Those (mostly Europeans) who do not understand the essence unfolding in the Eastern Ukraine conflict, Kurt Volker gives a definitive answer: “At a time when the truce was violated thousands of times, and every day people are dying, to speak of a frozen conflict or stabilization is impossible. It’s a real, cruel war.” According to a new special envoy of the US state Department in Ukraine, the continuation of the conflict is the result of Russia’s desire “to maintain pressure on Kiev to exacerbate the gap between Donbas and the rest of Ukraine”.
Returning from the Donbass, Walker (Rex Tillerson appointed him to this position on 7 July) met in Paris with the correspondent of Le Monde to Express the views of the new us administration on the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. The creation of the post of special representative (it was not under Barack Obama) reflects the US desire to play a big role in the matter that, until recently, was mainly engaged in the Europeans, led by Germany and France (it was under their auspices in February 2015 was signed by the Minsk agreement).
Walker argues that “dependence on Russian gas has impacted the ability of Europeans to take decisions”, and intends to maintain a “transatlantic” approach to the rule of the Minsk agreements. They “allowed us to bring Russia to the negotiating table and are the basis for the application of sanctions against it. Thus, they are an extremely important database, but still could not solve the problem.”
According to Kurt Volker, a change of leadership of the USA and France, as well as the upcoming Russian elections in 2018, creating a window of opportunity to get results outside the framework of the Normandy format (this format of negotiations, there are more than three years and includes Moscow, Kiev, Berlin and Paris).
Strategy, Kurt Volker, implies a hard line against Russia, which is very far from pre-election statements of Donald trump, who was even talk about a possible recognition of the annexation of Crimea. This rigidity applies primarily to the complex question of the implementation schedule of the Minsk agreements, whose uncertainty allows a variety of interpretation. Walker believes that security in the Donbass must be preceded by political concessions from Kiev.
The supply of weapons
The main illustration of the new course is the mention of a possible supply to Ukraine weapons, in particular anti-tank missiles. Such a hypothesis has already spoken with Barack Obama, and both houses of Parliament supported this decision. Anyway, the President eventually did not want to take such a step that, according to Volcker, was a bad signal to Russia and Europe. “While the decision hasn’t been made yet, but we are again talking about this possibility,” explains the diplomat, not agreeing with the fact that Moscow may perceive such a move as a “provocation”: “In providing the country with opportunities to provide their defense, there is nothing provocative. The Russians are already in Ukraine. In the Donbass more tanks than the arsenals of France, Britain and Germany combined”.
In addition, Kurt Volker is a huge supporter of new sanctions against Moscow, in particular in the energy sector. July 25, the House of representatives adopted a new list of restrictive measures which caused discontent among the Europeans, who fear that their companies may also be affected by sanctions.
“The Russians think time is on them, and therefore did not take any steps for the cessation of hostilities. I think they are wrong, and things can only get worse. We need to show them that the price of the conflict will only grow.”
This position can hardly seem surprising, considering that the diplomat began his career in the CIA and was U.S. representative to NATO during the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008. But if the White house to accept Kurt Volker course, once the decision-making process in Washington is now surrounded by such uncertainty? “I spoke in the USA with all people concerned with this issue, and did not notice any differences,” says Walker. According to him, the change in the position of Donald trump is partly the result of the confrontation with the Senate and the House of representatives, in particular on the issue of sanctions. It showed that parliamentarians, including the Republicans, are ready to push for the White house. “The conflict is also an obstacle to improved Russian-American relations”, which seeks to trump, said the diplomat.
“New strategic dialogue”
Walker advocated a “new strategic dialogue” with Moscow (the Russian side a long time waiting for similar proposals), which goes far beyond the Minsk agreements. According to the diplomat, the strategic dialogue with the still vague contours “already exists.” Serve as a reflection of the efforts of the Secretary of state’s Rex Tillerson to restore bilateral relations with Moscow, as well as various areas of cooperation, particularly on the Syrian issue. Anyway, there can be no question of the sovereignty of Ukraine, its plans to join NATO or the inclusion of the Ukrainian issue in a broader deal. “Our strategy’s two sides — continues Walker. — We need to show strength and at the same time to show the Russians that we are ready to move on, to go beyond the conflict.”