Ukrainian FM Klimkin: Why Ukraine must stand firm
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on the reasons the West needs to help Ukraine
The whole post-WWII order has been based on two premises. First - all states must respect each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity.Second - if they disobeyed this rule and went rogue, there would be five nuclear "judges" to hold them accountable. No one counted on a situation where one of the nuclear arbiters would go rogue himself.
This explains the universal surprise and frustration when Russia began roughly destroy main pillars of sustainable structure of a European and, more broadly, international security system in the construction of which Moscow actively participated since 1945.
Remember how we used to live in a reality of secure borders and relative trust between East and West? Remember how Fareed Zakharia, not so many years ago, daydreamed about the "post-American world" based on a triple rise - of the East, the West and "the rest"? Well, this is all a thing of the past. At least if Russia is allowed to have its way with Ukraine.
Who would today follow Ukraine's actions in 1994, when it agreed to sign the so-called Budapest Memorandum? That is - renounce its nuclear status and put its trust in other countries' security assurances? Who would believe now that these assurances are worth the paper they are written upon?
Before 1994, Ukraine had the world's third-largest nuclear arsenal. This included 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 46 heavy bombers. America and Russia convinced Ukraine to renounce this, in exchange for a pledge: we will take care of your sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Twenty years later, one of the co-signers has attacked Ukraine shamelessly distorting international law and reality by saying this aggression did not constitute a violation of the Budapest memorandum. The official excuses would have been laughable if they were not so tragic: Russia claimed it was only bound by commitments towards previous Ukrainian governments, not the new one, which came out of the people's will after the Revolution of Dignity, and that it abides by the memorandum since nuclear weapons are not used against Ukraine.
Back in 1997, Ukraine formally agreed to allow Russia's fleet to remain in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. This was based on Russia formally agreeing not to station any nuclear weapons. Seventeen years later, we are watching Russia turn Crimea into a nuclear-infested and isolated "closed land" that could easily fit into one of Michael Chrichton's darkest novels about Soviet Union.
So, were the last 20 years really for nothing? Are we really in a darker sequel of the Cold War? Darker - because even the Post-Helsinki Soviet Union acted on the international arena with a greater responsibility than its legal successor.
Yes and no. Yes, because our biggest problem - the world living in fear again - is perceived by a major global player as an accomplishment. No, because this conflict isn't as deeply rooted as the Cold War ever was.
There are no opposing economic philosophies here or ideological concepts. Russia offers neither of these but it successfully appeals to the world's anti-Americanism and to the West's lack of self-trust. And it fools those willing to be fooled - either out of fear of new reality or out of egoism or short-sightedness. But it offers no viable alternative to freedom and democracy in the long run.
Russia has also a clear understanding that by violating basic international principles through annexation of the territory of neighbor state it opened the Pandora box with unpredictable consequences, especially for Russia itself. This explains Russian talks about the necessity to reshuffle the global security rules by holding a new security conference like Yalta 2 or Helsinki 2. In such a way, Russia wants to keep what was stolen, to legalize, to divide spheres of influence and return to business as usual under the Russian rules of doing business.
To push the West to the negotiation table on this matter, Russia continues to undermine the pillars of the global security architecture. After violating fundamental UN and OSCE principles in Ukraine, Moscow ceased its activities under the Treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe. What's next?
The answer is getting more and more obvious.
This perspective is totally unacceptable. I therefore call upon the world to pull together all courage it has and help us stop Russian aggression in Ukraine. If Ukraine stands - there won't be any domino effect spreading to other countries. If Ukraine stands and gets a better state - it will open a new perspective not only to the West, but also to Russia. If Ukraine stands - it will put a stop to this wrongful attempt to revise by force the universally recognized norms and principles in favor of only one of the actors.
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