Speaker: Dr. Volodymyr Dubovyk, Associate Professor, Odessa Mechnikov National University, Ukraine
Chair: Dr. Andrew Foxall
Tuesday 19th January 2016
Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London, SW1P 4QP
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Henry Jackson Society. For those of you for whom it’s your first event of 2016, a happy new year from all of us at the Society. I am delighted that we’re able to host this evening Dr. Volodymyr Dubovyk. Volodymyr is an associate professor in the department of international relations at Odessa national university in Ukraine. He has held fellowships at the Kennan Institute in the US, the Wilson Center, the Center for International Security Studies at the University of Maryland and at the University of Washington as well. He participates in a transnational collaboration of Western Ukrainian-Russian scholars based at the George Washington University called the [inaudible] group, and he is – as far as I’m concerned at least – one of Ukraine’s brightest and most prominent social scientists. As I say it’s a real delight to have him with us this evening. He’ll be speaking to the title of what the Ukraine crisis reveals about the West, and he’s promised me that he’ll be as provocative as possible. He’ll speak for about 20 minutes or so thus leaving plenty of time for the Q&A session afterwards. Without any further ado – Volodomyr.
Many thanks Andrew. It’s my great pleasure to be talking here today at the Henry Jackson Society. I’ve familiarized myself with the work done by this society a couple of years ago, and I visited your offices in Summer 2014. It was my previous summer here and I had a lot of talks at the Henry Jackson Society and at other places around London at that time. I would also like to thank another co-host of this event, the Ukrainian Institute London. They together with you, Andrew – I understand they put this event together, and it’s a great pleasure for me.
I have 3 talks here in London this week and it’s a good balance I think, because certainly I’ll be talking about Ukraine, but specifically about my region of Odessa and what’s going on there, with Mr. Saakashvili being around and so on, and another talk will be on EU-Ukraine relations at the Center for European Reform, and finally today I’m talking about the West – not finally but chronologically the first talk is here and on ‘what can we say about the West’ through the prism of Ukraine’s crisis. So it’s a good balance for me to be speaking about what’s happening in Ukraine – to be speaking about what’s happening BETWEEN the West and Ukraine and also what’s happening here in the West since the crisis in Ukraine has begun. Obviously I think the most politically correct name for the crisis is indeed the crisis OVER Ukraine because it underscores that the crisis is not just about what is going on in and inside of Ukraine. Now the West has performed a variant degree of efficiency and efficacy should I say, towards Ukraine’s crisis. The crisis or even the conflict now – a lot of people are questioning ‘can we even say crisis? It’s a conflict – a lot of people died already so how can you still talk about it as a crisis’. Whatever you call it – conflict or crisis – it’s not just about Ukraine, not just about Russia, not just about the Soviet space, Eurasia – but also about the West. And a lot of people even question this notion of the West – I mean let me begin from this speculations and some deliberations on the subject of – what is the West? Can we actually operate with this notion and with this term and with this definition of the West? There’s been for a number of years this notion of an ‘integrated West’ quotation marks, meaning that it’s a sub-thing that is a grouping of nations, of countries – it is bound by [inaudible] and interests, some strategic vision, a common strategic tradition, a set of rules and so-on. But other people are saying there is no such thing anymore. So instead not this coherent group of countries of nation states, but instead it’s a loose group of countries and players that we only call the West by nurture, really. There is no such diplomatic or political concept anymore as ‘the West’. What [inaudible] we refer when referring to the West? Each of us have our own definitions and meanings. What is our departure point? You know I just came here across the street from seeing an interesting exhibit on artists and empire at the Tate Britain. So that’s one ‘West’ that some people might have in their minds when they speak about the West – some kind of glorious imperial past – but that West hasn’t existed for a long time anymore. Then of course there’s the West that was there through the times of the Cold War – but they’re not around anymore. So what kind of West are we talking about here? Even geographically – who do we attribute to the West. Is it just a bunch of European countries plus US and Canada or is it more? Is Japan the West? Is Australia and New Zealand the West? If you subscriber to the vaguest base point of view they probably are. I remember [inaudible] who was a commissioner of the European Commission – the head of the European Commission – and he said once ‘I would rather see New Zealand as a member of the European Union than Ukraine’. And I remember that many of us in Ukraine were kind of upset by him saying that, but I know where he’s coming from. If you provide this particular attitude and this particular approach towards what the West means or what European means then he’s probably right – he was probably right at that point of time.
So a lot of people are saying that each of us would have our own understanding of the West. There is a more or less traditional, or should I say more liberal-democratic meaning of the West, and even though within it you would also find some different interpretations – then people let’s say in the right wing or the extreme right wing – they would subscribe probably to a different type of West in their minds. In their heads it would talk about something which is based on Christian religion, something which is based on the sanctity of marriage, something which would be bordering sometimes with a racist point of view, purity of race, clear xenophobia, anti-immigration feelings – to them something which I just described is their understanding of what the West is. Then people on the hardcore left – anywhere here in the Western countries including this particular country which is a fascinating example actually to speak about these different ‘Wests’ in the minds of different people – the West is bad. The West is inherently bad. It’s an imperialist West. It’s a West that a lot of people on the West would like to see defeated, or disappear completely. [To] get away and just basically evaporate from history. So there are different Wests here, and a lot of people are talking about the need to revive the West or a need for a renaissance of the West – whatever you mean by that. Whatever West are you talking about here, clearly on one obvious point here, the people in the West [inaudible] a long peace dividend that they have enjoyed since the end of the Cold War. There’s no doubt about it. People have got used to living in a long time of no major conflict – not being on the brink of major confrontation or major war with another great power, let alone a nuclear power like the Russian Federation is – and people were enjoying these times for 25 plus years – of those times of living through peace dividends. So it’s not… You get comfortable, you get on this zone of comfort, and it’s not very easy for you under circumstances with this Russian threat emerging on the horizon to get out of this zone of comfort. So that’s one lesson we see obviously that a lot of people here in the various countries in the West are basically saying – well, maybe what Russians are doing is not that bad, it doesn’t really necessitate us to go to drastic changes in our behaviour and alter our posture towards Russia and so on. The degree of unity and coherence here and cohesiveness here in the West is very low. The European Union is not… I do not subscribe to that school of people who are basically saying the EU is doomed, it’s going nowhere, European Project is over and stuff like that, but there is a crisis – there’s a bunch of crises actually, different types of crisis that the EU is facing, and clearly a common foreign security policy is not something of success. What we’re seeing in the crisis over Ukraine is that it’s a major test for the EU, and instead of this common foreign policy we see this nationalization of foreign polices by nation states. And that’s something we didn’t expect say 20 years ago when the EU was emerging and everyone was basically predicting ‘whatever’ and a lot of people were just saying ‘oh just wait and there will be no nation states anymore, just a European megastate’ or something like that. Something otherwise is taking place and we see it now. We’re now talking about the most powerful nation states like it was in European before, who are calling the shots. And we’re reminded again of this famous saying once uttered by Henry Kissinger when he came to Europe and said ‘who do we talk to?’ you know, who is this top figure that we can negotiate and resolve issues with. Because it’s too complicated – you have the European Commission, and now it’s even more complicated – you have various commissions, you have Mr. Tusk, you have Mr. Junker, so in theory if you are outside of Europe and you wanna talk to someone you would talk to one of them – but in real life, in practice you would probably call Berlin these days. So that’s what is happening and that’s not new, that’s not entirely something which is caused by the crisis over Ukraine, but which has reinforced the situation of nationalization of foreign policies within the Western World, [inaudible] force by Ukrainian crisis. So that’s another thing I would like to mention.
So another thing is clearly the West is corrupted by Russia. In many ways. There is political corruption, there is information propaganda onslaught that Russia is waging on the West, a lot of people are aware of this kind of information warfare that’s been there for years vis-a-vi Ukraine, many other Russian-speaking areas in the post-soviet space by Russia, by this huge well-lubricated machine founded in Moscow, but also there is an onslaught on Western audiences as well, as we are now well aware. And it took a lot of us by surprise – it took a lot of us [inaudible] here by surprise, how appealing to some people Russian propaganda is. A lot of people here in the West are obviously looking for some alternative sources of information, and they become susceptible to Russian media messages – they are looking for something unusual – instead, they get themselves through this constant barrage of lies that Russia is producing addressed to the West. And there are some monstrous lies, but that’s even better because that’s how conspiracy minds are working. You know the more monstrous the lie is, the more there is a probability of certain people consume it as an ultimate truth. And then also financial corruption – let us not even talk about this. Russia is founding a lot of political movements in the West. Some better known examples would be the handy-hefty loan provided by Russian banks to the National Front in France, the Czech president who was also funded partially by Russian money, and then perhaps in the coming years more instigations of certain political projects here in the West being funded directly by Russia or by some process [inaudible] to Kremlin. So there are all sorts of corruption we see is working really, in terms of eroding or corroding this sort of coherence and unity of the West.
Another thing I would like to mention is that the West only becomes in my mind an efficient and working entity when both sides of the Atlantic work together. And now is a time indeed like never before for the transatlantic Euro-Atlantic cooperation to foster, to flourish, to come back… It’s needed badly. The two elements that are needed here are the [inaudible] by Europeans to carry its part of the burden, but then also American leadership is needed. And as we know it’s not necessarily forthcoming. I think both our European friends and now American friends have done a lot to help Ukraine; to alleviate some of those challenges we’ve been facing now these days, or for the past wo years or so… Yet more is needed. Unfortunately this current Washington administration is being deliberately reluctant to provide the leadership that we would be expecting. It doesn’t matter if we could somehow theoretically think that other administrations… Would they be behaving differently? Maybe not, maybe yes… That’s pure speculation. But what right now we see is that the US is basically distancing itself from Europe from Eurasia, from the Ukraine crisis. It delegates its policy to its European allies, and there is certain good in that, and positive in it, when you see the degree of co-ordination between say Berlin and Washington DC. But at the same time a lot of us here in Ukraine, in the West, who tend to believe in this transatlantic partnership are surprised in a negative way, not in a good way, by this deliberate attempt by Obama administration not to embrace the leadership position.
It’s not just about Ukraine – it’s actually the global policy that this administration is following these days. Now another thing that we see, and it teaches us a little bit about the crisis – Putin really outplays the West. Now it’s another thing if he’s gonna be the ultimate winner in this – there are question marks. A lot of people say and I tend to agree that he is digging his own grave, that he’s an adventurer, that he’s undermining Russia, the Russian economy and so on. But at the same time he always puts the West before some crisis, before some challenge which was not expected – which was not foreseen, which was not anticipated. So he outplays the West in that perspective – the West is too reactionary, I think. It’s always like, okay, Putin made the next move so what do we do now. And why not recapture – capture – the initiative? And that hasn’t been forthcoming for this two years of crisis. But the West – why not put Putin on the defensive, in many ways? Definitely not in a military way. Now there’s a famous saying, a couple of years ago by Robert Kagan, one of those gurus of the Neocons in the US who said that Europeans are from Venus, Americans are from Mars, but these days sometimes Americans are from Venus as well. So is the West from Venus and Putin is from Mars? That’s an interesting subject for us to discuss. The whole correlation and this discussion – theoretical discussion of soft power versus hard power, is now thrust into the practical reality of our lives. It’s not anymore that we would [inaudible] scholars are various conventions and conferences. That’s actually something that’s playing out in real life in the crisis over Ukraine. It appears so, that the West is indeed playing chess, and insists that it wants to go on just playing chess while Putin plays hockey. And that’s the reality. But what do you do about it? If you’re the West, do you change your game? Do you begin to play along the lines that Putin’s playing? But then you lose something in which you believe, right? And we still say ‘well no we believe that chess is a better game for us.’ We’re better equipped in playing this game, and this game is based on certain values and traditions and generations of rules. And international law and everything else. So should we actually abandon our game of chess and begin to get to this obsolete ugly brutal game of hockey or something like that? Or should we actually continue as it appears the west is doing to appeal to Putin all the time, basically telling him all the time, oh nonono, stop what you’re doing, play chess, play chess, that’s the game we’re playing here, do not misbehave – something like that.
Even if you’re doing this in the light of evidence – it’s not working out, it’s not working, really. Putin is not listening to you – that’s not what he’s planning to do. Is this soft power enough or not, you know? And I remember again for 20 plus years of the Cold War, it was almost like bad manners to come to the conference and talk about hard security and hard power and how many planes and tanks and battleships you have – but [inaudible]. And everyone was saying – oh who cares? It’s obsolete. What is your understanding of what’s going on in the international arena? It doesn’t matter any more – it’s about diplomatic influence and political cloud and economic growth and the environment and stuff like that – and it is! But as we now see, hard power matters. How many battleships and airplanes you have DOES matter. A lot of people here in the West completely ignore or misread the wakeup signal of 2008 – the five-days war of Russia against Georgia. And a lot of people were saying initially no no no, it’s not possible for Russian troops to actually enter Georgia proper – and they did! And later on a lot of experts were saying – no, this is a Georgian-specific case, we cannot imagine it happening to Ukraine. And it did! And now there’s this when someone here in the West is saying, okay Ukraine is a specific case – but let’s not talk about Russians intervening or invading the Baltic republics. I would say – why shouldn’t we talk about it? That’s possible now. Everything’s possible now through the prism of what we’ve seen in the Kremlin and Moscow and what Putin’s doing for the several last years. And now everyone’s talking about this, so why shouldn’t we talk about this? So if you’re the West – is having soft power only enough where you have actually to add something else? In this particular respect, the nature is important. It’s a make-or-break moment, I think. A lot of people are basically saying oh, it’s a great time for NATO because actually [inaudible]. It gives us another second breath, so to speak – a second life, another push for being more reliable – not reliable but to be more relevant, to what is going on. But at the same time there is a danger of NATO not being up to that task. There is still a kind of… Of a choice of path for NATO in the coming years. Is it to become reliable or more reflecting of the challenges of the new times and coming up with a clear understanding of mission and function? Or would it be actually doomed indeed to show that NATO is hollow, stems from nothing, article 5 of the Washington Treaty is basically nothing, it’s something that belongs to history textbooks, it’s not something that they are ready to uphold and live up to, if something happens to say Estonia or Latvia or elsewhere. So that’s another subject – NATO is important.
Another thing, and I’m coming to a couple of concluding thoughts before we break for the Q&A and discussion – another thing I would like to mention is that of course in the West you have this fortress mentality phenomenon, meaning that there is a group of nations and countries where people have relatively high standards of living that they enjoy, and their understanding would be that everything that’s going on around them, including events in Ukraine and around Ukraine, is something [inaudible] but distant, so we can probably just put up a fence – the higher the better – and then we shouldn’t intervene, and then we should basically focus on defending our zone of prosperity. Of course that’s not how it works in the real world of today – of interdependence, of globalization, of things not just what has happened in Ukraine, but sometimes events that happen thousands of kilometres away from Europe being able to influence what’s happening in Europe. So that’s another thing.
And then also there is temptation we see among some of my colleagues and politicians in the West to adhere – to subscribe to this certain breed or type of classical realpolitik thinking over the crisis in Ukraine. A lot of people are saying that if we are in the West, we should just leave it to Russia – all of it, not just Ukraine, but all of this post-Soviet space. It’s their sphere of privilege and interest – Russians like to call it our sphere of ‘privilege and interest’. A lot of people in the West say this – that well, it is not our sphere of influence but the Russians’, and we are not prepared to counter Russia there. Smaller nations they would say, cynically enough, are doomed, they should know their place, especially when, like Ukraine, they are next to great powers.
I remember back in London in 2014 there was a panel at Chatham House, and Jon [inaudible] was speaking there. He is one of the major voices behind this kind of narrative on the crisis over Ukraine. He’s basically saying Ukraine has no right, it has no agency. It’s not the subject of international relations, it just happened to be in a difficult neighbourhood, and this neighbourhood is being next to Russia, and there is a huge Russia, we should talk to Russia over the heads of Ukrainians, and that’s how it should be. And I see unfortunately in many countries in the West that this kind of narrative is actually prevailing these days, and actually gaining traction and gaining influence, specifically with some dissatisfaction over the basis of reforms in Ukraine for instance, and the corruption still persisting in Ukraine for instance, and also in this situation they clearly lack the instruments and levers indeed – what else can you do about Russian misbehaviour and aggression and the annexation of Crimea, aggression in Donbass – what can you do? Not much. [Inaudible] that they can use, and it was this background – I think that this realpolitik line of thought might be gaining more popularity in years to come, and that’s dangerous, because you have this [inaudible] preposition, this proposal to neutralize Ukraine – to permanently neutralize Ukraine like you would solve anything. Yes you might take away both Ukraine’s security and autonomy in the sense of its ability to pursue its own foreign policy based on national interests – but it wouldn’t solve anything. You will still leave Ukraine at mercy of Russia – an aggressive Russia that would still not be very difficult to implement – like how it would be different from Budapest Memorandum of 1994 at all? If you sign some kind of permanent neutrality treaty on Ukraine – how do you enforce it? Who will be the ranchers? That’s all this questions but yet this idea that ‘okay, Ukraine should be neutral’ is gaining traction.
And most final thing in my presentation here today before break for questions is that indeed the West is still primarily using the soft power instruments… The first stage, as they dig towards Russia since the crisis has begun, was to use positive incentives – talk Russia out of it, to try and talk Putin to his senses. I mean what are you doing, stop what you’re doing, outrageous behaviour – he didn’t. Then the next stage was negative – EU sanctions. Now there is a whole lot of discussion about sanctions being sufficient enough, you know, productive, unproductive, you know, and so-on – but that’s it. The major thing here is that there is nothing besides sanctions that the West can actually come up with in its attitude towards Russian military behaviour. Belligerence is out of the question because no-one in the West wants a direct confrontation. We in Ukraine don’t want direct confrontation between the West and Russia because we will be the battleground state of this – that’s where the confrontation would be waged – it would be in Ukraine, and nobody wants to be a battleground and be absolutely devastated by this confrontation. But what else can you do? So I think there was a lack of creative thinking on the part of the West in terms of what else can you do. And apparently scaring tactics on the part of Putin working because he doesn’t fail to remind us each and every speech, or most of them, that Russia is a big nuclear power, so ‘bear in mind’. And a lot of people in the West are basically trembling, they’re saying ‘oh, he’s unpredictable, so who knows what he can do next’. And when I talk to the experts, when I talk to the people on the street in any country here, I go on the streets and talk to the people, and they say ‘Oh, we’re on your side. We very much have a compassion for what you’re going through. Of course Putin is misbehaving but we don’t want this direct confrontation with Russia, being a nuclear power’. So in a respect that is his ultimate weapon – that Russia is a nuclear power. What’s happening now is some kind of unilateral cold war – where Russia is taking all these steps – and the West is not really reacting in the proper way, you know? A parallel analogy would be the second half of the 1940s – imagine there is a blockade of Berlin but there is no airlift. Or imagine there is an intent to go into Turkey and Greece to influence who runs those two countries and there is no Truman Doctrine. So that’s something similar with… A little bit mechanistic, but still it’s something similar to what we see right now. Yes there are sanctions, there are debates and so on, but that’s it. There is no understanding and no willingness and no consensus in terms of what the Russian threat is. How big it is, how strategic it is. Is it something that validates a change of posture by the West, or not? A lot of people here in the West would clearly like to go about business as usual with Russia, as it was prior to the crisis of Ukraine. And all of this yelling by Ukrainians – help us, help us, how don’t you see that what Russia is doing is a problem not just for Ukraine but clearly anyone to the West of Ukraine – basically all of these cries by Ukraine are often ignored by people in the West, and that’s how it is. So I’m afraid it’s not a very optimistic all roses scenario. You know, I believe that the West is still in a position to be able to correct his behaviour, and [inaudible] bear in mind that there is a different Russia that we are facing these days – we, and this time I mean both Ukraine and our friends in the West – and we should remember this. It’s not just about Putin obviously. Imagine Putin is out of Kremlin anytime soon or not soon – there is a high probability of them pursuing ghte same policy. So we should be preparing ourselves, I think, for the long haul – for this kind of – if not confrontation, we might not call it a new cold war, but some kind of different strategic situation that we’re facing and us, on the battleline, on the frontline of this confrontation next to Russia – we feel it the most, but our friends in the West I think should feel it as well, and we should somehow co-ordinate these policies and that I think should be the major lesson of the crisis over Ukraine – which is still ongoing, as we speak, because we can’t really say it’s over. It’s only the time when it will be really over that we will be able to draw all the lessons, but history’s specific case, you know… I remember [inaudible] once said, and I quote, he got a question like what does he think about the French Revolution, and he said I think that too little time has passed for us to draw any conclusions. You know? So the Ukrainian crisis is still something which is ongoing, but the first lessons are… It’s already time for us to draw some lessons. Thank you.
[almost totally inaudible]
Alright well thank you for your question and I think it’s a great question. Indeed, I didn’t mention this even but one of the major purposes and objectives for what Putin is doing is not just… His game really goes beyond Ukraine obviously. He tries to disunite the West, the EU, and NATO. He tries to drive this web of divisions, confusions in the West. That’s what he does with his foreign policy, diplomacy, financial means, propaganda machine as well. Because what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to confuse the public here in the West, the government and public here in the West, in order to influence the public’s demands – it’s a model you have here in most European countries. And therefore, the public would be not convinced that we’re facing Russian aggression then there would be a demand on the government not to do anything about this aggression because there’s no aggression. Peter [inaudible] called it ‘nothing’s true and everything’s possible’ that’s Russian approach. In addition, to constantly just putting whoever’s there to consume Russian view, what’s going on in Ukraine. There’s also this general approach which is basically, everyone’s lying, okay. So your government’s lying to you, we’re probably lying as well, so that’s Putin’s lying. He would say, no troops there, then little later, yes some troops there. It happened to Crimea, it happened to Donbass now. Of course there are some military personnel, but he said on countless occasions that there were none. So let’s get into this category of lying, but why not – everyone’s lying! And also, he’s blaming the West, but not on terms of struggling or strangling Russia with NATO expansion, EU expansion, but he’s also saying that what we’re doing right now is what the West is doing. He doesn’t see a difference, really, between what he’s doing and what some countries in the West – the most attention being given to the United States – have done in previous years and so-on. So indeed I think his attention is to disunite the West, and I didn’t even mention it but obviously in this audience you would know about it, that he’s had a lot of helping hands on both extreme left and extreme right. And this country as I said in particular, it’s an example sometimes when you listen to what Nigel Farage said or Mr. Corbyn says – they’re coming from absolutely different departure points, I think, ideologically, but when it comes to their view on the crisis over Ukraine and what Russia does, they’re saying similar things. And that’s of course a unique phenomenon, I think, really. We haven’t seen it quite like that in previous years. A lot of friends and contacts of mine are already beginning to call it some kind of red-brown coalition, you know, when you have this extreme left and extreme right working together as friends of Mr. Putin. It’s not just here in Britain, it’s everywhere in the West – US is a specific case, perhaps. But they have their own bunch of, you know, people on the fringe – definitely in Europe. So that’s a game he’s playing and he believes he still has a chance to win, thank you.
It’s an expensive business fighting wars in Syria and the Ukraine. The Russian economy is almost totally dependent on oil and gas export, and it’s said that he needs 70 dollars of barrels [inaudible] budget. He’s working his way through his reserves. How much longer can Putin go on spending all of this money without serious financial crisis?
It’s another good question obviously and actually I forgot to mention in answering the previous question about the Syria adventure that Putin is having now – I don’t think he is succeeding in what he tried to do in Syria, because one of the aims obviously is to support Assad. Another is to return Russia to the Middle-East to some extent. But also to have this maneuver to appear as some kind of a reliable partner and potential partner for the Western coalition, fighting Islamic State and Da’ish, and you know, in Syria. And he’s not convincing. I mean, there were a few voices here in the West, initially, who said that basically, okay, that’s a good opportunity for us, we should work with Russia, but then eventually people started to say, well, maybe what Russia’s doing there is not trying to help us to defeat Islamic State. They’re up to something else. In terms of financial limitations and restrictions on Putin’s policy and what he does towards the Ukraine, I’m not an economist – I hear a lot about Russia struggling and they’re eating into their massive stabilization reserve fund, and they have [inaudible] over a year since decreasing it’s shrinking rapidly enough – but apparently I think that those of us who – and I wasn’t among them ever – who tended to believe that Russia is some sort of huge economic corporation these days – so Russia only operates on the basis of what they see is financially beneficial to them. This narrative – this kind of explanation doesn’t work with what they do to the Ukraine – it really doesn’t work with what they’ve done to Crimea. They are willing – Putin and his inner circle – to pay a high price for what they’re doing to Ukraine. They think that Ukraine matters to them more than certain problems in the financial life that they’re having. They still have some reserves. Well they will get some money from their pensions, from the pensioners, and still use them to help Donbass and whatever they’re doing to Donbass. They’re sending these humanitarian convoys – nobody really knows what they are, what is in those trucks. So I wouldn’t be daring to put any forecast in terms of how long, for how many more months or years he is willing. A lot of people see him already, fledgling and really hesitating on being willing to negotiate. I’ve seen an article by Timothy [inaudible] Nash, and he posted a thing just yesterday, but he’s basically seeing the signs of Putin slipping back a bit and saying, okay, we’re ready to negotiate, we probably got too far with Donbass, something like that. If that is true, I don’t know if we’re reading too much into this, but probably [inaudible], so there are some signs perhaps of him basically acknowledging that his position is not only potent, that he is not almighty, that he, you know, whatever the Russian Orthodox [inaudible] having discussions of his divine nature, you know but he’s in the [inaudible] of what he can do, so therefore perhaps you’re right in your question that he is calculating. So what is the prize that we’re ready to see on the thing called Ukraine, alright. That doesn’t include Crimea, obviously, they’re very serious about Crimea. I think for any time in the future, the only opportiunity for Crimea leaving Russia and maybe coming back to Crimea would be something under the scenario of the disintegration of the Russian Federation in general. So there are no easy obvious scenarios of Crimea coming back to Ukraine. They will be defending Crimea – Crimea right now to them matters much more than many other, I think, regions and cities in Russia proper, so that doesn’t – well but at Donbass they’re ready to stop their adventure I think. It’s then up to Ukraine, if that happens, to face the challenge of reintegrating Donbass, which would be a herculean job indeed.
William [inaudible] center for freedom of the media, university of Sheffield. I’d like to invite you to come back to the Western side because we got strayed again with the Russian intentions and the point of this session – I think you haven’t quite yet answered your own questions that you raised about the balances within the Western sphere about how they will calculate how far to go in containing Putin. I mean just look… You started a couple of thoughts, and it seems to me that there’s a lot of resentment – antagonism – throughout the West, with Ukraine causing trouble for their relationship with Moscow. I completely agree with that. My analysis, though, reporting out of Germany for a long time [inaudible], is that Germany is absolutely key to this, because the special relationship raised by successive German leaders from Helmut Kohl, from Schroder, up to Merkel herself until recently, was predicated on Russia first. But what you see, quite surprisingly, was with Ukraine showing Russia that it was not going to have it so easy. Then the [inaudible] agreement which, you know, gave a lot of compromises, what you actually saw was the West holding together, and… [Inaudible] and Merkel coming down really quite hard, and they then – even they twisted the arm of Hungarians, of Australians, of others who might have wanted to give in. France gave up the [inaudible] thing, which surprised a lot of people. So perhaps you could try and… And NATO has rather taken a backseat, it’s doing things [inaudible] a bit under the scenes. But would you agree for example that the [inaudible] of the troops [inaudible] in those countries is a key aspect? Do you think that Putin – it does seem to be that Putin’s bluff was called successfully to some extent, now. That might give some… But I agree with you too, that Putin’s strategy is based on, at the end of the day, ‘I’m prepared to do more harm than you are’. So what’s your calculation on those [inaudible].
That’s a wonderful question. I think the debate on how far the West will go and is willing to go in response to Putin is ongoing. And there are all sorts of views like this – there are a lot of people who are saying… Who tend to believe Russian narrative on crisis over Ukraine, to start with – then they are also saying, okay, Russians misbehaved, they did to Ukraine what they shouldn’t have done, but that’s a minor issue. Our grand strategic relationship with Russia is more important than what actually happened in Crimea and Donbass. But on the other hand those people are saying that also the game has changed, the situation has changed, and Russia is not a trustworthy or reliable partner anymore. A lot of people are already saying, even in the field of economy and trade, that we cannot go to the business as usual. So this… Debate, the way I see it, is still ongoing. And it’s; hard to see which arguments are prevailing, and who is gonna have the upper hand by the end, in the years to come. Germany has a major position there, but even in Germany, they have all sorts of this attitude in play. There is Angela Merkel with her attitude, and there is also [inaudible] with his take, and pushing…
And then there is Mr. Steinmark, who doesn’t miss an opportunity to say that we shouldn’t follow the US attitude, that NATO is probably not that relevant, uh, the other day when they received I think the chairmanship of [inaudible], he was saying [inaudible] is a member, is a major instrument, even though it was obvious to everyone that the main institution has failed dramatically in terms of being capable during anything about Ukrainian’s crisis. And [inaudible]was among them of course – even in the very minimal function that they have to monitor events, in that particular respect they failed quite often in Donbass, and so they’re being prevented from doing their job. Not to mention Crimea, they were physically prevented from going into Crimea during the referendum, the OSC monitors. So I think it’s Germany, and then the major question is… Is it based, this resolve, against Putin’s misbehaviour – is it based primarily on [inaudible] Merkel? How long should we be there, and for how long should we be capable and willing to maintain that resolve? Could we actually see some kind of rebellion, by Hungarians and Slovaks and Italians and whoever, what have you, who are softer, on Putin, and who are most desperate among thjose who are willing to carry out business usual with Russia. The cars are on the table, but how would you play – that’s another thing, and I would not even dare or risk to predict the final outcome of the debate within the West, I think it’s a very important debate, not just with us in Ukraine, but also for the future of the West, what kind of West will emerge from that debate? So taken… It’s a great question, I just don’t think we have any answers so far.
Hi I’m [inaudible], I’m a masters student at the LSE. I think [inaudible] for your very interesting speech – you said, if I’m not mistaken, that the West was too reactionary with Mr. Putin, and by reactionary, you mean that the West imposes sanctions, that the answer to [inaudible] and you suggest… That the West recapture the initiative. But what does it mean, by this recapture the initiative’. Should we occupy Kaliningrad, before Russia undertakes something huge?
No, no no no no. It’s definitely not what I mean. I’m in a diplomatic means primarily, I mean what has been mentioned already – that NATO is doing, for instance, to reinforce the [inaudible] that’s very much welcomed, I think, the air patrols that they’re having all over the Baltic skies, and debates about what needs to be done in Poland that a little bit shadowed by recent developments in Poland and this new government being in place and the president having their own particular ideas, sometimes, about what it means to be in the West. And you know, what their understanding and meaning of the West is based on. But… Leaving aside military aspects, I primarily mean these diplomatic initiatives. One thing I’ve always believed – that the West should have done more – is to isolate Putin. I don’t think he is a… Isolated, appropriately enough. Getting Russia [inaudible] is a good thing, but then Putin is there in [inaudible], and everyone is [inaudible] G20, and everyone is paying attention, and everyone is trying to get his attention, and then Mr. Kerry comes to Sochi and comes out of a meeting, a long meeting after several hours of actually waiting for Mr. Putin to host him and talk to him, he says how happy he is that he… Had an opportunity to talk to Mr. Putin. That’s the wrong signal. I mean, one of the things Putin is thirsty for and hungry for, really, is this cry to power status – that he is accepted, really. And that’s what should be denied to him. He should be told – okay, we’re not willing to destroy bridges in our co-operation with Russia and contact with Russia. There’s a red line, hot line, however you call it, that we have here in the West, that we have in the West from Putin, to the Kremlin, that should be maintained – we should be talking to Russia. I’m not talking about isolation where we don’t even talk to them. But in terms of them feeling that they’re being accepted – almost nothing happens to them internationally. I think that’s a very wrong signal. And reinstating all of this business, these bilateral business councils, like there is one between Germany and Russia for example, and almost nothing happened, and all they see is [inaudible] preparations gong to Russia, and signing those treaties, and you know, Gazprom is being off the sanctions list, which makes it possible for new treaties – not treaties, but new agreements being signed by various corporations in the West – all of these things are sending the wrong signal to Putin – that he now probably believes that the West is just playing a game, just pretending to be serious about it, that they in the West, Putin thinks, are counting days until they will be able to discard those sanctions and actually go to business as usual. So there are many things that you can think of, absolutely, outside of military aspects – that you can still provide. Not to mention this disconnect in Russia from SWIFT, but then a lot of people in the West, you know, are somehow convinced that Minsk is working, that a truce is holding, and we are losing soldiers every day, you know. So what kind of truce is it? It’s not a massive escalation of confrontation, but can we call a truce a truce when you have more than a hundred say firings on that side, on Ukrainian position? It’s probably not a truce. But yet, a lot of people in the West are already saying, well it’s holding, so what’s the need for the sanctions. It’s not war anymore, no-one’s dying in massive numbers, so let’s forget about it. Let’s just go back to this… They are exploring…. It’s mutually beneficial, they are exploring natural resources fields in Russia.
My question is related to the EU referendum – the UK referendum on its membership in the European Union. Yesterday in the post I got a newspaper explaining why we should stay in the EU, and in fact among the 6 reasons listed, 5 of them have to do with money, and economics, about jobs, investment and so on, and one had to do with security – and absolutely nothing about values. On the other hand we have Ukraine, where people were dying under the EU flags and they were dying for values. So we have completely opposing views? What’s your opinion and actually your stance on this? Do you think it’s possible to bridge this gap, and how do you think Ukrainians should be talking to the UK allegiance and trying to bring its message across and explain the experience.
That’s a great question, and… Yeah. I think we’re Ukrainians and we can do more not just in terms of bringing ourselves closer to the EU but also to convince the Brits to stay in, right? [laughs] But seriously speaking, any jokes aside, it’s a big subject – obviously the Russian propaganda by the way uses this [inaudible] and certain grievances that people within EU countries would have, with EU policies – quite often, you know, it’s not a day in Russian media that you wouldn’t have certain stories covering how people are suffering here. In the former USSR you would have all these propaganda pieces on how people in the US are suffering, and how there is exploitation of the working class, and how there is racism, and some of it was actually there. But now you have stories of how people are struggling, and just dreaming all the time about leaving the EU. And then you have Ukrainians basically, you know, knocking on the doors, and indeed people are dying – dying not just to be part of the EUFTZ, not just to have the potential to be a member state, but dying for the opportunity for the country to be moving that way. As great Ukrainian scholar and political activist of the 1920s [inaudible] said, [inaudible], and that’s what he meant, and that’s very much timely slogan that you can still use if you’re in Ukraine, because the fight that we have now with Russia is not just the fight for Donbass, obviously. It’s not just a fight… It’s also… A lot of people call it the Ukrainian Soviet War. A lot of people call it Ukraine’s last chance to get away from that Eurasian zone of corruption and disrespect for human rights, of that zone where things like free media, freedom of speech and stuff like that, don’t really register with governments. And also that’s our fight in getting to Europe and in many ways we’re trying to… What we’re doing is probably helping to revive this notion of Europe. But for rank and file people, ordinary people, often values are something that they don’t really understand clearly. So you have to go through things like value – the standard of living, taxation, stuff like that, and that’s why – I think, here in Britain, the proponents of the UK staying within the EU are primarily operating with financial economic rate figures instead of actually talking about values. Because after all, even if we assume this negative scenario of the UK leaving – of exiting the EU, that would not necessarily automatically mean that the UK would become less democratic. So that wouldn’t be a major blow against the standards of governance and so on. But it would still mean something and then a lot of people are joking of course in Ukraine that if Britain leaves, then there is space for us! [laughs] But that’s a joke of course. I mean, the more practically oriented joke and a dark, very gloomy joke that’s been around for years goes like that. Like, when we can expect Turkey to join the EU and the answer is never. And what about Ukraine, and the answer is right after Turkey. So whatever that joke tells us, I think we have a chance to become a part of the European Union, and I believe that the European project has a future, that they will be able to overcome the difficulties. And here in this country, I also believe that this country is a true European power, and should be as such, should remain as such. I even often shocked when I hear in the streets people saying ‘us and Europe’. I always tended to believe that the UK IS Europe, is part of Europe, is integral and very important part of Europe, and in that particular respect I think that would be a big win also for Putin if that Brexit scenario takes place. There’s a debate for this country to be had – it’s obviously not for us coming from Ukraine to give any kind of teaching or preaching, rather, to Brits – but that I think is a major test for this country and for the EU.
Okay we’ve reached 7:00 but we did start a little late, so I’ll take the remaining questions. There’s one here, there’s one at the back, and then there’s a gentleman here as well. There’s a fourth question as well.
I’m Tim Judow of The Economist… I just wanted to say that with oil at under 30 dollars a barrel, I do think that Putin might be looking for some form of a deal, but if I was Putin, I might be waiting for Ukraine to undermine itself. And you haven’t talked about… That’s one thing you haven’t talked about, is whether the struggle between reformers and fake reformers is… [interrupted]
And the other thing which you haven’t mentioned which is rather to do with the EU is, to what extent to people worry, I mean… Have people really noticed that there’s a Dutch referendum coming up, and there’s an opinion poll saying that the Dutch would reject the Ukrainian-EU association agreement? I know it’s not binding, but still.
Well thanks Tim, and indeed, that’s a big subject. I think that Putin indeed is waiting for Ukraine to unravel by itself – to undermine itself with a lack of progress in reforms, with a lack of progress in fighting corruption, and it wouldn’t be fair to say that there hasn’t been progress – there has been some progress, so obviously since Euromaidan, and since this new government came into place, but much less than we would like to see. We Ukrainians and we, our friends in the West as well. And somehow it is just human nature I think for us to just be paying more attention to negative stories, and that’s what appears often in the Western press. No offense to any particular news outlet. Whenever you have someone who is arrested for taking drugs in Ukraine, you would say oh, that’s new Ukraine, how is it different from the previous one. But then there are certain things with civil society, with [inaudible], with some reforms here and there, they are contrasting. It’s not in black and white, it’s not 100% success – but I’ve mentioned Saakashvili and his reforms there. There have been some achievements, but then obviously some people are saying more talk than actual walk, and that’s true as well. So indeed – I think it’s very important for Ukraine to show to itself, to our Western friends that we are capable of clearing the house, moving forward, eradicating corruption step-by-step, not just entirely in an overnight kind of manner. But that should be very important. Otherwise, Putin wins either way. Having Donbass and Crimea under his power or not. If Ukraine does unravel and undermine itself. So it’s a major, major test. And then of course the signal would be going again much wider than to Ukraine, that Putin would be saying – look at those color revolutions, and then Euromaidan, and all that assistance they’re getting from the West – still they’re not capable of getting together and achieving anything. So don’t bother yourself, Kazakhstan, or Moldova, or whoever else in the post-Soviet space. Do not go that road. The more stable, authoritarian model – that’s the future. Not those fledgling, risky, pro-democracy experiments that Ukraine went through and it costed Ukraine a lot – but they still didn’t exceed.
So it’s a very good question and I think we should be pressuring all the time, but our public activism and… But also our friends in the West, I do believe our government, it… It requires this double pressure. Coming from the West and from within Ukraine, to push them, hard, in the right direction. I promised to be brief but I wasn’t.
Quickly, yes, the Dutch referendum?
Yes, well it registers obviously to Ukrainians. Not a major concern, because it’s not binding, as you said. But people would be upset, a little bit. That would be some sort of backslide, I think, for this idea of Ukrainian becoming closer to the European Union, but then again now with what’s at stake and how much impact, how much energy and money and funds are being put into this actually, again, I don’t have any proof of these people who are basically suggesting that negative result of the referendum should be the outcome of it being supported financially by the Kremlin – I’m not saying this, but clearly people in Moscow would love to see this scenario of basically a major country which has been known actually for being – for having a specific peculiar position on many issues historically with regard to European integration – that would be some kind of a blow against Ukraine, but at the moment, with all the problems that we’re facing in Ukraine, I don’t think that it is in a top list of priorities. People are aware of this, and people talk about this, and there have been some efforts to change the public attitudes within the Netherlands, but not really systemic co-ordinated efforts, so I think it is likely too late for us to influence the Dutch opinion on this particular issue. But that’s… Let’s just see what happens.
And if we can… Maybe we’ll take the final two questions together please. So… You at the back and the gentleman here.
[inaudible] you started your talk about definitions and then had a long discussion about what the West is. Something about the character and nature of what’s happening in Eastern and Southern Ukraine – why don’t we use the words Russo-Ukrainian War and call it what it is?
Right. Well a lot of people do. Oh okay, we’ll take another one, right.
My name’s Anthony Bronson, I used to work for the [inaudible] Financial Times. It seems to me that certainly 25 years of peace have addled the Western mind – it’s always pretty addled in the first place, but… One of the mistakes I think we’ve made, and it’s always a problem with Russia that it’s always difficult to tell how strong it is or how weak it is because it’s usually stronger and weaker than we think in both regards, and I think we should concentrate a little bit on the weakness. The idea that the judo player scrapes [inaudible] he may be a great tactician, but he’s an appalling strategist. He was offered the chance of a historic opportunity for Russia to have a firm alliance of friendship and co-operation with Europe and the United States across the Atlantic, and instead, [inaudible] end up as a vassal of China. And if anyone thinks that’s a strategic choice, there are 25 million Muslims inside their countries – there are any number of weaknesses. [Inaudible] add on the economic front – it’s not only oil at 27 bucks a barrel – that’s not the point. The thing is, can you imagine that Exon, or Shell, or any of these other companies that had the technology and the financial capacity, and the management skills and so-on – which Russia simply has not developed in these 25 years of wasted peace. We should knock on… We should stop this pretense that Russia is a great big angry bear. It is a bear, but it’s a bear with clay feet, and that’s what… We should laugh at it.
Haha, thank you. I sense a [inaudible] passion on this. On the question of the war, indeed it is the Russo-Ukrainian War, and that’s something which is consolidated in Ukraine. A lot of people are saying polemically, in polemics, I would say, that what Putin did to Ukraine was one of the best things for Ukraine, and that there is this dark irony because thousands of lives have been lost – but in terms of Ukrainians coming together, I mean… Or who could have expected three or four years ago that over 50% of Ukrainians would be supporting this deal of Ukraine becoming part of NATO, for instance. It’s never been higher than 25%. And now it’s 50 plus. And if you hold a referendum on NATO membership tomorrow in Ukraine, amongst those people who would come to the referendum, it’s 75% of those who would vote yes. That includes a lot of people actually in the East and the South of Ukraine. And definitely the entire central Ukraine, not to mention western Ukraine, right?
There’s starving in Ukraine – in Crimea. They’re starving, there’s no electricity, there’s no [inaudible].
Right. There is a Russian-Ukrainian War and it fits what actually [inaudible] in overall history of Ukraine and Russian relations. It’s not brotherly love relations, it’s a big brother who almost killed entirely the little brother, over centuries. And somehow we survived, and somehow we’re striving and somehow we’re becoming this… We’re still being this problem for them. You know, which is… Irritating, which is an eyesore for them. You know, and they would really have… Would like to have us under [inaudible] control as a way… I call it usually on a tight leash. But we wouldn’t like that. And then, you know, the… He got Crimea, and took wherever he got, Donbass, but… I agree that he actually lost Ukraine. Now we’re a forgiving nation, we might forgive a lot of things that have been done to us in this recent two years, but it’s changing the attitudes and approaches and public moods in such a massive way. That one of the major problems for our government to implement Minsk, if the government goes too far, then there is almost like a massive popular uprising against going too far, in accommodating those so-called separatist claims and conditions. So that’s another major change that we’re facing now in Ukraine. So you’re right – it’s a Russian-Ukrainian war. A lot of people call it some kind of delayed independence war because we didn’t have one in 1991, but now we’re fighting and are winning? Well, we’re not losing, alright, and that’s surprising to Mr. Putin obviously, and that makes me proud to be Ukrainian. Thank you.