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One of the most important world informal forums has come to its end in Germany. About 30 leaders of states and government, as well as more than 100 foreign and defense ministers, took part in Munich International Conference on Security Policy. Of course, no key decisions are made at such events, but it is a good platform for discussing urgent political problems concerning the balance of forces in the world, strengthening the system of international law and a democratic world order. Accordingly, for Ukraine as a state involved in an armed conflict, this is another opportunity to attract attention, to hold additional negotiations with the allies and to outline further steps to resolve problematic issues. Let us try to sum up, what was said about our country at the Munich Conference.
Ukraine: shield and sword of Europe
This year Ukrainians were expecting at the Munich International Conference on Security Policy at least three events: statements by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, presentation of the report of former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on the introduction of the peacekeeping mission to Donbas, and the negotiations of the Foreign Ministers of the Normandy Four.
The first event took place on Friday, February 16. Like a year earlier, Poroshenko spoke about Russian aggression and globalization. The president not only said that Russia had attacked Ukraine and continues to wage a hybrid war in Donbas, he noted that these actions are "gradually turning into a full-scale World Hybrid War" and there are countless indications of this: interference in the internal affairs of countries, attempts to influence elections, fake news, cyber attacks and increasing military capabilities, including nuclear capabilities.
Poroshenko stressed that the Russian government is not interested in absorbing Donbas, its goal is Europe and revenge for the collapse of the Soviet Union. Therefore, in his opinion, European countries should unite and show Moscow that blackmailing and aggression on the continent are over. Namely, they should provide all-round support to Ukraine and say "no" to the recognition of the Russian presidential elections in the occupied Crimea, restoration of Russia's powers in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, visits to Moscow in search of economic benefits, and to the "Northern stream-2".
"Today, Ukraine is the main battleground for the European order and security architecture. In fact, Ukraine is the shield and sword of Europe, so do not miss the chance to build something more than just an order in Europe by supporting us. Defending Ukraine, you protect your sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of your countries," Poroshenko noted.
However, there was no significant effect from these words. Although the conference organizers announced Poroshenko’s speech as one of the most anticipated on the first day of the forum, probably for the first time Poroshenko delivered his speech before a half-empty hall. And this is a signal that the international community is losing interest in the "Ukrainian issue."
Peacekeepers in Donbas
The previous thesis might be confirmed by a narrow discussion of the report on the introduction of the UN peacekeeping mission to Donbas, which was presented on Saturday, February 17. On the margins of the Munich conference, those directly involved in the relevant negotiations were interested in this issue.
So, the report on UN peacekeepers in Donbas was presented by the former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who at the moment is an adviser to the president of Ukraine. According to him, the organization must send to the occupied territories of Ukraine at least 20 thousand peacekeepers and 4 thousand police officers. To prevent Russia from blocking the UN mission, all peacekeepers should not belong to the countries of the alliance. They could be from Finland, Sweden, Austria or Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Belarus.
"Several months ago, Putin himself proposed a peacekeeping mission for the east of Ukraine, but he projected it to be small and without a clear mandate. He suggested that the peacekeepers could control only the contact line between free Ukraine and occupied Ukraine. It means a frozen conflict. The peacekeepers need a mandate, which includes the control of the present international border between Russia and Ukraine," Rasmussen said.
At the same time, the NATO ex-secretary general added that he does not believe that the issue of introducing UN peacekeepers to Donbas would be compromised before the presidential elections in Russia.
The current head of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, also considers that the idea of UN peacekeepers in the Donbas is quite far from realization, but Rasmussen's position on the mandate of peacekeepers to the entire occupied territory is supported. In addition, on the margins of the Munich Conference, Sweden and Finland stated about their readiness to participate in the operation in Donbas.
Ordered by Rasmusen, the report on the expediency and methods of applying the 20,000-strong contingent of "blue helmets" has already been handed to the US Department of State special representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker. "If the peacekeeping mission in Ukraine can help realize the Minsk agreements, finally reach peace and restore Ukraine's territorial integrity, it is up to Russia to decide if they want peace and security for the Russian-speaking population, then let them explain why peacekeepers are a bad idea," the US special envoy noted.
It is important to note that Russia does not really support the idea of introducing UN peacekeepers in Donbas, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has once again confirmed it in Munich. He marked the peacekeeping mission almost a military monster.
The failure of the "Normandy Four"
But the biggest fiasco for Ukraine at the Munich International Conference was the cancellation of the Normandy Four meeting. Initially, it was scheduled on February 16; later the negotiations were postponed to February 17, and then they were canceled at all.
The formal reason for canceling the meeting was the change in plans of German acting Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel. He interrupted his participation in the Munich conference and flew to Berlin to meet Deniz Yuzel, a journalist from Die Welt, who spent a year in a Turkish prison and was released on Friday.
However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin, still managed to talk with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. The talks lasted for about an hour, but after the meeting, nothing new was said. "We have to continue the discussion, so far we have not agreed on anything, the Russian viewpoint is different," Klimkin noted. The head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry added that he also discussed the question of SCCC and how the center could resume work after the Russians left it.
US assistance, cooperation with NATO
Along with this, important bilateral meetings between the President Poroshenko and officials took place in Munich. So, the head of the Ukrainian state discussed cooperation in the military-technical sphere (in particular, on Javelin deliveries) with the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. At a meeting with a delegation of the US Congress, the issue of strengthening sanctions against Russia was raised.
Poroshenko discussed the resumption of cooperation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. "I have got the full support of the bill on national security, the bill on reforms that are part of our NATO plan, we said that we should do everything possible to unblock cooperation with the alliance," the president said.
During the meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Poroshenko spoke about carrying out reforms and further rapprochement with the EU.
In addition, Poroshenko also met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Moravetski. They have discussed the recent amendments to the sensational law "On the Polish INP" in Poland and a statement assessing the activities of the Ukrainian hetman Bogdan Khmelnytsky.
However, for the international community, perhaps the most interesting topic related to Ukraine remains the implementation of reforms in the country. The best thing about Ukraine’s reforms was voiced by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland in her speech at the "Ukrainian Lunch". "Do not make reforms for us, Ukrainians need changes for themselves and for Ukraine. This is not some kind of favor that Ukrainians should do for the West," the minister stressed.
Having read all this, an ordinary Ukrainian might think that things are very bad. But this is a false idea. Donbas conflict does not look so horrific for Europe today, but the threat of a nuclear war does. This topic was central at this year Munich conference.