Vienna, September 11 – A group of 29 leading public figures in Ukraine, including former president Leonid Kravchuk, is calling on the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council -- other than Russia, of course -- and the international community more generally to provide enhanced security guarantees to Kyiv given Moscow’s increasingly aggressive approach.
In an appeal released yesterday, the group appeals in the first instance to the Security Council members who, under the terms of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, are guarantors of Ukraine’s independence, a step the signatories said was necessary because Russia’s attitude has made these guarantees “insufficient” (www.unian.net/ukr/news/news-335382.html).
Moreover, the authors call on the European Union to “take a clear and unambiguous position on the question of guaranteeing the state sovereignty of Ukraine and warn against any forms of interference by Russia in the internal affairs of Ukraine. And they called on the Vysegrad countries to come up with their own policies in support of Ukraine.
The appeal says that such extraordinary actions are necessary because “the Russian leadership has consciously adopted a course intended to demolish the existing system of security, a key part of which is Moscow’s ongoing effort to subordinate Ukraine to the geo-strategic interests of Russia.”
As a result, “there has been a sharp escalation of tensions in bilateral relations,” a trend that unfortunately appears to continue given “the unprecedented intensification” of the information war against Ukraine,” one in which Ukrainians are being presented in Russian society as “the enemy” and Ukraine is being portrayed as a destabilizing element in Europe.
Not only has Moscow argued that Ukraine does not have the right of a sovereign country to seek to join NATO, but it has “openly denigrated Ukrainian sovereignty” more generally and implied in various statements that it is prepared to use military force against Ukraine to achieve its ends.
“For the first time in many years,” the appeal notes, “signs have appeared that the Kremlin is not excluding the use of force” against Ukraine. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s harsh tone and the Duma’s adoption of a new law permitting Russian forces to be dispatched abroad all point in that direction.
Medvedev’s “ignoring” of the content of the response of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, “the baseless accusation by Russian prosecutors that Ukrainian soldiers fought on the Georgian side in last year’s war,” and charges against Ukrainian officials in Crimea all suggest that Moscow is laying the groundwork for a possible attack.
Indeed, the authors of the appeal say, “Russian rhetoric relative to Ukraine forces [them] to recall the most horrible historical examples of the 1930s,” when many countries suffered as a result of aggression first by the Nazis and then by the Soviets. But they insist that Ukraine would be the first but not the last victim of any Russian move now.
“The subordination of Ukraine by such a Russian strategy would revive the division of Europe, carry with it the most direct threats to the international and national security of the states of the European Union, and lead to a reduction of the general level of trust and security in Europe and to an escalation of tensions and conflicts in the world as a whole,” it says.
While the Ukrainian media have given this appeal extensive coverage, it has not yet attracted much attention in Europe or the United States. And in Russia, it seems certain to be dismissed -- as Moscow commentators have other recent Kyiv comments (see www.ia-centr.ru/expert/5806/) – as part and parcel of power struggles inside Ukraine.
But if the language of the appeal is emotional, the dangers it points to are all too real, and the international community will have to respond to them. If it does so soon, there is a chance that the situation can be resolved without violence, but if the community assumes it can ignore this appeal, then the dangers the appeal’s authors warn of will only grow.