June 23, 2015

23.06.2015. Vice President of the “Borysfen Intel” Yu. Radkovets' Interview for the Romanian Edition “Geostrategic Pulse”

The interview was made following a visit to Kyiv Corneliu Pivariu, President&CEO of "INGEPO Consulting" (with professional and friendly support of the Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies "Borysfen Intel"), whose purpose was to analyze the current situation in Ukraine and prospects of development of the country and region for readers of the "Geostrategic Pulse".

 

G.P.: Dear Mr. Vice President, what do you think about the prospects and practical methods of implementation of Minsk-2 agreements; and how viable are these agreements?

"...the efficiency of implementation of the Minsk Agreements can significantly grow if the USA joins the parties to the negotiation process in the “Norman” format..."

Vice-President Yuriy Radkovets (Yu.R.): To my mind, today we can undoubtedly state that the requirements of the Minsk agreements (within the framework of both, “Minsk-1” / September 2014/, and “Minsk-2” /February 2015/) have been cynically ignored by Russia. The Kremlin is strongly delaying the process of their implementation — it does not fulfill the requirements for a cease-fire and withdrawal of heavy weapons from the contact line of the parties, at its discretion, changes the negotiators, obstructs the appointed Trilateral meetings of contact and working groups, suddenly launches new “offensives” and so on.

Thus, the Russian-separatist groups continued constant attacks against the Ukrainian side along the contact line (and continue them today, the last attempt of their attack took place on the night of June 3 when gunmen started massive shelling of Maryinka and Krasnohorivka in Donetsk region with further offensive in their direction, all of which took place almost immediately after the breakdown by the representatives of the Russian-separatists of the trilateral contact group in Minsk on June 2 this year) using all kinds of heavy weapons (tanks, “Grads”, heavy /included self-propelled/ artillery and large caliber mortars). At the same time this grouping is secretly strengthened with both, personnel (in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions today there are about 48 thousand personnel of the joint Russian-separatist forces, including 11 thousand Russian military servicemen) and with modern arms and military equipment (including 700 tanks, 1200 armored vehicles, nearly 600 artillery systems, up to 400 MLRS and 110 active units of air defense). Besides, the Russian-separatist party for any reason, and often for no reason, shamelessly artificially delays the decision on the release of illegally detained persons and exchange of prisoners.

Nevertheless, there is no alternative to peaceful resolution of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict within the framework of the Minsk Agreements today. With regard to their viability, then, in my opinion, the efficiency of implementation of the Minsk Agreements can significantly grow if the USA joins the parties to the negotiation process in the “Norman” format, as well as recognition by the international community of Russia as a party to the conflict.

GP: What are Kyiv's further possible actions in the short and medium term, regarding the issue of the return of the Crimea and captured by the separatists territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions?

Yu.R.: I am sure that the most effective mechanism of possible actions of the Ukrainian side in the issue of returning the Crimea and captured by separatists individual districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions (both in the short and medium term) must always be a complex approach combining political, diplomatic, security, economic, informational and other measures clearly coordinated in time and place of their use as well as their sequencing.

"...the priority should be given to active political and diplomatic activities..."

At this, the priority should be given to active political and diplomatic activities both within the framework of international and regional organizations, and in the newly negotiating formats, like the “Norman”, “Geneva” and/or “Budapest” formats, as well as on the bilateral and multilateral basis, including within the framework of the “Minsk dialogue”, which will be directed to securing sovereignty and territorial integrity of a single unitary Ukraine.

Another priority should be the financial and economic measures in Ukraine aimed at implementation of urgent reforms in the country in terms of the European Union's requirements (including in the context of the Association Agreement Ukraine-EU) and in terms of creating attractiveness of the state for the population of both, the annexed Crimea and individual districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions captured by separatists.

In the context of information measures in the shortest time it is necessary to complete the creation of a reliable National Information Security System (including cyber) with the inclusion of a subsystem for information countering, whose activities should be of offensive nature on both, the domestic and external fronts of information struggle mainly aimed at strengthening the information policy to counter Russian propaganda and its spread at the EU-partner countries. This task, among other things, must be fully coordinated with the work on countering the Russian propaganda, which has already begun in the European Union within the framework of the Action Plan for strategic communications in support of media freedom and European values.

The security measures should begin with establishing by the Ukrainian side of a complete and guaranteed control over the eastern section of the Ukrainian-Russian border (400 km) in accordance with the requirements of the “Minsk-2 Agreements”, which is currently used by Russia for the uncontrolled transportation of personnel, supplies and weapons, military equipment and ammunition for the Russian-separatist groups in the territory of Donbas.

In order to implement such a comprehensive approach in any case the above-mentioned measures should exclude the possibility of resumption of the open military conflict between the sides.

At the same time, it is necessary to accelerate reforming of the Armed Forces and the military-industrial complex of Ukraine by Western standards, and creation and implementation of an integrated system of public information (including cyber) security and information counteraction in Ukraine.

Besides, we very much rely on the support of Ukraine by international and regional organizations as well as EU and NATO, including neighboring countries: Poland, Lithuania, Romania and others — as our trusted advocates in Europe.

G.P.: What, in your opinion, are the most likely scenarios of the development of the Ukrainian crisis, if Moscow keeps insisting on federalization of Ukraine and supporting separatist movements in the region?

"The position of the Ukrainian side in this context is unambiguous — no federalization of Ukraine (including the “masked”, “hidden” or even “upgraded” one)"

Yu.R.: Today two major interrelated approaches can be observed in Moscow's plans for the future of the so-called self-proclaimed “Donetsk” and “Luhansk” “People's Republics”, namely: the first — the Kremlin cynically insists on legitimizing these quasistate self-proclaimed formations both in bilateral relations with Ukraine, and in multilateral negotiations within the Minsk dialogue; the second — Putin is trying in any way (including cunningly using the prestige of Germany and France to put pressure on Ukraine within the framework of the Minsk Agreements) to shift the financial-economic burden of the so-called “DPR”/“LPR” and at the same time all the responsibility for restoring the destroyed infrastructure in the occupied territories onto Ukraine, and in such a way to resolve the issue of maintaining the self-proclaimed “DPR”/“LPR” at the expense of Ukraine (and hence at the expense of Europe). Where may this lead? To transformation of the open aggression in the Donbas into a “frozen”, but “glowing” type of conflict like those in Trans-Dniester (Moldova), South Ossetia and Abkhazia (Georgia), Nagornyi-Karabakh (Azerbaijan). In this way, Moscow will try to “gain a foothold” in the occupied Ukrainian territories and at this it will unambiguously continue to support the separatist movement in Ukraine. That is, Moscow actually stands for federalization of Ukraine to preserve its dominant influence on it both, in the political and economic aspects, in order to prevent Ukraine's European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The position of the Ukrainian side in this context is unambiguous — no federalization of Ukraine (including the “masked”, “hidden” or even “upgraded” one).

There is another (the worst) version of the development of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, which provides for Russia's global (large-scale) military strike along the Black Sea coast of Ukraine to establish a land corridor to the Crimea and on to the Republic of Moldova's Trans-Dniester or series of local strikes in Luhansk, Donetsk and Mariupol operational and tactical areas to expand the zone of control of Russian-separatist forces on the entire territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and under favorable conditions (including during additional strikes in Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv directions) — with making the border along the Dnieper River.

G.P.: At present, Ukrainian volunteer troops are being trained with support from the USA and European countries. How do you see the integration of these volunteer battalions with the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Internal Affairs? Will they be transformed into mechanized infantry battalions and will these battalions form new brigades?

Yu. R.: Today the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are developing and specifying the plans of the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps (DUK)'s integration into the Armed Forces of Ukraine. At the same time the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) of Ukraine has registered a draft law on the role, place and tasks of the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps in the system of power structures of Ukraine.

According to preliminary information, this power unit can be maintained as part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine as a separate structural formation — a corps or a brigade. But in any case, this power component has been already actively engaged to forcefully curb the Russian-separatist forces in the Donbas and is famous for its high combat efficiency.

G.P.: How do you rate the quality of Ukrainian Armed Forces reform, especially in the context of the Joint Staff, reorganization of Special Forces, as well as creation of new large formations of ground troops, aviation and mountain troops? (I would like to remind that, in Romania, after the end of World War II, one of the first Soviet decisions was the disbanding of the mountain troops).

Yu. R.: Most of all the process of reforming of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is influenced by Russia's military aggression against Ukraine. Today Ukraine's Armed Forces have to resist the Russian-separatist groups in the zone of ​​the counter-terrorist operation (ATO) and to be reformed in extremely difficult (combat) conditions, taking into consideration the lessons learned in military actions in cooperation with the National Guard of the Interior Ministry, Border Troops and other (including volunteer) power structures of the country.

In this regard, creation of the Joint Staff, reorganization of Special Operations Forces and formation (reformation) of the Army (including the mountain units) the Air and Navy Forces of Ukraine will necessarily take into consideration the experience gained in the course of the ATO and the experience of the armed forces of foreign countries who participated in wars and armed conflicts of recent years.

GP: What are the prospects for a step-up in the Ukraine-NATO's cooperation?

Yu.R.: In accordance with the Coalition Agreement concluded by the Parliamentary Coalition, which includes the majority of People's Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, the restoration of the political course for integration into Euro-Atlantic security space and NATO membership is one of the strategic objectives of Ukraine's foreign and domestic policy.

December 23, 2014, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted a law “On amendments to some laws of Ukraine on Ukraine’s abandoning its non-alignment policy”. NATO expressed its respect to the decision of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to cancel the non-bloc status of the country and confirmed that Ukraine can be a member of the Organization if it has fulfilled all the requirements and if it wants it.

April 23, 2015, President of Ukraine P. Poroshenko approved a new Annual National Program of Ukraine-NATO Cooperation for 2015. The President signed a Decree “... in order to ensure the fulfillment of the priority tasks of development of the strategic partnership between Ukraine and NATO”. The President has authorized the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to ensure coordination of the central executive authorities' activity to implement the Annual National Program. Earlier, Prime Minister of Ukraine A. Yatsenyuk said that Ukraine and NATO would sign an agreement on military-technical cooperation.

In terms of the Russian Federation's temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, carrying out on the part of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of the Anti-Terrorist Operation and the general situation due to the aggression of the Russian Federation regarding Ukraine, the Annual National Program for NATO-Ukraine Cooperation for 2015 is especially important for defending national interests and security of Ukraine, especially in the context of using the potential and practical assistance of NATO and member states of the Alliance to improve Ukraine's defense capability to counteract the Russian Federation's aggression by meeting urgent needs in the nearest future and to reform Ukraine's security and defense sector and its MIC up to NATO's standards.

To increase the effectiveness of Ukraine-NATO cooperation, five Trust Funds of NATO have been created which within two to three years will help bring Ukraine to comply with the NATO's standards.

The first fund was created for the modernization and automation of communication systems of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in accordance with modern standards. The contributors to the fund are Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Turkey and NATO's Civil Budget.

The second fund was created for the purpose of retraining and social adaptation of servicemen and military personnel in the area of ​​the anti-terrorist operation in Ukraine. The contributors to the fund are Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal and Turkey.

The third fund has to do with the program of physical rehabilitation (prosthetics) of wounded military servicemen of Ukraine. The contributors to this Trust Fund are Bulgaria, Slovakia and NATO's Civil Budget.

The fourth fund is aimed at reforming the system of logistics and standardization of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The contributors to the fund are Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, Czech Republic and NATO's Civil Budget.

The fifth fund is to fight cybercrime in accordance with the most advanced standards of NATO member countries. The contributors to the fund are Estonia, Romania, Turkey and Hungary.

All in all, 26 NATO member countries have announced about their intentions to contribute to Trust Funds for Ukraine.

G.P.: It was during our stay in Kyiv, that Ukraine stopped a number of agreements on military cooperation with Russia, terminated the contract with the Russian Federation on transit through Ukrainian territory of military cargo to Trans-Dniester, which caused a corresponding reaction in Moscow. Do you think further cooperation between Ukraine and Russia in the military-industrial sector is possible, given that the existing production capacities should continue their work?

"...further cooperation in the military-industrial sphere between Ukraine and Russia is inappropriate and impossible"

Yu. R.: In my opinion, further cooperation in the military-industrial sphere between Ukraine and Russia — the aggressor country and the country supporting and exporting international terrorism, — is inappropriate and impossible.

To preserve and to support Ukraine's production capacities they need to be reoriented to the countries of the former USSR on the bilateral and multilateral basis, as well as to cooperation with the EU and NATO, with the countries of the Middle East, Central and East Asia, and Latin America, including through joint scientific researches and joint production based on modern (high) technologies and dual use technologies. Of course, it will require tough competition and struggle for new markets for products of the MIC.

At the same time, preserving and building the potential of the military-industrial complex of Ukraine will mean the need for its fundamental reforming up to the standards of NATO and the EU.

GP: Any military-political development, both internal and external, is very much dependent on political factors. In the current situation, how do you assess the cohesion of the executive structures in Kyiv and their general level of knowledge? Is there a possibility of changes on the political stage and of the emergence of new political orientations, as a result of the increasing influence of Oleh Lyashko's “Radical Party” or Dmytro Yarosh's “Right Sector?”

Yu. R.: Good question! The matter is I am neither a politician nor a Deputy of the Ukrainian parliament. I'm a former military, including a former military diplomat, but I do know and am absolutely sure that in the situation of the foreign aggression against Ukraine, all political forces in the country both, the pro-government and opposition ones — democrats, nationalists, liberals, radicals and others — must unite around the common national idea — saving the statehood, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Efforts and activity of all political forces in Ukraine should work for this. There is no other way.

G.P.: What do you think about Kyiv authorities' and their future actions in the struggle against the Russian Federation's pressure; about separatist trends; about pro-European and Euro-Atlantic prospects?

Yu. R.: As a citizen of Ukraine I fully support plans and actions of the Ukrainian authorities to preserve statehood, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine through active political-diplomatic and military counteracting the Russian aggression and pressure on Ukraine, which unfortunately have led to the annexation of the Crimea, occupation of some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and to the actual creation of a “frozen” conflict there.

I am also totally against the Kremlin's cynical plans and actions to maintain its dominant influence on the post-Soviet countries, by creating on their territories conflict zones and “frozen”, but “glowing” conflicts like those in Trans-Dniester (Moldova), South Ossetia and Abkhazia (Georgia), Nagornyi-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), through which Moscow artificially slows their democratic development and movement towards the united Europe.

The priority and objective direction of Ukraine is to restore the political course of integration into the United Europe (EU) and the Euro-Atlantic security space with NATO membership, which is one of the strategic goals of Ukraine's internal and external policy.

GP: The oligarchs continue to play an important role in the political arena of Ukraine. Tell us about them and their activities in Kyiv and the region.

Yu. R: Unfortunately, the assessment of the role and place of the oligarchs in the political life of the country does not belong to the subject matter of the Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel,” which assesses external challenges, risks and threats to the national security of Ukraine, but the question is certainly interesting.

In this context, I can only say the following. Well, if the business interests of the oligarchs coincide with the national interests of the state, then it is beneficial for both, the state and the oligarchs. If a business tycoon's interests do not coincide with the national interests of the state, then the oligarch comes into conflict with the state. In this case, if the tycoon finds an advantageous compromise with the government, the State submits his interests to its. This may be done in quite tough and often uncompromising methods. It can't be otherwise because the national interests of the state are above anything else.

GP: One of the main economic problems is related to the agreement for the supply of Russian natural gas to Ukraine. What are the consequences of these supplies for the national energy security of Ukraine, as well as for other EU Member States?

Yu. R.: Focused, consistent and successful enough actions of Ukraine's leadership and the European Union's support for the country have provided an opportunity to significantly reduce Ukraine's consumption of Russian gas and to ensure the reverse gas supplies from the EU. Taking into account the results achieved in 2015, the volume of gas consumption in Ukraine is projected at 40 billion cubic meters, which is 10 billion cubic meters less than it was two years ago. At the same time, it is planned to reduce gas imports to Ukraine by 25 billion cubic meters and to increase the share of its reverse supply up to 80 %. At this, in the balance of gas consumption for the current year has not been incorporated the exact volume of gas purchases from Russia.

April 22, 2015, the EU Anti-Monopoly Regulator accused the Russian “Gazprom” of infringement of competition in eight Eastern European countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria) and of the EU antitrust laws. The Russian company “Gazprom” denies the accusation, calling them groundless. Despite this, the European Commission has pointed out that “Gazprom” has 12 weeks to answer the accusation brought against it.

This not just makes Moscow's influence in Europe and in ex-Soviet territories impossible, but also makes the Russian leadership reduce the price of gas which causes significant losses to both, the Russian gas monopoly “Gazprom” (in 2014 it lost 40 % of its income) and to the state budget of the Russian Federation. Thus, Moscow is nearly asking Ukraine to buy Russian gas at 247 US dollars for 1 thousand cubic meters and not demanding more than 560 dollars us dollars as it was a few years ago. Who could have hoped for this? Let's wait and see.

GP: Anyway, all the government's do influence the population of the country. How do the anti-crisis measures taken by Ukraine's authorities influence the population? We have been to the Maidan and I am still impressed with what we have seen. Is there a possibility that the protest will begin again? If yes, then under what circumstances?

Yu. R: Provoking of new “Maidans” in Kyiv under the worsening of the socio-economic situation in Ukraine — is one of the strategic tasks of the Kremlin towards Ukraine in terms of replacing the pro-European government in Kyiv with a pro-Kremlin one. Such plans of “mining, food or tariff-communal and other riots” with their turning into “maidans” have been constantly adjusted and improved by Moscow considering current changes in the situation in order to be ready to put them into action at any time convenient for Russia.

However, Putin's apologists' hopes for the emergence in Ukraine of the so-called “third Maidan” provoked, first of all, from the outside socio-economic/socio-political riots in Ukraine at present do not find any real ground. The events of the last year (the annexation of the Crimea and hidden Russian aggression in the East of Ukraine) have actually made impossible such provocative actions of anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. Not to mention the fact that all “Maidans” in Ukraine had exclusively political and not socio-economic background. The Russian side's not realizing this was one of the major errors of Putin's regime in its policy towards Ukraine.

G.P.: What compromise is possible in the Russian-Ukrainian relations where it comes to the issues of bilateral agenda? And who can be the Western potential negotiator in this process?

"...any concession or compromise agreement of the Ukrainian side will be seen by Russia as weakness of Ukraine's positions..."

Yu. R.: It is my personal belief, that in the situation of the annexation of the Crimea, hidden aggression and subsequent occupation of several districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the actual creation there of a “frozen” conflict as well as cynical ignoring of “Minsk Agreements”, in the Russian-Ukrainian relations there can be no compromises that would go contrary to national interests and national security of Ukraine. This is firstly.

And secondly, any concession or compromise agreement of the Ukrainian side will be seen by Russia as weakness of Ukraine's positions and lack of confidence in its actions.

As for the format of the negotiation process, in my opinion, the most appropriate and effective would be the “Budapest” format where participants (Ukraine, USA, Great Britain, Russia) are already “bound” by the previous obligations of the “Budapest Memorandum” (of December 5, 1994) to respect the independence, sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine.

GP: While we were in Kyiv, the European Summit at the highest level was held in Riga on the 21-22 of May 2015. What do you think about the West's economic and financial support to Ukraine and what are the prospects of these relations?

Yu. R.: The EU Summit within the framework of the “Eastern Partnership” Program was held in Riga from the 21 to 22 May this year. As you know, the majority of delegates at the meeting opposed Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia's early accession to the European structure. In fact, representatives of the European Union made it clear that at the present time they do not want their broader integration into the EU structures.

During the Summit in Riga on Ukraine, not a single decision was adopted, which could change the lives of ordinary Ukrainian citizens: visa-free regime with Europe was postponed indefinitely, the problem of the Crimea was also ignored, and the allocation of a new loan for Ukraine is in question. That is, the results of the EU Summit should be a lesson for the current Ukrainian authorities who actually got a rejection for the widest possible integration of the official Kyiv into EU structures. This opinion was expressed by an expert on international Law, Klaus Hoff (Belgium).

The summary is exhaustive. Nothing can be added.

Prospects for the West's economic and financial support for Ukraine: without this support, we will be in a great, great difficulty. I want to comment on this issue in more detail.

If Ukraine is defeated as a state, and Russia will continue annexing its territory, this will eclipse all EU concerns over the default in Greece. The most dangerous threat to the future of the European Union is not the problems of the of the EU zone members. The biggest danger for its geopolitical, geostrategic and long-term economic interests is the threat of collapse of Ukraine, not of Greece. All that has been said about the default in Greece is nothing as compared to the threat that Ukraine will not be able to build a European democratic state, and Russia's annexation of Ukraine's territories continues. For the whole world this will mean that the EU is virtually unable to defend its own or common interests.

A default of Greece, of course, will be a major disaster for Athens, the country will bring huge financial and reputational losses for the EU, and so the EU should certainly be helped to prevent it. But the Greek default will not destroy the monetary union, and in the future may even improve it. But the success or failure of the EU policy towards Ukraine could “destroy” the EU.

From the point of view of the EU, the government of Prime Minister A. Yatsenyuk is carrying out administrative reforms. This is fully part of a political consensus in the EU, as European politicians see possibilities of the economy mainly through structural reforms. The new A. Yatsenyuk's government has clearly decided to create such an infrastructure, and has made some progress in fighting corruption. But the economic costs of the war in South-Eastern Ukraine and mismanagement of previous administrations puts Ukraine on the verge of bankruptcy.

In my opinion, now we need to do two more things. Firstly, the Ukrainian government needs to agree on a tough debt restructuring. Secondly, the EU will need to provide more financial assistance to Ukraine. With the restructuring of the debt, as well as with confirmation of support from the EU, Ukraine will get out of debt and establish itself as a European state. That is, for the European Union, Ukraine is not only a potentially attractive investment, but, much more important, it is a unique opportunity to strengthen the EU's geopolitical and geostrategic role.

 

Corneliu Pivariu: Mr. Vice President, thank you again for your support during our visiting Kyiv. We believe in the development of our cooperation in order to obtain new knowledge and to provide timely and relevant information on regional and global geopolitical events. Respecting international Law, we hope for a democratic and peaceful development of the states with the help of our small contribution. So we want our good intentions to meet the desires and aspirations of all citizens to ensure the security and prosperity.

 

The interwiew is available in the edition of the Romanian Center’s — “Geostrategic Pulse” № 193/20th of June 2015