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Igor Ivanov

President of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (1998–2004)

These days, you will hardly find a Western politician or a public leader who has not made a statement on Ukraine. All the pluralism of views and opinions notwithstanding, the overwhelming majority of comments boil down to two theses. First, they focus on only one dimension of the multi-dimensional Ukrainian crisis: on the Crimean dimension. Second, out of the broad range of available options and recommendations to the West only one recommendation is discussed in detail: how to punish Russia with sanctions.

These days you will hardly find a Western politician or a public leader, who has not yet made a statement on Ukraine. All the pluralism of views and opinions notwithstanding, the overwhelming majority of comments boil down to two theses.First, they focus on only one dimension of the multidimensional Ukrainian crisis – on the Crimean dimension. Second, out of the broad range of available options and recommendations to the West only one recommendation is discussed in detail – how to punish Russia with sanctions.

Such an approach, in my view, reveals either a lack of the adequate information about Ukraine or an evident political bias. In any case, this approach can hardly help in understanding the roots and the dynamics of the Ukrainian crisis and, therefore, can hardly help in working out a realistic solution for the crisis. Moreover, to ignore fundamental Ukrainian realities of today is to contribute to further deterioration of these realities up to a possible collapse of the Ukrainian statehood. If the approach is not changed in the nearest future, all of us may have to coexist for a very long period of time with a major hotbed of conflicts and instability in the very center of the European continent.

I do not want to get into the long term dynamics of the crisis. A fair share of blame for the tragic situation should be addressed to the Ukrainian elite – politicians and top businessmen alike (including those of them, who now claim power in Kyiv). Many of those newly born “patriots” and “Europeans” for more than twenty years pursued only their own immediate personal interests and did nothing at all to build a modern European state. But to look for the guilty is not the most important thing now. It is much more urgent to get a realistic assessment of the current state of affairs in Ukraine and to define practical steps in order to resolve the crisis.

In my opinion, to reduce all the problems in Ukraine to the ‘annexation of Crimea’ would be a profound and tragic delusion. The core of the problem is not the new status of Crimea, which is nothing more than an implication of the preceding events in Kyiv. The core of the problem lies in the Ukrainian state being disintegrated, in all the main state institutions being compromised, in the established political leaders being discredited with no universally accepted new public figures available to replace the old faces. The core of the problem lies in the disastrous state of the Ukrainian economy and public finances that brought the country to the brink of a national bankruptcy. The core of the problem is in the omnipotence of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and oligarchs, in the growing power of nationalistic political groups and semi-military units and gangs that are accountable to nobody. The core of the problem is in the reign of the organized crime that has already divided the country into ‘spheres of influence’. Unfortunately, today Ukraine cannot be regarded as a full-fledged state; to ignore this reality and to focus exclusively on the “Crimean problem” would be hypocritical, to say the least. This hypocrisy is not going to help anyone; above all, it will not help Ukraine.

The reality is that Ukraine is not in a position to resolve the crisis without an assistance from the outside. Only coordinated actions by Russia and the European Union, together with other committed partners, can rescue Ukraine. It means that we should put aside our disagreements on Crimea and put together a Contact Group at the level of Foreign Ministers of Russia, major European powers and the United States. The Group should be convened urgently with no preconditions; its sole goal should be decide how to assist Ukraine in the very nearest future. We need a plan for immediate economic, social, political and other measures that would prevent Ukraine from sliding into the abyss. Such a plan, when drafted, should be addressed to all responsible political forces in Ukraine ready to work for the salvation of their country.

After all, acting together, we were able to stop the war in Bosnia and assisted this country in starting its peaceful life. At that moment the cost of delay was about one hundred thousand killed and more then two million refugees! Are we ready to wait till the situation in Ukraine becomes even more desperate and dramatic before we have the courage and the political will to act together one again?

As for Crimea and sanctions against Russia - I believe that to put these matters into the center of the discussion means to find excuses not to assist Ukraine in a practical way or to cover egotistic and short-sighted geopolitical interests. The future of Crimea has been decided. It might be a painful fact for many, but this fact should be accepted. It was not Russia that provoked the crisis in Ukraine. It was not the Kremlin that brought to power in Kyiv radical nationalists, who broke into pieces the very delicate and fragile political balance, which had been the foundation for the Ukrainian statehood and integrity. The Kremlin had to respond to the will of the overwhelming majority of the Crimean population to rejoin the Russian Federation. How could Russian leaders act in a different way keeping in mind national interests, historical justice and the deepening Ukrainian crisis?

Of course, every state can decide for itself whether to impose sanctions on another state or not. Every state can assess the repercussions of the sanctions, including repercussions for its own economic interests. But history tells us that, as a rule, sanctions are not a sign of strength, but rather a sign of weakness. Sanctions demonstrate an evident inability to resolve complicated problems through political and diplomatic means. If anybody wants to reconfirm this trivial observation once again, it is easy to do. But will it help Ukraine?

Source: The Moscow Times

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  1. Korean Peninsula Crisis Has no Military Solution. How Can It Be Solved?
    Demilitarization of the region based on Russia-China "Dual Freeze" proposal  
     36 (35%)
    Restoring multilateral negotiation process without any preliminary conditions  
     27 (26%)
    While the situation benefits Kim Jong-un's and Trump's domestic agenda, there will be no solution  
     22 (21%)
    Armed conflict still cannot be avoided  
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