- Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said that joining NATO is not a matter of two, but also not a matter of 30 years. This, he said, is a medium-term perspective. What do you think?
- I want to tell you that, first, 30 becomes a symbolic figure in NATO. As you know, during the last summit it was decided that in response to Russian aggression, NATO would launch the “4 to 30” initiative, which means 30 battalion groups, 30 ships, 30 squadrons of airplanes should be ready to fight back Russia for 30 days. In addition, we now know that negotiations on the 30th member of NATO began. Here I agree with Minister Klimkin that Ukraine will not have time to become the 30th member. But if we work, we can easily become the 31st or 32nd member of NATO. As you know, in addition to Macedonia, the alliance considers three more countries, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Ukraine, as those countries that are ready to become members of the alliance. The question of how we prepare for this process.
- What are the main tasks you would have identified for Ukraine for this current year in terms of the course towards NATO?
The most important task, not only for Ukraine, but also for all its diplomatic missions is the defense of our state in this war that we are waging. All our plans are connected with this. As for the defense of our state, we must do everything necessary so that our army will be able to repel the aggressor, so that our society will be able to win the hybrid war. But the result, joining NATO is like the final completion of the process, when Ukraine becomes one of the strongest alliance members in the world.
- Changes to the Constitution, which the Verkhovna Rada voted in the first reading, and we expect that they will be approved in February in the second reading are connected with the course of Ukraine in the EU and NATO. Do all countries that are members of NATO secure such changes in their constitutions? Do you think this will help gaining membership in the alliance?
- I believe that this will help to gain membership in the alliance by the fact that Ukraine is consolidating its efforts, the efforts of all political parties. We are witnessing a process when a consensus has already formed among political forces. So, in our democratic society there are forces that do not consider this step necessary for various reasons, we will not discuss them now, but at the same time, the majority of the population and the majority of political forces support this course. As for the consolidation or non-consolidation in the Constitution, this is not a mandatory step, not all members of the alliance had such provisions in their constitutions. The reaction of NATO to this step is a restrained, official reaction that this is a decision of Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and this is respected in NATO. Informally, I can tell you that sometimes we are told that “you know, we are pleased as organizations that Ukraine not only sees its future in this organization, but is so serious that it even enshrines in its Constitution.”
- The American Fort McHenry ship entered the waters of the Black Sea. Earlier, you stated that such measures mean the support of Ukraine after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Still, ships often enter the Black Sea. What exactly this support provides?
- If you read the official statement of the US Department of Defense about the entry of this ship into the Black Sea, you can understand that the ship comes in to support "allies and partners of NATO," as it says. There are three NATO allies in the Black Sea - Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey - and two partners - Ukraine and Georgia. That is, mathematics is quite simple, one can understand who the US military is referring to. In principle, there are constantly operating groups - now, for example, one of the groups was headed by the Netherlands, and the Dutch ship has just taken control, they are also going to go into the Black Sea. The intensity of the visits of these ships has increased. Last year, for example, two groups entered the Black Sea at the same time, this was not observed before. There is the Montreux Doctrine, which limits the number and tonnage of warships not belonging to the countries of the Black Sea basin, as well as how long they can be in the Black Sea - in principle, this limits the possibilities for further expansion of NATO’s presence there. Therefore, we see such a rotational principle - some have entered, others have left.
- Is it possible that NATO ships will also enter the Sea of Azov?
- The Sea of Azov is a specific area. This is the smallest sea on the planet. The entry of warships into it is a complex navigation process. There is a specific procedure for entering this sea - free passage of all ships of countries that share this sea, that is, Ukrainian and Russian, and all others must receive permission from Russia and Ukraine, as from countries that share this sea. Obviously, Russia has stated that it will not provide an opportunity for anyone to enter. And besides, it also delays hinders merchant ships to enter. That is, this process is much more difficult, I don’t see why NATO would make the provocation. In principle, NATO is not going to provoke anyone.
- Former US Ambassador Herbst said that Ukraine can get weapons in the first quarter of this year. It is, in particular, the "Harpoon" anti-ship missiles. Do you think it could aggravate the situation in the Kerch Strait?
- We must have a weapon to be able to protect our ships and interests. In this particular case, we share the position that is declared by our closest allies, and the leadership of our country spoke and showed the achievements of our own construction - a cruise missile and an anti-ship missile, which we hope will be in our army this year. The fact that we receive weapons from the United States allows us to build up this shield much faster than we would have done on our own. This is the anti-tank missiles, and now anti-ship missiles. I would not like to tell exactly what issues we are discussing now with the United States and some other allies, but it is the whole complex that we need to protect our Sea of Azov.
- There is an initiative of the EU to create joint armed forces. How will this differ from NATO, will Ukraine enter these forces and what are the prospects for their creation?
- I am the ambassador of Ukraine to NATO, and it is easier for me to talk about the alliance. We see that it is the alliance that allows us to protect our interests, because the American and Canadian armed forces here are working together with the European ones. That is, NATO, plus the USA and Canada, obviously, significantly change the balance of power. I think that Ukraine needs to focus all its efforts on joining NATO. There is no doubt that we should interact with the armed forces of the EU countries and NATO members. In addition, we are very interested in the work in the military-technical sphere - weapons design, access to joint markets, mutual networks, peacekeeping operations - everything that the EU and its future armed forces, if they are created, can offer.
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