Israel, Poland, and Ukraine: Kyiv's contradictory foreign policy

Author : Ihor Losiev

Source : 112 Ukraine

Kyiv believes that it should not spoil relations with Poland during the difficult times and close its eyes to something. This works with Poland, but not with Israel
12:28, 23 January 2017

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There is a paradox in the current Ukrainian foreign policy strategy (assuming it exists). On the one hand, people pin on diplomacy in "hybrid war" with Russian aggressor, and on the other, there are strange things: in many countries with which Ukraine has strong diplomatic relations, there are no Ukrainian ambassadors for three years; moreover, the country adopts some unexplained foreign policy decisions about the reaction to the actions of foreign countries and so on.

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We could blame Ministry of Foreign Affairs for this, but in Ukraine, by law, the president has to coordinate defense, national security, and foreign policy.

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Some recent actions of Ukrainian diplomacy provoked lively debates in the society, including Ukraine’s voting on UN resolution (calling Israel to stop building settlements in the Palestinian territories). Of course, there are both supporters and opponents of this resolution at the UN Security Council, where Ukraine is presented as a non-permanent member.

This incident leads to consider the fundamental question: how foreign policy should be guided by: vague and unclear international law or national interests, called real politics?

To be frank, the international law is very rarely followed, and its perpetrators are punished slowly and reluctantly. Ukraine experienced it the hard way, for example the Budapest Protocol (in the case of the only country that voluntarily renounced strategic nuclear weapons), was not completely guaranteed. It turned out that it was made up in a wrong way…  

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And the rules of realpolitik governed (including in relation to Ukraine) are used by the vast majority of modern political players.

But even assuming international law, the situation with Israel is quite ambiguous. As you know, in 1947 the UN divided the British Mandatory Palestine into two states - Jewish and Arab. The Jews fulfilled the UN resolution, declaring the state of Israel. The Arabs did not make any attempts to create such a country, and tried to destroy Israel with the help of armed aggression. Israel has won in a war for survival and took about 6,000 square kilometers, which belonged to Arab states.

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The vast majority of the lands of the state (Gaza and West Bank) was under the control of Egypt and Jordan for 20 years, however, during this time there Palestinian state was not created for some reason. In 1967, another attempt to force Arab states to destroy Israel ended up with the victory of the latter, and the West Bank moved under its control. So when Ukrainian diplomats somehow compare the situation of these Israel territories with Russian occupation of Crimea, it is at least surprising. After all, unlike the events in the Middle East, in 2014 Ukraine did not attack the Russian Federation and did not threaten it. Russian aggression was not provoked by Ukraine.

Counterproductive steps?

Despite some invective against Ukraine (remember the speech of the President of Israel, Mr. Rivlin, in Ukrainian Parliament and his accusations against the Ukrainian national liberation movement on allegedly anti-Semitic activity), Israel gives Ukraine a real help in confronting aggression (a military-technical assistance, expert, political, treatment of the wounded Ukrainian military). Knesset (Parliament) of Israel has been preparing to recognize Holodomor as genocide of Ukrainian people, which would have great international importance to Ukraine. Now, most likely, it will not do it. Should we chose between allies (albeit complex, ambiguous, but valuable and useful for Ukraine) in terms of a war with Russia? Israel's reaction was violent, until the refusal of the visit of Ukrainian Prime Minister Groisman. After losing Israel as an ally, Ukraine is unlikely to receive support and solidarity from the Arab world, some part of which has long focused (since Soviet times) on Moscow, and the second part does not see Ukraine as geopolitical partner. Is it voting a great diplomatic failure, "spit against the wind"? At the same time, invectives from Poland, expressed is much sharper manner, official Kyiv reacted had weak reaction, which only activated the anti-Ukrainian tendencies in Polish politics and society. Kyiv swallowed genocide charges that were made at the highest level Polish (Sejm and Senate of Poland), limiting conciliatory statement without any claim to the Polish side, for which the Ukrainians have a lot of reasons.

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Such vague position of Kyiv has consequences. Recently Polish leaders voiced statements with threats that if Ukraine celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Poland will declare a diplomatic boycott to Ukraine, refusing from visits of Ukrainian officials, from any contacts and negotiations. This is direct and insulting interference in internal affairs, this diktat and blackmail are just unacceptable in relations between truly equal states. Israel does not allow such a blackmail in its relations with Ukraine. But Kyiv believes that it should not spoil relations with Poland during the difficult times and close its eyes to something. This works with Poland, but not with Israel... even despite the clear position of US president Donald Trump in support of Israel.

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The "red lines"

This illogical and inconsistent foreign policy of Ukraine (I gave just two examples, but they are more and more of them) is associated with a noticeable lack of its conceptual frameworks. This policy is situational-reactive, it is almost always reacting to events, rather than the implementation of the strategy. Ukraine’s partners and enemies notice it, using these features of the Ukrainian foreign policy to conduct pressure on the Ukrainian state to force it to neglect its national interests. This tendency could be evidently noticed in the Minsk talks in the so-called "Norman format". Enemies and partners of Ukraine are already accustomed to the fact that Ukraine does not have any basic concepts, which it will defend to the last, and will not abandon them under any circumstances. Therefore, during the negotiations, there is always a temptation to make Ukraine some "indecent proposal" regarding the capitulation and surrender of national interests.

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Therefore, Ukraine, its highest diplomatic and political structures should adopt a system of "red lines" where retreat from the national position is just impossible. It should clearly tell partners and opponents that such things as independence, state sovereignty, and territorial integrity cannot be a subject of negotiations and discussions. This rule should become the basis of all Ukrainian system of the "red lines". Only then Ukrainian foreign policy will be logical, consistent, and predictable.

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