June 6, 2019

What Should We do Next?

Suggestions for Action Strategy

 

Taking into consideration national interests, the main tasks of our state at the current historical stage are to restore its territorial integrity and to practically realize the European choice. As the positions of the new Ukrainian leadership show, these tasks are immutable and of a priority nature. In fact, this is the first case in our newest history, when the change of power has not caused radical changes in Ukraine's foreign policy, transforming it into a true European state. Thus, despite any transformations of power in the “old” and “new” Europe, which are sometimes accompanied by severe political battles, its countries stick to European civilization values.

At the same time, a natural question arises: how can we resolve the problems that Ukraine has faced after the change of power in the country? I mean, first of all, putting an end to the war in the Donbas, restoration of control over the occupied and annexed territories of Ukraine, which is the most complicated and, at the same time, an urgent problem. Of course, this cannot be achieved without talks with Russia as the main party to the conflict with Ukraine and its main enemy. But, how and under what conditions are such negotiations possible? For it is known that any concessions to Russia or attempts to reach compromises with it are perceived by the RF as the weakness of its opponents and it uses them for further increase in the scale of its expansion.

…This is the first case in our newest history, when the change of power has not caused radical changes in Ukraine's foreign policy…

In particular, this is evidenced by the consequences of the NATO leadership's refusal of Ukraine and Georgia’s joining the NATO Membership Action Plan, which was the leading European countries' outright concession to Russia. Based on this, in August 2008, under the pretext of protecting the population of South Ossetia, Russia attacked Georgia and occupied a number of Georgian territories. And the USA's further turning to a policy of “resetting” relations with Russia unleashed its hands for an aggression against Ukraine in 2014. Therefore, even if Ukraine makes concessions to Moscow on Crimea and the Donbas, it will not make peace and establish relations with Russia at all. The next thing that it will demand is that Ukraine should abandon its European course and return to the sphere of Russian influence. Including Ukraine's accession to the Eurasian Economic Union, and subsequently to the Collective Security Treaty Organization created by the Kremlin as opposed to the EU and NATO. And if we refuse, then everything will begin according to a well-known scenario. From trade, energy, information and other “hybrid” wars against Ukraine and to new zones of conflicts on the Ukrainian territory. This time, not only in the Ukrainian East or South, but also in Trans-Carpathian region and Bukovina. Such Moscow's plans are confirmed by attempts to exacerbate the situation surrounding the demolition of the monument to Marshal K. Zhukov in Kharkiv, an insinuation of Romania's plans to capture neighboring territories of Ukraine, etc.

…A policy of compromise with Russia, and even more so, concessions to it would only lead to Ukraine's losing its sovereignty, and then — statehood. Therefore, negotiations with the RF are possible, at least, on equal positions, and as a maximum — from the position of force…

And this suggests one principal conclusion: a policy of compromise with Russia, and even more so, concessions to it would only lead to Ukraine's losing its sovereignty, and then — statehood. Therefore, negotiations with the RF are possible, at least, on equal positions, and as a maximum — from the position of force. And only over one and only issue: the return of Crimea to Ukraine and the settlement of the situation in the Donbas on the basis of the Minsk Agreements. At this, in the form in which they were adopted, namely: withdrawal of Russian troops from the occupied Ukrainian territories and returning to Ukraine the control of its eastern border, and only then — implementation of political provisions of the peace plan.

Given Russia's military superiority over Ukraine, implementation of such an approach seems impossible. This is confirmed by the failure of all the five-year attempts to persuade Russia to stop its aggression and return Crimea and the Donbas to Ukraine. And no matter how much we want to match it in economic, political and military potentials, unfortunately we will not be able to do this in the near future. However, this does not mean that we are doomed to this confrontation. On the one hand, Ukraine is increasingly supported by the United States, as the leading power of the world, capable of influencing Moscow's policy. On the other hand, because of Western sanctions, Russia's ability to continue aggression against Ukraine and confrontation with the United States and Europe is significantly decreasing. That is exactly what creates the basis for negotiations between Ukraine and Russia, at least on equal terms.

 

The report of the RAND Corporation “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia. Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options”
The report of the RAND Corporation “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia. Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options”

In this context, the USA's policy of strategic containment of Russia, which applies to all its most critical spheres, is crucial for Ukraine, and is based on the recommendations of leading American expert institutions. In particular, one of these is RAND Corporation, which fulfills the tasks for the US State Department, Department of Defense and special agencies with expert studies in military-political, military, economic, special and other spheres. In April 2019, a team of RAND experts prepared the report “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia. Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options”, which summarizes the US policy on Russian direction since 2014, and provides recommendations for the future. According to US experts, the USA's steps to contain Russia have already led to significant losses in the Russian economy, which exacerbates the socio-political situation in the country and changes the moods in the Russian society. For example, despite the Kremlin's statements that Russia has coped with consequences of Western sanctions, its economy is in a state of stagnation. At this, the level of income of the population is constantly decreasing without any prospects of change for better. As a result of such processes, V. Putin's rating has fallen to 31.7 %, which is the lowest index for the entire period of his stay in power. At the same time, the majority of Russians, 43 % vs. 34 %, do not support any Moscow's imperial ambitions, but advocate transformation of their country into a peaceful, developed and prosperous state with decent living standards for its citizens.

Therefore, a team of RAND experts developed options that the USA could pursue to stress Russia’s economy and armed forces and the regime's political standing at home and abroad. For example, they recommend: to provide military aid to Ukraine; to promote liberalization in Belarus and to expend ties with the countries of Central Asia and South Caucasus; to increase support to opponents of the B. Assad regime in Syria; to strengthen the ideological and informational influence on the Russian population.

Besides, it is considered necessary to further increase the US military presence in critical for Russia regions of the world, including in Central and Eastern Europe, the Baltic and the Black Sea regions, in the Mediterranean and in the Arctic. At the same time, it is proposed to return US strategic aviation to airbases in Europe, to reposition missile defense systems to intercept Russian ballistic missiles, and to deploy additional tactical nuclear weapons near Russia's borders. According to US experts, it will restrain Russia from using military force to carry out its external interests, and will also goad Russia into a costly arms race that will deplete Russian financial reserves.

And, of course, the RAND Corporation advises to impose deeper trade and financial sanctions on Russia. Including fundamentally new options, such as an introduction of a ban on operations with Russian securities and imposing an embargo on Russian oil imports. And in addition to this — ousting Russia from the world's energy markets by expanding US energy production and countering all attempts by Moscow to launch new gas pipelines to Europe bypassing Ukraine. It will deprive Russia of the main financial sources and will knock out from its hands the “energy weapon” as an instrument of pressure on the EU and Ukraine.

 

Within the framework of the above-mentioned proposals of the RAND Corporation, the main role is assigned to Ukraine, which is on the verge of the Russian expansion. Therefore, Ukraine's support is the basis of the US strategy for deterring Russia. All this objectively makes the United States the main ally of Ukraine, which offers a reliable shoulder to lean on in its confrontation with Russia. Moreover, all RAND's proposals, including support for Ukraine, are already being implemented in practice. Such US actions are well-known and do not need additional comments. Let us dwell only on the few resonance measures taken by Washington lately.

For example, in late May 2019, a draft law on expanding military aid to Ukraine, designation of Ukraine as a Major US Non-NATO Ally (which has already caused a real panic in Russia) was introduced to the US Congress. Another bill proposes to introduce five types of sanctions against the Russian gas pipeline “Nord Stream 2”, which bypasses Ukraine. Besides, in connection with the threat of Russia's aggression against Eastern Europe, the decision was made to increase the US military contingent in Poland to 5.5 thousand people.

Ukraine's support is the basis of the US strategy for deterring Russia. All this objectively makes the United States the main ally of Ukraine Ukraine's support is the basis of the US strategy for deterring Russia. All this objectively makes the United States the main ally of Ukraine
Ukraine's support is the basis of the US strategy for deterring Russia.
All this objectively makes the United States the main ally of Ukraine

All this determines the crucial importance and high level of responsibility of the forthcoming meeting of US and Ukrainian Presidents, when the foundations of US-Ukrainian relations will be laid for the future. And thus, it will enable Ukraine to resist Russia, including in various negotiation formats. Clearly, NATO and the EU remain Ukraine's partners, as they also adhere to consistent policy of deterring Russia and assisting Ukraine. This is what was demonstrated during the meetings between the President of Ukraine and NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg and the President of the European Commission J.-K. Juncker in Brussels on June 4, 2019.

The President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyi with NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg in Brussels on June 4, 2019 The President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyi with the President of the European Commission J.-K. Juncker in Brussels on June 4, 2019
The President of Ukraine V. Zelenskyi with NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg and
the President of the European Commission J.-K. Juncker in Brussels on June 4, 2019

Unfortunately, however, in the European countries and international organizations' approaches there are a number of internal contradictions and a tendency to compromise with Russia. All this can’t help causing Ukraine's certain distrust to them. How else can we perceive the decision to actually return Russia to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Germany's support to the Russian pipeline “Nord Stream 2”? Not to mention the absence of any clear signals and guarantees for Ukraine's membership in NATO and the EU, which are replaced by declarations.

…Only the United States can be considered the only reliable guarantor of security and realization of Ukraine's national interests…

That is why only the United States can be considered the only reliable guarantor of security and realization of Ukraine's national interests in various formats of bilateral cooperation. From the practical designation of Ukraine as a Major US Non-NATO Ally, and to creation of the so-called “NATO-2” consisting of the United States and the countries of the Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States that are most affected by Russia's threats. At one time, it was the United States that supported the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, which allowed them to escape Russia's influence and enter Europe. And at that to avoid Moscow's aggression.