12:49 Aug. 31, 2016
West is aware of situation in Ukraine, but lives on illusions - Ukrainian Ambassador to France believes
France, Germany and the United States are not willing to recognize the presence of Russian troops in the Donbas region and sometimes incorrectly evaluate options for further development of the situation.
They believe it is still possible to resume the pre-war order of things, Ukrainian Ambassador to France Oleh Shamshur says. In his interview with the Ukrainian news outlet Apostrophe, Shamshur also said, the French authorities think that sanctions against Russia should stay in force until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented.
However, this attitude may change in a few months, since France's ruling Socialist Party has almost no chance of securing a majority of seats in the Parliament as well as their candidate has almost no chance of becoming president.
Q: What do your French colleagues say about the situation in Crimea and Donbas? I mean - escalation, rotation of troops and deployment of hardware.
A: They recognize that the situation with human rights in Crimea is disastrous. As regards the situation in Donbas, it is a matter of serious concern. Their general approach, as I heard, is as follows: the situation is very tense and volatile. There are certain elements indicating the aggravation, which definitely triggers concern. Politically, my French colleagues treat the situation as a deadlock. Nothing positive is going on, they think. In principle, we agree with that. But we cannot agree when almost the same blame for blocking any solution at a political level is equally laid upon Russians, separatists and Ukrainians. In this case, we come up with relevant arguments.
Q: Do they understand why you reject their position?
A: Let's just say, there is an understanding, there is a real assessment of the situation at a working level. However, as a rule, this estimate is not public, because the public recognition of the presence of Russian troops requires political decisions at a completely different level. This is what neither France nor Germany, nor the United States are ready for.
Q: Will they be ready? For example, how do they in France assess a probability of full-scale attack launched by Russia?
A: I am not sure if they believe in the full-scale aggravation, yet they admit further escalation of the situation, including the military sphere. According to my information and my estimates, they - I mean European countries - are completely aware of what is really going on. To say nothing of the United States, the country which says: "I can see everything from above".
Q: Why are they still not ready for fundamentally new solutions? Are they frightened to fight a war with Russia?
A: This is a very long story to tell, yet a key reason behind it is that they wrongly assess how severe and serious challenges are. Still, they think there is a way to regain some kind of status quo - the so-called 'ante bellum' (a period before a war) - or ' business as usual'. That is, in my opinion, absolutely impossible, only because Vladimir Putin does not want it. Additionally, they (Western colleagues) rely on cooperation with Russia in Syria to overcome terrorist threats and resolve a migrant crisis. I think, these are utterly false and illusory expectations, since they are based on what Western countries would like to see, but not on real facts - how Russia behaves, how it fulfils its goals in each of these areas, regardless of Western partners' interests. If we talk about the West approach in general, this is an example of 'wishful thinking', as well as a 'state of denial'. Unfortunately, this is how the situation looks like, and we must consider it when planning our next steps.
Q: In the near future, do French politicians plan to visit Ukraine and vice versa?
A: Recently, Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko visited France and met with Francois Hollande and leaders of the Parliament. The next major event is the French-Ukrainian investment forum scheduled for October in France. Ukraine's Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman is expected to attend the forum. We want French politicians to visit Ukraine, and we raised these questions. However, we have to understand, starting from November, the entire political class in France will focus on the presidential and parliamentary elections.
Q: Why were the French MPs who visited Crimea not punished, regardless of the warning of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
A: We must understand that we are not talking about France's or Germany's sanctions - we are talking about the European sanctions against them. That is, one must understand that the decision will be made collectively. Neither executive authorities nor top officials of the Houses of Parliament have any legal ground to ban the French MP's from travelling to Crimea. Perhaps, the French authorities can only condemn these MPs, but they do not have any levers of influence to punish them.
Q: Which sectors of cooperation between France and Ukraine saw some noticable progress?
A: The Normandy format meetings, to some extent, helped develop a historically intensive dialogue (between Ukraine and France). If I am not mistaken, last year the Ukrainian President visited France four times, this year he paid one more visit, Ukraine's Prime Minister and Ministers also visited France. Both countries maintain main vectors of their cooperation, including support for reforms in Ukraine. The economic sector has priorities like agriculture, energy, environmental technology and transport. There is progress in the field of science and education. We have areas of common interest, not only on our part, but also on France's part, like political lobbying, support for reforms, technical and other assistance for our country.