Kurt Volker will be trying to continue and increase the American engagement in the Ukrainian security issues. Edward Lucas, a British journalist at The Economist in his exclusive interview to 112 Ukraine TV channel’s Elina Beketova, commenting the visit of Kurt Volker, United States Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, to the conflict zone in Donbas.
“I've known Kurt Volker for may be 10-15 years now, and I have the highest opinion on him based on his expertise and knowledge of the region but also for his ability to get things done. So, this is a very good news for Ukraine and I think that for people like him - this is a chance to show that whatever people may say about Trump's administration, actually there is a controversy in American foreign policy, and so he will be trying to continue and increase the American engagement in the Ukrainian security issues. I have to say, I think he has got enough struggle, I have a highest opinion of him and many of the other people in the administration, I don't have the highest opinion on Mr. Trump. We have to be cautious in our optimism, but I still think I’d rather have a situation where Kurt Volker was involved whether he would not being involve,” Mr. Edward Lucas said.
Mr. Lucas believes Ukrainian destiny is mainly in Ukraine's hands.
“Well, I've always said Ukrainian destiny is mainly in Ukraine's hands. You are a big country and you've done a fantastic job already in resisting the Russian aggression and turning what seemed like a catastrophic situation to one as is merely serious. Ukrainians should always reckon that the most important thing they could do is to make a success of their country, economically, politically, constitutionally and socially. And that's the best way of resisting Russian aggression. But I think obviously, the outside world to play his part too. If nothing else just signaling to Russian regime, that America is still engaged, that Ukraine is not friendless, and sanctions again to continue... these are already good signals to send,” he said.
“I think the previous administration outsourced the Ukrainian crisis to France and Germany. And that may not be about them to do. Fundamentally Europe does have to be responsible for its own security and I want France and Germany to grow up and to be real security actors. But of course if they had America involved, they would be more effective. But we should never forget that Russia is a small economy compared to the West, has a lot of weapons and large land area, but the West is roughly a billion people, Russia is a 140 million people. And the west is roughly 40 trillion of dollars in GDP. And Russia is about 1, 3 trillion dollars in GDP, so we are seven times bigger in population terms and more than 14 times bigger in economic terms. It's sometimes, I think, from the Ukrainian perspective - one can feel that Russia and the West are kind of equal size. No, it's absolutely not. The West by far is bigger and stronger party and this gives us a big advantage in terms of coordinating. And I think that will be a very important part of my friends Kurt Volker's role - will be to make sure that America, France and Germany and other countries, EU and institutions like that will be coordination their policies, Edward Lucas added.
Mr. Lucas believes that no agreement can be reached unless Russia stops fighting.
"Any discussions can bring peace to the Eastern Ukraine, because this is very simple reason why there is fighting in Eastern Ukraine - and this is Russian aggression. And if Russia takes one phone call, two phone calls of Mr. Putin to the Russian commanders and separatists leaders and the fighting would stop. And that is the fundamental point here. Diplomacy works as a way of building confidence and helping people reach agreement. And the exercise of economic and political and military part helps push parties towards to that state of mind where they want to reach agreement. I don’t think that so far we've put enough pressure on Russia but they won't reach agreement, when they won't stop the fighting, and I think at that point the Normandy format talks will become may be more useful," he said.
"That is the number one thing - we need pressure on Russia. We need people run to Putin and say, "Look, boss it's getting really expensive. And we didn't get any things you promised. We've got enormous bill for Crimea and ruining the East of Ukraine. And business is suffering.” That would be the right message for them to do to Putin. I would encourage to do such message. There is a plenty we can do – not only in terms of commercial sanctions but what I particular want - is tougher individual sanctions. I want these top thousand people in Russia to think personal savings are at risk, their children may become stop studying in the west, they got all sources of personal consequences for the ways they behaved. And there is plenty to do on that. But the other thing as i said before is to concentrate on what can make Ukraine, - a very attractive country. And if people in Crimea or in Luhansk, or Donetsk, or other occupied regions are saying, Ukrainians not only have more of freedom, they also live better, treated better, have better interactions with governments, and living in increasingly attractive modern European life, the more it comes across, over 10 or 15 year period, the more hollow promises of Russia and promises of separatists leaders become. And I Think that is what is going to defeat the Russian empire. And Ukraine is enormously important in that - the more Ukraine is a success story, the more Putin's story looks like a failure", Edward Lucas added.
Mr. Lucs also commented the announcement by Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, about the creation of a new "state" Malorossiya that would take the place of Ukraine and have its capital in their territory.
"It's very interesting, and I think that Malorossiya and before it Novorossiya - these are all sort of part of Kremlin fancy world where they think that neighboring countries want nothing more that back inside some kinf of Russian empire. In fact, the opposite happens - the more they talk about this, the more people say it;s false, I love my own country. We see it in the baltic states, where russians in baltic say we are not happy with the government, estonia, latvia or lithuania, but we certainly don't want to live under Russia. And we see it in Ukraine. These states have the completely ...productive affect from the Russian point of view. They consolidate Ukrainian state and the Ukrainian national identity - even on the basis of bilinqual, by - cultural identity, it is still quite clear - people don't want to be run by Mister Surkov or his strange friends in the East. And the way they run these entities is profoundly unattractive. So, in a way, I think, the more non-sense he talks, the better. On the other hand, I can see from the Ukrainian point of view, that it is quite threatening to have someone saying your country doesn't really exist and he is gonna create the new country and you are going to be the part of it."
Lucas thinks Ukraine and the other world should make fun of such statements.
"I think the best way is to make fun of them. I think, to check his sense of humor. One thing they find it very difficlut to deal with is ridicule. So, we've had Malorossiya, Novorossia, what's going to come next, it could be Potemkin Rossia, we should explore the amazing versatility of the Russian language to find more strange names. And "Yolki-Palki Rossiya" (Елки-палки, russian equivalent for "holy cow!, - ed.) - what are other names we could think of. The point to underline - this is not the real country, These are not real politicians, they don;'t have real elections, the dont have real economies....this is provocation, stumpt created by Kremlin to attack Ukraine, we should always keep that in view. I think, it's very important to deal with chekists, not to let them think that they scared you, if they are trying to threatening you.
"You are right to mention the Budapest memorandum but of course one of the clues is the word a memorandum not treaty. And at the time the assurances were given, nobody thought they were going to be ..with action. To my great shame for me as a British citizen, that my country hasn’t done more. And I think, may be the Ukrainians at that time should have driven a rather harder bargain with the other signatures, trying to have something more legally binding, some care dispute resolution in the case of economic, some other aggression, what actually happens next. Because no care in the Budapest memorandum what the other parties are supposed to do, in the event of these policies being broken. So, that’s a painful lesson, the most painful for you, you suffered a lot from my country, because we didn’t protect you. But I Think as we say in English, “This train has left the station”. I’m not sure there is much more to be gained on that, on this stage it’s a good basis for us to continue to put more sanctions on Russia. And I hope, we will use that, and we should always remind to Russians, but I don’t think it’s some kind of the magic document that we can certainly start using to make everything okay again."
"Zapad – this is one of the few Russian words that are now coming to the English language. We actually call it Zapad – it is a real problem. Not only because of the uncertainty, obviously any country that has military, should have military exercises, and we have no objection to Russia having exercises, we have exercises all the time. But should be rules about transparency, predictability, you should have observers. The point of the exercises not to intimidate other countries, the point of the exercises to practice your own military, improve its capabilities, and Russia seems to see this Zapad exercises, as the mean of intimidation. That was particularly true in 2009, with the first Zapad, which were really threatening for the Baltic States. And we see it’s getting a lot better over time. Now they are very good at moving large numbers of men and equipment over very long distances and they are doing it very quickly, that was something they were previously bad at, now they are good at it. But what does it mean for the neighbors. Well, simply having a lot of troops on your border is already difficult, if you are in Ukraine, your northern frontier is very light… And certainly, if there are 10, 20, 30 or 50 thousand Russian troops, in Belarus, right across your northern border, you have to make some response to that, and that will a burden on Ukraine, as you are trying to win the war in the East. This also a danger of the surprise attack against NATO in Poland, in the Baltic States, but I think it’s less of the worry than it was a couple of years ago. Cause we now have a thousand of troops on the British command – Estonia, thousand on the Canadian, with also French soldiers there, on the Canadian command in Latvia, and a thousand on the German command in Lithuania, and a thousand Americans in Poland, plus a lot of special forces, planes and ships and so on. If Russia was now to attack the Baltic States, it could only do so, by killing hundreds and hundreds of soldiers from many different western countries, including the three that have the nuclear weapons. So, I think, the Baltic states, Poland in quite good shape, it’s not perfect but it’s no longer an easy quick win for the Russians as it would be, say, 5 years ago, when they could send some tanks to Riga, in a couple of Baltic states, and there could be very little we could do about that. So, I’m not in favor of scaremongering on “Zapad”, but I do worry about the secrecy and the way Russia uses it to intimidate people."