February 22, 2019

The New World and Ukraine

Results of the Munich Security Conference

 

The conference in Munich, which is held in mid-February of each year with the participation of the top world leaders, politicians and experts, is traditionally considered the main international forum in the sphere of the world security. The aim of the event is to determine key trends in the development of the situation in the world, as well as to find the ways to address common challenges, risks and threats to global and regional security.

Thus, the main idea of this year's 55th Munich Conference was statement of the fact that the whole system of international relations, which arose after the collapse of the USSR and the end of the Cold War and was characterized by the USA's global leadership and relative stability in the world, has been dismantled. Instead, a new multipolar system is emerging, characterized by an escalation of the struggle for leadership between the United States, China and Russia, as and by the growing role of countries such as Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Chairman of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger
Chairman of the Munich Security Conference Wolfgang Ischinger

According to the conclusion made in Chairman of the Munich Security Conference, former German diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger's Munich Security Report 2019 “The Great Puzzle: Who Will Pick Up the Pieces?”, the consequence of this is the emergence of new lines of confrontation in the world, which leads to increased threats of wars and armed conflicts. Among the sources of such threats he named: US-Chinese and US-Russian disagreements; confrontation of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel with Iran; internal confrontation in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, South Sudan and Cameroon; unresolved problems of the Crimea and Donbas in Ukraine; exacerbation of the situation in Venezuela.

At this, he specially pointed out the transition of rivalry between the leading powers of the world to the most dangerous sphere — of the nuclear weapons, which is recognized as a much greater threat than international terrorism.

 

All this is fully in line with reality and was already stated at the last year's conference in Munich, the NATO summit in Brussels in July 2018, the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019 and other international forums. However, while in 2018 there were hopes for avoiding these problems, now not only the fact of their existence, but the inevitability of further complication have been recognized.

…The Munich Conference showed the high level of attention of the world community to Ukraine…

However, at this year's Munich Conference, and in the comments on its results, different reasons and consequences of these trends were and continue to be provided. Such differences are objective in nature and are the result of a significant complication and ambiguous nature of the situation in the new multipolar world. At the same time, they are related to subjective interests of some countries and political forces that are trying to shape the favourable for themselves moods in the world community.

Indicative in this regard are disagreements in the assessment of the role of the United States in the world, contradictions in the EU and NATO, prospects for Russia becoming a new centre of power, as well as the situation around Ukraine. Given the importance of the above-mentioned issues, including for the interests of our state, we should analyze them in more detail in the context of the real policy of the world's leading countries and the statements of their representatives at the Munich Conference.

 

US Vice President Mike Pence
US Vice President Mike Pence

For example, during the Munich Conference, the USA's Vice President Mike Pence confirmed the invulnerability of Washington's geopolitical plans to maintain the United States' positions as the main power in the world. According to him: “America is stronger than ever before, and America is leading on the world stage once again”.

Commenting on this issue, M. Pence focused on the deterrence of Russia as the main enemy of the United States. In this regard, he emphasized the personal role of US President Donald Trump who “made Moscow accountable for its attempts to redraw international borders by force”. Instruments of such a policy of the United States were called toughening sanctions against Russia, as and increasing the volumes of assistance to Ukraine. Besides, M. Pence reminded about the USA's withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty because of Russia's systematic violations of it.

Among the US opponents was also named Iran, which poses a threat to the Middle East countries, first of all to Israel. Proceeding from this, M. Pence justified Washington's giving up the “nuclear deal” with Tehran, which was about lifting of sanctions against Iran in exchange for its cessation of uranium enrichment to the arms level.

At the same time, US Vice President voiced the need to strengthen the unity of the Western world. In this regard, he emphasized the importance of NATO members fulfilling their commitments to increase defense spending, and urged them not to respond to Moscow's attempts to divide the Alliance by interfering in electoral processes, using energy resources and supplying Russian weapons. In addition, M. Pence expressed the USA's hopes for the EU's support of the USA's position on Iran and the Russian gas transportation project “Nord Stream 2”, which he described as undermining the energy security of Europe.

 

Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi
Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi

The statement made by Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi, who is responsible for the country's foreign policy and is one of the most influential people after the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, was quite telling. Thus, contrary to the general expectations of his sharply negative attitude to the United States because of trade and economic wars between the two countries, Yang Jiechi's speech was tolerant and balanced. In particular, he expressed the PRC's commitment to the idea of building of a community with a shared future for mankind, and also supported the need for a multilateral approach to solving international problems.

Yang Jiechi's speech confirmed the pragmatism of Beijing's policy, which prefers compromises with its opponents to rigorous confrontation with them. On the one hand, it is evidence of the state wisdom of China's leadership, and on the other hand, it shows Beijing's understanding that the USA is so far a greater power. That is why, unlike Russia, China makes concessions to the United States of America.

However, this does not in any way mean Beijing's giving up its strategic goal of consolidating the role and place of China as the leading power that was set at the 19th Congress of the CPC in October 2017. In the same way, China does not make concessions on issues related to its military capability and security. In particular, at the Munich Conference the PRC demonstrated its reluctance to join in the dialogue on the conclusion of a new INF, since these missiles are the basis of the Chinese arsenal.

 

In turn, Russia demonstrated its inviolability of firmly defending its interests against the United States and NATO. Thus, Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov accused Western countries of trying to build a “NATO-centric world” without taking into consideration interests of other parties. At this, he expressed a number of claims to the West, such as: bombing of Yugoslavia; recognition of Kosovo's independence, which for the first time since the Second World War changed the borders on the continent; support for an “'military coup in Kyiv”; NATO enlargement and the deployment of missile defense facilities in Europe.

Even more rigorous were the comments on relations between Russia and the West by the RF Deputy Foreign Minister S. Ryabkov. He actually threatened the West with the possibility of “a risk to its very existence for the sake of the pursuit of establishment of a New Order for the rest of the world”. To make such threats sound even more frightening, S. Ryabkov emphasized the development of Russia's new missile systems, including medium range ones.

Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov Russian Deputy Foreign Minister S. Ryabkov
Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov and his Deputy S. Ryabkov

At the same time, Russia made another attempt to impose on the West the idea of the need to restore relations between the parties on the basis of common interests, namely, to deepen cooperation in the fight against terrorism and in the economic sphere. Russia's focus was on the EU, which is more exposed to Moscow than the US and NATO. Thus, S. Lavrov proposed to the EU to restore the construction of a “common European home”, as well as to start cooperation between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union.

However, representatives of the Russian Federation expressed an understanding of the impossibility of practical implementation of these plans because of the conflict around Ukraine, which makes Moscow “take a pause”.

 

Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel
Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel

The most dramatic was the speech by Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, which in fact became a concentrated expression of European countries' concern about the changes taking place in the world. First of all, — Europe's position between two antagonistic centers of power, namely, the United States and Russia. At this, against the background of the growing selfishness and isolationism in Washington's policy, including in its attitude to European partners, Moscow will intensify its expansion on the European direction.

Taking into consideration the danger of such a situation for Europe, A. Merkel advocated preservation of the principles of liberalism and multilateralism in international relations, which mean joint resolving world problems. Besides, she focused on the importance of strengthening NATO's collective defense.

Proceeding from here, A. Merkel criticized the United States for abandoning these principles. Examples of such actions of Washington were the increase in customs duties on European manufactured goods, as well as unilateral decisions to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and Syria, where joint operations with NATO allies are conducted.

At the same time, A. Merkel condemned Russia's expansionist policy, first of all its armed aggression against Ukraine. In this regard, she confirmed Germany’s firm intentions to continue supporting Ukraine in its confrontation with Russia. At the same time, she demonstrated Germany's compliance with its own interests. Thus, A. Merkel supported the Russian “Nord Stream 2” project as a means of diversifying gas supplies to Germany, although she expressed the need for maintaining gas transit through Ukraine.

The German leader's special attention was paid to the issue of reducing the level of military threats in the world. For example, she urged China to join the USA-Russia talks on missile and nuclear weapons control. This problem is of particular relevance to Europe due to the actual termination of the INF, which has the most negative consequences for the European region.

 

In fact, statements by representatives of NATO and the EU were similar. Touching upon the problems of European security, they condemned Russia's aggression against Ukraine, expressed support for our state, and also advocated the need to strengthen the protection of Europe from the eastern direction. In this context, they pointed out Russia's growing military activity in the Black Sea which requires NATO's adequate response.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini

 

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko with Chairman of the EPP group in the European Parliament Manfred Weber
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko with Manfred Weber

In general, the Munich Conference showed the high level of attention of the world community to Ukraine, which once again denied the assertion of Russian politicians and experts about the supposed “world's tiredness of the Ukrainian issue”.

All, without exception, leaders and representatives of Western countries and international organizations expressed support for Ukraine in its confrontation with Russia, including within the framework of further assistance to our state and unchanging policy of building up anti-Russian sanctions.

This is a confirmation of the West's understanding of the need to contain Russia, which is the main source of threats to peace and security in the world. At this, there is also growing awareness of the need for Ukraine's wider integration into the European security system. In particular, in the given context, quite indicative is the suggestion of a candidate for the post of President of the European Commission from the European People's Party group, Manfred Weber, regarding the involvement of Ukraine in the creation of a European missile defense system.

At the same time, as practice shows, European countries are still not ready to a sharp confrontation with Moscow over Ukraine and remain interested in economic cooperation with Russia.

 

…The aggravation of the US-Russia confrontation enhances the role and significance of Ukraine in the new system of international relations…

The results of the Munich Security Conference make it possible to draw some conclusions as to what our world is, what it will face in the near future and how this will influence the interests of Ukraine.

  • Firstly, the world really is transforming from a single-polar to multi-polar model of international relations. This makes it much more complex, conflictual and dangerous for the life of each country: from the leading countries of the world, to the peripheries on the margins of the world civilization.
  • Secondly, in the new world, the United States is not going to give up its position and continue to struggle to preserve its leadership. This is the main reason for Washington's selfish and isolationist policy, as the rest of the countries are striving to build a completely different, multipolar world. Despite this, the United States continues to consider Europe its main ally in the NATO and EU formats, despite some disagreements with them.
  • Thirdly, in the process of the formations of a multipolar world, China and Russia are the main adversaries of the United States. It is the results of the rivalry between them that will determine the nature of the situation in the world. At this, if China continues to pursue a well-considered policy and strive to reach compromises with the United States, Russia will increase the acuteness of confrontation with them, including in the military sphere.
  • Fourthly, in the current world, the most difficult situation may be in Europe, which, in fact, is a hostage to American and Russian interests. The consequence of this is the weakening of the unity of the European Union and the growing disagreements within the Organization.
  • Fifthly, the aggravation of the confrontation between the United States and Russia objectively enhances the role and significance of Ukraine in the new system of international relations. In fact, it will depend on how the Ukrainian issue will be resolved and whether the US will be able to stop Russia's expansion and prevent its reaching the level of the former USSR, whether it will really become a new center of world-class power. It is this that determines the uncompromising nature of the US and Russia's positions with regard to Ukraine. At the same time, the complication of internal problems in the European Union may interfere with its support of our state.