Ukrainian interest. Victory in NY, visa-free green light, and neighborly pirouettes
A resolution, approved by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, was a real diplomatic victory for Ukraine. EU Council supported visa liberalization for Ukraine, dialectically linking its start with setting up a visa waiver suspension mechanism. Donald Trump continues to shape his administration and communicate with the world leaders. Moldova has chosen a pro-Russian president. Alexander Lukashenko delivers a confusing speech.
Resolution on human rights situation in Crimea and Sevastopol, adopted by the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly and supported by 73 of its members (with 23 opposed it and 76 abstained), has become a real victory for Ukrainian diplomacy. It cements the status of the Russian Federation as an occupier state and emphasizes that the Crimean peninsula belongs to Ukraine. It should be recalled that, in contrast to March 2014, when it was about the support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the topic of human rights is a very sensitive issue for many countries. Knowing this, Russia had made significant efforts to prevent the resolution from passing the committee, using Belarus as a battering ram. Although the UN General Assembly resolutions see no direct mechanism of implementation, they are a public expression of the position of the world community on important issues. It is also worth mentioning that the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, in a report recognized the events in Crimea in February-March 2014 an international military conflict, forcing Russia to quickly cease cooperation with the ICC.
Against this background, the imminent threat to Normandy format in its current form should be noted. The thing is that Frank-Walter Steinmeier, head of German diplomacy, will in February 2017 be elected President of the Federal Republic of Germany. His French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault is unlikely to be perceived as a holder of any active position in regard to the Donbas settlement, while presidential elections in the spring of 2017 leave Francois Hollande no chances to retain his office. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin has said that there is no draft road map for Donbas settlement, agreed with Russia, at the moment. While the negotiation table remains unoccupied, the OSCE SMM is reporting a record number of shellings in Donbas.
Confrontation between Ukraine and Russia at the international level has lasted for years. The Kremlin expects to outlive Western leaders, too uncomfortable for Moscow, to achieve a more acceptable foreign political environment. Therefore, the EU Council decision to start the consultation process on granting Ukraine a visa-free regime with the European Union looks like an important and timely step, although visa liberalization will not take effect immediately. Despite bureaucratic obstacles in the form of unintelligible procedure of visa waiver suspension, the progress of Ukraine and Georgia is obvious. Perhaps, visa liberalization for the two post-Soviet states will give a new impetus to the Eastern Partnership project.
The issues of choosing an acceptable format of relations with Russia remain relevant to the international community. The leaders of the six major EU powers and outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama in Berlin agreed to leave Russia sanctions in place until Moscow fully complies with the Minsk agreements. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been taking turns to stress the need for effective cooperation between Europe and the United States after the inauguration of Donald Trump. The latter has already announced his first upcoming top appointments and got to chat on phone with several leaders of other countries, with Petro Poroshenko among them. The Russian media have tried to present a dialogue of the Ukrainian president with the future 45th U.S. president in the form of Poroshenko’s dialogue with a pranker, traditionally trying to present Ukraine as a failed state.
Leader of the Moldovan Socialists Igor Dodon, who does not seem to hide his pro-Russian views, has been elected the country’s president. Following a recent scandal with billions of euros siphoned from the Moldovan banks, Dodon victory was easily forecast, but one should not forget that Moldova is a parliamentary republic, and the election of its legislature is scheduled for 2018. In the current situation, it is the position of Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko that can cause more anxiety: the day after the anti-Ukrainian move of the Belarusian delegation at the UN, there "Father" told Russian regional mass media he was ready to help hold elections in the occupied parts of Donbas and control the Russian-Ukrainian border. Looks like Lukashenko’s maneuvers between the Kremlin and the civilized world see a decaying amplitude, and therefore we should expect a new portion of sensational statements coming soon.