Ukraine's former deputy foreign minister reflects on his country's relations with Russia following the controversial meeting between US President Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
By Danylo Lubkivsky
A rational and seemingly well-intentioned readiness towards dialogue with the Kremlin resulted in irrationally demeaning us all.Former Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine
The recent fire at Rio de Janeiro’s National Museum left many of us speechless. The eery sight of flames gutting the inside of the spectacular palace, turning ancient fossils and priceless artefacts to ashes. It was a catastrophe, an irreversible misfortune; a dramatic example of human failure to protect our fragile treasures. Omens appear in unexpected places. Amid the current climate of geopolitical uncertainty, did the blaze hold some formidable sign?
Almost two months have passed since the summit in Helsinki between the presidents of the United States and Russia. The publicity around this event was dramatic, and assessments are controversial, but today it looks like the worst predictions have not come true. The US administration has imposed additional sanctions against Moscow. NATO's defence capabilities are strengthening. Regional policies and structures are intensifying. A new role was created to counter Russian malign activities and trends – SARMAT. Partners are rightfully saying, "follow these affairs”.
Does this mean that there are no grounds for anxiety? In my opinion, Kyiv should not lose heart. No summit will outbalance or change the meaningful and hard-won collective decision of the people. Besides, we still have faith in a system of institutional checks as in traditional democracies that can stop unpredictable negotiations.
However, relying entirely on the “system” could also be ill-considered.
Elements on both sides of the Atlantic have already been released and they could be a real threat to the free world and its institutions, along with its values, resources and people, while yet possibly preserving the facade of freedom.
These elements are looking for imbalances, cracks, and openings to exploit.
President Putin actively and creatively continues to attempt to fill the world with his spurious propaganda.
A rational and seemingly well-intentioned readiness towards dialogue with the Kremlin resulted in irrationally demeaning us all. This friendly conversation began to undermine the boundaries between two vastly different worldviews. It quietly began to equalise what shouldn't be seen as being equal. This encounter even provided the optics of a dance with a criminal. Perhaps after it, there will be a time when the victim, Ukraine, will be called the guilty.
The situation is worsened by outbreaks of discord between Americans and Europeans. This tension could worsen, because each side considers itself offended and in the right, giving the Russians a great opportunity to add fuel to the fire.
The construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will supply gas from Russia bypassing Ukraine, is seen by many partners as a fait accompli. In a bizarre way, it proves one thing: a lack of ethics. Disguised as an independent commercial interest, this pipeline could lead to the worst form of corruption, geopolitical corruption, compared to which the petty thieves from Eastern Europe seem minor.
In addition to all these events, there is a possibility that Russia will return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The vote on this is expected in early October, which may allow Russia to circumvent previous sanction decisions. If this happens, then the appearance of Russian deputies at the dais in Strasbourg will be extraordinary. In a political sense, the joint regime of sanctions might be mitigated. The credibility of a key European institution, which exists to protect values and human rights, will be undermined. The weight of its decisions could lead to its own moral destruction. This destruction will come from the inside, although the facade may be preserved. This is a terrible price just for the support of Russian money.
And then come new tests.
The elections to the European Parliament in May 2019 will reflect the direction and extent of change in the European mood.
From the point of view of Kyiv, the greatest threat may not even be the influence or spectre of the Kremlin. The greatest test is the potential expansion of a zone of ethical void, which feeds on each of the elements I have mentioned – reconciliation with the aggressor, discord among traditional allies, and indifference to weaker nations. It matters for Ukraine. And it concerns Ukrainian elections next year too.
Do we have reason to fear this future? There is no doubt that we do. Should we be desperate? No. The consolidation of sane professionals and people with ethical principles who distinguish between the concept of good and evil is probably what will be urgently needed. The summit in Helsinki was just one point in a more protracted process. How events develop will depend on the solidarity and meaning of our joint international response.
Generally, conventional war tests an adversary’s durability. Hybrid war, however, is a test of weakness. In this sense, over the past four years, Ukraine has proved to be capable of maintaining a position of strength and opposition in the face of its enemy. What Kyiv desires most is that all its allies keep the same attitude of strength and opposition to those who spurn democracy.
. . .
It was something more than a museum which was destroyed in Brazil. It was an unquantifiable loss of historical and cultural heritage, that we were helpless to stop. Does not the same threat endanger the international world order and its seemingly solid facades? Let us not be mistaken by a false understanding of real interests. The flames and demons have already started to make the structure hollow of our values and unity. The accomplishments of generations of free men and women, guided by admirable convictions, may go with the wind. To protect them does not require huge and abstract manoeuvres. It means precise and concrete decisions, based on responsibility for all, ethics and efficiency.
Danylo Lubkivsky is a former Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine.
Opinions expressed in View articles do not reflect those of euronews.