The essence of the Azov crisis lies in the fact that the developments demonstrated fragility of the current ceasefire between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, as well as a huge lack of trust from the Ukrainian society to the current country’s leadership. The situation which evolved in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict and the region in general continues to contain a huge explosive potential which, if combined with several circumstances, can lead to the restoration of a full-fledged conflict. The Ukrainian leadership not only failed to develop an effective defense system or a conflict settlement concept over the past five years, but lost a trust credit, which the society gave to it five years ago.
Under these circumstances, any radical change either in the Ukraine-Russia relations, or in the Ukrainian internal politics can lead to destabilization which was possible to be observed on November 25-26, 2018. All the parties should adhere to maximum restraint in rhetoric and action, and the resumption of a peace settlement process or adoption of internal decisions in that regard is possible only after the reboot of power in March 2019.
On November, 26th, the Ukrainian Parliament approved martial law, suggested by the President of Ukraine following the recommendations of the National Security and Defense Council.
Initially recommendations of the NSDC and the President’s decree were about introducing martial law for the period of 60 days on the whole territory of Ukraine. The decree had to be approved by the Parliament, where a number of fractions expressed concerns over possible postponement of the presidential elections, scheduled for March, 31st, 2019. Tough negotiations over the issue resulted in a modified version of the Presidential decree, approved by the majority of 276 members of Parliament: martial law will be introduced starting November, 28th, for a period of 30 days in ten regions of Ukraine, bordering Russia and Trasnistrian part of Moldova. Presidential elections would be held on March, 31st, 2019.
The Azov Crisis
These events followed the incident near the Kerch Strait a day before, when Russia attacked and later seized three Ukrainian vessels, capturing 23 crew members; six of them have been wounded.
Ukrainian ships have been heading to Mariupol from Odesa. The transfer has been reported to the Russian authorities beforehand to arrange the passing through the strait, currently dominated by the Crimean bridge recently constructed by the Russian side – of course, against the norms of international law. It should be noted, that back in September two Ukrainian ships have already passed through the Kerch Strait, staying at a distance of 12 miles from the shore according to Russian statements.
During the transfer on November, 25th, Russia has blocked the movement of the ships; subsequently ‘Yany Kapu’ tugboat of the Ukrainian Navy has been rammed by the Russian sea tugboat ‘Don’. Later on Russian combat helicopters Alligator K-52 approached the Ukrainian ships, while the movement under the bridge has been blocked by a tanker. Russian side has demanded Ukrainian ships to stop further movement and warned of possible use of weapons. When Ukrainian ships left a 12-mile zone around Crimea heading back to Odesa, Russian ships opened fire, injuring crew members and damaging the ships; and eventually captured them.
By openly using weapons against Ukrainian ships Russia violated a number of international norms and agreements, in particular UN Charter and the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Given that according to international law, Crimea is a part of Ukrainian territory, in no way Ukraine violated anything: its ships have been moving in its territorial waters and/or exclusive economic zone. Russian claims that Ukrainian ships violated Russian border have no sense. According to international law, Russia has attacked Ukrainian ships in Ukrainian waters, which is an act of aggression.
At the same time, there’s an obvious discrepancy between legal principles and situation at hand, caused by Russian occupation of Crimea. Formally Ukrainian ships have an unquestionable right to move in Ukraine’s sovereign waters, but in fact these waters are under Russian control. The same applies to Ukrainian army units if they decide to travel to Donetsk. One can’t just follow formal procedure, since the risk of escalation is unacceptably high. Moreover, situation in Donbas has been regulated by the UN SC Resolution 2202, which framed the Minsk-2 agreement and limits Ukrainian Army’s freedom to maneuver. Anything like this is absent for Crimea and Kerch Strait. Thus only Russia violated the norms of international law, but while we will be accusing Moscow in violating international law, Moscow will be accusing us in violating its territory.
There’s a bilateral Treaty for Cooperation in Utilizing the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait between Ukraine and Russia, singed in 2003 – another Treaty violated by Russia. Free passage of the Kerch Strait is guaranteed by this Agreement, according to which the Azov Sea and the Kerch Strait are shared territorial waters. The Treaty is still valid, although it has lost most of its sense following the occupation of the Crimea and non-prolongation of the “Big Treaty” between Ukraine and Russia.
A meeting of the UN Security Council has been convened on November, 26th. Agenda offered by Russia has been rejected, as was the Russia’s arguments about Ukrainian ships violating Russia’s state border. The US, the Great Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and the Netherlands expressed their support for Ukraine. At the same time China, Cote-d’Ivoire, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Peru, Kuwait, Ethiopia, and Equatorial Guinea refrained from putting blame on Russian and called for both parties to avoid escalation.
Before the attack on Ukrainian vessels Lithuanian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned blocking of the Kerch Strait by Russia and ramming the Ukrainian ships, calling it the act of aggression. Later Estonia joined the condemnation of Russia’s attack on Ukrainian ships and called on release of the ships. Latvian Foreign Ministry called for international community to condemn the attack.
NATO urged Russia to open access to Ukrainian ports and called for restraint. The EU also demanded Russia to restore freedom of passage at the Kerch Strait and urged both countries to act with utmost restraint – a phrase which raised so many questions and critical remarks in Ukraine. Secretary General of the Council of Europe outlined the importance of avoiding escalation.
Canada and Poland also condemned Russia’s aggressive actions.
The crisis indicated constant presence of a high risk of possible escalation around the Kerch Strait. Legal and political implications of occupation of Crimea by Russia are going to accumulate and generate regional instability even in relatively simple cases.
Politically Ukraine has got a better position: Russia is responsible according to international law. However, opportunities to hold Moscow responsible are not huge. The issue is most likely going to get back to possible expansion of the sanctions, which would hardly be an effective measure. A better political position of Ukraine is still to be converted into bargaining power.
Ukraine will also face some questions, for instance the one about the aim of sending military ships to waters heavily controlled by an aggressive neighbor. International support will largely depend on the level of trust to Ukraine.
If Ukraine fails to provide its Western partners with clear and understandable explanations on the purposes and plans of the Ukrainian military, it will not play in favour of Ukraine in terms of its perception as a predictable partner. That is why the Ukrainian leadership now has to make good efforts to ensure that both international partners and Ukrainians believe that the recent decisions are not political intrigues, but indeed a part of a well-developed strategy of defending the Ukrainian sovereignty. If such arguments are not provided, it will be extremely complicated to keep the trust, and the suspicions on internal political motives will only intensify.
Introduction of martial law in Ukraine triggered fears of significant limitations of freedoms and possible postponement of presidential elections. Partly they’ve been dismissed by amendments into Presidential order, but it still remains to be seen how the provisions of the Law will be used.
The approval of the martial law has become a precedent for Ukraine and the Ukrainian economy. Therefore, it is very difficult to predict the economic consequences under current realities.
In general, it is possible to say that such situation has an internal and external aspect. The government can somehow influence the situation inside the country and may try to assure that the economy will not "suffer" (the main idea is to prevent panic), however it will not be able to influence the external factors. They may include the following:
1) Investment attractiveness will decrease: none of the investors will risk investing in a country that will give preferences only to military priorities, where there is a risk of alienation of property and deepening the relation problems of with our neighbor. However, the level of investments was not so high. The credit rating will fall with all the consequences.
2) Regarding the relations with the IMF, the martial law may, on the contrary, push the Fund to a more substantial support of Ukraine. Under positive scenario, it may lead to the Stand-by program. However, this program will show that the country really has serious problems with the economy. That will shake expectations of investors.
3) The attitude of the Russian Federation. Russia can "ignore" the situation, or may increase the pressure on Ukraine. In particular, after the official announcement of a martial law, restrictions on the movement of capital from Russia (and vice versa) may occur, the Azov ports may be blocked (under negative scenario): if the conflict intensifies, this may be reflected on the economic activity in the waters of the Azov Sea. Under full blockade, ports will lose up to $ 2 billion.
The problem is that in case the martial law is introduced declaratively ("verbally"), then the economy will not be endangered. In case it is not declarative, then the economy can suffer from losses: the feasibility of such measures is doubtful, especially now. First and foremost, the government and the country must be economically prepared and ready to introduce such a law, rather than "it somehow will happen." Over the past four years, the government has not been able to lobby the interests, negotiate with Western partners and create an airbag that could minimize negative consequences in the event of a further deterioration of the situation.
This implies Ukraine's dependence on mineral fertilizers and nuclear fuel for the NPP from Russia (30-40%): in case of the worst case scenario, the Russian Federation can stop the exports of these commodities and eventually our raw material economy will collapse. Ukraine did not establish the import substitution from our European partners.
The martial law in the adopted form (some kind of hybrid version: it seems that nothing is limited according to official rhetoric) causes a lot of questions. It is not clear what exactly it changes and why it was adopted. It seems that the main goal, apart from checking the political "ability" to push the decisions, while changing them “on the go”, can still shield an attempt to attract the attention of the world community and the additional “transferring” of all the economic problems to external factors.
The developments with the Ukrainian ships in the Kerch Strait and the following consideration of the martial law introduction in the Ukrainian parliament demonstrated:
- huge level of distrust of the Ukrainian society to the current authorities. The idea on martial law introduction was perceived as a step for achieving political or business goals of the current country’s leadership, but not as a step towards the country’s defence. Martial law became synonymous to a direct threat of authoritarianism and human rights violation for various groups of political establishment, experts, media and the society. The country’s leadership has repeatedly used a threat of Russian attack to cover their illicit acts and the martial law initiative was perceived as a new game element, but not as a real step on protecting the national interests. Such initiatives are possible only if there is a significant level of trust to the authorities, thus, are possible only after the conduction of elections, i.e. the reboot of power is the only legitimate solution to the current crisis.
- demonstration of helplessness. From a legal point of view, the Ukrainian side has not violated anything and acted according to the law. But the decision to plan and conduct such an operation in the Kerch Strait on the fifth year of de-facto war without consideration of all risks and threats raises additional questions. The crisis demonstrated helplessness in front of a real challenge, for which the Ukrainian military have to ‘pay off’ now.
- lack of a strategic planning and systemic vision of the conflict settlement. Unfortunately, now one can observe only tactical calculations with short-term goals without any effective proposals on leading the country out of the current conflict deadlock. The introduction of martial law and shifting the economy and state governance into ‘military mode’ had to be done back in 2014 as nowadays it is unlikely to significantly contribute to improving the current situation.
Expert discussion on Ukraine-Slovakia relations. Webinar 2
The International centre for Policy Studies (ICPS) in partnership with the Institute for Economic and Social Reforms, INEKO (Slovakia) initiated the conduction of the expert webinar devoted to the analysis of key trends and future prospects of the relations between Ukraine and Slovakia. “Pragmatism” and “balance” – that is how the relations between Ukraine and Slovakia can be characterized. Unlike the situation with other western neighbors of Ukraine, relations with Slovakia are not burdened with historical and ideological speculations. At the same time, the partnership between the two countries is driven with complementary interests, first and foremost, in the security and energy spheres. However, prospects for the development of strategic partnership between Ukraine and Slovakia are often underestimated, as there is enormous potential for increasing and deepening bilateral trade, cooperation in the areas of energy, regional security and cross-border cooperation. Moreover, a bilateral mechanism for the protection of minority rights can serve as a model for solving this problem with other countries. The experts emphasized the importance for both countries to use rationally the existing potential for cooperation in order to strengthen the strategic partnership between Ukraine and Slovakia. The detailed analysis on the current state of play in Ukraine-Slovakia relations can be found in the webinar’s materials: ICPS presentation UKRAINE-SLOVAKIA RELATIONS: DEVELOPING A TRUE STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP? ICPS conducts a series of expert webinars devoted to the analysis of Ukraine’s relations with its Western neigbors as part of the project “Ukraine and V4 countries: promoting better understanding”. Considering potential negative consequences from the current tendencies, the main purpose of the ICPS expert discussions is to elaborate common, effective mechanisms for the normalization of relations and good-neighborliness between Ukraine and the member countries of the Visegrad Group. The project is implemented with the support of the International Visegrad Fund.
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
Kyiv vs Budapest: What`s going on in Ukrainian-Hungarian relations?
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.
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
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%, comparing to current 25%. 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. 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.” 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.  http://www.ukrexport.gov.ua/ukr/tovaroobig_z_ukr/rus/2631.html  http://countries.bridgat.com/Ukraine_Trade_Partners.html  Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation // http://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/643_006  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
Myths of the Helsinki Summit: what kind of agreement was actually reached?
The website “Segodnya.ua” collected four main myths of the meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki: from US treaties on Ukraine and Syria to Washington's “friendship” with the Kremlin to curb China. In particular, ICPS expert Mykola Kapitonenko stresses that there were no decisions behind our back, so there are no reasons for panic. “Neither the US nor Russia has the ability to implement the agreements reached in Helsinki. But there was anything to agree: on the referendum on Donbas, on Crimea ... There is no way to force Ukraine to comply with these agreements, so no “Yalta-2” couldn`t be”, the expert believes. Details about the myths of the meeting and their refutation or confirmation by the link: https://ukr.segodnya.ua/world/usa/mify-sammita-v-helsinki-kakih-dogovorennostey-trampa-i-putina-nuzhno-boyatsya-na-samom-dele-1160646.html