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Most likely that sanctions against Russia will be continued for another six months, and the decision will be taken at scheduled for December 15 EU summit, says Erik Brattberg. If next year in key European countries such as Germany and France populists come to power, these countries might reject sanctions, he adds. However, the modernization of the military sphere, as well as a constant reminder of the importance of Ukraine to European security – this is something we need to focus on in the first place, says an expert in international relations.
In case the Minsk agreement will not be implemented, politics will raise the question of whether to continue the sanctions in June 2017. Angela Merkel has strongly supported the preservation of sanctions against Russia. There was constant pressure from the Obama administration. The question is whether the Trump administration will continue to preserve sanctions and insist on maintaining them from the side of EU.
If US cancel sanctions, those EU countries which already were unhappy with the continuation of sanctions against Russia may also abandon them. They will no longer have the pressure from the United States. It will be a negative course of events that will divide the transatlantic community. This is what Putin wants. It is important to prevent this, so we need strong leadership, especially from Germany and other strong countries of the EU and the US.
- What to expect if Angela Merkel loses the elections next year?
This will be disturbing. In the elections next year in Europe, namely in Austria, France, the Netherlands and Germany the populists can win. It is clear that these parties have the pro-Russian vision. If you continue to observe the growing influence of populist parties in Europe and the US, policy towards Russia will become less rigid and more accommodating to Putin. It will be bad.
- New Lithuanian Prime Minister announced the possibility of increased spending on security and defense, supporting calls of Donald Trump about the need to increase spending in this area. Should other members of NATO do the same? What about Ukraine?
All NATO members agreed at the summit in Wales in 2014 to spend 2% of GDP on defense. All 29 countries agreed. But now only 5 countries spend 2%, including Estonia, Norway, USA, Greece, Britain.
It is necessary now for more Member States to increase their spending on defense, especially with President Donald Trump.
Trump said: "If you don’t spend enough, the United States will not support you." That is why Europe is interested in increasing defense spending to show Donald Trump that they are serious in this matter and fulfill commitments to the United States. Therefore, the fact that Lithuania fulfills it - well, it's symbolic. But it is important that more NATO countries follow its example.
And the same applies to countries that are not members of NATO, such as Ukraine. Ukraine is already spending so much on defense, 5% of GDP, it is much more than other countries spend. But it is important to continue to send a message to Washington that "We are not free riders, who depend on Washington, we also make contribution to European security." And so the message will help to ensure that Donald Trump and the United States will continue to act as guarantors of security in Europe.
- Will the US continue to be the guarantor of security at the international level?
There are concerns about Trump's statements during the election campaign, such as a critical attitude towards NATO, the desire to negotiate and make an agreement with Putin. This is a concern. We do not know whether these things actually will occur, it depends on many things: on Trump’s advisors, on what agreement he will conclude with Putin, what he will really implement from the things that he promised. Maybe it was just for the campaign and he was not going to do that at all.
It is clear that Donald Trump has skepticism about the alliances. He believes that countries should pay more. About this said many presidents and leaders of the countries. And as a result, in the world may appear traditional mainstream American foreign policy, according to which the US will not leave NATO and will not leave Ukraine alone. This is the best scenario.
- In your opinion, what are the main trends in the security Ukraine should focus on in the next 5 years?
Ukraine should continue to focus on upgrading its own army, reforming the security sector. Of course, it needs support from other NATO countries, including the United States. Also, you should not forget about corruption, economic growth and other things. If Ukraine can really show that it wants to be part of the West, of Europe, it is likely that you can expect more support from the US and the West. But it is worth noting that successful Ukraine – is a good sign for the US and NATO. If Ukraine could demonstrate the fulfillment of commitments and not only modernizing the security sector, but also all other spheres - political and economic, that is an important message for the United States.
Ukraine should bring this message to the administration of Trump, to show that it helping Ukraine is related to US interests. Ukraine is a buffer zone against Putin's influence in Europe, it is important for the international system as a whole. Ukrainians have to bring these things to Congress and others in the political system of the USA and NATO. For the allies of Ukraine in the United States and Europe it is also important to repeat the message and raise it at the international level.
The only thing that can resist Putin - is a successful Ukraine.
It is important to repeat again and again that the door is open, both to NATO and to the EU. Meanwhile, the EU should help Ukraine to prepare, noting that Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia, that Russian actions in Donbas are also illegal, and continuing to put pressure on Russia, reinforcing sanctions. Helping Ukraine to reform, we are on the right way, making Ukraine a full member of the European community. Ukraine should become a success story that will prove that the Putin’s model is incorrect.