Exclusive interview of the Head of the International Programs Centre for Global Studies “Strategy XXI”, Ukraine Mr Vitalii Martyniuk
1. Is Ukraine as a key country in Europe, without which Europe cannot be secure and stable?
Europe faces a multitude of threats today. Apart from the obvious military provocations on its borders, the European Union, its partner countries and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization face a range of hybrid threats including cyber threats and disinformation campaigns that are bitterly impacting its citizens’ sense of unity. Attempts of coups, like in Montenegro in 2016, usage of energy leverages, like in Serbia in 2018, and use of chemicals in the Great Britain and other threats have become reality in Europe.
Ukraine is on the front line to counter these hybrid threats from the East, more specifically from Russia. We can consider the key role of Ukraine in several ways. First of all, Ukraine deters spreading Russian aggression to the West. Without reaching victory in Ukraine, Russia is limited in its aggressive actions against other European states. The primary goal for the Kremlin is to take control over Ukraine. In another case, Ukraine is like “a bone in the throat” for Russia.
Second, Ukraine became an area of usage all possible warfare tools by Russia that allows the EU, NATO member states and other European countries to reveal them and to be prepared to counter them. Based on Ukraine’s experience, European countries develop their own military doctrines, adopt new army modernization programs and provide new defense armaments.
Third, Ukraine is a large country and enough strong in military sense that forces Russia to focus its military and non-military tools there. Let imagine, for example, if Russia reaches its goals in Ukraine, many financial, economic, information, military and other resources become free for Russia, and the Kremlin can use them against other states in Europe and the world in the whole.
All these demonstrate the importance of Ukraine for security in Europe. Moreover, since the beginning of Russian aggression, Ukraine has develop its defence capabilities and become a contributor to the European security system.
2. What is the main result in 2018 you can note in the development of relations between Ukraine with EU and NATO?
EU-NATO cooperation with Ukraine developed very actively in 2018. Both the EU and the Alliance are vital partners for Ukraine in its security efforts. The joint interest is, of course, to settle the conflict waged by Russia peacefully and to strengthen the sustainability of Ukraine’s future security work with the long-term goal of regional stability, peace and prosperity.
At the same time Kyiv has proven itself to be a valuable partner for NATO’s past and ongoing missions, while pushing for closer integration with the EU by implementing the Association Agreement. Despite reforms taking place in both political and economic areas, the reality remains that even with enough successful security sector reforms, the prospect of Ukraine becoming a NATO member still remains a distant reality. Therefore, the next step should be based on results and the prospect for deeper and more developed EU-NATO cooperation, as well as Ukraine’s role within a stronger EU architecture for the neighbourhood.
However, both the EU and NATO need to be reminded that the situation in Donbas might change rapidly and Russia can intensify its aggression against Ukraine. Therefore, Ukraine should reach as high a level of its resilience as it can due to enhanced cooperation with the EU and NATO. At the same time, the EU should keep its sanctions against Russia active until Moscow withdraws its personnel and weapons from the Ukrainian territory including Crimea.
3. Today how important for Ukraine mutual relations with Kazakhstan and others Central Asian countries?
Attempts of Russia and Germany to implement the Nord Stream 2 Project make Ukraine to simulate scenarios of future gas transit through the Ukrainian Gas Transport System and look for new sources of the natural gas. That is why Ukraine considers possibilities to transport gas from the Central Asian region to the European consumers as it was dozens of years before.
There are almost all conditions to transport natural gas from Turkmenistan and other Central Asian countries. Turkmenistan, for example, is ready to transport its gas anywhere to increase its export and national incomes. There is a pipeline from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia to Ukraine, which is operable. There is an interest of Ukraine to transport Central Asian gas. The EU is interested to receive gas from the region that allows the EU to diversify routs and, that is most important, sources of gas supply. The only problem is Russia that strives to control everything and uses energy resources as weapon.
Possibilities to supply Central Asian gas to the European consumers should be considered seriously in the EU, which should include this issue to its agenda with regard to Russia. This will make possible to reach several goals: to diversify routs and sources of gas supplies; to provide guarantees that the Ukrainian GTS is engaged in future; to improve energy security of both Ukraine and the EU.