An agreement with Putin is an agreement with the devil – Ukraine’s vice-PM on European integration

Photo: hromadske.ua 

Featured, Op-ed

Article by: Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s vice-prime minister on European integration

On February 10, the German newspaper Die Welt published an article of the Ukrainian vice-prime minister on European integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze about the West’s policy regarding Ukraine and the dangers that this brings.

Euromaidan Press,  with the permission of the office of the vice-prime minister, is publishing the English version of the article.

It has been mostly bad news for Ukraine lately. Thousands of civilians found themselves caught between frost and fire under Putin’s fierce onslaught in Donbas – the worst since early 2015. The Kremlin rubs its blood-smeared hands in anticipation of a new division of the world  anticipating that Ukraine is soon to be theirs.

Meanwhile, many in the West seem to be contemplating “all options” to make a deal with Putin.

They don’t believe in the “rise of the West” combined with the “rise of the rest.”

When did things become so bad? It didn’t start the last week or the last year. Partly, it started much earlier. And partly – in February 2014, when Russia invaded Ukraine. We all remember those days. Ukraine pleaded with Russia to stop. The West pleaded with Ukraine not to respond militarily. And only Russia pleaded with no one – they just did their thing: disrupting, manipulating and occupying the land that wasn’t theirs.

We choked back then.

It took Ukraine three long months in 2014 – March, April, May – to overcome the shock and to start fighting back. Sadly, many in the West still seem choked. Russia messes with your elections, corrupts you, plays you – and you still plead. You still appeal to the good will of someone who made a habit of carving up his neighbors.

Some of you probably think if you give Russia what they want, this nightmare will go away. You just can’t figure out what they want.

Well here is a newsflash for you: they don’t believe in the “rise of the West” combined with the “rise of the rest.”

All they know is this: it’s their time to rise and the West’s time to go down.

Yes, this goes against logic. However – so does Moscow’s whole zero-sum world picture. Yes, this goes against everything we learned in the last 25 years. However – rolling back these 25 years stands atop their to-do-list.

Don’t fool yourselves – this didn’t happen because Russia misunderstood you. It happened because we all misunderstood Russia. We thought the Soviet Union was dead all these years – but it wasn’t. It was re-grouping. It was getting ready for a revanche.

“Houston, we have a problem.” And the problem is the USSR 2.0, an FSB-run state, capable of things that USSR 1.0 could only dream of: get inside your political discourse and mess with it, de-value your values, corrupt your elites, disrupt your unions.

No, Russia’s rulers are no big thinkers.

They are just ordinary ex-KGB operatives with unlimited money and no scruples whatsoever. They have no grand ideas of their own, but they are good at undermining yours: EU, NATO, American dream, European home.

So, why indeed not give Russia what it wants? Well, for one thing – because above all it wants Ukraine. And Ukraine won’t play along. It’s a basic contradiction: Ukraine wants to be free, whereas Putin wants Ukraine to be on his leash. What kind of a deal can come out of it, other than at a cost of Ukraine’s core and legitimate interests?

A deal with Putin can be like a deal with the devil: he gives you something – and you give him your whole belief system in return. He gives you something – and you put up with a new division of the world. He gives you something – and you look away when he destroys his neighbors.

Ten thousand Ukrainians didn’t give their lives so that Putin would get in the end what he wanted.

We made our choice as a free nation. Now you in the West must make yours.

If you are tempted to strike a deal with Putin – we can’t change it. But don’t make a deal at the cost of the freedom of others. It would be a sleazy thing to do, a sin that would haunt you forever. Freedom cannot be a part of geopolitical game. NATO, EU, democracy, international law cannot be for sale.

There can’t be any honest deal between the West and Russia without an honest deal between Ukraine and Russia. And the only honest deal between Ukraine and Russia can be based on restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty over its territory. Not under Russia’s conditions, but under the conditions of international law. Sadly, it doesn’t look like Russia is ready for that at this particular point.

It’s time to stand your ground. Not a long time ago the West considered the whole world its “ground” – simply because it thought democracy was essential to all human beings. This concept is being challenged now by someone who doesn’t think much of democracy. He suggests dividing the world anew – between those who live in democracy and those who can do without.

If the West succumbs to it, the time would be rolled back to the pre-Reagan era. The free world would become smaller. And smaller. And smaller. In the end, it will be smaller, than the world of tyranny and on retreat. Keep in mind: if freedom dies in Syria, if it dies in Ukraine – a part of it dies in the West too. So, try to do the seemingly impossible: stay strong in this time of trial. The history will measure you by that.

Author: Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, Ukraine’s vice-prime minister on European integration

Source: Originally published in German in Die Welt
Source: Also available in Ukrainian on Yevropeiska Pravda

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