Former prime minister of Denmark and NATO Secretary General in 2009-2014, Anders Fogh Rasmussen is now in the forefront of the international club of friends of Ukraine, defending the interests of our country in the international political, diplomatic and expert circles.
Being the External Policy Adviser to President of Ukraine, Mr. Rasmussen offers strategic advice on how to conduct reforms in Ukraine amid the Russian aggression and sincerely supports Ukraine against the background of complicated geopolitical realities of the Kremlin-destroyed international order.
Mr. Rasmussen tells about his vision of present and future of the European and Euro-Atlantic Ukraine in an exclusive interview with an Ukrinform correspondent in Brussels.
SOME REFORMS IN UKRAINE WOULD BE DIFFICULT FOR WESTERN GOVERNMENTS TO IMPLEMENT
- Mr. Rasmussen, as External Policy Adviser to President of Ukraine how do you assess current Ukrainian reform process in order to modernize and transform Ukraine as democratic European state?
- We should keep the current reform process in a wider perspective. The Ukrainian government has instigated more reforms in the past three years than in the previous 23 years. If you compare where Ukraine was before and where it is now, there is an unquestionable progress. There is of course more to do, but we should not forget how far Ukraine has come in a relatively short time.
- What Ukrainian authority has to do and how to act in order to speed up and make the reforms more effective and ambitious? What is your strategic political advice on it?
- Some of these reforms are unpopular, but in the long run they will bring real benefits for Ukraine and for the Ukrainian people. My best advice to the government is to hold your course, even if it isn’t always a smooth ride.
Conversely, the west must recognise when Ukraine is making reform progress, and understand how difficult some of these reforms have been. Some steps would be difficult for western governments to implement yet the Ukrainians are proceeding - for example, the open registry of properties is far more transparent than what we have in Western Europe. We’ve seen some of the benefits that reforms bring, for example with visa liberalisation, but the EU needs to maintain its momentum on European integration – and the next possibility could be to open the prospect of an even deeper integration with the EU, one that brings tangible benefits to our societies.
NATO SHOULD PROVIDE UKRAINE WITH DEFENSIVE WEAPONS
- How do you assess the NATO-Ukraine distinctive partnership, political dialog and practical cooperation particularly today when Ukraine counters Russian aggression?
- The Distinctive Partnership will celebrate its 20th anniversary this summer. NATO - Ukraine relations are strong and continue to improve through the NATO-Ukraine commission.
Ukraine has given to NATO, as the only partner to contribute to all NATO-led missions and operations. NATO has given back by supporting the development of Ukraine’s capacity to defend itself. Ukraine is clearly one of NATO’s most trustworthy partners, and our commitment to supporting Ukraine as it faces Russian aggression is firm.
- Do you think that NATO allies should cooperate more with Ukraine in military technical sphere to assist country to defend itself against Russia?
- I believe the time has come for NATO allies – and especially the USA – to provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons. This will have a deterrent effect on the Russian proxy forces.
I have also advocated for the USA to grant Ukraine a special status called ‘Major Non-NATO Ally’ (MNNA). This would not grant security guarantees to Ukraine, but it would give preferential access to certain weapons and more importantly it would send a powerful signal to Russia about Washington’s commitment to Ukraine. If MNNA status were to be granted, it would need to come with a clear signal from Washington that it is a stepping stone towards NATO membership for Ukraine, and not an alternative to it.
USA SHOULD JOIN ‘NORMANDY FORMAT’
- Do you believe that Normandy format and Minsk process are the efficient political and diplomatic way to bring peace, stability and security in Ukraine and restore country’s territory integrity?
- Minsk is the best format we have for keeping Putin at the negotiating table. However, I am growing skeptical about whether Moscow sees Minsk as a genuine opportunity to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine, or merely a tactic to buy time for Russian proxies to dig in. I believe a new formula is needed that keeps the Normandy partners involved, but also adds the USA into the negotiations, with a much clearer definition of what success will look like, and when.
US AND ALLIES SHOULD HELP RETURN CRIMEA TO UKRAINE
- Ukraine is looking for new international format on occupied Crimea because “Minsk” does not conclude this problem. What is your opinion on how to return and reintegrate peninsula to Ukrainian constitutional order?
- In 1940, the US Secretary of State issued the Welles Declaration, which condemned the occupation of the Baltic states and refused to recognise their annexation by the Soviet Union. We should make a similar commitment today that we will never recognise the Crimean Peninsula as Russian territory, and that the US and her allies will work actively to see Crimea returned to Ukraine.
The illegal occupation of Crimea was the turning point for Russia-western relations. These relations will not return to ‘business as usual’ so long as Russia continues to occupy a piece of sovereign Ukrainian territory.
However, Russia will not give up Crimea easily and I believe the USA will have to take an active and assertive stance towards Russia to show Moscow that it means business.
- Do you consider that international pressure on Russia is adequate and enough to force Kremlin to respect international law in civilized world?
- No. I believe we need to raise the cost to Russia of its ongoing aggression against Ukraine, as well as its activities supporting the Assad regime in Syria or meddling into democratic elections in our countries.
The EU will have an opportunity to send a signal when it renews sanctions in June. I have argued that they should be renewed for 12 months instead of six, and that they should be extended to include those businesses and individuals that have supported the recent expropriation of Ukrainian business in the east. That's the bare minimum the Europeans can do to send a strong message to Moscow.
UKRAINE’S CASE AT UN ICJ IS COMPELLING
- Ukraine submitting lawsuit to UN ICJ against Russia wants to bring Moscow to justice for its crimes in Donbas and Crimea including for financing and supporting terrorism. Objectively at this stage there are no any formal judicial orders on it. But politically there are a lot of opinions and clear evidences that Russia is a sponsor of terrorism. What do you think about it?
- The Ukrainian government submitted a large indictment to the ICJ, showing how Russia has violated the 1999 International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism. I believe the Ukrainian case was compelling and we now await the verdict of the court.
However, regardless of the verdict, nobody can deny that Russia has supported violence in eastern Ukraine, and it continues to trample on the rights of Tatar minorities in Crimea. It should be held to account in all international institutions.
- For what extent Russia’s aggressive policy and destructive influence in Europe are effective to destabilize and demine the EU and NATO?
- Russia’s ambition is to undermine the two pillars of Europe’s post-war security architecture: the EU and NATO.
Its army of internet trolls, news outlets and its funding of anti-system parties across Europe are just a part of Russia’s hybrid warfare tactics that prey on the openness of western societies. We face many challenges in the west, but Russia’s tactic is to highlight them, and exploit them to spread fear and confusion.
The EU and NATO need to fight back, countering Russian propaganda, and targeting its army of trolls. We also need to redouble our efforts to find solutions to some of people’s concerns that Russia has been able to exploit – such as the migration crisis.
- On 25 of May NATO leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss a future of Alliance in todays and emerging security environment. How do you see this future of NATO as the most successful and powerful military political organization in the world?
- I believe for this meeting to be a success, there should be two statements made: firstly, President Trump needs to reaffirm the USA’s unconditional commitment to Article 5 in the Treaty; and secondly, NATO’s European Allies should give an undertaking that they intend to make significant progress towards meeting the NATO target of spending two percent of GDP on defence by 2024. These two measures will help to reinforce NATO’s resolve and unity and send a very clear signal to Moscow.
Andrii Lavreniuk, Brussels.