Studio guest Kyrill Koktysh, associate professor at the Moscow State Institute of International relations with Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Sergei Stankevich, Russia’s political and public figure and expert from Anatoly Sobchak Fund, Vyaceslav Pazdnyak, head of the 'Wider Europe' Project, Minsk, Belarus, and Thomas Heine, political observer, Politiken daily, (Copenhagen), shared their opinions with Radio Sputnik.
The plans to build the wall, what is it likely to do for the relations between Russia and Ukraine and with the whole situation?
Kyrill Koktysh: We should understand that the reason for the erection of the wall is the monetary one. That is the reason to use the budget money, up to $3 billion, that could be used to finance the good guys and the affiliated companies. So, this is a good reason to steal this money from the budget.
But they don’t have money.
Kyrill Koktysh: But you can use the credits. You have a very important reason and that means that you can take money from some other means, that are vital and necessary, but could be claimed not so important. So, the first reason is the monetary one and not the state one. The group of interested is pushing this project, but not Ukraine itself. And we should understand this quite well.
It is called the Eurowall. Do you think Europe would accept that?
Kyrill Koktysh: I guess that Europe is getting tired of Ukraine more and more. And in the last conference in Austria I attended one month ago, it was claimed that in Ukraine there are too much of painful and unresolved problems. The European politicians are tired of the sanctions between Russia and Europe. The turnout diminished by 20%. And the Ukrainian politicians are not so persuasive for Europe, which means that the trust starts to diminish. So, it seems to me that this story won’t last long.
What do these plans for the so-called Eurowall are likely to do in terms of trying to find the solution to this conflict in Ukraine?
Sergei Stankevich: Mr. Poroshenko’s recent appeal to restore the national border sounds logical, but in practice it can be implemented only as part of a package deal to settle the whole political and military conflict in Donbas. To isolate this border issue from the rest of controversial issues is now impossible, it will not work.
This week the Ukrainian Parliament made moves to abandon the nonaligned status and proclaimed that Ukraine wants to be part of NATO. How practical this pledge is?
Sergei Stankevich: I think that this particular decision of the Ukrainian Parliament is totally symbolic and has no practical content. I cannot even imagine any serious negotiations about the Ukrainian participation in NATO in the foreseeable future. It would be better to forget this subject for 15 years, at least.
But it seems that the new Ukrainian Government is very keen on actually doing this.
Sergei Stankevich: At this stage of the Ukrainian history for the partially renewed Ukrainian elite it is very important to make some symbolic gestures. But it would be much better for them to put more emphasis on the practical economic reforms. Just recently we heard that the newly appointed Minister of Economy said that the Ukrainian state is on the eve of bankruptcy. So, it would be much better to be concentrated on these issues.
Are there any chances for the Minsk agreement still being in place?
Vyaceslav Pazdnyak: The Minsk process I think has stalled for a while. I believe that the current stall may be explained by the fact that there has been a game changer, which has changed the Moscow’s position on the perspectives of the settlement. I believe that the new position voiced by Moscow, which can be briefly described as the return to the vision of Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts as the parts of Ukraine, this has somehow puzzled the other parties of the Minsk process.
My impression is that at least some parts of the Kiev elite intended to use the possible secession of these two oblasts to burden Russia with economic, political and trade difficulties, like the continued sanctions, pressure, criticism and so on. So, the change in the agenda initiated by Moscow puzzled the parties to the Minsk process and stalled it. There needs to be time for adjustments. But there are no other mechanisms in place so far, so I believe we will see the continuation of the settlement efforts.
How the plans to build a Eurowall seen form the European perspective?
Thomas Heine: I certainly understand that Kiev wants to feel safe from Moscow, but, on the other hand, I don’t think that this wall will be very effective, especially since the large part of the border is not controlled by Kiev itself.
And what about the NATO membership bid?
Thomas Heine: It is highly unlikely that Ukraine will become a member of NATO any time soon. Again, it is understandable that Ukraine is looking for some kind of security guarantees, but they will obviously not be forthcoming neither from NATO, nor from Europe and nor from the US. And in that respect I'm not sure it is very wise of Ukraine to openly declare that it is giving up its nondeclared status. And it also seems to me that it was against the wishes of President Poroshenko.
Another big issue is economy, how wise is it to plan to spend some $500 million on building a wall?
Thomas Heine: Unless Ukraine feels secure, its economy won’t revive either. I mean, Ukraine needs every dollar or every hryvnia it can save, but, at the same time, it considers itself to be under threat from Moscow. And in this situation I think the leadership in Kiev thinks that it needs to take the security seriously and spend money on defense, that otherwise would have been spent on the social issues and reforms.