The latest Kyiv Security Forum online discussion "Strategic Outpost: How to Boost Ukraine's European Integration and Strengthen Eastern Europe?" main idea was that Ukraine must remain on the agenda of the European Union and NATO, and its membership in these organizations will be in the national interests of the member states.
Danylo Lubkivsky, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, member of the Board at Open Ukraine Foundation and moderator of the discussion started with the goals we are facing right now. "For Ukraine the most important goal, as we understand it, is to ensure its reliable defense against the existential threat that comes from Russia. The threat that is not going to disappear even when Putin dies. Hoe to protect ourselves? How to live with the war at the gates? And despite that how to build a prosperous and successful state? These are the questions for Ukraine," he said.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Prime Minister of Ukraine (2014-2016), Chairman of the Kyiv Security Forum emphasized that Ukraine has to become a part of a number of regional initiatives: "The Three Seas Initiative. I don’t see a reason why Ukraine is not part of this initiative. Bucharest Nine which is more correlated with the NATO issues. Ukraine has to be a partner in this type of regional initiatives."
"We need more decisive, more robust and stronger international cooperation with our regional friends like Lithuania, Poland, Hungary. We need to turn the page of past discrepancies and dramas, to reconcile and to look into the future," he underlined. "This is the aim. To have a joint prosperous and bright future. For Ukraine, for the European Union and for our friends in the United States," Arseniy Yatsenyuk added.
He emphasized that Ukraine achieved a lot in cooperation with the EU: "We managed to provide an energy independence to Ukraine. Ukrainians got the visa-free regime. Together with the European partners and the United States we deterred the Russian aggression and imposed sanctions against the Russian Federation. Together we started unprecedented reforms in Ukraine."
"The best answer to isolationism is integration. The best answer to dictatorship is democracy and more democracy. The best answer to crisis is cooperation. The best answer to corruption are independent courts and rule of law," he said.
Chairman of the Kyiv Security Forum underlined, that according to the polls, the majority of Ukrainians support both the EU and NATO integration: "And right now its up to the European Union to lead by the example, an example of a prosperous and strong society. Its practically a responsibility of the Ukrainian government to move reforms further and to be on this way towards the EU as strong as possible."
"We need clarity. Let’s set clear cut goals. Whether Ukraine will be a member of the European Union? We do understand that its going to be a very long, bumpy, difficult road. But we need to say something very clear to Ukrainian people: this is the way we are moving to. Let’s answer the question whether Ukraine will be a member of NATO and what kind of preconditions we have to meet," he underlined.
In order to achieve these goals, Chairman of the KSF said, we need to have pro-Western coalition in the Ukrainian government and in the Ukrainian administration.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk also underlined that the numbers in terms of the implementation of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) "are not that optimistic as he expected": "In 2014-2015 it was more that 94% of the implementation of the action plan that was enforced by the government. Today its just around 38 %."
"In the European Union we need to have a pro-Ukrainian coalition. Our Polish, Lithuanian friends those who really want to see Ukraine as a member of big, united EU family," he said.
Linas Linkevičius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania emphasized that despite the crisis with the coronavirus, Russia continues its military aggression against Ukraine. "If we compare the situation last year, we see more shelling, more violations by Russia. And we also see that a certain policy is being tested, as before, to project Russia as a mediator, as an observer," he said.
He called the idea of creating an Advisory Council on Donbas an example of such a policy. "It was not created, but such an idea already existed. And it smells a bit of Russia's attempts to portray itself as an outside observer, as if the conflict is taking place in Ukraine between Ukrainians and that’s it," Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania underlined.
In his opinion, in order to effectively counter Russian aggression, Ukraine must continue the course of reforms.
Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden thinks that COVID crisis demonstrated the loss of the United States of its leadership positions in the world. "Even before the coronavirus crisis the global system of cooperation was under threat and under strain due to number of different circumstances. The revisionist Russia and I don’t need to explain it more, you are aware. Assertive China in various area. And we have very disruptive United States," he said.
Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations (2017-2019) emphasized that Russia wants to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO, using the occupation as a means to that end. "Russia wants to prevent countries like Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova from joining the Alliance. And it has occupied territories in these countries," he said.
Volker underlined that NATO nations are reluctant to take on board as a member a country where Russia occupies part of the territory, because an Article 5 of the Alliance (which states that an attack on any NATO member would be considered an attack on the whole Alliance) could imply an immediate conflict with Russia to retake these territories by force.
The American diplomat stressed that we will not give Russia a veto over the NATO membership of countries and suggested not to apply Article 5 to the occupied territories immediately.
"There will be no first to use of force to retake them, we support only their peaceful reintegration into the territorial integrity of the aspiring nations of these territories and the restoration of the integrity of countries aspiring to join NATO. This should deprive Russia of incentives to continue the occupation of these territories," Kurt Volker emphasized.
He also mentioned that "any European nation that meets the standards of democracy, rule of law, contribution to common security, should indeed be considered for membership. We need to reenergize that process into the enlargement process, which has lost energy and commitment over years."
Ivannna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Integration of Ukraine to the EU underlined that the EU countries must be the united front in the face of Russian aggression.
She added that Ukraine has already made its major contribution to the European security and strategic partnership. "This has been done by thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians who have died because of the Russian aggression against our country. And because of their sacrifice "Russian World" has been stopped at our eastern border and not at the eastern border of any of our western neighbors," Chairman of the Committee emphasized.
Marcin Bosacki, Polish politician, Senator, Deputy Chairman of the Foreign and European Union Affairs Committee of the Polish Senate noted that Central and Eastern European countries share the common strategic sensibility and threat assessment. "The main threat is the ambition of Putin’s Russia. And probably, as you’ve already said, it goes beyond Mr. Putin. The Russia’s ambition is to reestablish control and influence over our part of Europe. It doesn’t change. It was the same 20, 10 or 5 years ago. What has been changing is the ability of the West to respond."
Danylo Lubkivsky wrapped up the discussion: "Today we heard two messages: let’s pull together, let’s stay together and let’s help this ball rolling further fro the benefit of the world democracy, for the benefit of Europe and for the benefit of our nations. Thank you!"
Kyiv Security Forum is Ukraine’s foremost platform for high-level international discussion about peace and security. Kyiv Security Forum was founded in 2007.