Conflict in Donbas: West will finally provide Ukraine with lethal weapons if escalation continues - Ex-NATO chief

15:52 Sep. 4, 2016

West will finally provide Ukraine with lethal weapons if escalation continues - Ex-NATO chief

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks during a press conference at the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales on Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 (AP Photo)

Open war against Ukraine will cost Russia dearly, Anders Fogh Rasmussen is sure 

If Russia shirks its commitment to fulfilling the Minsk agreements and continues to destabilize the Donbas, Western countries and NATO can provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons, former NATO Secretary-General (2009-2014) and current new advisor to the Ukrainian President Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in his interview with Apostrophe.

According to him, currently, a large-scale Russian offensive in Ukraine runs contrary to the Kremlin's interests of Russia, because it can achieve its political objectives by exploiting a hybrid war, "little green men" and propaganda.

Putin's task is to make Ukraine weak and dependent on the Kremlin, through maintaining a frozen conflict in the Donbas region (eastern Ukraine).

Q: Russia accused Ukraine of provocations in the occupied Crimea. As a result, Putin refused to hold the Normandy Format talks with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko. Do you believe that these provocations really took place?

A: I don't know what motives Putin has. However, Poroshenko agreed to hold a Normandy Format meeting with Putin, however Putin refused. This proves that Russia does not fulfil the Minsk agreements and strengthens the military pressure in eastern Ukraine. This is the reason why, in my opinion, the sanctions against Russia should continue.

Q: Do you think, there is an alternative to the Minsk agreements?

A: At the moment I can't see any alternative to the Minsk agreements.

Q: What about the Geneva format meetings involving the United States?

A: I think, now more than ever the world needs to have 'a police state', the United States should become such a police state. America needs to be more involved in searching for solutions to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. I can't see any problem if the Normandy format meetings involve the United States.

Q: But would US involvement seems  possible after the presidential elections take place in the States. It is obvious that the election outcome will impact the US's attitude toward the Donbas conflict...

A: If Hillary Clinton is elected president, I expect her to put pressure on Russia until it fulfills the Minsk agreements. In case Donald Trump is elected, I'm afraid, this will weaken Ukraine's position. I am concerned about Donald Trump's rather strange statement that the West must accept Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Q: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that Russia should be returned to the G8 group of states. How do you feel about this idea?

A: We should have noything to do with Russia as long its military escalation continues in eastern Ukraine. I do not think it's a good idea to allow Russia to join the G8 countries again.

Read also Steinmeier voices conditions of Russia's return to G8

Q: We talked about the Normandy format negotiations as well as the US possible involvement. May a situation arise when The NATO will take part in resolving the conflict (in eastern Ukraine)?

A: Ukraine is not a NATO member and, therefore, the Alliance has no security commitments to Ukraine. However, if Russia violates the Minsk agreement, if it continues to destabilize eastern Ukraine, I think the time will come for western countries and NATO to provide Ukraine with lethal defensive weapon. Then Ukrainian military will be able to better defend against the Russian aggression.

Q: What can you say about the current defence capabilities of the Ukrainian army?

A: I think, Ukrainian military did an amazing job, but we all know that Russia has a very strong war machine, and tens of thousands of Russian military are deployed on the border with Ukraine. So if Russia makes a decision, then, of course, it can invade Ukraine. I do not think Russians will do that, however, they are capable. This is a reason why, in my opinion, the West should consider a possibility of providing lethal defensive weapon to Ukraine.

Read also Russia is not ready for full-scale warfare in Ukraine - Ukrainian official

Q: What will be the consequences for Russia if it chooses this scenario?

A: If Moscow launches a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, it will cost Russia dearly. In my opinion, an open attack on Ukraine will not serve Russia's interests, because it will entail serious political consequences for Russia. I think, Putin can achieve his political goals without launching an open invasion of Ukraine. For this purpose, he exploits a hybrid war, "little green men", disinformation campaigns and fuels a frozen conflict in eastern Ukraine. He hopes to make Ukraine weak and dependent on the Kremlin. After all, that is his goal.

Read also Ex-NATO chief: I don't think Europe could stop Crimea annexation

Q: When will Ukraine be able to get Crimea and Donbas back? How long will this take - several years, decades?

- I do not know when this can happen. Yet I know that previously the Soviet Union illegally annexed three Baltic countries, and added them to its territories. However, these countries have become independent again, 40 years later. Sometimes you really suffer, but in the end, you reach your goal.

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