we are Europeans by geography, history, mentality, traditions. For everyone outside Europe, Europe is connoted with the European Union. Therefore, it is our place to be. By signing the Association Agreement with the EU, we took a historical decision for Ukraine’s current and future development. Our commitments under the Association Agreement align with the Ukrainian people’s demands to live in a democratic, free, and prosperous European country. As the Kremlin reciprocated with a military and propaganda aggression to this sovereign decision of the Ukrainians, we understand that our success in reforming Ukraine will be our best response to Russia’s expansionism.
It should be noted that the Russian aggression created an impetus for Ukraine to join NATO. Ukraine rejected a non-bloc status; moreover, it named integration into the North Atlantic Alliance a national security interest and ruled to modernize its security and defence sectors in compliance with NATO standards. Now, over 60% of the Ukrainian people view alignment with NATO favourably.
As reforms advance, we also remain focused on expanding cooperation with partners worldwide. Maintaining stability and security in the Black Sea region is one of Ukraine’s foreign policy priorities. Stemming from this premise, my country initiated the Confidence- and Security-Building Measures in the Naval Field in the Black Sea, joined BLACKSEAFOR and was among the first nations to join the Black Sea Harmony operation. We considered them as one of the cornerstones for the security architecture in the Black Sea, as well as a unique example of the navies’ effective cooperation in this region.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military aggression in Donbas has had a negative impact on the security situation in the region. Moscow is turning Crimea into a military base and threatens to deploy its nuclear weapons there. We are convinced that coordinated actions at the regional level as well as greater involvement of the EU and NATO are required to maintain peace and stability in the Black Sea basin.
We also see good prospects in establishing and maintaining the Baltic-Black Sea cooperation with the involvement of GUAM+, V4+ and NB-8 formats.
What main problems of the Ukrainian diplomatic service do you see and plan to reform?
I have spent about 20 years in the diplomatic service and am pretty much aware of all strengths and weaknesses of the Ukrainian diplomatic service. When I entered the building in Mykhailivska Square in Kyiv as a Minister, I thought that it was the right time to catch the wind of change blowing over Ukraine and establish a new highly professional and effective diplomatic service along the world’s best standards. This is not an easy undertaking. It requires consistent efforts and significant resources. Efforts do suffice. However, resources are obviously scarce, and this is a challenge for us.
I sought not to disrupt an integrated system and to dwell upon patriotism and commitment of the Ukrainian diplomats and their ability to perform well as a team. This was especially important given that the diplomats resolutely stood out resisting the Russian aggression at the diplomatic frontline.
Yet, to upgrade the system, we came up with a new draft law on diplomatic service, which requires the diplomats to possess more skills and qualifications, in particular to fluently speak at least two languages. Moreover, it seeks to amend the corporate logic and improve overall efficiency, namely encouraging the diplomats to take more initiative and, as a result, more responsibility, be more dynamic and creative, and keep learning at every stage of their careers. We improved our situation awareness capabilities by establishing a relevant unit and boosted our rapid response capabilities by paying attention to 24/7 work on providing all necessary assistance to our citizens abroad. We launched a StratCom unit and are working on establishing a public diplomacy department, which will also deal with cultural diplomacy. We not only became visible in the social media but also entered the top 5 online-active governmental institutions worldwide. In July 2015, I had a meeting with my Twitter followers. It was the first ever meeting of the kind. It is rewarding as I met five different young people, who basically are coevals of my country and have a fresh perception of crucial issues on our foreign policy agenda.
What is your biggest success and failure as a Minister?
For me, the real failure is that I can do nothing about the fact a day consists of 24 hours. I would be much more satisfied if it consisted of at least 72 hours. And our greatest success is that we are working here at the Ministry and worldwide together with people, who really care about what they are doing and who understand that there is no chance for going back to the old system.