Diplomatic relations, trade between countries and transport links – despite an open aggression. War and occupation of territories, all this continues today. No matter how simple it may seem, questions hide even more questions and not the answers. Opinion has found out whether it is necessary to break the relationship with the aggressor, and what are the chances of such a scenario.

Diplomatic relations – to break or not to break?

Декларувати не можна приховати: що робити із грошима українських заробітчан?

Whether to break diplomatic relations with the aggressor state – seems to be quite a clear question; however, not all the experts have the same opinion. Serhii Tsyhipa, a political expert, publicist and a reservist of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, is convinced that Ukraine should have taken such a step back  in 2014, but now the Ukrainian authorities are unlikely to break the relations for a number of reasons.

“Diplomatic relations with Russia can be broken in the event of a declaration of war. Currently, all diplomatic relations with Russia are minimized. It should be noted, that Ukrainian migrant workers (and their number reaches several million) in Russia have a constitutional right to take part in the election campaign and vote for a presidential candidate on March 31, 2019. They will be able to do this exclusively on the territory of the embassy of Ukraine and the relevant consulates in the Russian Federation. Therefore, one can predict that the Ukrainian authorities are unlikely to break the diplomatic relations today. In my opinion, Ukraine should have made such a step  in 2014 “, Tsyhipa explained Opinion.

At the same time, journalist and analyst Oleksandr Yaroshchuk stressed, that Ukraine is probably the only country that, under similar conditions (annexation of Crimea, eastern war, aggression in the Azov Sea, etc.), still maintains diplomatic relations with the occupier.

“Ukraine should pursue a clear, unambiguous policy. Russia is an aggressor state, it has taken away our Crimea, has committed aggressive actions in the east of Ukraine, now it is strengthening its presence in the Azov Sea, as well it may soon strengthen the pressure in the Black Sea. Thousands of soldiers died. There are thousands of victims among the civilian population. Russia, although I prefer the term “Moscovia”, because this territory should be called exactly that way, is spreading tens of thousands fakes about Ukraine, constantly striving to destroy Ukrainian statehood. The question is: what kind of diplomatic relations can we talk about!? Probably we are the only ones, who still have diplomatic relations in this situation; other countries would have cut all communications long time ago.

Ukraine should attract foreign intermediaries to free Ukrainian political prisoners, which is a common practice in such cases. Let’s agree that Medvedchuk doesn’t help at all, the consuls cannot influence, too. The only thing we can count on, is mediation of, for example, Turkey, Sweden, Switzerland, the EU, the USA, Canada “, the analyst shared his view with Opinion.

Lilia Brudnytska, an expert of the political studies center “Vybor” believes, that now it would be advisable not to rush the break of diplomatic relations, because they, in particular, oblige the aggressor to remember the norms of international law, and their break will only untie the Kremlin’s hands.

“We now have several formal options for breaking the diplomatic relations with Russia: the refusal to prolong the so-called “Russian–Ukrainian Friendship Treaty”, the announcement to the Russian Federation of diplomatic relations’ break (with justification), etc. In Ukraine’s situation, it would be advisable not make hasty decisions without a clear ultimate goal. Why? Diplomatic relations with the RF nevertheless oblige the aggressor to comply with international law. Having broken them unilaterally, Ukraine will be caught in a bind: on the one hand,  it will untie the Kremlin’s hands, on the other, the reaction of Europe may be unexpected, because until now for the EU we were something like “a shield against a crocodile,” considers Brudnytska.

At the same time, the experts suggested that the termination of diplomatic relations could make the release of political prisoners more complicated. However, the expediency of maintaining these relations also raises a number of questions.

“If we take, for example, the problem of captured and political prisoners, the break of relations will greatly complicate the process of their release. Our ombudsman is unlikely to be able to directly communicate with Russian colleague Mrs. Moskalkova. And Ukrainian citizens will remain tete-a-tete with the Russian “justice”. On the other hand, the diplomatic relations maintaining in the way as it is now, lose their expediency, since the above-mentioned pros are devalued (Sentsov, for example). Perhaps one has to raise the question of these relations in a new format or with the new rules, to form the body of international guarantors for the maintenance of the parts of the new Friendship Treaty, for example. However, it is unlikely that it is expedient to do this in the election year,” is said in the comments for Opinion.

But political consultant Dmytro Franchuk assured our media that after the break of diplomatic relations Ukraine will still have the opportunity to assist political prisoners who are unlawfully detained by Russia. In general, the expert believes that breaking the relationship is worth it.

“Diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation should be broken. Without this, our statements about Russian aggression lose some of their political weight. The UN conventions allow us to close the embassy, but keep all the consulates in the territory of the aggressor state – in Rostov-on-Don, in St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations clearly provides for such an opportunity. Even if the Russians themselves decide to close all Ukrainian consulates – we will still keep the mechanism of helping our compatriots. In the absence of consulates in the aggressor state, we can make an arrangement with an embassy of a third country, and it will take the role of our diplomatic mission,”  shared Dmytro Franchuk.

Dmytro Sinchenko, the head of the “Association of Political Sciences” public organization, supported the idea of breaking the diplomatic relations with the aggressor country, adding that in reality there are no steps against this decision.

“If Ukraine is in a state of war with the Russian Federation, and we have told that to the whole world, the break of diplomatic relations is the first thing that Ukrainian authorities should do. It is a signal for the whole world that indicates the level of the conflict and the fact that Russia is a party to the conflict, and therefore cannot be an “independent observer”, as it is today shown in Moscow. There is no argument against this step. Bilateral diplomacy no longer bring any benefits to our enemies. At the same time, there is no need to break the consular relations, therefore, neither for our political prisoners nor for our migrant workers nothing will change “, Sinchenko explained to Opinion.

Справжня європейська армія: наскільки це можливо, та на що очікувати Україні?

Today, public opinion is a key factor for Ukraine, according to Hennadii Shkliarevskyi, the history professor of Bard College – the liberal arts college of New York (USA). In his opinion, in case of breaking diplomatic relations, Russia can regard it as an aggressive step and a campaign to create an image of Ukraine as aggressor can be started.

“It seems to me, that we shouldn’t  break the relations considering a number of reasons. First of all, it can untie the hands of Russian and reduce the influence of the moderate ones. But this is not the main thing. The fight for public opinion in the world is currently going on. Russia in this situation is an aggressor and the world little by little realizes it. In the American press, in particular in the influential one (New York Times), appeared a number of publications against Russian aggression in the Azov Sea.

The US president said that these actions compromised his scheduled meeting with Putin. For Ukraine, the most important thing is the support of public opinion. Of course, in the West, and in particular in the United States, now there is a complex internal situation that complicates all sorts of actions in the international arena. But this will not last forever, and even in this state there is a red line that the West will not allow to step over. It is important to maintain support for public opinion. If the relations are broken, Russian propaganda will immediately make it look like an aggressive step of Ukraine, which will give the opportunity to launch a campaign aimed at representing Ukraine as an aggressor country. This can to some extent cloud the judgment and weaken the support of public opinion “, explained Shkliarevskyi.

Yurii Shulipa, the head of International Union National Policy Institute, believes that the diplomatic relations with the aggressor are not of any benefit to us. Instead, the United States of America can act as an intermediary between Ukraine and Russia, contributing to the de-occupation of some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions and Crimea.

“These relations give no practical direction for Ukraine, nothing but harm. Ukraine needs to break diplomatic relations with Russia in order to bring the legal basis in line with reality and be ready to defend its interests in the International Criminal Court. Then, within the framework of the implementation of the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances, relating to the accession of Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, in particular through the UN Security Council, the United States must provide diplomatic mediation between Ukraine, a country-victim of a military aggression and Russia, an aggressor state which wages the aggressive war against Ukraine.

Thus, US diplomatic mediation will play an important role not only in addressing local issues, such as the exchange of prisoners of war, but also in the de-occupation of the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Donbas. The Budapest format of negotiations will exclude all unnecessary and inappropriate negotiators, such as representatives of the Russian occupation administration from some districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, V. Medvedchuk, etc. “,  Shulipa told.

What about trade relations?

Ukraine still remains partly dependent on Russia in the context of trade relations, Serhii Tsyhipa stated. In his point of view, our country should get rid of these relations with the aggressor, reorienting itself to trade with the countries of the European Union.

“We should get rid of trade relations with the aggressor country. If Ukraine requires foreign partners to impose economic sanctions on Russia, then it should give an example in this direction. Unfortunately, we must state that trade relations are not completely broken, and we have enough examples that the trade balance in some areas is even growing. We are still dependent on Russia, for example, in terms of buying enriched uranium as raw materials for nuclear power plants. The reorientation of trade with EU countries is the only alternative to the Russian market, including the labor market,” the expert noted.

Декларувати не можна приховати: що робити із грошима українських заробітчан?

Ukraine still remains partly dependent on Russia in the context of trade relations, Serhii Tsyhipa stated. In his point of view, our country should get rid of these relations with the aggressor, reorienting itself to trade with the countries of the European Union.

“We should get rid of trade relations with the aggressor country. If Ukraine requires foreign partners to impose economic sanctions on Russia, then it should give an example in this direction. Unfortunately, we must state that trade relations are not completely broken, and we have enough examples that the trade balance in some areas is even growing. We are still dependent on Russia, for example, in terms of buying enriched uranium as raw materials for nuclear power plants. The reorientation of trade with EU countries is the only alternative to the Russian market, including the labor market,” the expert noted.

Oleksandr Yaroshchuk spoke about the energy dependence of Ukraine on the occupier. Analyst is convinced that, despite the increase in the trade with the EU and other countries, trade relations with the aggressor are still ongoing, and among the necessary steps there is the end of Russia’s sponsorship.

“The main problem is that Ukraine still hasn’t got rid of its energy dependence on Russia. This is the main component of our trade relations. Although trade with the EU and countries from other parts of the world is increasing, the trade with Russia continues. There are many reasons for this, but we definitely should reduce trade with the Russian Federation, first of all import of goods. We cannot sponsor the aggressor,” is said in the comment.

But Liliia Brudnytska believes that this issue is perhaps the weakest link in the defense of Ukraine, because even in case of trade relations’ break, there are chances of smuggling and cash flows growth that can return to the “shadow” again.

“I would look at it a bit differently. This is the weakest link in Ukraine’s defense, because even if the trade gap breaks down, smuggling and those cash flows that have been withdrawn from the shadow with such an effort will return there. It is unknown what came to our country together with smuggled goods and what it will lead to. It really makes me wonder, why our government, which cares about the defense potential, is not concerned with this and has not yet developed a plan for import substitution for all sectors that are partially dependent on Russian goods or raw materials,” the expert explained.

However, Dmytro Franchuk stressed, that the break of diplomatic relations does not mean the break of economic cooperation, as shown by the examples of other countries.

“The lack of diplomatic relations does not stop economic cooperation. Even inveterate opponents- the United States and Iran, which broke diplomatic relations 40 years ago, have economic relations with each other. Georgia also broke diplomatic relations with Russia and rejects all of the latter’s proposals for their renewal. Nevertheless, bilateral trade between these countries is developing. Therefore, all the discussions  about the fact, that  the break of diplomatic relations will inevitably lead to breach of economic cooperation is a lie, no matter who said that “, the political consultant assured.

Is it possible to limit transport connection?

Декларувати не можна приховати: що робити із грошима українських заробітчан?

The Minister of Infrastructure Volodymyr Omelyan spoke about the possible termination of rail communication with Russia in August, but today the passenger trains still run “Ukraine-Russia” transport link. In particular, Serhii Tsyhipa said, that the last year, the train “Kyiv-Moscow” became the most profitable for Ukrzaliznytsia, bringing over 150 million UAH.

“The August initiatives of the Ministry of Infrastructure concerning radical termination of transport communications with the Russian Federation still remain unfulfilled. You can just recall, that the last year, the “Kyiv-Moscow” train became the most profitable for Ukrzaliznytsia and brought the company 154 million UAH. In this direction, you should take into account the proposal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin, who proposed to introduce the regime of entry of Russian citizens only with biometric passports,” said Serhii Tsyhipa.

Dmytro Sinchenko is convinced, that it is necessary to break the trade relations with the occupier. Moreover, in the future it can benefit both economic security and economic development.

“Any connection with an enemy state is a danger. Kremlin uses any means to harm Ukraine, so the ultimate trade break in the long run will benefit both the country’s economic security and its economic development. It is even more important for us to understand that buying goods from an enemy, we support its economy, and therefore we give it money for war with us,” said the head of the “Association of Political Sciences” public organization.

The need for transport link will disappear, if Ukraine’s economy improves, Oleksandr Yaroshchuk believes. However, there are other options – border strengthening and introduction of visa regime.

“Ukraine should limit transportation. But at the same time, it is important to improve the economy of Ukraine as soon as possible, and then the need for transport links can be reduced. If the connection will remain for a certain period, it is necessary to strengthen the border and introduce a visa regime,” the analyst thinks.

Liliia Brudnytska, on the other hand, believes that the priority in the transport link issue is the strengthening of the security component, since the termination of the links will hardly stop entering of our enemies and provocateurs to our territory.

“As the experience of transport connections redirecting has shown, the volume of passenger traffic towards the same Russian Federation has changed, but didn’t reduce to zero. People simply have chosen other routes, bypasses that are more expensive and inconvenient. Ukrainian transporters lose passengers and profits, the budget loses taxes. We should strengthen checks at the entrance for all guests of our country, as provocateurs and enemies can safely come, let’s say, from Belarus or Hungary. That is, to strengthen the security component on the transport highways – it will help to achieve the goal faster. Blocking the roads and redirecting flows are rather fun for boys on a toy railroad. But we are Ukraine, our people are not toys, therefore we must think of all the pros and cons,” Brudnytska said.

By Dmytro Zhuravel

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