The Minsk II agreement is unlikely to deliver the desired results. While Ukraine is shaken by Russian aggression imposed on its territory, its own difficulties with unstable government, corruption and hollowing out of the State also stand in the way of security and stability. In the context of the Russian annexation of Crimea and the de facto occupation of the Donbass Region, Ukraine and the EU have to reconsider if they have so far given the right answers. Otherwise, Ukraine’s future development will considerably be determined by the Kremlin. Ukraine desperately needs to stabilise and guarantee security, for which a reform of its national defense is urgently needed. A democratically controlled, defensively aligned army and reliable security structures are a prerequisite in the attempt to achieve a stable state.
In the context of the ongoing failure to stabilize the security situation in Ukraine and the continuous escalation and fighting in the Eastern part of the country, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation organised a debate with security and defence experts in Brussels. The panelists agreed that the status quo is not viable and more has to be done by Ukraine together with the EU and the US to create the conditions for lasting peace.
Former defence minister and colonel in reserve, Anatoliy Grytsenko, insisted on the failure of the Minsk II agreements to provide those conditions. In his view, the agreement creates three separate Ukraines: Crimea, which is not even mentioned in the agreement, the occupied part in Eastern Ukraine and, finally, the remaining part of Ukraine. Oleksiy Haran, Professor of Comparative Politics and Founding Director of the School for Policy Analysis at the Kyiv Mohyla University, was skeptical about the probability of the Minsk II agreement being fulfilled and the likelihood of it providing a solution to the conflict.
However, he added that this is also due to a lack of political will on both sides to tackle certain issues that would be feasible, such as the imposition of a ceasefire and the exchange of prisoners.
Col. General Ihor Smeshko, Former Head of the Security Service and Advisor to the President of Ukraine, reminded the audience of the huge task faced by the Ukrainian government and civil society, namely that of simultaneously restructuring the economy, getting rid of corruption, reforming the armed forces and creating a more open and democratic society. He joined his fellow panelists in calling for more support from the EU in tackling all these challenges. Ihor Smeshko views the conflict in Ukraine as a “war of values”, recalling that people who went out on Maidan one year and a half ago did so with European flags. Anatoliy Grytsenko supported him in saying that “Russia’s intentions go far beyond Ukraine”. But he also thinks that “Russia is never as weak as it looks but also never as strong as it pretends to be”, therefore only a stronger partnership between the EU, the US and Ukraine can solve the issue in the long term.
On a more positive tone, Oleksiy Melnyk, Co-director of the Foreign Relations and International Security Programme at the Razumkov Centre, went into possible solutions to the conflict and to avoid it becoming simply another frozen conflict in the EU’s neighbourhood. He does not believe that the conflict has a military solution. In his view, Ukraine has however three major assets that might play in its favour. Firstly, the military proved to be loyal to the people and not the regime, secondly the Ukrainian civil society has demonstrated its strength and finally, Ukraine can count on international support. He did not share the view that the international community did “too little, too late”. But he also said that the EU’s slogan “help us to help you”, applies to Ukraine helping the EU to stabilize it’s neighbourhood too. For him “a common fight calls for a common solution”.