March 14, 2016

Ukraine-Russia Relations Becoming “Hybrid”

Bohdan Sokolovskyi

Lately, due to the Russia's aggression against Ukraine and abuse of Ukrainian political prisoners, in particular, — Nadiya Savchenko, diplomatic relations between Ukraine and Russia have not been normal, but rather a sort of “hybrid”.

The parties do not dare to break the bilateral diplomatic relations, and thus create a precedent in the world, when the victim has a developed network of diplomatic missions in the aggressor country.

At first glance, the situation in Ukraine looks simple: the diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation are recommended to be broken, for example, through expansion of diplomatic relations in the EU countries in terms of the critical cost savings. Especially since we do not have an Ambassador in the Russian Federation.

If we took such steps, the Russian Federation would be forced to reduce its own diplomatic mission, or in such a way would be artificially created asymmetry, i.e., conditions for deportation of Russian diplomats from our territory.

This is — “at first glance”. But what really to do, in particular, how to guarantee the rights of Ukrainian citizens in the Russian Federation, who do not perceive that country as an enemy (because, unfortunately, among us there are opponents and proponents of the Russian Federation), no one actually knows. How to ensure the rights of even a small number of people who consider themselves Ukrainian citizens and have the right to rely on their own state? It is not clear whether our diplomatic agencies in the Russian Federation are able to ensure the rights of Ukrainian citizens, while for Russian diplomats in Ukraine — all is guaranteed?

There are no absolute answers to these questions either. But in any case it is clear that, with the exception of consular officers, positions of diplomats who should deal with economic, scientific-technical and cultural cooperation, etc., can be transferred to other countries, because these diplomats of both the countries have nothing to do.

How are Ukraine-Russia diplomatic relations carried out right now, during the aggression and persecution of Ukrainian citizens in Russia?

As for the top officials of the Missions, everything seems clear: the Russian Ambassador represents the interests of his state in Kyiv, but there is no Ukrainian Ambassador at all, as the former Ambassador left Moscow long ago. And what does it matter in the present-day Ukraine-Russia relations, when against Ukraine in full swing is Russia's aggression!

What do all other diplomats who specialize in specific areas (economy, science, culture, information, etc.), except for consular employees — is not known, since they no longer have an ability to cooperate effectively with the relevant specialized agencies, as the attitude to them, in the best case is not quite friendly.

In the country, which now acts as the aggressor, at least, our consular officers are working in not normal conditions. This is clearly seen, in particular, in the infamous case of the alleged letter of the President of Ukraine to Nadiya Savchenko. Besides, both, here and there, consular offices are often picketed which does not contribute to the work of consular officials.

Therefore, Ukraine-Russia diplomatic relations are increasingly obtaining some quite strange and even unnecessary features and functions. Most (or all) diplomats (both, ours in Russia and theirs in Ukraine) are simply not needed because now absolutely nothing depends on them. Taking into consideration the fact that in Ukraine, there is not enough money to finance foreign diplomatic institutions, and we have not yet decided on the integration into the EU, etc., for the time of the aggression, Ukraine-Russia diplomatic relations could be minimized in favor of extension of diplomatic activity in the EU countries. Our interests in Russia may be represented by diplomats of other countries — such a practice is known. When the time comes to restore diplomatic relations — there will be no problems, judging by our national interests, needs and opportunities.

Perhaps it would be good to reduce (or at least decrease) the Ukrainian diplomatic presence in the world due to its expansion in the EU, USA and other democratic countries — also in the context of efficient use and maintenance of our movement into the EU and in general to democracy?

And is it worth, with lack of funds, to comprise more than 80 limited embassies in the world? Would it not be wiser to have fewer, but those who could fully defend Ukraine's national interests? The same applies to consular employees. This experience of other countries is known.