The story of one small victory

The session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has ended, but the turmoil concerning the Ukraine and Russia issue is ongoing

The important victory of values over money, the postponement of the decision regarding changes to the regulations, and as a result – no possibility for the return of Russia to the Assembly next year; the anthem of Ukraine from the delegation on Russian channels, then accusation of some colleagues from other countries for violating the PACE rules for singing “battle song”, the blackmail of the Council of Europe leadership to cut the budget.

For those who do not know the peculiarities of international relations, this whole situation may seem like a lot of fuss about nothing with some incomprehensible results. Some people treat the diplomatic front as a frivolous loss of time against the background of a deployed military front and the daily human losses of Ukraine: “You’re all good talking; you’d better try fighting in the war”.

However, this is not how the world works, and whatever is painful for us, we still have to convey, explain and make important for other countries.

There is no “Globus of Ukraine”; there are hundreds of interests of other countries and major players all around us. They can and will take away our opportunities, neglect the interests of Ukraine for the sake of their own ones, more important ones, and place whatever is of utmost importance for us on the second, tenth or the last place in the list of priorities, because this is all real world, where everyone defends the interests of their country, in the first place.

That is why our diplomatic front is so important and it was critical to demonstrate to Russia at this session of the PACE that the policy of war and the rhetoric of blackmail are not possible in European clubs of democratic countries.

Another important task was achieved – to maintain consistency and relative unity with our European colleagues concerning the need to bring Russia to responsibility for its military actions against Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.

Those who at least partially followed the events of the session might have though that the issue of non-return of Russia was resolved thanks to the discussions in the Assembly and the speeches of the delegates, but this is not the case. The work in such large structures and with a large number of people representing different interests of different countries requires a lot of time, building relationships and contacts, earning personal reputation. Diplomacy is a relationship, and the personal factor often plays a decisive role.

In the situation with the Russian issue, public positions of the liberals and conservatives to vote against any changes to the regulations became decisive. They were the ones who changed the course of events in the Assembly.

The motivation and reaction of the conservatives were fairly obvious, since the key players there were the British, who had entered the phase of active public opposition to Russia. There are several Ukrainian parliamentarians who have built relationships and earned influence over the years of active participation in the work of PACE in the same group. If we talk about “my liberals” (I am one of the vice-presidents of the group of liberals in PACE), this was a result of serious debates within the leadership and members of the group. Our friendship and coalition with the Nordic countries, as well as the active position of the liberals from France and Germany, played a significant role here.

Although these two groups are not numerous in terms of the number of deputies, our position was enough to, firstly, exclude the presence of 2/3 votes in the hall for changing the rules; secondly, to call into question for the group of the European Party and the socialists the possible reputational consequences of voting for the resolution that could actually return Russia without Russia’s fulfilling its obligations and could transform them into Russian lobbyists.

Of course, behind the scenes of this struggle, there are still enormous efforts and a lot of work of our colleagues: dozens of meetings with European colleagues, a lot of explanations and an active position of the civil society, diaspora, journalists and diplomats.

As a result, we have achieved one more small victory, which can be a small step towards the end of the war.

Our men and women – our defenders who protect us at the front day and night – remain the main guarantor of the peaceful sky over our heads. And we – politicians and diplomats – keep the defence on the diplomatic fronts. We are also in difficult conditions and have minimal resources. Yet we achieve some victories, willing to let our defenders return to their families with the victory as soon as possible.

The main thing everyone should remember is that in this war the result of each of us is our common result.

Olena Sotnyk
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