The Geneva agreement on defusing the crisis in Ukraine is dead, according to the Kremlin. Ukraine has already accused Russia of undermining the de-escalation process, but now the Russian government has declared the agreement to be in tatters after Ukraine launched a major operation to push separatist gunmen out of Slavyansk in the east of the country. Reports suggest government troops are clearing barricades from around the city, despite two helicopters being shot down by rebels during the assault.
We’ve received thousands of comments on the crisis in Ukraine, and we’ve be interviewing policy-makers to get their reactions (most recently the Slovakian and Maltese Foreign Ministers), but we have not, until today, published responses from the Ukrainian or Russian governments. However, earlier this week we spoke to Ihor Dolhov, Ambassador of Ukraine to NATO. How would he react to some of your comments?
We started with a comment sent in by Limbidis, who argued that the EU would like to help Ukraine but was limited in what it could do without escalating the situation. He did not want to see a war break out, so he thought visa sanctions from the EU and US were the only option left. How would Dolhov respond?
Russia and my country could never get involved in a conflict if it wasn’t for NATO. We have no resources, we have no common cultural background… we don’t have Russian minorities [and] when it comes to our military we aren’t a threat either…
Ambassador Dolhov responded that failure to react to Russia’s actions would lead to a more violent and dangerous international order. He argued that this was not a bilateral issue, but rather an issue of international peace and security. Russia was encouraged by the lack of a strong reaction to the conflict with Georgia in 2008, which Dolhov believed undermined the global security system and led directly to the situation today.
But how would he respond to the comment from Maike, who argued that Russia was merely defending its geo-strategic interests in the region, and the crisis was sparked by clumsy EU foreign policy. Was the crisis caused by the possibility that Ukraine might one day join the EU and NATO? Here’s Maike’s comment:
I think the problem is not necessarily with [EU membership], but with possible NATO membership for Ukraine (something which usually follows EU accession). Since the West promised the then-Soviet Union that German reunification would not result in an Eastern enlargement of NATO and then broke its word, Russia’s reaction is not surprising.
Dolhov dismissed this suggestion completely. He argued that Ukraine is a free country and can take decisions for itself, and that it was up to Ukraine to decide what international organisations they are members of, not Russia.
Finally, the ambassador was very clear that there was no situation which would warrant EU or NATO peacekeepers being deployed to Ukraine. Whilst he welcomed non-military support from Europe, he rejected any suggestion that foreign troops could become involved.
We do not want any country or organisation to deploy military forces on our territory. We are self-sufficient in this regard. Ukraine has a strong army, and if – though nobody wants this to happen – but if Ukrainian borders are crossed by Russian troops, we will protect our country.