Exclusive interview of the Vitalii Martyniuk, Head of the International Programs Centre for Global Studies “Strategy XXI”, Ukraine
1/How do You assess the security situation in the Black Sea region?
The Black Sea region has become unstable since 2014, when the Russian Federation occupied the Ukrainian Crimea and waged the war in Donbas. First of all, Moscow violated the international maritime law by taking a part of the Ukrainian sea area under its control with the use of force. In such a way Russia violated several bilateral agreements, including the Treaty on friendship and cooperation and agreements on state borders. This creates a precedent when a more powerful country can take territories of other countries.
Second, the absence of agreed border between Ukraine and Russia, including on the sea, allows potential provocations on the sea as Ukraine and other states all around the world, except Russia, consider Ukraine’s territory and water area within internationally recognised borders. There is no clear line between Ukraine and Russia now, and any movement of Ukrainian ships or foreign ships close to Crimea can be considered by Russia as “violations”. For example, on May 04, the Russian FSB arrested the Ukrainian fishing ship near occupied Crimea in violation of the international law and bilateral agreements.
Third, Russia broke the balance of forces in the region. It increased the number of its military forces in Crimea more than twice. If in January 2014 the number of the Russian forces was 12 500 personnel, in May 2016 it became 23 900. In Crimea, there are 30 battle tanks now against none in 2014, 162 artillery systems against - 24, 583 armoured infantry vehicles against 92, 101 combat air-planes against 22 etc.
Force, Russia is increasing its military presence in occupied Crimea. According to assessments of the Ukrainian experts, the number of the Russian military forces will reach 43 000 personnel by 2025. This tendency does not demonstrate Russia’s plans to keep stability but witnesses continuation of its aggressive policy in the region, that will only aggravate the situation.
2/What can be expected from the oncoming NATO Summit in Brussels?
The oncoming NATO Summit in Brussels is important from many aspects. It should demonstrate the Alliance’s unity on key international security issues, first of all concerning Ukraine, Syria and Iran. No doubt, NATO will express its full support to Ukraine and continue deterrence strategy with regard to Russia. The Alliance will probably raise the issues of Anti-missiles defence in Eastern Europe, which is regarded as an important component of the deterrence system.
NATO cooperation with the EU will be in the focus of the Summit as it is an occasion to assess what was implemented since the previous NATO Summit in Warsaw when the EU and NATO Joint Statement was signed. Cooperation between NATO and the EU in the security sphere is enhanced and important because two organisations complement each other as NATO has developed military capabilities and the EU has capacities in the non-military security dimension. In this context special attention will be paid to countering hybrid threats because it is an important direction of this cooperation. Energy security, cyber defence and strategic communications will also be on the table. All these issues and cooperation between the EU and NATO are actual for Ukraine and its security. Under the NATO auspices, prospects of security cooperation in the triangle of NATO-EU-Ukraine cooperation will be discussed on May 30-31 in Kyiv, and prepared proposals will be taken into consideration in the light of preparing the coming Summit.
Ukraine hopes the Alliance fixed its prospects for membership, at least in the style of the NATO Bucharest Summit that Ukraine will become a NATO member. These expectations are based on clear determination of the Ukrainian foreign policy toward membership that was fixed in the national law last year and a status of aspirant define for Ukraine on the NATO web-site.
3/Today how important for Ukraine mutual relations with Kasakhstan and others Central Asian countries?
Relations of Ukraine with Kasakhstan and others Central Asian countries are not well developed because of several reasons. Kasakhstan belongs to different integration unions under the umbrella of Russia like Custom union or CSTO. Ukraine and the Central Asian region are divided by Russian, geographically, politically and economically. Russia controls almost all trade flows between them.
Nevertheless, this cooperation is important for Ukraine, because Kyiv needs all possible international support in countering Russian aggression. Ukrainian products can find their market there, especially in conditions of reducing the Russian market for them. Ukraine needs Central Asian energy resources, which now bought by Russia for further resale to Ukraine and other European states.
Infrastructure projects are also important in mutual relations, especially a transport rout from Ukraine (Odesa port) to China as a part of the Chinese project “One Belt - One Road”.
In security dimension, issues of fight against illegal migration from Asian countries (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan etc.) and drug traffics are to be addressed. Ukraine and the Central Asian countries are on the same Asian illegal migration rout.
Closer relations between Ukraine and the countries of the Central Asian region are possible and even should be developed.