Ukrainian Security Sector

Key Challenges and Risks in Security and Defense in the second half of June 2019 year

At the start of his career, President Zelensky has less activity in international politics than his predecessor. This is not surprising - diplomatic experience in the sixth chapter of the Ukrainian state of the Kathma, and at home the end of the work: the reorganization of the Administration (henceforth Office of the President of Ukraine), the selection of new heads of regional state administrations, media shootout with the parliament, the beginning of work on "libertarian" decoration of the Constitution and the tone less noticeable to the general public of the presidential routine. In the end, parliamentary elections are the nose - in the Ukrainian reality, the action is tarnished by corruption flows, dirty PR-technologies and the information campaign of the agents of the influence of the northern neighbor. In a word, a difficult test of the ability to protect the dynamics of the democratic process.

Russian delegation to the PACE - a symptom of resetting relations between Western Europe and Russia?

At the end of June, Zelensky had to study the first unpleasant lesson in international politics. The return of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has become a real master class realpolitik, which Paris and Berlin held for the new government in Kiev.

Recall that in 2014 Russia was deprived of the right to vote in the PACE in connection with the annexation of the Crimea and aggression in the Donbass. In response, the Russian delegation refused to work in the assembly, and Moscow froze payments to the budget of the Council of Europe. Since then, the Kremlin has failed to meet any of the requirements that Strasbourg has set as a condition for lifting restrictions. Russian authorities just sat on the banks of the Moscow River and waited until the Kremlin towers burst the cardboard fragments of "fundamental principles and values" United Europe. In the end, patience begins to bring barys. Economic interests are dictating the rules of the game more and more loudly, therefore, on this background Ukrainian appeal to worldview material looks especially anachronistic.

The "re-change" of power in Kyiv has created a good moment for launching a test bullet. She was promoted to an advisory body of the Council of Europe, which has a fairly limited influence on the process of constructing political practices on the continent. Therefore, already in June 27, the European Union officially extended economic sanctions against Russia to 31 in January 2020 year. There has been no de facto functional change in the sanctioning policy of the EU. It seemed that it was not necessary to run ahead, accelerating the wave of decadent sentiment. However, the prolongation of sanctions by Brussels does not diminish the challenge, the outlines of which are more clearly emerging on the horizon of events. The implementation of the North Stream - 2 gas pipeline project and the PACE vote indicate the calibration of relations between Western Europe and Russia on the basis of economic pragmatism. Accordingly, there is a platform for a compromise, in which the Ukrainian issue will be solved without the real participation of Kyiv.

After a decisive vote, the Russian delegation did not conceal the significance of the events for the Putin strategy in the European direction. So, the Speaker of the Federation Council Valentine Matvienko called the PACE decision "... the first serious step that runs counter to the sanctions policy that has been applied to Russia over the past five years." The head of the Russian delegation, Petro Tolstoy, was even more frank: "It's an opportunity [...] to end with Ukrainian propaganda, this is, first and foremost, the breaking of the chain of sanctions ...."

Against the backdrop of such statements, it is difficult to disagree with the head of the Foreign Ministry, Pavel Klimkin, who expressed fears about unpleasant developments for Ukraine in the negotiation configuration. "The worst thing will be if Russia and Europe decide that they can come to terms with our backs and try to impose a different strategy and tactics. Already, on the sidelines, you can hear the talk that Ukraine is a common neighborhood of Russia and Europe, with joint responsibility, so there must be joint action: in fact, the actions will be Russian, and Europe will observe. Unfortunately, the inexperience of the new team contributes to this, and economic maneuver is almost absent from us. And we will not have time to look back, as frank capitulation we will try to present as a long-awaited victory. If this happens, we will be in two generations in the gray buffer zone "- warns the minister.

In search of the guilty party

Such an assessment of the difficult international situation at the threshold of which our country has appeared, leaves without a hint the answer to the question: where, in fact, the "international coalition in support of Ukraine", about which the society from each iron was told during the last five years, has been going? The result of the PACE vote testifies the opposite - the Kremlin's aggression Ukraine speaks in one language only with countries that experience phantom pains caused by Russian occupation.

As often happens in a similar situation, public opinion split between two opposing poles of "betrayal." The clouds of righteous anger will come around one, from which the lightning bombers will fly from the "corrupt" European parliamentarians, the Pharisees. Zelensky, who allegedly began to trample on the ground the achievements of Petro Poroshenko from the very first days of his presidency, came under a deal. At the other extreme - caustic invocations to the previous power. The western capitals are tired of immitating the Minsk process and internal reforms - that's the result for you.

Both schemes of explanation of the "Strasbourg plot" shed simplification. It's very tempting to personalize the cause of the failures by hanging a yoke of guilt on a policy that you do not like. In this case, we have a situation where Kiev was faced with the fact and all the attempts of Zelensky or the deputies to overplay the situation were predestined to defeat. Obviously, the causes of what happened are at greater depths than the arguments like "the president did not find time to meet with the Ukrainian delegation" or "could not convince Makron and Merkel."

First, the current situation has become a natural result of the evolution of Kyiv's foreign policy since 2014 year. Its situational character (responding to calls that Russia generates at a minimum of initiative) and the hyperbolisation of the value of sanction instruments that was in someone's hands made the Ukrainian government hostage to agreements between the players of the "higher league" of international relations. Not only the role played by the difference between the translated outward declarations and the principles that were professed in domestic politics.

Unfortunately, the team of the new president does not show a pivotal glimpse at the strategy of his predecessors. The flickering of the Foreign Policy Spotlight Bankova translates to the West only one plot - the course of Ukraine remains unchanged. The two-day visit of President Zelensky to Paris and Berlin was intended to confirm the heredity of Kyiv's policy on the negotiation process.

In the capitals of France and Germany, Zelensky diligently reproduced the thesis of Peter Alekseevich about the non-alternativeity of Minsk-2. Even with the height of the wave of power resettlement and in the context of an unprecedented loan of public confidence, Zelensky did not dare to promote alternative configuration of the dialogue with the Kremlin. At least in the public plane, we did not hear anything about Minsk-3, Budapest or the UN Security Council format.

As for the external factors that have contributed to Russia's return to the PACE, they certainly are not limited to finances (the amount owed by the Russian Federation is about XX70 million euros - a trifle in the budgets of large European states). Shalka weights in favor of Moscow slopes two weights. The first is the disorder in the transatlantic community in connection with the eupathetic, and therefore unpredictable policy of Donald Trump. Naturally, in such conditions, Western Europe is looking for additional channels of communication with Moscow. Another motivation was artificially created by the Kremlin itself through a blackmail on Russia's withdrawal from the Council of Europe. In this case, Russian citizens were deprived of the right to apply to the European Court of Human Rights. For most West European leaders, the theme of human rights is not an empty sound, so the argument came to a hurry. In the end, the pressure of the big business, which loses hundreds of millions of euros annually due to trade restrictions with the Russian Federation, also affected. As a result, there are electoral risks for European parties, which is evidence of strengthening the positions of euro-skeptics in a number of EU countries.

Captive Ukrainian sailors as a modest coin of international politics?

Last week's events could convince many that the formula "nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine" no longer works. As a result, an illustration of this was the scandal surrounding the return of Ukrainian sailors captured by the Azov-Kerch incident. The oil was put on fire personally by the president. During an emotional briefing last Thursday, he accused Pavel Klimkin of having an officer allegedly compromising seamen's release from captivity. In response, the minister published diplomatic notes from Russia and Ukraine on the issue of Ukrainian prisoners of war. Moscow has chosen a provocative line - the Kremlin is trying to force the official Kiev to admit the following: the commission of a criminal offense by sailors, the legality of the judicial process on them under the legislation of the Russian Federation, and thus indirectly and occupation of the Crimea. At the same time, the Foreign Ministry's position - not to inform the President about the content of the answer - seems questionable, since the issue of dismissal of Ukrainian citizens is one of the priorities of the foreign activity of the state, and this Constitution refers to the powers of the head of state.

In any event, the problem of lack of communication (at the stage of power transit between government authorities often torn by personal and narrow-party interests) does not deserve the level of scandal that the president raised. Another circumstance added piquancy - judging by the words of Zelensky, the self-government of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in line with the probable arrangements for the liberation of Ukrainian sailors. With the logic of the president remains foggy. If he is ready to dismiss crews in the humiliating conditions of the Russian Federation, he probably does not realize the grave consequences for the international legal position of Ukraine, which will arise in case of the Russian scenario.

Lack of information on the state of negotiations creates a nutritious environment for rumors. Media published publications on a non-public plan, according to which the release of captive seamen and the return of ships should not be part of the broad agreement between the West and Russia. Moscow receives PACE credentials without any conditions, and in return finds a scheme for the release of seamen and allows Crimea monitoring mission of the Council of Europe.

Even if such agreements existed, the Kremlin frankly despised them, exposing unacceptable parameters for the return of sailors to Kyiv. So, at a certain moment, the peg of the PACE case and the case of the Kremlin prisoners are broken. This is confirmed by the words of the permanent representative of Ukraine at the Council of Europe Dmitry Kulebi. The diplomat confirmed that among the conditions that the Russian Federation had to fulfill to return to the PACE was the release of Ukrainian captive seamen, but subsequently Europeans refused this requirement.

Despite the uncertainty of Russian leadership, the international community continues to press for the release of servicemen of the Navy. This is evidenced by the confession of Putin himself, following the results of negotiations with his American colleague within the framework of the G20 summit: "... the President of the United States made this topic one of the priorities in our communication ...". It should be recalled that it was precisely because of the conflict near Kerch at the last moment on the initiative of the US president that his meeting with Putin broke off at the margins of the January summit of G20 in Argentina. Then the White House master wrote to Twitter that "he will look forward to meeting as soon as the situation is resolved." It took half a year. The visa was still there, but the American administration did not set any preconditions on the eve of the meeting between Trump and Putin in Japanese Osaka.

Therefore, it is not worthwhile to put special efforts on the efforts of world leaders. Moreover, Putin never acts under external influence. Probably the Kremlin will have a good time to play a map of Ukrainian sailors with the maximum benefit. It is possible that the subject of the auction, in which Putin is interested, is located on the Pechersk hills. One of the priority subjects may be the return of prisoners in exchange for the incorporation of agents of Russia's influence on state institutions and / or the adoption of certain items on the Russian agenda for Donbass.

Volodymyr Solovyan
Head of the foreign policy projects of the Central Scientific Research Center of Civil Aviation