Escalating tug of war
Ukraine has found itself in the middle of an escalating tug of war. Russia is on one side, while the EU and the US are on the other. It has been tugged in both directions over the past several months. Last Tuesday, the Atlantic Council hosted Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Pavlo Klimkin, to discuss the escalating tensions and the necessary responses both within the country and with the international community. Klimkin discussed the necessity for a transparent and sustainable approach in order to ultimately achieve EU membership.
Klimkin said that Ukraine strives to be a united and democratic country within Europe. While there is currently great turmoil, he believes that the country wants to embrace political and economic freedoms and return to normal life. The government should therefore work to strengthen policy, the national economy, and security arrangements in order to stay true to its political commitments and eventually gain EU membership.
The three main components the country should focus on include de-escalation on the ground, humanitarian aid, and the restoration of infrastructure. According to Klimkin, there will need to be further military assistance in order to subdue the violence in Eastern Ukraine, as well as to establish a bilateral ceasefire as soon as possible. The government will then need support for the judicial system and the reestablishment of the rule of law as a means to deter future aggression.
It will also need to focus on full implementation of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement. Flexibility will be required to transform Ukraine’s legislation and effectively carry out trade with the neighboring EU market. Real solidarity within the country will be needed in order to reform and move towards European integration.
Klimkin stressed the commitment of the international community to Ukraine and its independence. It unfortunately took the tragic case of the MH17 flight to attract significant attention on a global scale. The crash was a game changer for those who did not understand the capability of the terrorists and the role of Russia. Now Ukraine is dedicated to a transparent investigation and full access to the crash site. It has been able to set up an international team with Dutch representatives and partners from the US, UK, and Switzerland.
Putin’s aggressive militarism and expansionism are a threat to more than just Ukraine. We must not stand by idly in the face of this threat. Putin must be pressured to either recommit Russia to peace, democracy, and rule of law, or he will persist with the politics of aggression. If he continues in this direction, the US, the EU and their allies will have to take further punitive steps to address the escalating tensions.
“We don’t need sanctions for the sake of sanctions but we need clear and continuous pressure on Russia,” stated the Foreign Minister. He did not believe that the previous sanctions were effective. The most recent sanctions that were just implemented could however have the power to hurt the Russian economy.
The mood is beginning to change considerably within Ukraine. More people are against the occupation and annexation. “They believe this to be an act of regression,” said Klimkin.
The Foreign Minister looks to implement reforms as soon as possible in order to become a member of the EU in the near future. The goals of EU membership and political recognition from the international community are vital. While Ukraine is being pulled in two different directions, it is ready to transparently address all concerns—Ukraine truly understands what is at stake in this tug of war.