Foreign Policy

Kyiv vs Budapest: What`s going on in Ukrainian-Hungarian relations?

24.10.2018
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ICPS Press

The relations between Ukraine and Hungary are a textbook example of the crisis, in which neither party considers actions to be acceptable, while both overestimate their capabilities and underestimate the risks and losses associated with the conflict. For more than a year there are sharp controversies, the trigger for which was the new Law on Education, which was adopted by the Ukrainian parliament on September 5, 2017.

The Hungarian reaction, which initially concerned the protection of the rights of the minority and the territory of Ukraine to receive education in the Hungarian language, quickly spread to the questions of Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine, citizenship and political cooperation. The conflict has reached a high level, it has acquired signs of scandal and, seems, it has the potential for further deepening. It is precisely to be said that both countries should prepare for a long cooling period and mutual distrust.

What's gone wrong? “Collision of Identities” or “Modus vivendi”

The relations between Hungary and Ukraine had much better time. Neighbors, united by common issues and challenges in the area of security, geography and history, have long remained friends. Hungary was one of the first to recognize Ukraine's independence, and subsequently became one of the key regional partners. Political cooperation deepened after Hungary joined NATO and the EU, and Ukraine made European and Euro-Atlantic vectors a priority in its foreign policy.

However, at some point the situation began to change. Hungarians began to concentrate additional attention on the rights of ethnic minorities in neighboring states; Ukrainians began to develop a national identity against the backdrop of Crimean occupation and armed conflict in the eastern part of the country. In both states, speculation on the historical and national themes began to be used high demand; while in the region of Eastern Europe the right political ideas and forces have intensified. The low level of economic interdependence and trade was due to: the benefits of hostility dominated the existing benefits from cooperation. Hungary as a member of NATO and the EU received additional levers of pressure on Ukraine, which made membership in both organizations a priority of their foreign policy. Even without any “Kremlin hand” there were enough motives for both sides to raising rates.

Escalation occurred quickly and predictably. Following the adoption of the Law on Education in new edition by the Verkhovna Rada, which narrowed the right of ethnic minorities to acquire education in their native language, Budapest promised to block Ukraine's further rapprochement with NATO and the EU. A practical step in this direction was the obstruction of the work of the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) at the highest level. Subsequently, the Hungarian government scheduled the appointment of “an authorized minister responsible for the development of Transcarpathia and develop kindergartens in the Carpathian basin”, which provoked strong protests from the official Kyiv.

However, the loudest scandal for today was the distribution of Hungarian passports in the Consulate of Hungary in Berehovo, which got on the video. After this incident, which was described by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine V. Bondar as “that Hungary behaves like Transcarpathia is its territory”, Ukraine sent out a Hungarian consul, and Hungary replied symmetrically. The distribution of Hungarian passports in Transcarpathia lasts at least since 2011, but it is the peculiarities of the current perception of the parties that exacerbate the situation.

Of course, the reactions of both parties are conditioned by the logic of the already existing confrontation, and each step is perceived to be extremely hostile, while the actions and intentions of the other party cause the maximum suspicion. In this atmosphere of mutual distrust, the next crisis moment remains a matter of time.

Today, relations between Hungary and Ukraine are in a state of crisis, and in the near future this crisis will deepen rather than be resolved. Budapest reaction was resolute, demonstrative and well thought out to Ukraine's adoption of the new edition of the Law on Education. Ukraine's response to the rhetoric did not slow down, and very quickly the parties came to a standstill of mutual accusations and threats. Can Kyiv and Budapest afford the luxury of a long-lasting conflict in the current geopolitical situation?

It looks like they can. You can even benefit from it if you have certain skills. Confrontation with neighbors is a powerful and cheap factor for internal mobilization, which will be pleased to use by Hungarian and Ukrainian politicians who are prone to populism. However, the weakening of the international positions of both states will be a price. For Ukraine, such a relaxation looks more undesirable, as in general, Ukraine's position in the conflict with Hungary seems weaker. We are certainly bigger, but Hungary can effectively use its membership in the EU and NATO as a tool of pressure.

If things are going to continue, then further deployment of events can be conventionally called “collision of identities”. It will be less scale than in the clash of civilizations, but in all other parallels will be justified. Identities will be based on symbolic elements, opposition to neighbors, mythologization and heroism of their own history. As a result, it will expand cultural divides, reducing the chances of a future dialogue. Ukrainians and Hungarians are at risk of speaking shortly in different languages - not only in linguistic but also in meaningful terms.

To a certain extent, both countries have become hostage to regional processes, in particular the growing influence of nationalism as a political ideology. The region of Eastern Europe was in the center of mood and emotion, inherent in the period of a century ago. Then the collapse of the empires and the emergence of new states provoked the race for identity: the countries of the region created national myths and overcome the severe consequences of the First World War. This then formed new identities in Eastern Europe, mainly by ethnosymbolism with a rate on language, history, and symbols, which eventually led to the boundary between rational civil nationalism in the west and mystical irrational and ethnic nationalism in eastern Europe.

Today, the challenge is to find ways to avoid identity collisions and to implement a more optimistic scenario under the so-called “modus vivendi”. Such a scenario would provide for the possibility of coexistence with differences, dialogue from different positions and a joint search for mechanisms to protect each other's interests.

Battle of syndromes

As it often happens, the situation is complicated by historical factors. Both Ukraine and Hungary have a difficult past, full of dramas and injuries, and the past has a strong influence on the ways of forming and developing national identities and perceptions of relations with neighbors. Briefly, this effect can be called a “battle of syndromes”.

In Hungary, this syndrome is called “Trianon”. After losing World War I, Hungary under the terms of the Treaty of Trianon of 1920 lost more than two-thirds of its territory and more than half of the population, and Hungarians ethnic minority with a total of more than three million people found themselves within the borders of neighboring states. Within Hungary, the difficult conditions of peace were perceived as a national tragedy, which greatly contributed to the formation of a revanchist foreign policy between the World Wars. After the end of the Second World War, the territory of Hungary as a whole was preserved within the framework defined by the terms of the Treaty of Trianon. And although the “Trianon syndrome” today should not be compared to what was in the 1920s-1930s, when the state flags dropped to mourn for the signed agreement, but it continues to exist in the public consciousness and, most importantly, used by political forces for easy and quick conquest of public support. Ethnic minorities of Hungarians in neighboring countries - and most of them are 1.5 million minority in Romania - are an important part of the “Trianon syndrome”. In the modern world, where the review of the state borders is an extremely expensive, ineffective, rare and dubious matter for frank and cynical revisionists, the protection of the rights of ethnic minorities becomes the main instrument of ethnocentric politics, a kind of contemporary analogue of irredentist. The concept of “great Hungary” during the period between the World Wars envisaged the gathering of territories; today, instead of it, there is the option of a state policy of active support for national minorities in neighboring states.

Ukraine has its own syndromes. They do not have such an obvious historical point of origin, but they are also related to historical memory, the struggle for statehood and the construction of national identity. Perhaps, at the moment, such syndromes as Crimea, Donbas or even Budapest, under the name of a well-known memorandum, are being formed, which in the future will affect Ukrainians' perceptions of history, neighbors and their own destinies in Europe. One way or another, these syndromes affect the decision both within the state and in relation to neighbors.

The development of national identity on the basis of ethnosimvolism - with the use of linguistic, religious markers and historical symbols - with the heroization of certain periods of history and rethinking of historical mistakes - poses additional risks of exacerbating relations with neighbors. And if these neighbors also take decisions under the influence of historical memories, then such risks are doubling.

What to do?

Both countries lose the continuation and exacerbation of the conflict. Ukraine receives absolutely unnecessary problems on its western frontiers and additional brakes in further rapprochement with NATO and the EU. Hungary also runs the risk. The sanctions against Budapest, which are discussed within the EU, are extremely unlikely, but the image of a country lacking European values will not benefit Hungary in the future. At the same time ethnic minorities - Hungarians in Ukraine and Ukrainians in Hungary - instead of the most complete protection of their interests, they receive additional risks.

To overcome the logic of confrontation, complex and non-standard decisions are required. Simple formulas, such as “to leave history for historians” from a similar Ukrainian-Polish conflict, will not work. Conflicts of this kind contain too many politics to rely on historians. It is unlikely that the hopes for interdependence will be justified, that is, the common economic interests will prevail over the motives behind the escalation of inter-ethnic confrontation. Hungary's share in Ukraine's foreign trade is about 3%, while Ukraine's share in Hungary's foreign trade is roughly halved. Therefore, the formula for a successful solution should be based on a political component.

One of the possible ways could be the creation of a wider regional context. If we realize that Ukraine and Hungary are part of a single region, establishing cooperation and maintaining a common consent in which could significantly expand the capabilities of both countries, then the level of escalation of the conflict can be kept under control. The regional level can open new horizons for both states if they can get out of captivity thinking only by today's categories.

In Ukraine, you often hear references to the “Kremlin hand” and the fact that Ukraine's conflicts with its neighbors are in the interests of Moscow. Such an argument is unlikely to be convincing for Budapest: only 6% of Hungarians consider the threat of possible escalation or expansion of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. It is best to bet on the argument that a bilateral conflict undermines the potential of Hungary and Ukraine itself.

It is also important to understand what interests are behind the stated positions of the parties. Sometimes such interests are simple enough, but they are often complex. The fact that the other party aspires, it is better not to guess or speculate, but to know. In the open dialogue on these issues, both Kyiv and Budapest are interested. Expansion of communication, explanation of own motives, timely informing of intentions can strengthen bilateral trust, even in the context of crisis in relations. In addition, understanding the interests of the opponent opens the way for mutual concessions. The discovery of nuances will turn the black-and-white conflict between “good and evil” into a half-tone full picture. This, in turn, will allow you to look at the possibilities of mutual concessions not from the positions of the game with a zero sum, but with the desire to find common solutions.

An additional useful step could be something like an informal agreement on the non-use of anti-Hungarian and anti-Ukrainian rhetoric in the internal narratives of both countries. It is obvious that national issues in both countries have become a means of mobilizing the electorate and will remain for a long time. National slogans, historical myths and ethnic symbols are much easier to apply in a political struggle than unpopular and complex reforms. Nevertheless, it makes sense to make national rhetoric as popular as possible. The boundary between patriotism and xenophobia or ethnic hostility must be pursued.

Both countries could look for opportunities to implement joint projects in areas of significant interest to them: energy, regional security, ecology, and the fight against transnational threats. If it allows elites to earn more political points than they do with aggressive rhetoric, then there will be a chance to get out of the most likely way to “collision of identities” and implement the “modus vivendi” scenario. The strategic partnership will still be far away, but the crisis phenomena in relations will be much less.

Conclusions

Conflicts between neighbors on the basis of ethnosimvolism - languages, minority rights, interpretation of history - the phenomenon is dangerous and difficult to regulate. In such conflicts, the logic of “zero - sum games” acts and in the end they often become a game with a negative amount, in which all lose.

Both Ukraine and Hungary are losing out of delaying the current crisis. They are losing time, opportunities, image and prospects. Probably, Ukraine loses more, but it is unlikely that it can become a satisfying pleasure in relations between potential partners. Both Kyiv and Budapest have experienced many sad and painful historical lessons that would have suggested that besides the interests of national selfishness, there are also regional security interests as well as an even broader transatlantic context. From overcoming the obstacle to cooperation, you can win much more than you have to pay for them.

Publications with tag «Foreign Policy»
Foreign Policy

Sea of Azov: Ticking Timebomb?

After a period of relatively consistent, low-intensity fighting in eastern Ukraine, 2018 has brought new developments with the opening of the Kerch Strait Bridge in the Sea of Azov. With the additional maritime element in Russia’s strategy, further destabilization of the region can be expected. Kerch Strait Bridge The ongoing armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation has undergone several developments in 2018 – important among them being the newly added maritime element to the conflict with Russia’s recent activities in the Sea of Azov off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula. Officially opening on 16 May, Moscow successfully constructed a bridge across the Kerch Strait, connecting Crimea to mainland Russia. Being the only waterway through which the sea’s maritime shipping may navigate to and from the Black Sea, Russia has begun restricting the movement of foreign vessels, among them mainly Ukrainian, to and from the Sea of Azov. Part of a larger strategy of economic warfare, as of June 2018, over 144 container ships have been restricted from passing under the bridge to the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk, becoming subject to search by Russian naval vessels. With search times upwards of 24 hours or more, maritime traffic has been severely hamstrung to Ukraine’s fifth and eighth largest ports in terms of volume of trans-shipped goods, respectively. Linking the Land to the Sea From the very beginning of this new maritime addition to Russia’s so-called hybrid warfare approach, Moscow has displayed how it may be used to link such activities with its preexisting land campaign. For example, just one week after the bridge was opened across the Kerch Strait, on 22 May Russian-separatist forces launched an artillery strike on Talakovka, located in the Donetsk region near Mariupol. As the Ukrainian military is limited on resources, in comparison to the Russian Federation, any choices between defending against separatist forces in Donbas and buttressing against an impending naval build-up would happen against the backdrop of a zero-sum game. Recent Developments On 17 October, the city of Kerch experienced an attack on a local polytechnic college for teenagers. Carried out by an 18-year-old, fourth-year student at the school, 20 people were killed and over 50 injured in the gunfire and explosives which were detonated in the school’s cafeteria. A terrible event in and of itself, this should be analyzed within the larger context of recent events in Crimea and within the Sea of Azov. From the beginning, Russian security officials cited the restriction of movement through the Kerch Strait as a response to fears of terrorist activities – namely from Ukraine – against the newly constructed bridge. The initial naval build-up in the Sea of Azov, including Russia deploying their Caspian Sea flotilla to the region occurred under the guise of this narrative. Now with a real example of danger in the region, regardless of its source, expect the Kremlin to push this narrative to support further militarization. Unclear as of yet, immediate ramifications may include greater security presence in the area in addition to increased restriction regarding passage through the Kerch Strait. Anticipated Risks Such activities, efforts to augment Russia’s economic war and support separatist militias against Ukraine, will further depress Ukraine’s economy vis a vis maritime trade and investors’ confidence. Militarily, any increased activity on the part of the Russian Navy may additionally warrant concern of westward expansion into the Black Sea, denying Ukraine of much needed economic resources – with the Black Sea representing 80% of Ukraine’s exports. A preexisting example to showcase the likelihood of such an event could be seen when Russia illegally seized oil derricks near Odessa using naval special operations forces and has subsequently been guarding them with several small warships. Conclusion The Kremlin has set a precedent for activities such as this. One might recall bombings and terrorist attacks in Moscow, Chechnya, Beslan, and other areas of the Russian Federation which have been used to incite fear into people and pave the way for heightened security measures. While circumventing the question as to whether the attacker was a lone wolf, or part of a larger conspiracy, there is a likely risk that Moscow will attempt to form a narrative around such a tragedy, with a mix of both available and fabricated evidence and claims in order to push their political and military agenda in the region. Preliminary actions toward this end have been seen with Crimean Parliamentary officials placing blame for the attacks on Kyiv, and Putin stating that the killing was “the result of globalization.” Further reasoning for such a conclusion comes from the Ukrainian presidential campaign season in full swing, with elections taking place next March. The Kremlin may continuously use such events as an excuse to bolster their position in the region, thereby pressuring Kyiv in future discussions such as the resumption of water supply from the Dnipro River to the Crimean Peninsula – where they are dangerously close to experiencing a drought, as well as to, in general, weaken the position of their Ukrainian interlocutors within the framework of the Minsk agreements. With Moscow’s strongest option thus far being a frozen conflict akin to Transnistria, further destabilization in the Sea of Azov – and Black Sea writ large – will remain an attractive option for Putin.  Author: Jonathan Hall

ICPS Press
13.11.2018
Foreign Policy

Expert Dialogue: Ukrainian-Hungarian Relations. Webinar 1

The International Centre for Policy Studies, with the support of the International Visegrad Fund launches the project “Ukraine and V4 countries: promoting better understanding”. ICPS experts together with partner organizations such as the Institute of International Relations and Trade (Hungary), the Institute for Economic and Social Reforms (Slovakia) and the Bronislaw Gemerek Foundation (Poland) discussed the issues of Ukrainian-Hungarian relations within the framework of the first webinar. Since 2017, relations between the two countries are in constant aggravation. The trigger for the conflict with Hungary was the adoption of the Law of Ukraine on Education which linguistic article caused a sharp critique of the Hungarian government and subsequently led to the blockade by the official Budapest of a number of initiatives in the Ukraine-NATO relations. Recently, the situation has escalated after the scandal with “Hungarian passports” for residents of Transcarpathia and mutual diplomatic threats between the official Kyiv and Budapest. During the ICPS-initiated online webinar, the experts discussed the causes of misunderstandings between Ukraine and Hungary, the existing differences in the policy of good neighborliness, and also highlighted the possible scenarios for the development of relations between Ukraine and Hungary in the future. Currently, Ukraine's relations with western neighbors are characterized by two important factors - asymmetry and hierarchy. The asymmetrical nature of relations is determined primarily by the fact that the role of the western neighboring countries for Ukraine is much more important than the role of Ukraine for them. And as a result, the price paid by Ukraine for deteriorating relations with its neighbors is much higher than the one that potentially will have to pay to neighboring countries for the crisis in its relations with Ukraine. The hierarchy factor is related to the place and role of the "Ukrainian question" in the internal or foreign policy agenda of the western neighbors. For any of the neighboring countries, Ukrainian problems do not have priority, and soon become an additional component of other more important issues. Meanwhile, the region of the Eastern Europe was captured by regional processes associated with the growth of the nationalism influence. The chain reaction of constructing national identities leads to mutual hostility, historical and linguistic controversy, the struggle for the loyalty of national minorities and other similar processes. As a result, the potential for regional cooperation between countries is decreasing, and the contradictions are only rising. Taking into account the possible undesirable consequences of existing trends, the main purpose of conducting expert discussions with ICPS is to seek common, effective mechanisms for the normalization of relations and good-neighborliness between Ukraine and the member-states of the Visegrad Group. First of all, experts recommend the following steps to be taken towards the implementation of the Neighborhood Policy and the improvement of the relations between Ukraine and Hungary: creating a wider regional context and understanding that the above countries are part of one region, cooperation that could expand opportunities for both countries; an open and honest dialogue on the interests of the different positions of the countries on a given issue; refraining from anti-Ukrainian or anti-Hungarian rhetoric in the internal discourses of both countries; search for opportunities for joint projects in the field of energy, regional security, ecology, combating transnational threats. Execution of such top-priority recommendations will help to reduce the number of crises occurring between Ukraine and Hungary, witnessed by which society continues to be in its second year in a row. The International Center for Policy Studies thoroughly deals with the topic of Ukraine's relations with its European neighbors, with relevant developments available at the following links: What is happening in Ukraine's relations with its western neighbors Ukraine and its neighbors: analysis of regional trends The project also plans expert discussions on relations with other countries of the Visegrad Four. Launching a dialogue at an expert level will foster the development of constructive ideas and solutions and minimize possible challenges for regional cooperation. Project materials: Presentation  

ICPS Press
01.10.2018
Foreign Policy

The “Big” Ukrainian-Russian Treaty: Time to Terminate?

Ukraine is about to terminate the epochal Treaty with Russia, singed more than two decades ago, by activating the clause of its Article 40. Sending a notification of non-prolongation six months before the end of another ten-year period would bring the Treaty to an end – and that’s the plan of the Ukrainian President. From our perspective such a move would weaken Ukraine’s international position, including vis-à-vis Russia. The Treaty has been a legal instrument for holding off Russia: despite the fact that Moscow violated the Treaty by annexing Crimea, further escalation was made more risky and expensive because the Treaty has been valid. Moreover, this fundamental document has been referred to in numerous legal processes Ukraine has been running against Russia internationally. Last but not least – the Treaty has been an instrument for Ukraine to induce its weaknesses in a confrontation with a much superior rival. In asymmetric conflicts weak parties need binding norms and agreements, even if they are violated; while stronger parties want to get rid of them. A move by Ukraine to terminate the Treaty may in the end play with Russia’s hand. Introduction There are 41 articles in the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. The word “cooperation” is used most often, 35 times. In 1997 it has been definitely a treaty about cooperation virtually in everything. Those days are gone. The Parties to the Treaty are rather fighting than cooperating. Russia has annexed Crimea and supported separatists in Donbas. Hostilities with varying degrees of intensity are under way in economic, trade, energy, information, and a number of other areas. But the Treaty has still been in force. According to Article 40, the Treaty is supposed to continue automatically every ten years, unless one of the Parties notifies the other of its intention to terminate no later than six months beforehand. Deadline for Ukraine is the last day of September. At a recent meeting with ambassadors President Poroshenko demanded the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prepare documents to notify the Russian party, that Ukraine would opt to halt the Treaty. This would be a simple legal step with possible huge political consequences. For several times the issue of possible termination of the Treaty has been heavily debated in Ukraine. Pros and cons are rather well known by now. But the moment is different today: now a decision has to be taken, be it continuation or termination. There’s no room for further uncertainty. Moreover, presidential elections are just several months ahead. That adds specific flavor to any foreign policy moves, especially when it comes to dealing with Russia. Ukraine doesn’t seem to have a long-term Russian strategy, but politicians do have their election strategies at hand. The stance of the future of the Treaty, which has already become a symbol of hybridism of bilateral relations, may be a powerful asset in election wars of 2019. Political speculations aside, the Treaty is a part of a broader fundamental problem: finding the best way to deal with Russia. This is not an easy problem at all. Strategic asymmetry, high level of interdependence, and lack of trust are key features to keep in mind while shaping the future of bilateral agreements. What’s So Big about the “Big” Treaty? In 1997 the world has been different from what it is today. It is even more so when comes to the Eastern Europe and regional security arrangements. Twenty years ago it seemed like former Soviet republics, although going through a difficult transformation period and occasionally suffering internal conflicts, would however manage to maintain international peace. The agenda of regional security has not been yet dominated by Russia’s intentions to regain dominance over post-Soviet space. Even Russia’s relations with the West have not yet been damaged – that would happen shortly after. Bilaterally Ukraine and Russia were mostly concerned about division of the Black Sea Fleet and the status of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukrainian Sevastopol. An agreement was needed to resolve most urgent issues and set the framework for further – as it was believed – friendship, cooperation, and partnership. Twenty years ago Russia’s share in Ukraine’s foreign trade was about 38.5%[1], comparing to current 25%[2]. The two countries were united by economic ties, joint ventures, transit capacities, and social interactions. The potential for further cooperation seemed huge, and the Treaty was set to enhance it. The Treaty is mostly about cooperation – from military to educational issues. It covers important problems of citizenship, language, economic cooperation, which were equally important in 1997 and after. But what is more important, it sets a mechanism for settling disputes, establishes regular meetings of minister of foreign affairs, joint commissions and other tools for a constant and active bilateral dialogue. It also outlines strategic partnership between the two countries, aiming at further strengthening it. A part of the Treaty that lays out general principles of bilateral relations (Articles 2-7) carries the spirit of the agreement[3]. This is because of this part that the Treaty is labeled “big”. This is about being good reliable and predictable neighbors, respecting sovereignty and borders of each other and resolving any conflict issues by negotiations and peacefully. To a certain extent the Treaty contained a model for post-Soviet space of how relations with Russia can be arranged. The Treaty has been a framework. It was designed to be a basis to a number of other bilateral documents, among which the Black Sea Fleet Agreement of 1997, the Treaty on the Russian-Ukrainian State Border of 2003, and the so-called Kharkiv Accords of 2010 are the most important. Overall there have been 451 interstate agreements between Ukraine and Russia before 2014. Many of them, of course, were signed before the “Big” Treaty. More than forty of them have already been terminated or suspended as a result of annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014. The “Big” Treaty is still valid. Why the Treaty Should or Should Not Be Terminated? The Treaty is valid, although attempts to terminate it have been earlier taken. Back in 2014 the Ukrainian Parliament discussed a law, aimed at denouncing the Treaty, but failed to approve it. A broader approach, targeting at breaking off diplomatic relations with Russia and introduce visa regime for Russian citizens visiting Ukraine, has also been quite popular among Ukrainian politicians and experts. Earlier this year the President called for suspension of specific parts of the Treaty. When it comes to discussing Ukraine’s further steps regarding the Treaty or, generally, regarding Russia, there always appears emotional side hand in hand with political reasoning. Having a valid treaty about cooperation, friendship and partnership – referred to as “strategic” in Article 1 of the Treaty – is certainly a kind of schizophrenia under current geopolitical circumstances. The spirit of the document is completely ruined, and it no longer reflects in any way a true agenda of bilateral relations between Ukraine and Russia. On the other hand, the document in many ways reflects actually what Ukraine would like to one day have in relations with Russia: respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, refrain from the use or threat of force or peaceful ways of settling disputes. These are fundamentals of mutual trust and good neighborhood. If Ukraine is ever to have another treaty with Russia, it most certainly would contain all these passages. Traditional argument against terminating the Treaty comes to possible weakening of Ukraine’s position in international courts. However, from a juridical standpoint, the fact that the Treaty had been violated does not depend on whether it is terminated or not. Russia can be hold responsible in any case. From this point of view, it is not clear enough what was meant by President Poroshenko, when he mentioned that Ukraine “is prepared and legally protected enough for a next step – termination of the Treaty…which due to Moscow has long ago become an anachronism.”[4] Ukraine has been equally ready for this step during recent four years. However, it has never been an easy option. Terminating the Treaty is often believed to weaken legal constraints on Russia’s further aggressive actions. On the other hand, by annexing Crimea from Ukraine and supporting separatists in Donbas the Kremlin has demonstrated that considerations of hard power calculations are far more important for Russia than any legal commitments. Not only has the “Big” Treaty with Ukraine been violated, but also founding principles of international law. It doesn’t look like if Russia decides further escalation is in its interests, the Treaty would stop it. But the Treaty is also important in one more regard. Ukraine is a weaker party to a protracted asymmetric conflict. Weaker parties are usually better off when a stronger party is bounded by norms, agreements, and multilateral commitments. In other words having no framework agreement with Russia would damage Ukraine more. Possible weakening of international position versus Russia may be a price for internal political gains. Bringing legal basis of bilateral relations into correspondence with political reality is, of course, necessary and inevitable. The “Big” Treaty hasn’t lived up to expectations, and is certainly among other important international norms, violated by Russia. The end of another ten years period of extension may be a right moment to terminate the Treaty. However, extensive analysis should be carried out to define how termination of the Treaty would impact the whole complex of bilateral Ukrainian-Russian agreements. Conclusion Russia’s aggressive policy towards Ukraine has undermined all the values which were laid out the foundation of bilateral relations and thus made the Treaty outdated. However, there have been good reasons for Ukraine so far not to rush and halt the agreement. A violated Treaty has been referred to in international courts and put additional diplomatic and political costs on Russia. With its fundamental provisions being broken, it still provided minimal toolbox for protecting some of remaining Ukrainian interests in relations with Russia. But today – due to the Treaty’s timeline and Ukrainian elections approaching – compromised decisions have little chances to work out. Rhetoric about abandoning some of the Treaty’s provisions, so popular several months ago, is no longer applied. Terminating the Treaty, as well as announced Constitutional amendments about Ukraine’s NATO and EU membership aspirations, are supposed to work together and help bring electoral result next year. Simple decisions, however, are not going to work in a situation so difficult. Ukraine should be getting ready for more unpredicted and more risky relations with Russia after the Treaty is terminated. [1] http://www.ukrexport.gov.ua/ukr/tovaroobig_z_ukr/rus/2631.html [2] http://countries.bridgat.com/Ukraine_Trade_Partners.html [3] Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation // http://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/643_006 [4] President: We Are Ready for Termination of the Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation // https://www.president.gov.ua/news/prezident-mi-gotovi-do-pripinennya-diyi-dogovoru-pro-druzhbu-49254

ICPS Press
13.09.2018
Foreign Policy

How deep is transatlantic split?

The unity of the West has always been a kind of an axiom for Ukrainian foreign policy. The West is associated with democracy, prosperity, stability and, among other things, unity, based on common values, history and strategic interests. Such a West requires Ukraine as a guide, a field of gravity and a counterbalance to Russian influence. Integration or even cooperation with such a West today - when non-alignment and multipolarity are discredited, and Russia has become a systemic threat - looks like a foreign policy paradigm without serious competitors. It is within its framework that the talks and declarations of accession to NATO and the EU, which largely replaced the complex foreign policy planning, fall into place. Under such conditions, the least that Ukrainians would like is a violation of the unity of the West. It generates a number of unpleasant questions, from the capabilities of NATO to maintenance of an anti-Russian sanctions regime. In the long run, the probability of facing one of the largest difficulties which is the choice between those who we consider allies is increasing. If the strategic interests of the United States and the European Union are dispersed, then, of course, not only Ukraine will feel the consequences. A strategic alliance between the two poles of the modern world remains a guarantee of global stability and security, or at least that they have been left behind. In this context, events of recent months gain added value. The sharp difference between the positions of the United States and major European powers over the agreement on Iran's nuclear program, the US's decision to relocate the Embassy to Jerusalem, and the real prospects of a US-EU trade war make us recall the last-year events and declarations. Donald Trump gave a lecture to NATO's European allies on how they should consider security; and Angela Merkel responded by saying that the times when Europe and the United States could rely on each other went by. This march, Donald Trump announced the imposition of a duty on imports of steel and aluminum, postponing the entry into force of this EU decision by June 1. Such a step could be the beginning of a conflict between the two largest economies in the world, trade between which reached a mark of 1.1 trillion dollars. Interdependence among them is even better illustrated by the impressive volumes of total sales of American companies affiliated to Europe and European companies affiliated to those of the US, reaching 5.5 trillion dollars. If the decision on the imposition of American duties will come into force, and Europeans will respond symmetrically - we are talking about the imposition of mirror-image duties on American goods, so far on clothes, orange juice, motorcycles, but the list can be expanded - the effect will be even stronger than the one, which was accompanied by the collapse of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership project (TTIP). Of course, this effect will be negative for a strategic partnership between the United States and Europe. But will it affect political cooperation? To this end, it is worth adding exceptionally deep differences in the views on the issue of international security. Europeans have responded critically to the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem - a step that, in the opinion of many, violates the balance and prospects of the Middle East conflict settlement. The situation with a nuclear deal with Iran deeply criticized by Trump, which has not, however, stroke a chord among European partners, is even more potentially dangerous. As a result, the United States came out of a multilateral agreement, providing Iran with an opportunity to set uneasy conditions for Europeans if they want to keep it in place. In some way what has happened can be seen as a shifting the problem from the US to the EU. This is rather risky not only concerning the Middle East, but also in the non-proliferation regime. Differences in the views and attitudes of Europeans and Americans seem to become commonplace. To what extent can they cross the line? For Ukraine, this issue is of practical importance in view of at least two factors - the effectiveness of NATO and support for the anti-Russian sanctions regime. They are the basis of a non-alternative foreign policy strategy of recent years. The good news is that NATO will remain as effective as it has been, even in the wake of the deteriorating global climate of transatlantic relations. Saving a uniting front of anti-Russian sanctions will be harder. But - and here the news is not so good - a simple strategy "trying to be friends with the West against Russia" will work worse. Despite the deepening of the contradictions in certain spheres, the transatlantic alliance holds together strategic interests. The balance of power in the world is changing rapidly: in the 15-20 years, China and India will play a leading role, and the EU will try to keep its place in the club of great powers. Historical and normative unity makes the United States and Europe almost natural allies, and a long period of peaceful and constructive cooperation gives reason to trust each other. NATO, as an embodiment of this trust, is also beneficial to all, as it creates a sufficient deterrent potential. For Europe, NATO is the best way to strengthen its own security. The US, no matter how much talk about the burden of spending on the common good, also gets from NATO more than it spends on it. Pragmatic interests will ensure the continued functioning of both NATO and other key institutions of the West. Truth be told, this does not mean that Ukraine will easily join them. The future of the anti-Russian sanctions regime looks vaguer. Intensifying disputes between Europe and the United States will lead to a revision of priorities and a temptation to turn positions on sanctions into a subject for trading on other issues. Europe is likely to suffer more from the imposition of trade duties, and the US position on sanctions looks more coherent and consistent. Against the backdrop of worsening relations and economic losses in Europe, demand for rhetoric about weakening or abolishing sanctions imposed on Russia may well increase. The danger of a tariff war between the United States and the EU for Ukraine is precisely the fact that, struggling for the economic interests of Europeans, it will strengthen the positions of those who want to compensate loss by deeper cooperation with Russia. The civilization split in the West or the destruction of its key institutions will not happen: even the Kremlin is unlikely to dream about that. However, concerning temporary exacerbation of contradictions and contradictory positions on important issues for Ukraine it is quite possible. In these circumstances, we will probably need a more subtle approach to the western vector of our foreign policy.

ICPS Press
25.05.2018
Foreign Policy

Nuclear disarmament: Ukrainian-Korean lessons

Ukraine and North Korea which are so different and distant were connected within the context of nuclear non-proliferation. There was a time when Ukraine made a significant contribution to strengthening this regime by nuclear disarmament. On the contrary, North Korea consistently undermines this regime by demonstrating to the whole world by its own example, the opportunities and risks of the acquisition of nuclear weapons. In recent weeks, given the rhetoric of nuclear disarmament on the Korean peninsula following the summit of the leaders of the DPRK and the Republic of Korea, the parallels have become too obsessive; and the question of whose choice will eventually turn out to be the right one is a matter of interest to many. According to the conditions of the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 which has been so often mentioned in the last years, Ukraine has acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as a non-nuclear-weapon state, thus getting rid of the nuclear arsenal that remained on its territory after the collapse of the USSR. Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan were not the pioneers on this complicated and controversial path: several years ago, the South African republic rejected the nuclear weapons. Unlike the post-Soviet republics, South Africa fully controlled its small nuclear arsenal - for this reason it could be considered a model for future nuclear disarmament cases. Current nuclear states are primarily interested in increasing the number of such cases, but the paradox is that they are often seen as a source of threats pushing other states to obtain nuclear weapons. In case of Ukraine this paradox transformed four years ago from an intellectual puzzle to a key issue of foreign policy. The strategic challenges faced by the leadership of the DPRK today differ significantly from those that the leaders of the Ukrainian state tried to resolve a quarter of a century ago. The international environment and the international security situation are fundamentally different. Thus, such cases are more interesting to compare. Could Ukraine get the best, in words of Donald Trump, deal? And will North Korea follow the example South Africa? What are the starting points for a serious talk about nuclear disarmament in the modern world as a whole? In the early 1990's, optimism and faith in the future without conflicts prevailed worldwide. Against this backdrop, nuclear weapons seemed not to be the relic of the past, with which it is impossible to solve the challenges of the future: to accelerate economic development, to change the social model, or to build an effective democracy. Membership in NATO seemed rather reachable, moving towards Europe simple, and the neighborhood with Russia good. Rejecting nuclear weapons was much easier twenty five years ago: the deal seemed to be to exchange of unnecessary military resources for such necessary legitimacy, Western support and money. North Korea makes its decisions in other circumstances. The period of romantic perception of international security has past long ago, and events in Ukraine have considerably deepened the crisis of world order. The demand for hard power has suddenly emerged again, and nuclear weapon is considered by many as a "great counterpart" in the military capabilities of the various potential states. It seems that Ukrainian experience has been useful for many, including the DPRK. Its key lesson is that exchanging nuclear weapons is reasonable only if reliable security assurances are provided. A number of states which were technologically capable of creating nuclear weapons, from Australia to Japan, and from Sweden to South Korea used to go that way. The fact is that for the United States, the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is a priority of the foreign policy strategy since the 1940s. Sanctions and preventive military strikes appeared to be less effective instruments than the proliferation of security assurances: and over the past 70 years, US security commitments have been expanded exponentially, in both multilateral formats, such as NATO or ANZUS, and in bilateral agreements concluded with Japan or South Korea. Nearly always the motive behind such commitments is the desire of the United States to prevent their allies from gaining nuclear capability. Ukraine in its time did not learn this lesson. Nuclear weapons should not be exchanged for money or for any other non-security related resources. Indeed, Ukraine did not control nuclear weapons on its own territory and it weakened its position in negotiations with Washington. However, it didn’t mean that Ukraine could not demand more. In 1994, this could be a security treaty with the United States, which including an obligation to protect Ukraine, which is not provided in the Budapest memorandum. Today, in a crisis of international security and lack of trust, such an agreement is not enough.

ICPS Press
04.05.2018