These days, February 16-18, the Munich Security Conference is taking place. This the Conference at which in 2015 our President showed to the world community a couple of Russian passports as evidence of presence of the Russian troops in Donbas. This year I am at this conference with an official visit, however, without any souvenirs from the Russian military.
What can we expect from this forum and what can it give to Ukraine? It is unlikely that we will be able to motivate international partners to support us more actively by demonstrating another portion of Russian passports or even fragments of “Grad” shells.
It is true that 2017 brought many new challenges to the world. In this context, the war in Ukraine has ceased to seem so terrible to many people in the world. In a report prepared specifically for this conference, separate sections are dedicated to the separatist sentiments within the EU, the reorientation of the US foreign policy, the humanitarian problems of Africa, the war in Syria, China’s more active involvement in foreign policy, environmental issues, and cybersecurity. The war in Ukraine is casually mentioned in two sections: Russia: Bearly Strong? and Central and Eastern Europe: In or Out?
The first one views the war started by Russia against Ukraine as a Russian action aimed at the domestic consumer. And this is a rather successful action. The document expresses an idea that due to the fact that in connection with the war Russia is successfully creating obstacles for the Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine, Russians are more inclined to regard the Russian Federation as a “Significant Force” in the international arena. However, such “strengthening” is no longer perceived very positively by citizens. In 2017, 20% less citizens were in favour of Putin’s policy toward Ukraine than in 2015.
The section regarding the problems of Central and Eastern Europe defines the war in Ukraine as a “stumbling block” in NATO-Russia relations. That is, it is an important issue, but it is only a single aspect of the NATO-RF relations, and not a separate problem requiring a settlement as such.
The war in Ukraine is not forgotten. But it is among the secondary problems. And this cannot but cause some concern. However sad it is, our biggest challenge may be the fact that the West will decide to settle the issue of “de-escalation” of the relations with Russia at the expense of Ukraine’s interests.
In Munich, there will be a dinner with the participation of Kurt Volker and, obviously, he will talk about the war in Donbas. It is extremely important for Ukraine how the US sees the solutions to the problem in the context of global dangers. Are they ready to make a certain compromise with the Kremlin by “overlooking the interests of Ukraine a little bit” and allowing Putin to retain the image of a macho winner in his country? And though such a compromise does not seem a plausible option now, the negotiations about the UN peacekeeping contingent in Donbas lead to such assumptions. After all, this will require the consent of Russia as a permanent member of the Security Council.
One way or another, we have to state once again: peace in Ukraine and the reintegration of the occupied territories depend on the interaction of the well-known players of the international politics. Therefore, on the one hand, we need to use all possible international platforms to make the whole world know: the war in Ukraine threatens international security, its continuation or freezing of the conflict will allow the Russian Federation to create another source of instability in Europe, and we cannot allow this to happen; and on the other hand – we need to continue developing and strengthening our own army.
Machiavelli once wrote, “Wise Princes, therefore, have always eschewed these arms, and trusted rather to their own, and have preferred defeat with the latter to victory with the former, counting that as no true victory which is gained by foreign aid.”