April 11, 2014, Kyiv – James Sherr, Senior Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House (UK), stated at the press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center that actions by Russia in Ukraine have posed most direct challenge possible to the fundamental rules of European security system established after the war with Russia’s direct participation. There are multiple documents supporting Ukraine’s independence such as the founding documents of OSCE, the Budapest memorandum, thanks to which Ukraine disarmed its nuclear weapons, third largest in the world. Furthermore, Mr. Sherr reminded about the 1997 Russia-Ukraine state treaty which emphasized Ukraine’s territorial integrity and raised no conditions about Ukraine’s constitution. Between May 1997, when the treaty was signed, and departure of Yanukovych from power in February 2014, the Russian Federation has not once in any international forum argued about either the Constitution or federalization of Ukraine.
James Sherr emphasized that if this challenge is not understood properly, the consequences will go well beyond Ukraine and will affect the whole Europe.
“Ukraine is not the only country that has “Crimeas”, there’s Riga with a strong Russian majority and an elected mayor who works closely with the Russian authorities, there’s Transnistria, there’s a Russian population at the city of Narva in Estonia”, said Mr. Sherr, ”and some counterforce, come counter balance needs to be established”.
Senior Fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme also noted that serious players like China, Israel, Japan observe on how Europe reacts to the new challenge. “Japan has limited interest in Ukraine, but they are closely watching because they know that Beijing will make conclusions”, concluded Mr. Sherr, “This is a test to the West to its determination to uphold the international agreements. If the Budapest is treated as many words and not a binding statement, people in Europe will ask – will the NATO agreement uphold. That’s why everyone is watching, because if we don’t treat our words as our bonds, our entire security is weakened, and we shall face the more anarchic world”.
Mr. Sherr drew parallels with the 1914 events, when the UK was considering whether or not protect Belgium against invasion, and the key factor was whether Belgium was defending itself. Now, says Mr. Sherr, it is important for Ukraine’s authorities to demonstrate their willingness to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.
The Western governments, says Mr. Sherr, need to make a difficult decision to raise their defense budgets and make hard decisions in the energy sector to have a short term response strategy if the Gazprom cuts its supplies to Ukraine and Europe. Ukraine is still the most energy inefficient country in Europe, warns Mr. Sherr, energy inefficiency along with hidden pricing mechanisms are used to enrich a handful of people. If those people continue to control the energy system after the elections, Ukraine will not attract investors and will fail to improve its energy security.
Commenting on the Western help to Ukraine, Mr. Sherr noted that right now the West is already providing far more economic help to Ukraine than anyone was considering some months ago. The armed forces and the security system of Ukraine were systematically weakened in the Yanukovych period, and the West is ready to provide help to this sector, too.