Espreso. Global
Interview

Second diplomatic storm against Ukraine brews, maintaining calm is crucial – Ukrainian diplomat

11 March, 2024 Monday
14:45

Ukrainian politician and diplomat Roman Bezsmertnyi mentioned in an interview on the Studio West program on Espreso that the "diplomatic artillery is entering the battle," and initial indications are emerging from Ankara and Beijing regarding the likelihood of a dialogue between Ukraine and Russia

Currently, it is evident that Putin is leveraging every available opportunity, particularly in the context of the situation in the United States. This is observable in the heightened activity of the enemy, particularly in the eastern front of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Now “diplomatic artillery” will come into play. And the first such signal is two initiatives. One came from Ankara, with Turkish President Recep Erdogan saying that he would be happy to provide a platform for dialogue and negotiations. And the second was the trip of the special envoy of the People's Republic of China, Li Hui. An interesting thing is that the spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mao Ning, when asked by a journalist from the Global Times, a Chinese Communist outlet, what the purpose of this trip was, said things that are very subtle and actually name both the reason and the goal: that the situation on the frontline encourages the parties, in Beijing's view, to have a high probability of dialogue.

It's evident that envoy Li Hui inevitably stopped in Moscow for instructions in this situation. A meeting with the former Russian ambassador to Japan, who is now Lavrov's deputy, took place during the events of February 2022. The joint statement issued in Moscow said, and I basically quote: China and Russia have agreed that it is unacceptable to consider the issue of the Ukrainian dialogue without Russia's participation. This is no longer in the Chinese statement, but it is in the Russian statement. I emphasize that this is in the Russian statement and not in the Chinese one, that all unilateral initiatives on the part of the West and Ukraine only complicate the situation, the road to a possible dialogue.

It might appear peculiar to some, but around the same time, beginning on February 28, coinciding with the initiation of this narrative and operation, an article authored by two well-known experts in the field, Samuel Charap and Jeremy Shapiro, surfaced in one of the widely read foreign policy publications, Foreign Affairs, on March 5. Interestingly, both individuals regularly participate in the Valdai format and conferences held in Russia. They are also recognized as the authors of a notable 2014 monograph titled "The Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-So," which features a section titled "How to Pave the Way for Diplomacy to End the War in Ukraine." This section provides instructive guidance on the actions both sides should take to facilitate a painless initiation of negotiations.

The "diplomatic artillery" is set to escalate its caliber in the upcoming months, but not due to the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Avdiivka, as presented by Beijing and the two aforementioned authors. Instead, the driving force behind this escalation is Russia's incapacity to control the unfolding events, prompting an urgent need for a pause to accumulate strength.

I'm not sure if Ankara understands this, but from my perspective, it's simpler for them. Erdogan is addressing his own issues as the budget for 2025 is being formulated. Without tariffs, gas pumping, and trade with Russia, which is growing for Turkey, it becomes challenging. In China, the situation is simpler as they are just following the Kremlin's instructions and playing their role in these diplomatic maneuvers. We will observe how Brazil responds to this situation, especially under the leadership of Lula da Silva. Despite the internal challenges, he might be compelled to implement instructions coming from Moscow and Beijing. Similar developments may arise in African nations and other "appeasers." I anticipate the Saudis getting involved as well. In essence, another storm is on the horizon.

Even in the initial meetings Li Hui held in Europe, specifically in Brussels, where he met with heads of two departments (referred to as the European Union's Ministry of Foreign Affairs), the tone was notably firm. Representatives of the European community made it clear that if China continues supplying Russia with components for weapons like cruise missiles, anti-aircraft guns, aircraft, etc., sanctions will increase. Li Hui, representing China along with the Chinese ambassador to the EU, maintained an unequivocal stance: they are not providing lethal weapons to Russia, avoiding adding fuel to the fire and expressing a constructive approach to contribute Chinese wisdom to the dialogue, nearly quoting the essence of the dialogue.

To which the European representatives responded quite harshly that we are ready to exchange information and engage in dialogue, but China must draw conclusions. Because China leaves no other option for the European Union than to increase sanctions and reduce trade with China because it is actually assisting Russia in the bombing of Ukraine.

From these components alone, the situation with regard to the maneuvers in the coming months that will be carried out by Moscow is clear.

You have described the two main tracks - the Russian-Chinese and the Euro-Atlantic - very well. But there is also an additional track, the emergence of Donald Trump as a serious political figure who can radically change the situation in an unknown direction.

It's wise to acknowledge uncertainty about the direction, although from my perspective, it's possible to make predictions today. While it's premature to be certain of Trump's victory, given the complexities of American elections, our compatriots are eager for an answer to this question.

The unfolding situation closely mirrors the events of 1979-1980, particularly the ascent to power and election of Ronald Reagan.

Perhaps some may remember or have read about the events on November 4, 1979, when 60 American diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran during the embassy seizure. They were released shortly after Ronald Reagan was sworn in. A famous military operation known as "Rice Bowl," also called "Eagle Claw," took place a year later, when the Carter administration faced significant failure. In the midst of this operation, the military requested its cancellation, resulting in casualties and equipment losses. However, shortly after Reagan's inauguration, the hostages were released.

What happened? When newly elected President Ronald Reagan was questioned about how he achieved swift results, he responded, "I didn't do anything; my people did." Several years later, it became known that Reagan's associates needed $40 million to bribe the Iranian leadership, including funds directed to Ayatollah Khomeini, to prevent the release of hostages during President Carter's tenure.

The situation seems to be unfolding precisely along these lines. Take note of when Mike Johnson was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. It's important to remember that this time, the elections are scheduled, as usual, for the first Tuesday after the first day off in November, which falls on the fifth. On November 5, Americans will cast their votes

Please note that Mike Johnson comes out of the president's office and says that the aid to Ukraine will be voted on when it is needed. This is a unique phrase.

This phrase suggests that it is said by an inexperienced person, but a person who is in the information field and understands when the waiver may come or from whom.

This scenario is unfolding in a strikingly similar manner. It may take years for the full details to emerge, just as it took about 7-8 years for the information I shared with you to become known. Before that, after Reagan's death, journalists began delving into the topic, discovering the funds transferred to the Persians. And then a full stop was put, which Americans do not like to talk about. The unfolding drama bears a considerable resemblance to this scenario.

It's crucial to recognize that, like Ukrainians, Americans have individuals indifferent to the number of hostages or American soldiers who might have perished in rescue attempts. These individuals possess a different character marked by cynicism and a relentless pursuit of power, driving them to take any necessary steps. And the Trump theme, its essence and content is what sometimes happens in politics.

I understand perfectly well what would have happened if Reagan hadn't come to power, because his efforts helped to destroy the Soviet empire.

I am convinced that the military lobby behind Trump, if he wins, will do a lot to make Russia collapse.

The notion suggesting that Trump will engage in lobbying with the Moscow leader is designed to provoke Ukrainians into heated debates against Trump. I caution Ukrainian leaders not to meddle in this situation. Presently, we must seek assistance from all quarters, including the United States. However, it's vital not to become overly entangled in the process to avoid regrets after November 4.

I completely agree with Boris Johnson's perspective. He is not only an expert but also a journalist, possessing the sensitivity to discern these nuances. The arguments he presents about Trump are too significant to dismiss. In my view, the parallels drawn between 1979-80 and the current unfolding events, including the delayed vote in the House of Representatives, strongly resemble these historical occurrences. It's worth noting that such political maneuvers are not uncommon among Republicans, and it's essential for Ukrainians and Ukrainian officials to understand these American dynamics as inherently American phenomena.

And hence, we must clearly understand that today, from military tactics to political vicissitudes, the first thing we need to focus on is ensuring the individual protection of soldiers, citizens of Ukraine, air defense, and so on. It is imperative that we understand everything that may be happening now, that we get help in the defense segment, that we are able to withstand a certain power onslaught, I mean, the front, attacks. The second thing is to withstand the diplomatic storm that will come. Third, it is obvious that this can lead to some serious political internal confrontations. Therefore, the government needs to understand that its dialog with the opposition and this unity of society, the government, and within the corridors of power and the opposition is what will allow it to survive.

You know, internally, I am more wary of the Ukrainian power corridors and their inability to parry such things than I am of society and the army. Because the army, the society, the Ukrainian Defense Forces are very stable and strong, but the vicissitudes that arise all the time in the political system, and the essence of it is that there is one flaw that continues to live on - the government ignores the opposition position. This is impossible and unacceptable in times of war! We have already talked about the examples that have taken place. Because as soon as the situation escalates and some serious steps have to be taken, the absence of this dialogue will definitely lead to a serious conflict on the streets of the capital. This is a very dangerous thing!

That is why the idea of national unity, which was supposed to be realized through a government of national unity, through some kind of coordinating council of national unity, must be done. Because another thing like this, that this person was not allowed to go abroad, and unjustified accusations were made against that person, and so on, can lead to very serious tension in the information field.

Now, one more thing. It is clear that in such a situation, external actors are activated. And here it is very important to distinguish between Macron's idea, in terms of its rational content and essence, and the idea of Li Hui, who is simply Moscow's envoy in the Ukrainian corridors. Because I want to draw attention to one thing: the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, answering a question from the same journalist, thanked the Ukrainian and Russian sides for constructive cooperation and objective information to Beijing. I was a little surprised by this alignment. It's typical for dictatorial red cabinets to put the victim and the aggressor on the same level, and I understand that, so there is no difference between Ukraine and Russia in these 12 points, both sides are there.

But this gratitude disturbed me a bit because we need to understand that Beijing is now making sure that the warring Ukraine will give the Chinese 6-7 million tons of grain by the end of this year. Imagine this: a country at war is also selling grain to the aggressor because it has food problems.

And this Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, at the Munich conference, when asked by Christoph Heusgen about the implementation of the Budapest Memorandum, said that they did not sign it, the memorandum was signed by the British, Americans, and Ukrainians. And when someone objected to him that the document had been voted on by the Security Council, he added that we had nothing to do with the situation. That's why I'm already sick of this Sino-Beijing wisdom based on Moscow's scenario.

It's crucial to reiterate the potential dangers inherent in these diplomatic maneuvers, given the intricate nature of international relations. We are currently navigating a critical juncture, having narrowly avoided complications with Poland. The upcoming situation involving Li Hui's visit is essential to observe, as his primary focus is addressing Beijing's interests. His concerns regarding Ukraine and the ceasefire are likely limited to discussions rather than substantial actions. Notably, China and Russia significantly increased their trade turnover by $270 billion last year, with an additional $25 billion in the first three months of this year. The trade basket includes energy, industry, electronics (microchips), rare earth metals, and other components crucial for weapons production and warfare.

Nowadays, it is crucial to explain to the public what is really going on and what is the connection, what is the harmonization between the situation at the front and this diplomatic madness. So those who understand the situation need to have the nerve to write it out in wise words and tell the public that we will overcome this and survive here. It is important that we have the nerve to weather this second storm, the diplomatic one.

Please note that nine months have passed since Li Hui traveled around Ukraine and Europe, where he talked about how Ukrainians should give up the occupied territories to the enemy. And this time he brought a different message: in order to talk about these things, we must talk to Russia. This is the number one thesis. And thesis number two is that it is impossible to realize one's security without taking into account the security of one's neighbor. Do you know what is behind these words?

I would ask you to decipher them.

Ukraine cannot join NATO because it is dangerous for Russia. And if you add what Charap and Shapiro wrote, who say that today it is important that someone from the Ukrainian president's entourage say that the decree not to negotiate applies not only to Putin himself, but also to ordinary people. And secondly, it is important that the Kremlin say what marker they want to reach on the territory of Ukraine.

When you read all these things, you realize that you need to have a strong nervous system. I am saying this so that everyone understands that Kremlin agents will always be active and will always write all sorts of nonsense to destabilize us. That's why I wish that all the nonsense that is coming, that we could withstand it.

As for Washington and the First Lady's trip to President Biden's speech, I will say that every official has functions in addition to being a person. And I can tell you, as a non-specialized diplomat, in 90% of cases you have to do work that you don't like, but you have to do it because you were sent to negotiate. The enemy is in front of you, or your imperfect friend, or your sick friend, but you have to do this work. We all need to understand that there are situations like this, and for diplomats, for the most part, when you don't belong to yourself, your role is to fulfill the function that you have to do.

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