By Stefan Romaniw.
Published April 12, 2021
Currently, there is a serious threat of a Russian strike on Ukraine.
Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is a challenge not only for Ukraine but the international community. The bigger the footprint in Ukraine, the more dangerous the situation for Europe and internationally.
A broad coalition of countries must send strong, united messages to deter Russian aggression. Actions speak louder than words. A critical player must be the United States of America. President Joe Biden has expressed his support for Ukraine.
The Russian military build-up on the borders is growing. Russia continues to exert eternal pressure via hybrid activity to force Ukraine into accepting Russia’s demands in the Donbas and other areas.
Ukraine is holding its position and has indicated it will not cross the well-established red lines of negotiation.
President Volodymyr Zelensky is continually reminded by civil society not to cross these lines. Territorial sovereignty and democratic principles are not up for sale or negotiation.
There are numerous theories and reasons for Russia’s ongoing and increased military presence.
Let’s explore some:
- Its primary negotiator Dmitry Kozak may have promised Vladimir Putin something he cannot deliver in negotiations.
- Water to Crimea is a critical issue — access via Ukraine is required. Russia promised Crimea the world. It has poured billions of dollars into Crimea, but the attitude to Russia is changing. There is dissatisfaction.
- Ukraine’s firm position on not allowing elections until all Russian troops are off Ukraine’s soil continues to frustrate Putin. Security and border control issues need to be addressed before any election. President Leonid Kravchuk, who served from 1991 to 1994, reinforced this position in negotiations earlier this year. Russia continues to demand elections.
One should not forget the internal disharmony in Russia over Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny’s imprisonment and civil society’s demand for democracy. Deflection from this could also be playing a part.
So what now?
There are messages and actions that the international community needs to agree on to form a cohesive front to combat Russian aggression.
Some actions that need to be taken –
- Further strengthened sanctions to put pressure on Russia, until the territorial integrity of Ukraine within internationally recognized borders is restored.
- The security situation in eastern Ukraine and the militarization of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation require coordinated actions by the international community.
- The influencers within NATO should suggest a Membership Action Plan for Ukraine. The blocking by some partners of the NATO-Ukraine Commission needs to desist.
- Support must be provided to Ukraine’s participation in regional formats and initiatives – QUINT, “Bucharest Nine”, reinvigoration of the dialogue at various levels within the “Lublin Triangle”, “Visegrad Four + Ukraine”, “Weimar Triangle + Ukraine”, Three Seas Initiative.
- Energy security is an integral part of the national security and defense policy.
- The Nord Stream 2 project is an obvious threat to Ukraine and the entire European region. Construction of the pipeline can and must be stopped, the same way France canceled the sale of two Mistral warships in 2015.
- The Normandy format and Crimean platform may be considered as platforms for further negotiations. President Zelensky is calling a high-level international forum to discuss the Crimean Platform in August.
- The Ukrainian World Congress ( UWC), through its member organizations, has called on its members to encourage the governments in their countries to participate.
Ukraine’s resistance, NATO, Western support for Ukraine, Biden’s comments about Putin and Russia are other sticking points aggravating Putin at this time.
The UWC is in regular contact with high-level Ukrainian government officials to receive updates on the current situation and discuss strategies for engaging international governments to support Ukraine and condemn this Russian fear tactic.
The Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO) has written to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, calling on Australia to add its condemnation voice. Other UWC members have done likewise in their respective countries.
Our message to the international community is explicit: Don’t wait until it’s too late. Russian boots on Ukrainian soil in Donbas, the annexation of Crimea, the shooting down of MH17 are all examples of Putin’s modus operandi previously. It is time to toughen sanctions on Russia at this time. It is time for international sanctions to be put on Putin himself. Implementing a SWIFT payment ban on Russia would also be a significant step.
But this requires international commitment and willingness to do a reset of international standards and principles. It is not about only condemning acts of aggression — actual or hybrid — but acting accordingly. In times of uncertainty, danger, and aggression, a robust, uncompromising international response is a must.
Stefan Romaniw is 1st Vice President of the Ukrainian World Congress and Co-Chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations,