At long last, Ukraine puts formal end to military cooperation with Russia
Although the Russia-launched hybrid war has been going on in Ukraine for a year, only now has the Ukrainian parliament got around to cancelling Ukraine’s international agreements in the field of military cooperation with the Russian Federation.
On May 21, the Verkhovna Rada terminated five agreements between the Ukrainian and Russian governments. Those agreements provided for military industrial and military intelligence cooperation, mutual protection of classified information, the transit via Ukraine of Russian troops stationed in Moldova, and the organization of military interstate transportation. This was a long-awaited political full stop in the absurd issue of such cooperation with an aggressor state.
“Citizens are rightfully asking: Why was it done so late? Have we to this day been cooperating in the military field? wonders Oleh Bilokolos an expert from the “Maidan of Foreign Affairs” organization. “In my opinion, information about the denunciation of these agreements should have been announced. It should have been explained to the public that cooperation was actually been stopped long ago. And today, the process is only being formalized.”
In turn, Dmytro Tymchuk, an MP from the People's Front faction and the coordinator of the Information Resistance media project, agrees that the agreements with Russia, indeed, should have been terminated a year ago. “But the fact is that, in fact, for the most part it's just a legislative consolidation of what has already happened de facto. For example, there has been no intelligence sharing, no cooperation between the two intelligence agencies since last March. Now, it’s just enshrined at the legislative level,” he told UNIAN.
There is a similar situation regarding military and technical cooperation with the aggressor state. In any case, the formal decision of the government on its termination was made earlier.
A slow divorce
However, the MP said that even after securing this decision at the legislative level, military-technical cooperation cannot be stopped at once. Moreover, it is not that the Ukrainian defense industry is tightly tied to Russia, but that the supply of Ukrainian military products may continue in the form of re-exports from other post-Soviet countries which Ukraine still cooperates with.
For example, according to Tymchuk, his Information Resistance group has spotted the supply of helicopter engines to Belarus. And there is no guarantee that they will not be re-exported later from Belarus to Russia, which needs such equipment. “Therefore, in my opinion, the tools of international export controls should also be used, as well as other mechanisms to prevent Russia from receiving any military aid from us,” said the deputy.
There is also a downside in this issue. For example, Ukraine used to have numerous ways of importing engines for its armored vehicles from Russia. “All our armored vehicles have Russian engines... Now we see that the plenty of spare parts are produced in Ukraine. Small businesses are reacting quickly to the new needs and start producing spare parts no worse than the Russian ones. Also, there are also supplies of similar products from Europe. We are gradually switching to Italian-made engines, Mercedes engines for our armored vehicles,” said Tymchuk.
Lieutenant-General Ihor Romanenko, ex-deputy chief of the General Staff echoes Tymchuk. According to him, two factors have caused the delay in the process of breaking military cooperation with Russia. First, Ukraine has only recently legally defined the Russian Federation as an aggressor state and only after that could the break in military cooperation be formalized at the legislative level.
Secondly, the expert tied the delay in this process with the difficult economic situation in Ukraine. “But this year we have done everything possible to get on track with domestic production and to find partners in the EU and NATO,” he said.
War should not be removed from the agenda
Ukrainian political analysts also stress on political, economic and technical reasons for delaying the denunciation of a number of agreements with the aggressor state. The director of the Institute of Global Strategies Vadym Karasyov notes that, given Ukraine’s sluggish sanctions policy toward Russia, the West is now performing a cautious rapprochement with Russia in the direction of a geopolitical thaw, “at the expense of certain national interests of Ukraine.” According to him, the recent visits to Moscow by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland were the most prominent signals for Ukraine. So, Kyiv’s obvious response was to formalize a decision on breaking military-technical ties with Russia in order to emphasize that Ukraine is still in a state of hybrid war with Russia. "It is no accident that our leaders’ rhetoric regarding Russia became more harsh, in particular that of the President of Ukraine. It has been done in order to emphasize to Western politicians who wish for a thaw with Russia that there is real war between Ukraine and Russia,” he suggests.
In his opinion, an important factor behind such rhetoric was the capture of two Russian Spetsnaz troops on the territory of Ukraine. There have been similar cases before, but they were not made public and the international community knew nothing about them. Today, there is no more cautiousness in statements regarding the open aggression of Russia in Ukraine. “It has been done to make the West act more consistently. And the positions of those who favor the easing of sanctions against Russia will be weakened at the July EU summit,” said Karasyov.
In turn, Volodymyr Fesenko, chairman of the Penta Center for applied political studies, admits that the process of breaking agreements on military cooperation between the two countries from Ukraine was hindered by fears of open war. “Maybe, Ukraine delayed the process because it didn’t want any additional tension with Russia. There were fears that it could lead to the risks of war with Russia,” said Fesenko.
However, according to him, the denunciation of these agreements was a necessary and logical move. “I think this is just the beginning. There are still other agreements with Russia that we will come out of. This should be done to emphasize that it was a war and Russia’s aggression that led to such moves, to the worsening of relations between us and Russia,” he said.
Alternative markets for Ukraine’s military industry
As for economic and technical reasons, political analysts point out that the losses of Ukraine’s military-industrial complex, which is tied with the Russian market, from breaking military-technical cooperation is somewhat exaggerated. For example, Russia has repeatedly blackmailed Ukraine with threats to refuse to order the products of the Dnipropetrovsk-based “Pivdenmash.” However, the volume of orders was reduced anyway, which forced Ukraine to seek alternative markets. This, in particular, has allowed Ukraine to cooperate in the framework of the European Space Agency, with the prospect of membership in this organization.
Besides, the gradual shrinking of military-technical cooperation with Russia has lasted for almost ten years, which led to the Ukrainian military-industrial complex reorienting to western markets. In particular, “Motor Sich” has opened an office in Poland, and there is an active search for both orders and sales in the EU.
In addition, according to Volodymyr Fesenko, by annexing Crimea, Russia has actually violated the 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation, so the only thing that Ukraine should have worried about after that was a possibility of a big war with Russia. “All the rest is not so critical. Moreover, the reduction of bilateral trade has been going for a long time, this process began during the presidency of [Viktor] Yanukovych, and this is not such a horror story for us, as it used to be before,” he said.
“We shouldn’t be afraid, we must act with high precision, flexibly and at the same time responsibly and functionally, giving up on deals that Russia can use to its advantage. For example, I think that the denunciation of the agreement on the transit of Russian troops from Transnistria through our territory is a very important decision, because there are risks of an attack on Ukraine from the territory of Transnistria. Creating a barrier here is very important,” added the analyst.
The Kremlin’s speculations
However, as expected, the decision of the Ukrainian parliament on the denunciation of a number of agreements has caused a harsh reaction in Moscow. For example, Russia’s speculations on the issue of Transnistria have already been voiced by the head of the unrecognized Moldovan Republic of Transnistria Yevgeny Shevchuk. According to him, the Ukrainian parliament’s denunciation of the agreement with Russia on the transit of military products will lead to the increased tension in the region.
This rhetoric is shared by the State Duma. According to the deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs Leonid Kalashnikov, Ukraine "triggers another war, heats it up on purpose.” “What should the Russian peacekeepers who are deployed there (in Transnistria) with the mandate? How can they get in?” he told the Russian media.
However, Russia is also heating up the issue, insisting that Ukraine, as a participant of resolving the Transnistrian crisis, has demonstrated its lack of interest in establishing peace in the region by denouncing the agreement on transit of Russian troops located in Transnistria through Ukrainian territory.
In addition, the State Duma was quick to say that Ukraine is allegedly trying to withdraw from the international legal framework. “I think that the decision is intended to give Ukraine immunity from any charges in relation to actions which may lead to the death of civilians, disappearances. Ukraine is withdrawing from the international legal framework in regard to human rights,” the head of the State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs Aleksey Pushkov told the Russian media.
It looks a bit strange considering that a year ago, having annexed Crimea, Russia itself violated the 1997 Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Not to mention the fact that there are dozens of illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia, while hundreds are pressured by the Russian FSB security service in Crimea.
“Moscow considers this step [of the denunciation of agreements], as an unfriendly move, to put it in diplomatic language. Since this is one of Moscow’s priorities – to ensure the development of relations between Ukraine and the EU and other countries who support us is prevented,” said Oleh Bilokolos.
In this context, it is not surprising that at every international meeting the Kremlin is trying to emphasize that Ukraine is a country that is closely connected with Russia not only mentally or politically, but also at the economic level. “So, after yesterday's decision of the Ukrainian parliament, we should expect an increasing of pressure. Especially due to the fact that the provisions of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU on a free trade zone come into force in January 2016. It is really concerns Moscow, because it means totally losing Ukraine,” said the expert on international affairs.
As for Ukraine’s future actions, according to Oleh Bilokolos thinks that the parliament should focus on the instruments that would allow improving the country’s defensive capabilities. In particular, if Ukraine continues to insist on the other countries providing our army with lethal weapons, given the current approach of our Western partners to such a risky issue, we need to denounce those agreements with Russia, which don’t fit with the possibilities of our cooperation with NATO.
“At the time of the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine and Russia had at least 350 different intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements. And, in my opinion, our cabinet should have long instructed all departments to review their bilateral agreements with Russia and submit proposals for termination of certain agreements,” said the expert.
Kostyantyn Honcharov, Tatiana Urbanskaya