June 30, 2019

Returning Russia's Rights in the PACE

A Catastrophe or a Warning for Ukraine?


Since 2014, the support of our state by Western countries and international organizations in the confrontation with Russia is critically important for Ukraine. First of all, this concerns the USA, the EU and NATO's actions to contain the aggressive policy of Moscow through sanctions and increasing of military presence in Europe, as well as financial, economic and military technical assistance to Ukraine.

In general, our Western partners' attitude to Russia's aggression against Ukraine remains unchanged. But lately, some European countries have been making attempts to reach agreement with Moscow, including at the expense of certain concessions in its favor. In particular, a manifestation of this was the decision of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to return Russia's voting rights in it.

In fact, such a decision completely contradicts the principles of the PACE, which was created to promote Europe's peaceful and democratic development through the observance of international law by European countries. In this regard, the desire of France, Germany, Italy and a number of other countries to improve relations with Russia to prevent further aggravation of the situation on the eastern borders of the EU and to create favorable conditions for their own business, outweighed their commitment to European values. Not to mention that they have neglected their obligations to Ukraine, at least within the framework of the PACE.

As rightly pointed out by Ukrainian experts, all this resembles the Munich Agreement of September 1938, when Britain and France agreed to the Hitler Germany's annexation of the Sudeten Region of Czechoslovakia. Literally a year after that, on September 1, 1939, World War II began, during which France was occupied by Germany, and Great Britain suffered heavy losses. And then Germany itself, which was forced to surrender to the mercy of the winners in May 1945, was destroyed. As a result, the world was divided between the USA and the USSR (in fact — Russia).

Is it possible that nobody remembers history and does not draw conclusions from it. It seems almost none. With the exception of the UK and some countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, which feel a real threat from Moscow.

…The EU countries have shown their preferences exclusively to their own interests. Russia has been and remains an aggressor and will not give up its goals of establishing control over Ukraine…

And what should we expect now?

Russia's occupation of the whole of Ukraine, as was once done by Germany regarding Czechoslovakia. And then, — the Third World War in a year or two?

Hopefully, it won't come to this. Although I would like to understand why PACE did make concessions to Russia. To some extent, we have already mentioned this above. One may also agree with other experts' assessments, which are widely covered in the media. They speak about the spread of selfish moods in the countries of the European Union. And the growing disagreements between the USA and Europe, which made the latter more sensitive to Russia's influence. And Moscow's active work on changing the EU's policy in its favor, including by bribing influential representatives of the political and economic circles of European countries. And, perhaps, Europe's really getting “fatigue” from Ukraine, which has failed to conduct real reforms that could turn it into a real European state.


However, this is not at all a “decisive victory of Russia” and does not give it any really significant advantages over Ukraine. In reality, PACE is a purely consultive and advisory body, that is, just a “platform for conversations” without any real powers. Of course, Russia may and will use this “platform” as another channel for its policy, including within the framework of the continuation of its “hybrid” war against Ukraine. However, Russia is already doing this through the UN, OSCE and other organizations, where it has always kept its membership in full.

Besides, returning Russia's rights in the PACE does not mean the EU and the USA's lifting the sanctions against it, which were introduced for the annexation of Crimea and provoking the conflict in the Donbas. According to the statements by leaders of Western countries and international organizations, the sanctions will continue until Russia returns Crimea to Ukraine and fulfills the Minsk Agreements. At this, such statements are supported by consistent actions to implement them in practice.

The impact of Western sanctions on the Russian economy
The impact of Western sanctions on the Russian economy

For example, on June 27 this year, the Council of the European Union officially extended the sanctions against Russia for non-fulfillment of the Minsk Agreements for another six months until January 31, 2020. Earlier — on June 20, 2007, the Council extended the use of restrictive measures against the RF for the occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol by June 23, 2020. Despite the appeals of the representatives of certain European countries for lifting sanctions against Russia, at present they are extended by the EU actually without discussion, which is significantly different from 2015–2016, when this issue caused severe disagreements.

The firm policy of deterring Russia is also being pursued by the United States, which consistently build up sanctions against it under the “Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” and other legislative acts. At this, Moscow's hopes for the possibility of D. Trump's changing Washington's strategy do not yield any results. The testimony of this is the meeting between the US and Russian Presidents on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Japan on June 28–29, which confirmed the preservation of fundamental differences between the parties over Ukraine. Moreover, on the eve of the meeting, D. Trump openly called Russia a potential military opponent of the United States.

NATO has a similar position in relation to Russia. For example, during the briefing in Kyiv on June 26, 2019, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly M. Moon completely ruled out the possibility of returning the RF to the Organization (as an observer). The invariability of the Alliance's policy towards Russia was also confirmed during the meeting of the Assembly’s Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council on June 23–25, 2019 in Lviv.

At the same time, the European Union, the USA and NATO continue to actively cooperate with Ukraine and increase the support to our state. In particular, on June 27, 2019, the Senate of the US Congress approved a bill on the allocation of 300 million US dollars for military assistance to Ukraine. This amount exceeds last year's allocations by 50 million US dollars. In turn, by the end of this year, the EU plans to provide Ukraine with another tranche of macrofinancial assistance in the amount of 500 million Euros. Also, all programs of cooperation between Ukraine and its Western partners in the political, economic and security spheres remain unchanged.


So it is still too early for Russia to celebrate victory, even if a purely symbolic one. Especially in returning to Russia its rights in the PACE, things are nowhere near as simple as they seem. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has postponed the final resolution of this issue until the status of Russian deputies elected from the occupied Crimea is clarified by the Venice Commission. And by the April 2020 PACE session, the Monitoring Committee of the Assembly should submit a report on Moscow's fulfillment of its international obligations, including in relation to Crimea and the Donbas. By the way, this fact is deliberately concealed by the Russian media and for some reason is ignored by Ukrainian ones.

…All this creates a direct threat to Ukraine and should become a real educational lesson. First and foremost, to what may lead the policy of imitation of defending the state interests of Ukraine, and not its successful realization. Not to mention possible flirting with Russia and believing its promises…

Under such circumstances, Moscow is trying to create an impression of the positive nature of its policies by demonstrating “goodwill” and willingness to take steps to meet Ukraine half way in exchange for improving relations with the West. This is exactly the reason for the easing of Russia's position on the resumption of negotiations in the Norman format and the exchange of prisoners, as well as trade with Ukraine. In particular, this concerns Moscow's permission to import from Ukraine a number of goods, and the transit of Ukrainian goods through Russian territory.

At the same time, we should not relax and hope for the help of our Western partners and Russia's “goodwill”. On the one hand, the EU countries have already shown their preferences exclusively to their own interests, and on the other — Russia has been and remains an aggressor and will not give up its goals of establishing control over Ukraine. Plus, we should not rule out that the returning of Russia's rights in the PACE can indeed become a trigger for the start of the process of lifting Western sanctions from it.

All this creates a direct threat to Ukraine and should become a real educational lesson. First and foremost, to what may lead the policy of imitation of defending the state interests of Ukraine, and not its successful realization. Not to mention possible flirting with Russia and believing its promises.