One of the participants of “1+1” Channel’s “Right to Power” program recently has made very wise observation: if Ukraine had joined NATO before, the war would not have started. I cannot disagree with this statement. If Ukraine had been the Alliance member, its other members would have perceived an attack against Ukraine as the attack against themselves and would have been obliged to intervene. This is what Article 5 of the Washington Treaty says.
What a great statement, isn’t it? There is only one problem with it: it was made by Yuliya Tymoshenko, the very person who, while being a prime minister, prevented Ukraine from obtaining NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2008. Let’s recall that in 2008, during her visit to Brussels, Tymoshenko ignored President Viktor Yushchenko’s directive and refused to visit NATO headquarters that would have shown united position of the Ukrainian government towards the NATO membership. Although not the only one, this was an important reason behind Ukraine’s failure to obtain MAP. As a result, NATO refused to give MAP to Ukraine during the Bucharest summit.
Thus, the speech of “Batkivshchyna” leader during the “Right to Power” TV program was nothing less than hypocrisy at its most extreme. First, she undermined Ukraine’s accession to NATO and then regretted about that.
Recently, Yuliya Tymoshenko has dedicated much attention to security issues. This is understandable, given that, according to public opinion polls, Ukrainians see resolution of the war with Russia as the top priority. Politicians cannot but react to such public demands.
First, Tymoshenko criticized President Petro Poroshenko. She claimed that he negotiated with the leaders of the so called “LNR” and “DNR” to escalate the war and cancel the presidential elections. Reacting to this, representatives of Petro Poroshenko Bloc parliamentary faction recommended Tymoshenko to abandon instructions from Kremlin and to visit the Donbas frontline instead. In fact, no negotiations with the leaders of the self-proclaimed republics were held. Likewise, no escalation between Ukraine and the rebel entities happened and the military actions continued with the same level of intensity.
Later, Tymoshenko started to stress the importance of peace which, in her own words, Ukraine desperately needs. However, she put the responsibility for continuation of the war not on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who started and nourishes it, but on “corrupt Ukrainian government” that supposedly profits from it and is interested in its prolongation. “I know very well with whom to negotiate about the peace settlement. I won’t be stopped by anyone’s bloody business projects or behind-the-curtain agreements,” “Batkivshchyna” leader stated.
Yet, she didn’t mention names of the people who should be negotiated with. Considering that only Russian President Putin could stop the war, I suppose she meant exactly him. But today there is a consensus among Ukrainian political elites: peace negotiations with Putin could be led only on his terms, which means capitulation of Ukraine.
Moreover, Tymoshenko discussed the idea of the UN peacekeeping mission for the occupied Donbas territories that would serve during the transition period before the return of these territories under Kyiv control. But Tymoshenko is not the author of this idea. It was put forward by Petro Poroshenko in 2017, and since then, it has become popular in the international arena.
Then, all of a sudden, ex-opponent of Ukraine’s accession to NATO told that NATO and EU membership is a priority for Ukraine. “NATO has powerful system of security and defense. And Ukraine will become NATO member. We will do everything to meet NATO standards,” Tymoshenko claimed. She also said that she wanted Ukraine to become “full-fledged and strong member of the European Union.”
This idea is not new either. “Batkivshchyna” leader flirted with it after it was proposed by President Petro Poroshenko who also initiated constitutional changes to explicitly state this goal in the constitution. Tymoshenko decided to support this idea, since today unprecedentedly large number of Ukrainians are in favor of joining the Alliance, while the EU membership has been popular among Ukrainians for a long period of time.
The only truly new and original initiative proposed by Tymoshenko is the new format of the peace negotiations between the two countries which she called “Budapest Plus.” Let’s recall that Ukraine, together with the US, Russia and Great Britain, signed the Budapest Memorandum in 1994. Its signatories assured they would protect security and territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine abandoning the nuclear weapons it had inherited from the USSR.
However, after reading this document carefully, it turns out that it includes only declarations but lacks specific crisis management mechanisms. The signatories are obliged to act only if nuclear weapon is used against Ukraine or there is a credible threat of its use. In this case, the signatories should call for immediate response from the UN Security Council. And that’s it.
Of course, we should refer to this document and remind everyone that its signatories committed themselves to protecting Ukraine’s territorial integrity. But Ukraine could put only moral pressure, since the Memorandum does not provide any legal instruments, aside from the appeal to the UN Security Council. Moreover, the UN Security Council, as well as the General Assembly, has considered issues related to the war in Ukraine several times and adopted several resolutions supportive of Ukraine which means that Ukraine could use this instrument even without referring to the Budapest Memorandum.
Why does Tymoshenko even mention such an empty document? Actually, aside from the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum, two more countries, France and China, also gave security assurances to Ukraine. If “Budapest Plus” format is realized, the negotiations will also include Beijing.
However, China either votes in unison with Russia or takes neutral position on the issues related to the war between Ukraine and Russia. It has its own interests in maintaining relations with Russia, but that’s the topic for another article.
Thus, the question arises: why does Ukraine need another Russian ally in the negotiation process? Tymoshenko does not provide any answer to this question and we are left to wonder whether Kremlin lurks behind this initiative. Actually, this is not the first time Tymoshenko acts in Russia’s interests and therefore we are not surprised.