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 participated in the Eastern Partnership Conference in Vienna
Expert of the International Centre for Policy Studies Yehor Kyian participated in the conference “Ten Years of EaP: Today's Achievements, Tomorrow's Goals”, which took place on May 28-29 in Vienna. The event was attended by representatives of diplomatic departments, governments and leading think-tanks in Europe. In general, all participants of the EaP Conference supported positive rhetoric and noticed significant achievements in cooperation. The Conference consisted of three closed and one public panel. Participants of the first closed panel “How to keep all stakeholders on board” tried to solve the problems of heterogeneity of the EaP countries. At the same time, the emphasis was placed on the need to avoid the “division” of the EaP countries due to their heterogeneity, but to focus on finding commonalities. The aspect of possible restrictions within the framework of the Eastern Partnership has been discussed during the closed panel “The EaP’s “external relations“ and third-party co-operation”. The emphasis was on increasing trade between countries. It was noted that it is necessary to improve cooperation not only with third parties and the EU, but also with each other within the framework of the Eastern Partnership. During the open panel discussion on general topic of the conference, the representatives of the European Commission and countries such as Austria, Romania, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova have exchanged successful experience in implementing reforms and cooperation within the framework of the Eastern Partnership. “It is not necessary to consider the entrance into the EU for the very purpose, because in implementing reforms, countries first of all improve their lives for themselves and should be interested in them,” ICPS expert Yehor Kyian conveys the ideas of one of the participants of the event. - Despite the support and assistance of the EU, some countries have observed bilateral trends - that is, not only the implementation of European values, but, on the contrary, exception to them. First of all, it is about oppression of freedom of speech and media.” During the “Transformation, approximation to EU standards and values, regional cooperation - Experiences and challenges across the wider European region” panel it was highlighted on the experience of the Balkan countries. Their representatives noted that it is necessary to give more clear benchmarks from the EU side regarding the prospects of joining. In their opinion, delaying integration processes can create internal opposition and loss of confidence / support from the public regarding accession to the EU. According to Yehor Kyian, participation in such events by the official Ukrainian delegation will allow our country to better demonstrate its position on the international arena and maintain a close dialogue with Europe.
International conference “Ukraine's relations with its Western neighbors. A chance for rebooting”
On May 22, ICPS conducted an international conference devoted to the analysis of Ukraine’s policy towards V4 countries with the participation of diplomatic missions’ representatives, expert community, think tanks, representatives of the state authorities and media. The conference was organized as part of the project “Ukraine and V4 countries: promoting better understanding” with the support of the International Visegrad Fund and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS) in cooperation with the experts from Poland, Hungary and Slovakia have analysed the trends of relations development in the region and presented recommendations on implementing the new neighbourhood policy between Ukraine and the countries of Visegrad Group. Ensuring good neighbourhood and stable relations between Ukraine and its Western neighbours is a necessary prerequisite for regional stability, given the existing security threats and challenges in the region. Elaboration of a new, improved approach on the relations between Ukraine and the countries of the Visegrad Group is necessary to improve and strengthen regional cooperation, as well as to prevent new divisions in the future. The experts came the conclusion that in order to limit the scale of problems in relations between Ukraine and its Western neighbours, as well as creating a more favourable environment, countries should discourage aggressive rhetoric towards one another in internal political discourses. Secondly, they should expand mutually beneficial areas of cooperation and try to develop common approaches. They should include regional security, energy security and transnational issues. Thirdly, countries should pay more attention to supporting democracy in the region. And, finally, more attention should be paid to the ways of mutual protection of ethnic minorities. In turbulent times, strong Central and Eastern Europe - in the security, economy, and social development potential - will be in the interests of not only regional states, but also Europe as a whole. The expert recommendations are entailed in a policy research “Ukraine’s neighbourhood policy towards V4 countries: promoting better understanding”.
Ukraine and V4 countries: promoting better understanding. Briefing for diplomatic missions in Ukraine
International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS) has conducted a briefing for diplomatic missions in Ukraine as part of the project “Ukraine and V4 countries: promoting better understanding”. ICPS experts presented the analysis of the current state of relations between Ukraine and the V4 countries as well as their expert recommendations on improving the neighbourhood policy of Ukraine. Ensuring good and sustainable neighborhood relations between Ukraine and its Western neighboring countries is crucial for regional stability with a view of the existing security threats and challenges in the region. Elaboration of a new updated approach towards the relations between Ukraine and its V4 neighbors is necessary to improve and strengthen regional partnership and prevent the occurrence of new contradictions in the future. A deeper understanding of mutual interests may open space for compromise and logrolling. Deteriorating regional security is a challenge for all; and cooperation with the view to restore fundamental institutions may bring more benefits rather than continuation of disputes. To achieve this it would be useful to concentrate on long-terms achievements rather than on short-term gains. Spheres of common priority, i.e. energy security, transportation and transit capabilities, security cooperation, should be given special attention. Hostile rhetoric should be discouraged at all possible levels. Strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing rule of law, protecting human rights, improving solidarity, as well as promoting tolerance may become common goals, capable of contributing into a positive agenda of relations between Ukraine and its Western neighboring countries. The project “Ukraine and V4 countries: promoting better understanding” is implemented with the support of the International Visegrad Fund and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.
Minsk Format, Budapest Plus or Anything Else?
Ways to tackle long-term effects of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and to resolve a conflict between the two are in the focus of presidential campaign in Ukraine. But after elections are over, the issue will still remain on the top of the regional security agenda. For five years geopolitical effects of Kremlin’s aggressive decisions on Ukraine have been downgrading security architecture in Europe. This is not only a problem of Ukraine, but a common challenge. Lack of trust, application of violence, and institutional weakness are making Europe a more dangerous place. The Minsk format, designed to contain the conflict in the East of Ukraine, has been the basic framework for managing the conflict. One thing is evident so far: it is apparently not enough. It proved helpful in containing Russian advance and freezing the conflict to a level of 100-150 battle casualties from each side annually. On the other hand, at some point it may also have become useful for making the conflict protracted, just like in a number of other post-Soviet cases. Disputed areas, separatists supported from Kremlin, Russian interference are common features of a geopolitical landscape in this part of the world. Seen as instruments for advancing Russia’s geopolitical interests, these conflicts, however, are often utilized by local elites for mobilizing internal and foreign support. But that is a risky game: benefits of that kind are covered by long-term security expenses. Frozen conflicts not only undermine security of home countries for decades, but also affect neighboring countries, which have to share the risks. So far there hasn’t been any reason to believe that Minsk format would be able to resolve the conflict in the East of Ukraine. A stalemate of Minsk raises the issue of possible alternatives. One of them has always been around: breaking away from the agreement. Supported by hardliners in Ukraine, this option could hardly improve the country’s chances in struggling against Russia and at the same time places international sanctions against Russia under threat. Ukraine remains a weaker side to an asymmetric conflict, which means that a bad agreement is usually better than no agreement at all. Another alternative has recently appeared on the agenda of Yulia Tymoshenko, one of the favorites of the presidential campaign in Ukraine. It is called “Budapest Plus”, referring to the Budapest memorandum of 1994, according to which Ukraine got security assurances in exchange for giving away its nuclear weapons. The main idea behind Budapest Plus is to engage the US, the Great Britain, France, China, Germany and the EU into an extended format, which would replace Minsk as a principal tool for conflict resolution. There are at least two advantages such a format could bring about. First, a military conflict in Donbas is a part of a broader problem, which is security deficit in Eastern Europe. For various reasons, the region is facing elevated security risks. This is a problem for many, not just for Ukraine. Expanding a circle of mediators would follow the simple fact that states do care. Moreover, Russia’s actions against Ukraine have damaged mutual trust so much, that now it seems that bilateral issues can be approached only within a broader task of rebuilding security in Europe. This is something major powers can take care about. Secondly, Budapest Plus may help not only increase pressure on Russia, but also to create a more favorable framework for Ukraine to deal with Russia in the long run, in particular over the issue of occupied Crimea. Along with providing Ukraine with more leverage, a broadened format could also be more effective in restoring elements of world order, ruined by Russia’s decision to occupy Crimea in 2014. In the end most countries would benefit from restoration of international institutions, recharging of international law, and return of justice. Reference to Budapest memorandum underlines a connection between Ukrainian security and durability of non-proliferation regime, something most major powers are especially interested in. Getting major powers on board would be hard – probably, the most challenging part of Tymoshenko’s plan. However, it doesn’t seem impossible. Europeans are already in, they just need to be persuaded to get a bit more involved – and get more security on their eastern borders in return. China is expanding its cooperation with Eastern Europe. Even though Ukraine is not taking part in the 16+1 format, the country’s instability and military standoff with Russia is negatively affecting the region in general, especially in areas which are priorities for China: infrastructure and energy. If Beijing wants more presence and more influence in Eastern Europe, it has to consider bigger responsibility for security concerns. The US strategic goal of deterring Russian revisionism would play in Ukraine’s favor. However, Kyiv must be very precise in calculating its value as an ally for the US. Americans don’t seem to be willing to engage at any terms. Ukraine will have to increase its credibility and effectiveness. That could be seen as a part of preparatory work for launching Budapest Plus. Approaches to dealing with the conflict in Donbas can surely be modified and expanded. But they have to bear two key components to be effective: mechanism for compensating Ukraine’s weakness against Russia and a way to include risks Ukraine is facing into a broader security agenda in Europe. Author: Mykola Kapitonenko
Assessment of security challenges: consequences for Ukraine's foreign policy after the elections
International Centre for Policy Studies presented the analytical paper “Assessment of security challenges: consequences for Ukraine's foreign policy after the elections”. Former foreign ministers of Ukraine, diplomats, international experts participated in the expert discussion. While presenting the research, ICPS Associate Expert Mykola Kapitonenko identified the trends, challenges and threats to Ukraine's foreign policy and national security. In turn, ICPS Chief Adviser Vasyl Filipchuk outlined the tasks and priorities for Ukraine's foreign policy after the elections. “The world is changing rapidly, destroying the traditional notions of international security and the form of interaction between states, - reads the introductory part of the study. - Institutes of multilateral cooperation are in deep crisis. International law and other non-forcible means of regulating international relations are losing efficiency, while the demand for hard power is growing. States have less trust to each other and increasingly accept international politics as zero-sum games. Non-traditional threats are increasing and those that were on the agenda for a long time - for example, the proliferation of nuclear weapons - is becoming more acute. In such conditions, Ukraine is increasingly turning into an object of international relations, as well as losing its influence on regional processes, while non-mention of global ones. The space for maneuver in foreign policy is narrowing; the tools and resources to achieve their own goals are becoming less. The implementation of current foreign policy, characterized by mixing priorities and lack of realistic assessment of the international situation, further weaken Ukraine's position on all key issues: in conflict with Russia, in dialogue with Western partners and in relations with the majority of its neighbors,” the authors believe. According to them, the continuation of this state of affairs will lead to Ukraine's consolidation in the “gray zone” of Europe's security for decades. The authors consider that the only chance to avoid this scenario is the presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine in 2019. Although the results of these elections are difficult to predict, without doubt, one can predict for several years that the urgency of Ukraine's challenges in the field of foreign policy and security will not diminish, and their solution will occupy a priority place among the new leadership of the country. “It is probable that the reset of executive and legislative power will open a window of opportunity to solve existing foreign and security problems, but the external environment will remain as complex or even less favorable for Ukraine, - the research reads. - The domestic institutional or economic weakness of the country, even under conditions of rapid and successful post-election reforms, will continue to aggravate its foreign policy for a long time, and the absence of such reforms will further limit its foreign policy capabilities.” One of the conditions for a successful new foreign policy is an adequate reassessment of the foreign policy and security environment of the country, challenges, threats, its own resources and opportunities to achieve its goals. “No matter what developments have taken place, Ukraine will need much more professional, decisive and flexible diplomacy in the coming years. This diplomacy, in turn, will require a lot of attention and great resources. We will be forced to learn to think about safety issues not as they used to do in the past. And this can prove to be a serious test”, - the authors of the study conclude. During the discussion participants also critically expressed their views on the current work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and foreign policy of the state as a whole. Both Kostyantyn Gryshchenko and Borys Tarasyuk, other heavyweights of Ukrainian diplomacy and expert environment emphasized, in particular, the problem of weak management in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Research via the link (Ukrainian version): LINK
Expert discussion: “Who will stop the war in Donbas and return Crimea? Foreign Policy and National Security in the Pre-election Strategies of Candidates”
International Centre for Policy Studies presented the analysis of the pre-election strategies of presidential candidates in foreign policy and national security. “Recommendation No. 1 for all of our candidates is to begin by rethinking the current international situation and adequately assessing the current world political processes. We are always ready to help as an expert environment,” ICPS expert Iryna Ivashko said. According to the expert, the main international tendencies in the medium-term perspective are: the crisis of the world order, the return to hegemony of national interests, the lack of security, the growth of force forms of pressure, the weakening of international institutions. In turn, the director of the Institute for Global Transformations, Oleksiy Semeniy, noted that issues of foreign policy in the election race “do not play a leading role”. “The approach for Ukraine - it is necessary to work with people, and by means of experts, and to engage in “political education” in the field of basic foreign policy issues in order citizens to understand what they say to them and that it really means. This is a difficult path, but it is the only one. Candidates respond to ratings: there is a positive for the rating - I will say it; there is no - even if I am convinced, I will not say that,” - the expert said. Semeniy also suggested that the experts agree on two or three main concepts of foreign policy, based on the short-term basis, and suggest to these or other candidates to determine this issue. ICPS research (Ukrainian version): LINK