Espreso. Global

Podolyak vs. Rasmussen. Conversation between mute and deaf

13 November, 2023 Monday

First of all, let me ask whether we need a government that asks rhetorical questions. In my opinion, no

The authorities should give answers themselves, having first analyzed the options for the development of events, studied the moods of stakeholders, and taken into account all the pros and cons. Populist governments usually ask questions, such as the “plebiscite” in the 2019 elections, or now the questionnaire planned in Hungary on the "expediency of Ukraine's membership in the EU".

But no more digressions. At the end of last week, former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen unexpectedly voiced an interesting idea. He believes that Ukraine's membership in the Alliance should not be postponed even until next year, but that the process of accession of the territories controlled by Kyiv should begin now.

If the territory controlled by Russia is excluded from NATO, the threat of a conflict between Russia and NATO will be reduced, Rasmussen argues.

An idea from the realm of fantasy, you might say. How will Ukrainian society react to the "loss of territory", and, after all, to the principle that a country at war cannot be a member of the Alliance? Rasmussen provides answers to these questions. There are no territorial "sacrifices" involved, but "the absolute validity of Article 5 guarantees would deter Russia from intensifying attacks on Ukrainian territory inside NATO and thus free up Ukrainian forces to go to the front line". As for the "conflict", we have the precedent of two Germanies - Federal Republic of Germany was actually an outpost of the Alliance during the Cold War. Or Turkey, which became a member of the club after having a conflict with Cyprus...

How did the Ukrainian government react to this idea? No reaction, except for a post by Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the Presidential Administration. It can hardly be called a reaction. Because Podolyak confines himself to rhetorical questions that can hardly be the subject of discussion.

Yermak's advisor writes: "Firstly, the mere talk of such a possibility clearly provokes Russia to further escalation, encourages it to wage an aggressive war: "A little more and Ukraine will break. Russia needs to slaughter our citizens and attack with more missiles". Isn't that obvious? Of course it is". Interesting, isn't it?

Last week, the Kremlin's mouthpiece Komsomolskaya Pravda ran a strange headline: "Kyiv reports to the EU: The genocide of Russians in Ukraine is over". Informed people say that this is not just a play on words to please the zombie reader. This is a hint that the goals of the "special military operation", declared by Putin in February 2022, have lost their meaning, and there is no one left to "protect" in Ukraine. Given that such "trial publications" have become more frequent in the Russian media, the conclusions are self-evident. For example, according to polls conducted by local sociologists, in October 2023, 76 per cent of Russians supported the actions of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine, and in November, 70 per cent of the same Russians would support Putin's decision to end the military conflict with Ukraine this week.

The advisor to the head of the Presidential Office then goes on to ask (again rhetorically): "Secondly, it is equally obvious to ask a counter-question: who said that Russia is ready to accept the proposal and stop? Who said that Russia would want to agree to 'Ukraine in NATO'?

And now I will ask Podolyak: since when did we return to the practice of asking Russia about the possibility/impossibility of changing Ukraine's non-aligned status? It seems that this false logic has already been abandoned by the most prudent and cautious European leaders, who have realized that Ukraine, and especially its Armed Forces, are self-sufficient to decide their own fate. But for some reason, the Office would still prefer to "look Putin in the eye".

And then Podoliak went on as if he hadn't read what Rasmussen was proposing: "Who guarantees that Russia will not continue its expansion after the pause, taking advantage of the fictitious break to strengthen its position? Finally, who exactly will guarantee the inviolability of the... conditional demarcation line?" There will be no further expansion unless Putin takes the suicide route and starts a war with the Alliance. However, the Kremlin dictator does not seem suicidal at the moment. As for the guarantees. Excuse me: isn't the Presidential Administration boasting out of the blue that more than 25 countries have already agreed to become guarantors of Ukraine's security in the event of the implementation of the so-called Peace Formula?

Some may say that Rasmussen's idea is a variation on the ‘Koreization’ of Ukraine that was discussed in certain circles in Europe this spring. The similarities, in my opinion, are only apparent, since at that time Ukraine was considered outside NATO, perhaps with some statuses like "special ally of the United States" and so on. And in our case, we are not talking about dividing Ukraine into two states: only about the bloc of the controlled territory and the temporarily occupied territories, from which Russia will, I think, leave on its own. Due to various circumstances, including compliance with the strict sanctions regime and internal problems.

But for this to happen, the Ukrainian government should actively work with its partners, carefully consider all options, and finally decide who truly wishes us good and peace, and who is driven only by mercantile interests. And do not ask rhetorical questions. Because, as Elie Wiesel once wrote, they are sometimes more important than the answers to them. After all, they indicate an unwillingness to do anything, or, worse, they give rise to suspicions about the true plans of those in power.

P.S. And, of course, this is an important aspect. I don't think Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the first thing that came to his mind. He is a systematic person who knows the "chemistry" of decision-making in the Alliance, and he certainly discussed his plan with experts. Therefore, we should not dismiss such messages with rhetoric. No matter how "reasonable" it may seem.

Specially for Espreso.

About the author. Ihor Hulyk, journalist.

The editorial board does not always share the opinions expressed by the authors of the blogs.

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