Ukraine grapples with ‘aggression’ from Russia every day: minister

Active members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces walk in a fighting position near the line of separation from Russian-backed rebels outside the town of Popasna, in Ukraine’s Luhansk region, on January 6, 2022.

Maxim Levine | Reuters

As high-profile talks between Russian and Western officials continued on Thursday, a senior Ukrainian official described how her country was responding to Russian “aggression” on a daily basis, while pushing Ukraine to participate in some of the discussions.

Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, told CNBC on Thursday that “some of the negotiations are taking place without Ukraine, which is absolutely impossible. accepted.”

In an interview with CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Kiev, Stefanishyna continued that Ukraine “is the largest country in Europe and we are already part of the security architecture of the economic architecture. So now is the time for us to be [at] table. “

Stefanishyna’s comments come within a week of a series of diplomatic meetings between Russian and Western officials.

U.S. and Russian representatives met in Geneva on Monday, followed by a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels on Wednesday, ahead of the most recent meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna on Thursday.

The talks were aimed at defusing long-standing tensions between Kiev and Moscow amid concerns that Russia, which has assembled thousands of soldiers at various points along its border with Ukraine, may be preparing to invade the country, although it denies this.

Stefanishyna said Ukraine has to deal with aggression from Russia on a daily basis, which should also inform any negotiations with or about Russia.

“Whenever you step up to make any decision about Russia, you should consult Ukraine and seek advice. Because we deal with them every day, we face military aggression, hybrid aggression, energy and gas aggression, security, cybersecurity Aggression. This is happening every day in Ukraine. This is the reality of our lives [with]’ she pointed out.

Talks have made little progress so far this week, with a split between what Russia wants and what it might get.

Russia has made a series of demands to the United States and NATO, mainly seeking assurances that Western military alliances will not expand eastward and that Ukraine (and other ex-Soviet states) will never be allowed to join the organization. on military deployment.

NATO has expressed its willingness to hold talks with Russia on arms control and missile deployments — but Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that Moscow would not have any veto power over countries joining the military alliance.

Russia’s representative, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, said Moscow was also willing to continue negotiations, but warned that the situation was “very dangerous”, adding that Russia’s proposals could not be criticized.

The arena of conflict?

Ukraine is eager to join its western neighbors the European Union and NATO, while Russia wants to retain its sphere of influence and power on former Soviet territory, laying the groundwork for more potential conflicts. Russia is already under international sanctions for its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and its role in a pro-Russian separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine.

If Ukraine is a member of NATO, the alliance would be obliged to defend it in the event of an attack. Indeed, how far the country’s Western allies are ready to go remains uncertain.

According to reports, the United States has basically determined the option of imposing sanctions on Russia if Russia invades Ukraine. A senior Biden administration official told Reuters in an interview that the United States was ready to impose sanctions as soon as any Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian border. Russia has deployed about 100,000 troops in the border area, the report said.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Russian President Vladimir Putin should be prepared to face severe consequences, possibly with more sanctions on Russia if he orders an attack on Ukraine.

“I think that if President Putin otherwise undermines the stability, sovereignty and governance of Ukraine, either through invasion, coercion, subversion, a mix of attacks…if he acts in this regard, the entire international community will respond.” This is a way to let him know that we know exactly what is going on here, and that there is a price to be paid in the international community to continue to behave in this way. “

Ukraine’s Stefanishyna said any sanctions “should be targeted and timely” and that “it is very important not to wait for an actual invasion on Ukrainian territory to occur.”

For its part, NATO has said it will not compromise on its values ​​when dealing with Russia. Speaking after a meeting with Russian representatives on Wednesday, Stoltenberg said discussions were difficult but necessary, noting that “we are not ready to compromise on core principles – each country has the right to choose its own path. , and of course NATO allies to protect and defend all of our allies, including those in the east of our alliance.”

He said that NATO made it clear during the talks that “we are ready to have a sincere dialogue with them on issues such as arms control, measures to increase the transparency of military activities, and risk reduction.” “We’ve brought up a lot of topics that we think have room for real talks, conversations … and a series of meetings where Russia and NATO can continue to sit down and work together.”

Stefanishyna said Ukraine was grateful for the continued support of the United States and Europe, but the country “has no illusions that the military of the United States or NATO or any other country will fight for Ukraine on its soil”.

“We are on our own, but the interests of all allies, including the U.S., should be invested in Ukraine’s deterrence and self-defense capabilities. That’s why, through NATO, we call on our allies to work on a bilateral level, and also through NATO to ensure Ukraine’s deterrence capabilities. Getting stronger. Because … what happens if there is an invasion? It’s in our interest to make sure that Ukraine has the capability to deter and defend so that the next day, we’re not talking about Russian troops on the NATO border.”

Cold Front Exceeds Energy

Another cold front that is a further cause of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is the energy space, the latter of which will lose much-needed revenue from gas transportation through the country.North Stream 2 Pipeline Open.

The pipeline is not yet running because German regulators have not given it the green light. Meanwhile, Russia has been accused of trying to limit gas supplies (it supplies about 43% of the gas to the European Union) to raise prices and pressure politicians to give the pipeline the green light, although the Kremlin denies this.

The head of the International Energy Agency has accused Russia of exacerbating Europe’s gas crisis by blocking some supplies. European gas markets are experiencing disruptions “due to Russia’s actions,” Fatih Birol told reporters on Wednesday, with a shortage of gas in Europe coinciding with heightened geopolitical tensions in Ukraine.

The CEO of Ukrainian state energy giant Naftogaz told CNBC on Thursday that he thinks it is absurd that Nord Stream 2 is not among the top priorities in international negotiations with the Kremlin, repeat his call Further sanctions on gas pipelines to deter another Russian incursion.

“First of all, they should sanction Nord Stream 2, they should show Putin their firm position again. For example, if someone wants to discuss some further actions, if there is further aggression from the Russian side, they should talk about Nord Stream 1. So I don’t Not that Nord Stream 2 is the only thing that should be on the agenda. But it should be number one,” Yuriy Vitrenko told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.

Stefanishyna agrees that “energy security” should be part of the current discussions with Russia, noting that there will be another “energy crisis” in Europe, she believes, claiming that Putin will “play full again” [of] The same goes for Europe. “