“Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration put on pause”
Nikolay Nazarov on Caliber.Az
INTERVIEWS 08 December 2023 - 15:19
Caliber.Az interview with PhD in politics, director of the Center for Regional Security Studies (Sumy State University), Ukrainian political expert Nikolai Nazarov.
- Serious disputes have recently flared up between Kyiv and the West about the presidential elections in Ukraine. Will it take place or not? Who do you think can compete with the current President Zelenskyy?
- Intense debates about the West putting pressure on Ukraine, demanding to hold the next presidential elections, took place about a month ago, but now conversations have died down. This is because Ukraine, with sufficient reasoning, made it clear to the Western community that holding elections for a new president at a time when the country is under “martial law” is practically impossible.
The president himself said this, as well as about a hundred public organizations of Ukraine, Ukrainian politicians and their parties signed a joint statement calling for the postponement of the elections. Moreover, the Verkhovna Rada has extended the “martial law” regime in the country, and we simply won’t have time to hold elections, even if that was the goal. The Ukrainian budget for 2024 is already approved, which does not provide funds for holding elections. So, we can say that the issue has been removed from the agenda.
As for the conflict between President Zelenskyy and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Zaluzhny, which is actively being promoted in various media, then, of course, it is bad when such conflicts arise and become a topic of public discussion. If we talk about Zaluzhny’s political goals, we haven’t heard about it yet. And it’s not worth “sending” Zaluzhny to elections that, apparently, will not take place. Yes, Zaluzhny is popular in society. Yes, today he is the second most popular person in the country after Zelenskyy, and if we simulate the elections, we can assume that in the second round, he could even beat Zelenskyy in terms of the number of votes. But, again, I am reiterating, at the moment Zaluzhny has not declared his desire to run for president, at least officially.
- Is Ukraine’s accession to NATO already a completely closed issue, or has it simply been shelved?
- Indeed, it can be stated that Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration has been put on pause. First, because there is a war going on, second because NATO is not ready to make such a decision. Budapest is categorically against it, and we still don’t know the exact reaction of the United States. Here it is also worth bearing in mind the recent statement by the former Secretary General of NATO, who proposed right now to resolve the issue of Ukraine’s membership of NATO within the framework of the geography controlled by Kyiv.
And this could give confidence to Ukraine, as well as send a clear signal to Russia that further military action is impossible. I talked about this topic with politicians and diplomats in Europe and I can say that they take this proposal seriously. Yes, it will most likely not be implemented today or tomorrow, but it is being considered in detail in European capitals.
Here it is also worth saying that the constitution of Ukraine clearly states that NATO and EU membership is a key priority of our policy. Kyiv is not abandoning these plans, so when the situation allows, Ukraine and NATO will return to this topic and consider it in detail. At the moment, the priority topic is negotiations on membership in the European Union, which are about to begin, but we also do not forget about NATO.
- The West has changed its priorities, as some analysts and world media say, and is now inclined to push Kyiv to negotiate with Moscow. How noticeable is this trend? Will Kyiv negotiate with Moscow?
- Yes, the West is pushing the Ukrainian leadership to negotiate, but President Zelenskyy clearly says that negotiations with Russia are impossible until Ukrainian territories are de-occupied. There is no other point of view. It is obvious that sooner or later, any war ends in negotiations and here the parties, in principle, can even meet indirectly. I know that such a mechanism was tested, for example, on the grain deal, that is, Turkey or the UN could act as a mediator. Most likely in 2024, in one form or another, I think negotiations can begin. There is information that this could happen closer to the 2024 presidential elections in the United States, when Russia, let’s say, will be more ready for the negotiation process. In the meantime, there are such conversations, but there are no specifics and no steps on our part.
- The United States has become more active in the South Caucasus, and an active dialogue between Washington and Yerevan is noticeable, as a result of which we are seeing a serious turn of Armenia to the West and, in fact, its boycott of the CSTO. In the public political sphere, there is a serious deterioration in relations between Moscow and Yerevan. In your opinion, how far can the crisis between Armenia and Russia go?
- Armenia is confident that Russia has not fulfilled its mission as a peacemaker and, therefore, Russia, as the dominant state of the CSTO bloc, is no longer a guarantor of security for Armenians. Therefore, Armenia currently faces a serious dilemma with its own security. Yerevan is disappointed and is looking for other centers of power and protection. Apparently, they are the United States, and the European Union, and in the future, perhaps, some kind of European integration of Armenia will take place.
Of course, the fact that its allies are breaking away from Russia is very positive news for the United States and the West in general. Therefore, the United States will encourage Armenia as much as possible in this direction; accordingly, these trends will affect the general geopolitical climate in the South Caucasus - it is worth taking this into account.
- How do you assess the strengthening of the role of the Organization of Turkic States in the international arena?
- The war between Russia and Ukraine, and sanctions against Moscow, of course, significantly changed the political and economic map of Europe and Asia. In some contexts, Russia is crossed out, in others, it is looking for options to reorient its exports from European to Asian markets. At the same time, during the restructuring of this system of connections, new opportunities arise for different countries and corporations to occupy empty niches from which Russia or its agents of influence have left, building, first of all, new supply chains. The Turkic states currently have a huge potential for development, the opportunity to integrate into this system, occupy niches, and build supply chains - primarily those that connect China with the European Union, as well as other areas.
The SPECA summit was recently held in Baku, which I followed closely, and this summit was precisely concerned with resolving these issues. An interesting trend - in addition to the Turkic countries, Hungary, which is a member of the European Union, also took part in it, which wants to buy Azerbaijani oil and gas at better prices, implement various projects, for example, construction in Karabakh, and develop those new logistics and trade routes with countries OTS. And Azerbaijan, as I understand it, occupies one of the leading roles here. So, of course, the potential is there, and the Turkic states now need to use this window of opportunity to take better positions.
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