Voice of Ukraine

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs – Ukraine-france Forum, Ifri/New Europe Center (Paris, 10 February, 2022)

          We must of course listen to Ukrainians. Comparison is not necessarily equivalent to rightness , but we will refer once again to the Czechoslovak crisis of the late 1930s. In Munich, Czechoslovakia was absent from the negotiations directly concerning its future and its very existence. The next day, the Wehrmacht occupied the Sudetenland and six months later, the whole country. Clearly, we cannot defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and not give it an opportunity to make its voice heard.

The French Institute of International Relations (Ifri) and the New Europe Center in Kiev co-hosted an Ukraine-France Forum on 10 February, thanks to a long-standing but timely programme. Discussions focused on three main items: political and security issues; energy and climate issues; new business and investment opportunities. Mr. Dmytro Kuleba, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine intervened in the debates by videoconference from Kiev.

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The Minister first focused on the genesis of the crisis. He recalled the long history of a country belonging to European civilization, within the sphere of influence of Byzantium and by its  choice for Christianity. Anne of Kiev, wife of Henry I, had been Queen of France in the 11th century. The Ukrainian «Cossack» state was then integrated into a booming Russian empire, but the aspirations to join the Western world had been constant.

From now on, Ukraine’s ambition was not simply to play a “bridge” role but to aim at true integration. In the case of NATO, Kiev had rejected this prospect until 2014; a Ukrainian law establishing a kind of “neutrality outside the blocs” existed when Crimea was annexed in 2014. So the question was not about Ukraine’s neutrality but about Russia’s intentions.

In the present circumstances, Kiev favoured the path of diplomacy while showing its determination to defend itself. Ukraine wondered what kind of support from Europe could be expected. The crisis had contributed to greater unity in the Atlantic community. In short, active diplomacy, a sanctions program, and the strengthening of military capabilities for deterrence were combined.

All the possibilities still existed to solve the problems around a table and the same was true for Russia. For the future, the security architecture should be strengthened to make it more stable. Existing organizations and networks of “small alliances” (NB: with Lithuania and Poland, Georgia and Moldova, Turkey) were complementary. Such a system should provide flexibility and not lead to fragmentation.

 

Anne de Kiev, fresque, cathédrale Sainte-Sophie, Kiev, XIème s.

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