EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Countering Russia’s Occupation: A New Crimea Platform
DATE: 12 April, 3pm – 4pm
SPEAKERS: Orysia Lutsevych, Vasyl Bodnar, Petro Beshta, Dr Jade McGlynn
EVENT MODERATOR: Bob Seely MP
Dr Jade McGlynn 00:00
Let’s get started. So as you may have noticed, Bob Seely is indeed the moderator for this, but I’ve somehow seized power from him. I have good reason. And we have had a slight change in panellists, unfortunately. I mean, he had to cancel last moment as something important came up instead. We are joined by Vasyl Bodnar, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, and Petro Beshta, the political director at the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And then just one final point. Before I hand over to Bob, there’s just a reminder that if you do have any questions, please type them into the Q&A box. And we will answer them, we will ask them later on towards the end.
Bob Seely MP 00:48
Thank you so much indeed, Jade. And it’s more of a sort of two-person chairmanship I think probably. So what I’m going to do, just, I will just start by saying thank you very much, indeed, to Vasyl and to Petro for being on the call from Ukraine and from Kiev for taking par for us. He was Deputy Foreign Minister and Petro Beshta is a political director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And so I’m going to start with them, and then go on to a research and save it from the Ukraine format, Chatham House, and then to Henry Jackson society, Jade McGlynn. I’m going to leave people to try to make their presentations. Just for clarity’s sake, I may come in just with an interjection or to just to reconfirm a point, because clearly, we’ve got a fast-moving situation. And because of that, I’m literally going to talk for another 30 seconds, probably 20 seconds before I hand over Crimea, obviously very important with what is both happening for the military build-up that’s taking place at the moment. vis-à-vis the Ukraine Russia situation, but also more generally, it’s worthwhile remembering, or keeping Crimea in our thoughts, because although it is legally Ukrainian territory, as we know, from 2014, it has been de facto controlled by Russia. It is an important piece of Russia’s remilitarization both of the Black Sea but also its potential territorial threat to Ukraine as well, because Ukraine is surrounded on four sides by Russian for Trans-Dniester, Moldova, Crimea to the south, clearly Rostov, Eastern, and in east and then the north as well. So it is strategically valuable as well as to Russia and indeed, in Ukraine, but also very symbolically valuable as well in the centre of interest for that reason. So that’s all by way of introduction. Vasyl, Deputy Foreign Minister, I thank you so much indeed for being on the call. Could you talk for, give us an overview of if you could just say: firstly, what is happening in eastern Ukraine. I’d be very grateful, because I know there are people concerned about the situation now. And clearly we all are. And then maybe if you could talk a little bit about Crimea as well. And then I think Petro is going to come in afterwards, unless you want to do it as a sort of tag team approach. Now, over to you, thank you very much for being on the call.
Vasyl Bodnar 03:04
Thank you both. Thank you, Jade. It’s a great pleasure for me to be with you today. I’m just substituting my colleague but nevertheless, try to be as much as precise on the issue we’re discussing. So first of all, thank you once again for the interests of the Crimea formulation, and the desire to support it. So we plan to discuss this criminal form, we will do it later on. But today’s situation alongside of the Ukrainian Russian border and on the occupied territories of Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Lugansk. region remains tense. And I’m actually obliged to say a couple of words about the General Security conflicts we have now. So despite all of our efforts within the trilateral contact group, and normally for months, the Russian side continues to pursue the escalation strategy, unfortunately, and the ongoing military build-up in the temporary occupied territories, as well as along with the state border with Ukraine clearly proves it. So just a couple of numbers, which will show you the picture. In addition, before that we have 28 permanent deployed battalion tactical groups alongside with Ukrainian border, and now more than 20 already deployed and 10 are planned to be deployed near his days. So overall, the numerical strength of Russian Armed Forces at the Ukrainian borders is (with the exclusion of the occupied territory of Donbass Donetsk and Luhansk Kobus) more than 100,000 personnel. It’s more than 1300 tanks, almost 4000 vehicles, number of artillery system and rocket systems It is really threatening advanced weapons. And all these factories also have its supply with the additional airborne. this whole division in the occupied Crimea and on the northern part of our border. They have been deployed there for the trainings stay in the peninsula and did not leave it. So in addition to the fifty military shapes of the Russian Black Navy in the occupied Crimea, 10 more had been transferred from the Caspian Sea, and some of them came also from the north from the Baltic Sea, where they have also strong military presence. If you go into the in details in Crimea, since January, Russia has also significantly reinforced combat capabilities with occupation forces in Donbass. It’s the first and second so called Army Corps. Currently, these formations consist almost 30,000 servicemen and more than almost 3000 representatives of the armed forces of the Russian Federation. So all these are carrying against the background of the persistently deteriorating security situation, just two sets of numbers since the beginning of application of additional measures to strengthen the ceasefire, which was adopted on July 27. Last year, and till the end of the last year, the number of shellings Ukrainian army positioned by Russian Armed Forces stood at 451 and Ukrainian lose only four killed and 21 wounded. Only last month, we have already in this year 26 killed and 36 wounded and more than 700 shillings. So it showed how the military activities act is being activated on the territory of occupied Donetsk and Luhansk region.
Bob Seely MP 06:42
May I come in with a question for you then, I mean, one of the problems is we know from Georgia, is that the sense of Russia using provocations? Are they shelling for a purpose? Which one, you know, there may be several purposes that they’re shutting? Or are they shutting specifically because they want you to react back. And that when is the provocation they say the Ukrainians attacked us when the Ukrainians attacked Russian passport holders? Because we know they’ve been given up Russian passports. So is this part of a provocation? Or is there another reason for the Russian side to be doing this.
Vasyl Bodnar 07:23
Last year, it was considered as a provocation and it is continued but the fire is targeted, namely at the soldiers, in particular for those who take mines out or do something in the visible perspective. So it is targeted fire, it’s not just to provoke the answer. And we also work immediately trying to convene all possible mechanisms of coordination on the auspices of the OSC, SMM mission, just to raise the concern about that, and to show how strong we are connected to the need of ceasefire to be preserved. And all this sittings of the trilateral contact group is concentrated on their activities to prolong the adaptive decision about the ceasefire, but seal we see no constructive approach from the Russian side. So it is like specifically provoking and creating the dangerous security situation for possible use it as a pretext of possible advance.
Bob Seely MP 08:27
Just on that, Vasyl, I have one other question: do you feel it’s within your rights to fire back or are you being absolutely passive and not returning fire, because there is concern that Russia is using this provocation for a greater incursion.
Vasyl Bodnar 08:44
What soldiers have are direct instructions: how to behave themselves. First of all to inform and if the threat or advancement is real. So they are forced to respond. So we are not passive, we have but all these cases are immediately reported to the SMM or OSC, and to this contact persons who are engaged from the Russian side and from the OSC to be informed and immediately collect this committee Working Group on security to discuss what’s happened and to share all the information. So we are trying to discover all possible cases in immediate terms. So we also calling for 24 hours, call to public look at the Committee on Security. Thank you. So if I may continue also to pay attention to the situation. First of all, there was a number of fake news provided by Russian media, in particular in the English segment of internet that Ukraine ends up learning to advance or to make some provocations etc., vice versa. I would like just to illustrate officially that the peaceful settlement of the conflict is our key, key, key push. So we are stuck to it. And we are pushing only for the political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict, having nothing to do with the military because we understand the difference. And actually, after the Minsk agreement has been signed, there was no intention from the Ukrainian site to settle the problem or settle the conflict in a military way. And that everything which was speeded, by the Russian side, it was just the false information campaign to bring attention and try to justify their military build-up and what they would like to do. They would like to escape as a side of the conflict, and to bring us to the negotiation table with a representative (the owner of the occupied territories). But namely, Russians are leading supplying and doing everything on day behind, and they did not decide to have the negotiation. And according to the Minsk agreement, we have the Russian side as decided the contract. And in accordance with the Normandy format, we have all the Germany and France mediating between us. So what we’re considering is the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, but not as Ukraine with its territories?
Bob Seely MP 11:14
Just out of interest to click on, if I may, how are the Germans and the French in this process? Because there is some worry that they will. I mean, the fear is that Ukraine agrees to effectually federalize to the extent that Russia can then dominate some of the Eastern blocks and effectively control Ukrainian politics by controlling chunks of the east of the country or having its proxies in the east of the country. To what extent is that being realized?
Vasyl Bodnar 11:41
No, the Germans and French colleague are stuck to the Minsk agreement implementation and they are facilitating in this dimension hugely, but actually it is not. It’s now ,let’s say not so actual, because they are trying to be a fair mediator, just to bring position closer that now we need to be more proactive in the settlement process. It’s not only about creating some form of mediation, so we also ask them to be more active, and actually, they even propose the cluster things to be as a new way of settlement. And you know, later on a lot of Russians make it public through the media. So it also bring some narratives not in good manners matter, but nevertheless, we are counting on these normally for four months as the basic high-level negotiation process. And we will continue to do that, not rejecting it.
Bob Seely MP 12:41
And you still continue to have faith in the Germans and the French to actually do the right thing and be supportive of you.
Vasyl Bodnar 12:46
We are also communicating with them. And we expect also the high-level communication will be also renewed and our president will have possibility to talk in numerous days to Macron, Merkel and to discuss in enrage maybe new push for the settlement in the east. But the main thing is to prove that all sides are ready to continue with this ceasefire regime, which is hugely important for not to lose the soldiers and civilians. So then if it is okay, I will just make a short notice about occupation and reintegration of Crimea strategy. So we started from our homework approval of our national security of the occupation and reintegration of Crimea, the respective act that the Ukrainian President signed a month ago. And this is the first comprehensive national strategic document summarizing the basic principles and identifying key tasks in the wide range of areas from protection of human rights and freedoms violated, as a result of the Russian occupation, economic policy, social and humanitarian policy, environmental information on strengthening national resilience, international cooperation, and as well defence and security policies. And the strategic state that Ukraine remains committed to achieve in de-occupation and reintegration through all the political and diplomatic means. That is why we rely so much on international cooperation on active support of our efforts by national organization and capitals, I mean, countries, as well as by expert community, I mean, you as well, and thank you for paying attention to this. So with the Crimean platform, it is a part of the national strategy, I will say it’s like a small part of it and should also become an international tool to move forward the process of the occupation of Crimea. And here I would like to switch to Petro, maybe he’ll deliver more details about what we have planned to do and what is that initial thing. Pay to be done during the criminal from summit, which will take place in August. So Petro, please, if you could join us.
Bob Seely MP 15:07
Thank you so much. Thank you.
Petro Beshta 15:14
Good afternoon, everyone. It’s my pleasure to be with you and I will go forward with the presentation in detail of the Crimean platform. As was already mentioned, since the strategy of the occupation of Crimea is based on a diplomatic approach, so we need to convene and mobilize the international community around this strategy. And for that reason, we initiated the establishment of the Crimean platform, which will become a tool of mobilization of international community around the strategy of the occupation of Crimea, and support Ukraine. in this endeavour, the premier platform is based on three principles. The first one is strategy. Before, just recently, we had a number of efforts on different platforms in different formats of international community and Ukraine, which were aimed at containing the curated situation in Crimea in different spheres of human rights and security. But there was no clear strategic long-term vision of the situation. So we started with that, and we adopted the strategy of the occupation. So to provide the strategic vision of the process, we understand that this is a long term process, we have a number of long term threats emanating from Russia in Crimea. And we thought that would be very wise to put down these principles and this Third Assessment and approaches of Ukraine international community, and so this Crimean platform process is about the strategic reason, the second one is a consolidation. We all see that due to new challenges and threats, the international context is deteriorating, also. And so their sources and attention of international community to the problem of Crimea is dwindling. So, we have a number of processes taking place in different international institutions. But there was no clear format for negotiations and discussion about case of Crimea, there is about Donbass among the foreign TCG. And there was no format for Crimea. And this Crimea platform should be used as a platform for consolidation of the scarce resources of international community, which are dedicated to Crimea issue so that they could be consolidated and better used. And it’s also about synergy. We try to use an energy of all three different levels: intergovernmental level, parliamentary level and expert level. All three levels shouldn’t be united and coordinated in the same endeavour. And that should be done through Crimean platform. So once again, Crimean platform is about strategic vision, about consolidations of efforts of international community, and it’s about the synergy of different levels. And there are four, five main priorities of the Crimean platform and they are based on the threats and aims of Russia concerning the Crimea. The first one is a consolidation of nonrecognition policy. Since this is the priority number one by Russia. What it does in international context is trying to undermine the non-national policy of international community nonrecognition, policy of the attempted annexation of Crimea. More than the main strategy of Russia is based on the fait accompli approach. And they try in all the seven years to put it very clearly in all international that the question of Crimea is closed, once and forever, so they try to undermine their non-recognition policy. And this is naturally one of our key goals of the Crimean platform and tracks of cooperation. The second one is sanctions only through consolidated pressure on Russia, not only of Ukrainian partners, but of the whole international community, political pressure, economic pressure, any type of pressure into sanctions, as there are stricter measures that we can achieve in the long-term goal of the occupation of Crimea. So this is the second priority area of the common platform. The third one is the security, including freedom of navigation. And in the centre of our focus is the ongoing process of militarization of Crimea, which progresses day by day and year by year. And we know that Russia has almost doubled already the number of their military presence in Crimea. And there are also plans and projections into the future to further enhance its presence in Crimea. In that way, Russia tries to dominate the Black Sea region, but also to use Crimea, and its domination in Black Sea as an instrument of power projection into Mediterranean and Middle East and we already see this happening the last seven years. So one of the particular threats stemming from this motivation of Crimea is the threats to freedom of navigation. Since Russia occupies it straight, we have seen a couple of years ago that it can effectively block the navigation of coming from Ukrainian boards, and in that way to put in my strong economic pressure for Ukrainian exports. And we want that international community to understand this as a one of threats that Russia poses in the whole Black Sea region. The fourth priority area is human rights and international humanitarian law violations. The situation with human rights, the tourists daily on the occupied Crimea and people lives in. They are denied basic human rights including freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom, or the rights for life. More than 100 people are detained and further detained regularly, and they are charged with terrorist cases in this unlawful international humanitarian law judicial process since Russia is in occupation state of Crimea, it has to stick to its commitments on the international humanitarian law and this is not the case. Russia also violates its commitments. For example, for military conscription it every year, it forces people on the occupied territories to be conscripted to the to the Russian military forces, which is forbidden by the international humanitarian law. By the way, just recently, the new campaign of construction started in April this year.
Bob Seely MP 23:06
So Petro, is that service in Crimea a service in the Russian Federation?
This is military service in the Russian army, and that is clearly forbidden by the international humanitarian law. Another example of the violation of the IHL it’s a transfer of population. Hundreds of 1000s of people had to live in Crimea, mainly Crimean Tartars, and Ukrainians and at least 500,000. Russians can be moved to Crimea to change the demographic composition of the occupied territory. And that is also a grave violation of the international humanitarian law. And you want to pay particular attention to these violations of human rights and international humanitarian law on the long term basis, and the problem which pertain to the occupation of Crimea by Russia. Of course, our ultimate goal is the repression of Crimea, but we have to pay attention to these grave problems as long as we move toward this goal. And the last one area of priority area is economy and environment. And we would like to look closer and more focused and to make some analysis of the threats and negative consequences for environment and for economy of Ukraine and other states, which suffered from this occupation and from the blocking of freedom of navigation and transport, transportation through the Black Sea. So these are the five key priority areas of the Crimean platform.
Bob Seely MP 24:56
Petro, thank you so much indeed for outlining them and I’m sure there’ll be questions for them. So most grateful, I’m now going to come to Orysia next. And then lastly to Jade to can can bring some of these ideas together. Orysia very well aware of the excellent work that you do at Chatham House and indeed your Russian Ukrainian strands of work are really both incredibly valuable. So thank you. Do you want to just a comment, I suspect you might be talking about the situation deteriorating in Crimea, and maybe talking about the human rights and political persecution angles, but the floors your now. yours, yours now. So look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.
Orysia Lutsevych 25:29
Thank you very much, Bob. And thank you to Henry Jackson society for putting this agenda today for discussion. Because this as you said, Crimea has disappeared for a while, there were no international platforms or formats to discuss the occupation of Crimea, and some sporadic events like here and there in Chatham House, I’m not sufficient to know what this symbolizes annexation. But first, I think it’s very important to be within a wider context, everybody’s not pondering if you see the headlines, what is waiting trying to achieve with this massive military build-up. And I would argue that Putin wants to demonstrate to Ukraine, to new US administration, to the European Union and to the UK, that he is determined to wage war of attrition against Ukraine, he is not changing his policy towards ranking Ukraine anytime definitely in the midterm. So it means also what he’s doing is trying to retaliate against recent measures, quite bold measures by the President Zelensky, to clamp down on the Russian influence inside Ukraine through closing down and sanctioning some Russian companies that are operating in Crimea, but also TV channels that spread disinformation. And finally, I think it’s very important for Western allies and to think that what should be appropriate deterrence of Russia, because what we see right now on the border with Ukraine and in Crimean peninsula, we can demonstrate that the cost of deterrence will be high, it will be serious, and it will require a serious commitment. And, you know, I’m pleased to say that the UK integrated review clearly states that Russia is an acute and direct threat to the UK interests, we don’t have the same sense of urgency in other European union member states. And I think this is an important question to discuss among the NATO allies among the European Union, among the UN Security Council of what it actually needs. So Crimea, of course, and I think Petro especially well described the consequences of that annexation. But I just want to say why we should keep Crimea in focus. Because first of all, as you know, of course, the first time since the Second World War, the borders in Europe were changed by force. And it’s important to remember that Russia, in fact, did not pay such high price for that behaviour. And countries like China are looking very closely. And perhaps the day inspired by doing some of the actions in the South China Sea, trying also to expand their influence. Secondly, I think Crimea was the first, if not very bright example, of the use of Russian proxy groups into military operation, and how Russia managed to deny, you know, almost implausible deniability, of what it could do on the peninsula, using this proxy groups. Now, we see this proxy groups emerging in south in Africa and Venezuela, all over the world. So what started in Crimea became actually a global trends. That’s why it matters. And finally, I think we Crimea shows and symbolizes the blunt manipulation with history. I think it’s important to say that out of long trends in history, starting from the ninth century before Christ, only 6% of that history actually is directly linked to Russia, the Russian Empire, and in the Soviet period. So Russia, in a way, is weaponizing history for its geopolitical objectives. And it’s important also to say the truth that Crimea was, you know, an orienting for most of its time, the Turkish and Oriental influence in Crimea was much stronger than the influence of the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union. And because its peaceful coexistence that was in the Crimean peninsula during the time it was part of Ukrainian Socialist Republic, or the independent Ukraine was actually amazing. It was the place of tolerance almost coming back to the early middle age when there were these different entities. So I think that’s why it’s important that the Western Allies jointly with Ukraine pursue a very persistent policy. Putin wants us to give up on Crimea. That is partially why he keeps on military operation in the Donbass to keep the attention away from Croatia.
Bob Seely MP 29:59
Just on that. Does he want us to give up on Crimea? Or does he wanted to give up on Ukraine, because there is an argument to suggest that that Putin himself and he’s very careful in his wording doesn’t really accept the idea of Ukrainian identity statehood, which is separated from Russia. So the history that you’re talking about is not in the history of Crimea, but it’s a history of Kievan Rus. And that by admitting the Crimea, sorry, admitting that Ukraine and Russia both descend from Kievan Rus, he’s effectively accepting the idea of Ukrainian statehood, which is why Kievan Rus is an exclusive foundation for Russia, and is not a foundation for anyone else, because that means you’re divvying up the East Slavic lands into, you know, Bella, Russia, Ukraine and Russia. And suddenly you have three centres, or at least two rather than Russia and the gathering of Russian lands.
Orysia Lutsevych 30:53
I think you just gave another excellent example of how history could be used to geopolitical purposes. And of course, Putin pursues that narrative because it fits. It fits the idea of the very ancient Russian state, which de facto, you know, there’s always the question, Who is the younger and who is the older brother in this particular relationship? And I think that, of course, Putin wants the west to accept that Ukraine is Russian sphere of influence. And you know, and I think, yes, he would like to have Yalta to where the big nations of this world decide on the spheres of influence, I think he operates in this paradigm. The problem with this is, even if the West would be willing to sit at the table with Putin is Ukraine, it’s a 46 million state that has decisively decided to build Rule of Law Society, emulating European Union system members, you know, based on respect to human rights and democracy, what are you going to do with all those people. And that’s why in a way, we have this military conflict lasting now for seven years, because Ukraine is not giving up on it, serenity, and independence. And that’s why just to finish, because I know, we want to have more time for Q&A, I think this Western approach should be based on a few key things. And I think, again, this integrated review that you’ve performed here gives a good outline of how you want to protect the UK from the Russian threat, it’s very similar to how we should protect Ukraine, from the Russian threat. It means building military capabilities of Ukraine to defend itself, mostly UK could help his naval capabilities and a presence in the Black Sea. Second, its security cooperation with NATO. Ukraine is now an enhanced opportunity partnership that opens new doors. Thirdly, it’s building resilience of Ukraine to defend itself, but also its society from these aggressive Russian tools to undermine belief in Ukraine internally to protect cyber security, information security. And finally, it’s sanctions. Something that you know, I think we have to look carefully how the sanctions are implemented, because they are violated, let’s be honest, and I’m happy that Crimean platform will have that track. And it’s basically, in a way, understanding that fully sovereign and independent Ukraine is a cornerstone of European security. And if this will be compromised in any way, there will be no peace on European continent.
Bob Seely MP 33:33
Orysia, thank you very much. Indeed, Jade, I’m over to you for sort of summing up, just want to say one thing quickly a bit, which is really important point, even if in this sort of magical world, but it’s very sort of pre-World War Two that President Putin seems to inhabit. We were sort of giving up there allowing Russia to control Ukraine, quote-unquote, and then again, rather ignore the fact that you have a very large state in Europe called Ukraine that actually has repeatedly said that it wants to be independent. And so it becomes incredibly difficult for Russia, just to assume that it can somehow reabsorb Ukraine. And there is a fundamental problem there that you have a country that doesn’t want to be fundamentally reabsorbed into a nice Slavic, civic, political entity run by the Russian Federation, when the sort of Commonwealth of Independent States change over to you.
Dr Jade McGlynn 34:26
Thank you, Bob. And thank you Orysia, Petro and Vasyl for three informative talks. I think it was my role here to just I suppose to sum up, but maybe as well, to bring it back to why the UK should be involved, why I think that the UK should play actually, you know, quite a prominent role in the Crimea platform, which we can see, of course, from the military build-up ongoing that’s still the centrality of Crimea to this escalation and the need for continued international monitoring of the Russian government’s actions there. And as well, of course, the deteriorating human rights and socio-political situation that Russia and others have referred to. So I think there’s been a tendency in many European countries, but also sadly in the UK to treat Crimea as a sort of historical fait accompli that, you know, it’s sort of part of the backstory rather than actually, you know, an important topic that needs to be at the centre of any discussions of how to counter ongoing Russian aggression. The UK has been a pretty steadfast ally to Ukraine. And the national security strategy of Ukraine obviously recognizes UK’s place among Ukraine’s top five strategic partners. And in one of the riskiest recent studies, he referenced about the young people in Ukraine appear to share this favourite opinion and they place more trust in the UK government and its institutions than those of any other country. And one of the ways that you can understand is when it was a member of the EU, it did, of course, push for harsher sanctions. And I think sometimes it is forgotten quite how weak the initial sort of so called ‘first wave sanctions’ were on Russia for the aggression against for its ‘Annex A’ invasion and annexation of Crimea in March 2014. The much harsher sanctions didn’t really come until July and then December of that year.
Bob Seely MP 36:19
So just that point, I mean, effectively, the Russians would have got away with it in any meaningful sense. If they’re separatists, with or without Russian state involvement, hadn’t shut down the Malaysian airliner, and it was the Malaysian airline that effectively led to much harsher sanctions. And even then, it’s questionable about how effective they are.
Dr Jade McGlynn 36:40
Yeah, I think that’s a fair summation. I know that I speak to officials in the Russian government who certainly feel that way that you wouldn’t have really, you know, European countries wouldn’t have really cared about the annexation of Crimea, or they would have let it go, you know, we’ve just sort of, you know, a few sort of minor sanctions if it hadn’t been for MH 17. So, of course, we don’t know that’s sort of counterfactual history. But certainly I think they were underwhelming, to put it politely, the first round of sanctions. But I would say that sort of since then, UK has been firm in its commitment to Ukraine. Obviously, the strategic partnership that was signed last year, was very far and did more than just sort of replicate the year Association Agreement, they also included a lot more on security. But I think that the Crimea platform now is a welcomed next step, because the strategic partnership was intended as a springboard is not the catapulting on UK or Ukrainian partnership. And I know that the Ukrainian Foreign Minister has obviously invited spirits and participate in the Crimea platform on a few occasions. And it’s pretty obvious that he had to accept that invitation. But I think it should go further. And I think it should play a leading role in it and also champion it. And I’d like to just briefly go through some of the reasons why because I think there’s a tendency to forget sort of clear Crimea strategic importance, you know, for the region, but also for even to the regional and global, European and global security. So if we think about Russia’s sort of heightened activities in the Sea of Azov in the Black Sea, they clearly pose a significant challenge to UK allies in NATO and to member states in the region, and the modernization of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. For example, you know, placing quite a lot of emphasis on new sea based missile capabilities, has caused a lot of issues if we think back to. For example, in 2018 when Russian forces blocked the passage and fired at two Ukrainian Navy ships and detained 24 Ukrainian service personnel somewhat understandably, after that Ukraine called on NATO to send ships to the area. And that’s then a difficult position because no point you want to be escalating the situation to lead to further loss of life. But also you need to avoid the sort of the other evil of appeasement. And I think something like the Crimea platform will provide a much more consistent and robust method for signalling ‘ I’ve actually sending red lines rather than just sort of describing them in very flowery language’, because you know, nobody wants appeasement and nobody wants escalation. So I think that’s going to be one of the useful things because if there was an escalation, of course you came with end up being part of it.
Vasyl Bodnar 39:31
I think, Jade, sorry, but what is the best answer? No, not to escalate and not to find a peace whether this is in between, what is the best answer. Because we are actually asking our partners, what you will do in the day after when they will invade? You intervene, participate to something? So, you know, it’s the big theoretical question, what is in practical terms when you have tanks and a huge amount of weaponry in your borders and the threatening, you know, potentially, but in real time.
Bob Seely MP 40:08
I think almost the problem is if you look at Russian behaviour elsewhere, once they make up their mind to do something they will provide, they will provide the provocative measures by which they’re reacting to. So however, clearly, it is incredibly helpful if you have incredibly clear lines. But for the West, the best way to stop the Russians behaving in an adventurous way to put it mildly, is a very clear sense of deterrence. But if that isn’t there, then clearly they are going to stage whatever provocation and how someone who lived in the former Soviet Union back in 1994, you saw in translation, these processes and the provocations being put in place. Russians then would react to and use as an excuse for new military action. And so my worry is that actually, regardless of what Ukraine does, if Putin decides to go for it, there will be a provocation, it will be staged, you will fire back or you will be accused of firing back. And that will then lead to a series of actions. So it’s almost like what you do doesn’t necessarily change anything the Russians do, once they decide to add, they will then create that provocation.
Dr Jade McGlynn 41:15
If I can just come back to the question. I think, though, what I’m trying to say is that it’s much harder for for us to react, what we need to be doing is having a really strong deterrent so that we don’t get to that point in the first place. And if we think about some of the measures that I suggested in the premier platform, some resources already touched on some of them, such as closing some of the loopholes that mean that sanctions aren’t having the effect that they should be having, you know, whether or not that’s because there are sort of companies that have mediation companies that come in the middle, or, you know, whether or not that’s sending, for example, a NATO maritime training mission, perhaps, to be based at the new naval facilities that are being built with UK assistance. I think the point is, though, that these needs to be part of like a really sort of well communicated plan rather than something that’s done just as a reaction to this because that is where escalation can happen. The point isn’t, of course, that Ukraine is escalating. Of course, it isn’t. Ukraine is the victim and Russia is the aggressor. It’s more than argument if we understand that. Russia is an unreliable, and as Bob put it, euphemistically, adventurous.
Bob Seely MP 42:24
Okay, so Jade, my question to you, I know we’re gonna come to questions in a second. How does Ukraine achieve that because Ukraine isn’t going to get NATO membership in the short term. So the way that Ukraine prevents Russian military invasion, but also strengthen itself for the political. And you know, the full spectrum warfare that we’ve seen in 20-25 years and in against Kiev of is to make sure it has a strong strategic detract adherence, how much of that is Ukraine, developing that military resilience and political resilience? And how much is that Western nations are all Western partnerships like the EU and NATO, as well as the US,UK, Germany and France, helping the Ukrainians to achieve that? What was the balance?
Dr Jade McGlynn 43:08
Well, I think it has to be both. So if we look at some of the recent measures that I think we could say are to strengthen societal resilience in shutting down metrics. This official media channel, that’s clearly a positive step to act towards societal resilience. measures like this need to be positive but clearly, they need the support of Ukraine and the support of its international allies. And I think its international allies could be and should be doing a lot more. And I hope that the Crimea platform can be a part of achieving this briefly, because we’ve gone into the Q&A time.
Bob Seely MP 43:45
Yes, sorry. We should go to the Q&A now. So Sean, from the Henry Jackson Society. Sean, we’re gonna have Euan first, aren’t we? And then Amir’s afterwards, and then we have one or two more questions after that. So Sean, are you able to, um, get Euan to ask all of you his question?
Euan Grant 44:08
I think I’ve just joined, is that right? No, unmuted. Yeah. My question follows on from the very powerful comments from Orysia, Dr McGlynn have made. So let’s be quite clear about it, should we not be putting alongside the US ships that are going to go into the Black Sea. More NATO, Britain and therefore, European EU Member State ships? I don’t know what the situation is on the Montreux convention on submarines, but to make it clear, General Hodges has mentioned in the past that either directly or indirectly, there’s no way Russia is going to be allowed to blockade Odessa without the most serious consequences.
Bob Seely MP 45:15
Thank you. Okay. That’s an interesting question, because I wonder, a very vague, similarity between the Russians and the attempt to blockade Odessa. And what the Chinese navy is doing in the South China Sea? I’m not quite sure. Who is the best person to answer that. I think Vasyl, the Deputy Foreign Minister.
Vasyl Bodnar 45:36
So first of all, the NATO presence in the Black Sea is a hugely positive step. And it is a good approach to strengthen political solidarity with Ukraine and some physical support. This is also necessary. But the question is, what these ships will do if the attacks start? Will they be engaged or somehow to be protected? So what was the day after will happen? That is the first question. And then still I have no answer about that. Secondly, the other countries are also participating in different exercises, most NATO countries like starting from France and other states, which are participated in number of exercises together with Ukrainian navy and are present there, but maybe not as such a high frequency as the US military ships. And we also have some Brits be also there. And as well, that might be some training missions or any other deployments of military forces on the south of Ukraine. And we could easily work on that, having good results or to visit our President to London last year. So we have this arranged plenary, but we could also develop it, in practical terms. So there are ways of how to develop it.
Bob Seely MP 47:06
Thank you so much. Before I come to Jade and Orysia who said they want to answer that question. I mean, you make a very good point, because there is no military treaty and with the best will in the world, if bad things start to happen in eastern Ukraine, or there’s NATO ships that are just going to sit there. And you can absolutely guarantee that the Russian media will then talk about the humiliation of NATO. And you read it now in the Russian media already, that we are going for mental war, I think it’s the latest term for sort of psychological warfare against the Russian state, the sort of colour revolutions the indirect conflict. And the line now that I was reading this last week in Commerce, I think a senior Russian adviser to the foreign ministry, was that Russia is now too strong militarily and a nuclear power, so that the West, because it can’t match Russia, is going for these sort of indirect psychological forms of warfare. So you already see a narrative of Western military, impotence, etc. and this sort of very aggressive, hostile attitude towards the western states all the time. Jade or Orysia, would you like to come in at that point?
Orysia Lutsevych 48:10
I would just like to add that in. In 2014, Russia had an upper hand in pursuing this deniability of its involvement in the annexation of Crimea and the military way, where I see the situation change now and where, hopefully, Ukraine and its Western allies, in a much stronger position is actually about to understand what is going on attribution and hopefully more intelligence sharing. Because in 2014, there were some US naval vessels in the Black Sea, gathering intelligence, but actually not sharing it with Ukrainian partners. So I would hope that over time and with this Ukraine’s cry for more interoperability with NATO, Ukraine’s naval and land forces will get more information from allies without direct involvement or direct presence on the ground where it could spike and go out of control. And perhaps, I mean, perhaps UK could call in the UN Security Council meeting to discuss the situation because I think it’s becoming serious enough where we do see the deployment of Iskandar mid-range artillery equipment, right, you know, in the centre of Europe and Bob, you mentioned MH 17 and miscalculation. Like that could repeat nobody. We are not precluded from some kind of tragedy taking place because of miscalculation due to this military build-up.
Bob Seely MP 49:52
Sean, can we now have Amirs, I think he has a question.
Amirs Falahovs 50:00
Yeah, hello, thank you for the talk. I had a question about people in Crimea. Basically, a lot of people, I think, have moved already to Crimea from Russia and mainland, like they did it illegally, of course. But what will be the policy? What the Ukrainian policy on them will be like when the peninsula will be occupied?
Bob Seely MP 50:24
Vasyl, again, I think we should start with you. And Petro, very obviously, please come in as well.
Vasyl Bodnar 50:33
The answer is clear, we will act in accordance with our international agreements. So we will not be like Russia. But actually, I guess, individual cases will be considered and then the decision will be adopted. So most probably, if they don’t, occupation will start most of these people will leave the peninsula. But if they will remain, so separate cases will be considered by the authorities what to do and how to act with that. Because if there will be some kind of peaceful settlement and reconciliation process, it might one way, the second way could be as the occupation, according to the international law we did, we didn’t know the process, how it will look like, then it should be considered. But for sure, we will not press them physically to leave the island. So once again, we are not rushed.
Bob Seely MP 51:19
But this is what I mean, the movement of population, this is state policy, isn’t it?
Vasyl Bodnar 51:24
Sure, yeah. I mean, they would like to change the existing landscape in the population, including Crimea, and it’s clearly understandable. And it is legal from the point of view of the Ukrainian legislation but what to do with the fist, physically with the people? So it’s still the big question to discuss and then to resolve but I believe we will act as normal democratic state, which will consider all the practical things which have been done by Russians, all the things wrong. And then calculate and cooperate or coordinated with international institutions, if they may assist in resolving, but there is not a simple answer that, okay, we will pull them out or, we’ll do something wrong with them.
Bob Seely MP 52:11
The interesting thing for me just looking at the tools of full spectrum war, approximation, movement is absolutely part of Russia’s toolbox of full spectrum war, because it helps all full spectrum concrete, because it helps reinforce the political military annexation that took place a few years ago. So from that point of view, for Westerners looking at the techniques of Russian war, I think what they’re trying to do to solidify their control is an interesting thing for, you know, researchers and people in this country. And clearly, it’s a political problem and an ethic problem for folks having to deal with Crimea.
Vasyl Bodnar 52:45
But actually, honestly, nobody said that there was no problem on the ethnic basis. He said, maybe the settlement problems are the beginning of 90s. But it was mostly social and economic, but not about the ethnic diversity today, people got within themselves. I have been in 2012, in Crimea, before the occupation and even Sevastopol look very calm. There was no Russian city with Russian flags and Russian military or Russian navies. It was a calm, provincial city, even in such a way, but then it was reinforced in even pro-Russian forces, they have only 3% of support. So it was made in a Russian hand and embrace all these, let’s say Russian nationalistic tendencies and bringing Russians from mainland etc. And the most tangible thing is not about the human population. It’s about the militarization, because it’s threatening not only Ukraine, even now Ukraine is threatened physically, but also the whole region. And in furthermore, because Syria, Libya and North Africa, they have been supplied through Crimea. So that should also be considered by the NATO allies. And I mean, all of our concern.
Bob Seely MP 54:00
Vasyl, thank you so much, indeed. And Sean, can we have Lee Bowman next, please, for his question, Lee over to you.
Lee Bowman 54:11
Hi. Yeah. I was just curious about the effectiveness of the US Navy, making an appearance in the Black Sea. Is that going to be useful to Ukraine? And if so, how?
Bob Seely MP 54:24
Thank you for your very concise question.
Vasyl Bodnar 54:27
Yes, for sure it will be useful as a political means of strengthening Ukrainian resilience and showing to the world that we are not alone in this contradiction with Russia, and within today’s situation of the deterioration on the situation border, but in practical terms, I still have the question, if they could be practically used, when the advancement will start in case of advancement. We’ll start so we did not have such a vision that the Americans will fight for us, so we are ready to defend ourselves with our armed forces, sending the Navy away to take a battle. But, you know, the results are still unknown if we see how strong the buildup of Russians are there and what they could be used. It also depends on the scenarios which could be implemented if it’s a full scale intervention. So it’s unacceptable from different points of view. But in practical terms, who could stop it except us?
Bob Seely MP 55:25
I mean, the assumption has always been that it wouldn’t be a full scale intervention.
Who knows, guys, because in 2014, if there was no resistance, this subversive groups could penetrate in Ukraine, and only the active stance of local activists, local authorities in some extent, and also prevent them from capturing subsidies like Kherson, Mykolaiv, or Odesa. Even if we’re just celebrating a seventh anniversary of liberation of Odesa from this progression.
Orysia Lutsevych 56:02
I may just add to what Vasyl said, I think it’s important to remember that in 2014, Russia used artillery based on the territory of Russia to shell Ukrainian positions. So they don’t necessarily have to cross the border even. But they were, you know, putting a substantial pressure on the Ukrainian Armed Forces by backing proxy groups with this shelling and important facts to keep this year. NATO summit is supposed to look at Ukraine’s membership action plan, not only Ukraine, but also Georgia. And I would imagine that this sabre-rattling we see from Bhutan right now, also keeps the summit in mind. You know, I’m sure Putin wants France and Germany, especially to relive the 2008 Bucharest summit to reiterate that this is my sphere of influence, and don’t even think about granting membership action plan.
Bob Seely MP 57:08
If NATO turned around and said: ‘we’ll have a membership plan’, and there’s a 10 year, let’s say, a 10 year ramp up to membership, wouldn’t that not spark a proper final attempt by the Russia to either take part of Ukraine or take the left bank of Ukraine. So looking at the map, the right hand side, where the majority of Russian speakers are, would that actually not trigger a an even more significant crisis?
Orysia Lutsevych 57:35
I don’t think these risks should be discounted. That’s why we have this military build-up. So it’s so important that all of us in the West keep attention on what is going on in Ukraine, but also keeping in mind that, you know, yes, Russia has this escalatory dominance, they can, you know, increase tension in the region. But also, let’s ask ourselves: ‘what it is feasibly from the military perspective they can achieve’, it will be a bloody military conflict. You know, it’s not so easy as taking over Crimea in 2014. There are no low hanging fruits for Russia and war with Ukraine is not popular in Russia, peacekeeping, maybe. I think that would be more acceptable for Russian voters before elections, but open armed conflict with Ukraine where Russia accepts in his side, I don’t think that would be beneficial to put in before elections.
Bob Seely MP 58:33
Orysia, thank you. Very sadly, I’ve been told that we have to leave it there. We could continue for, I think, a long time. But firstly, I’d like to thank Ukraine’s Deputy Minister Vasyl Bodnar for being on the phone. And also Petro Beshta while the head of the political Directorate at the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thank you to you both. Orysia, thank you so much indeed and for the work you do at Chatham House and Jade as well, for ever for the stuff that you do at Henry Jackson Society. So on that note, thank you everyone for taking part and for watching on zoom. And we will know that I hope to see you all very soon. Thank you so much indeed. Bye.