18 October 2018
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Ambassador Yakovenko contributes to the ongoing debate in The Financial Times on the issue of European security architecture:


25 years after the Cold War end it’s clear that something is wrong with the European security architecture. Otherwise we would have no Ukraine crisis on our lap. It is an established fact that there has been no formal post-Cold War settlement. And it is a truth if not universally acknowledged, but gaining support among experts and observers, that this constitutes a major flaw with far-reaching consequences.
Yes, we do have the OSCE and the Paris Charter of 1990, and even the NATO-Russia Council (NRC). But they are all pieces of a patchwork, inherited mostly from the previous era. The Charter is about political commitments of general nature. The OSCE hasn’t been able to evolve into a full-fledged regional security organization, as provided for in the Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. It has stuck at the stage of the League of Nations, as impotent in ensuring equal security for all in the Euro-Atlantic. It even does not have a charter of its own. The NRC has proved to be incapable of being an all-weather forum, first at the time of the Caucasus crisis in August 2008. Since the Rome declaration of 2002 we haven’t been able to get from our NATO partners the definition of substantial forces they promised not to deploy in new member-states on a permanent basis.
This incoherent construction is hugely distorted by continued existence of the NATO, which, bent on preserving its place of privilege in the European security architecture, insists on legally binding security guarantees to be enjoyed exclusively by its members. That is a key obstacle to the declared goal of indivisible security in our region. Thus, we have various levels of security in Europe. Like in physics, difference of potentials generates voltage in the circuit, or tension in the system.
This electricity begets the NATO’s eastward expansion, which brings its military infrastructure to Russia’s doorstep. It might have looked like a smart policy of pursuing dual objective of extending the Alliance’s reach while hedging its bets on Russia. But not now, that the NATO retreats into its cocoon of territorial defense.
Lord Hannay (FT, Letters, 16 October) knows better than others that nothing is automatic in international relations. In 2004 he was in charge of the Cyprus settlement dossier and could see that the imminent EU membership wouldn’t change the Cypriot Government’s negative position on the Annan plan. And the very fact of the Ukraine crisis proves precisely that. Either we have a genuine collective security, or we have got something else.
Let’s have a look at history. After the defeat of Napoleon, France, which shed the Emperor’s personal territorial acquisitions, was invited by the victors to the top table of European politics at the Congress of Vienna. That Churchillian magnanimity in victory ensured 40 years of calm in Europe. The Crimean War, which was declared on Russia in the name of maintaining the European balance, resulted in the opposite, opening the door to the Franco-Prussian War and the wrong unification of Germany as a Greater Prussia (not as a federation it became after two world wars).
The Versaille system didn’t follow the Congress of Vienna example. It left isolated both the Soviet Russia and Germany. No regional collective security system was designed, with the borders of Germany’s eastern neighbours not guaranteed. The attempts to address this flaw, including the Eastern Pact/Locarno failed, leading to the Eastern European nations fending for themselves, mostly through conclusion of bilateral non-aggression treaties with Germany. The final outcome is known, and that includes the folly of anticipating Germany to direct its aggression eastwards first and the Phoney War.
It is also important to remember, that originally the settlement after WWI was supposed to be on a no-victors-no-losers basis. But the November revolution in Germany helped derail this rational arrangement in favor of the flawed Versaille system. Germany was vilified to play to the French and British public opinion to justify the terrible cost of the Great War. The Palmerston Ministry, for the same reasons, insisted, on humiliating provisions of the Peace of Paris of 1856.
History shows, that revolutionary/violent destruction of constitutional order always leaves a nation exposed to civil war, foreign intervention and all sorts of contingencies. The British saw it in XVII-XVIII centuries (till Bonnie Prince Charlie’s final defeat, although America’s War of Independence would qualify as Act 3 of the English revolution). So did the French in their revolution, and Russia early in the XXth Century.
Martin Wolf (FT, 17 September) admits, that the West is partly responsible for the present crisis. The West, indeed, ludicrously focused on who would pay the Soviet debt. That petty mindedness and failure of imagination defied the lessons of European history. That is why many believe that the so called “Kremlin policies” are the consequence rather than the reason.
Russia has always been, at least over the past three centuries, a part and parcel of Europe and European politics, sharing in joys and triumphs, as well as tragedies. Our preemptive attack in East Prussia in August (on a much greater scale than the Charge of the light brigade at Balaclava) prevented 1914 turning in 1940, with all due respect for the British thin line of defense, which saved the day by its counter-attack near Ypres at the end of October the same year.
We don’t want an adversarial relationship with our European partners, for both of us will lose. President Vladimir Putin talking recently to the Valdai Club in Sochi was honest in his assessment of the choice we are facing. It’s either further alienation with broader geopolitical flak, or drawing the line and starting to work collectively to deal with the damage already done in Europe and elsewhere, and putting international response to common challenges, particularly in the Middle East, on a sound legal and policy foundation.
Naturally, it has to start in Europe. The US have developed, under Madeleine Albright, the tactics of constructive ambiguity, which provides enough flexibility for all to avoid painting ourselves into the corner as regards the Ukrainian crisis. But ambivalence in the transient European security architecture, that got stuck somewhere between Versaille and Vienna, doesn’t serve any positive purpose any longer. We need something overarching and cooperative that would leave no space for motives and temptations to shift old divisive lines as a policy by default. It means further institutionalization of the OSCE, our idea of a European security treaty and a joint missile defense for Europe.
The time to act on the lessons of the Ukrainian stress test is now. We know that European transformation of Ukraine cannot be managed unilaterally and on the cheap. As President Poroshenko said, the challenge of reintegration of the south-east, which can only be done peacefully, provides a strong incentive for fundamental reforms. Nobody needs Ukraine as a geopolitical dependency.
Like any crisis, this one represents a rare opportunity to fix what needs to be fixed. All the more so that we know that no military solutions are possible in Europe today, both domestically and internationally. That is what have in common, in my view, the real tragedy in South-Eastern Ukraine, high drama of the NATO summit in Wales and comedia dell’arte in Sweden’s territorial waters. And even Gideon Rachman’s raising, quite surrealistically, the spectre of use of theatre nuclear weapons in Europe (FT, 12 November) proves precisely that.
In much broader terms, the state of European security is just another sign of our region still living in the XXth century. Like the present economic and financial crisis, including banks too big to fail and financial alchemy of the past thirty years, it resists effort to bring it into the new century. It’s also about the state of elites, who, unlike a hundred years ago, have no option of a big war. Hopefully, ushering in another century will be less tragic this time, but kicking and screaming we’ll see a lot. Perhaps, it was the real promise, held out by the fall of the Berlin wall 25 years ago. Certainly, it was not about construction of new walls, sanctions, isolation and disengagement, which provided the comfort of segregated existence in the century that has run its course.



09.08.2018 - Letter from Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko to the Guardian’s editor

In response to the Ambassador Beruchashvili’s letter, offering not so much a recollection of the August 2008 events in the Caucasus, but rather a misleading reiteration of the Georgian claims against Russia I have to refer to some of the universally recognized facts and consequences resulting from those tragic events.

24.07.2018 - Eastern Economic Forum: the East is bright (by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko)

When talking about Russia’s Far East, you invariably remember its stunning natural beauty, abundance in natural resources and vast territories. But when one thinks of its investments prospects, you also invariably remember its harsh climate, low average population density and the lack of transport and other infrastructure. But now the situation is changing fundamentally. The region is undergoing a huge and qualitative revival. The development of the region has been declared one of the national priorities for Russia. In the last 5 years 18 advanced development zones and 5 free ports have been established in the Russian Far East. Long-term tax exemptions have been provided for large investment projects. Paperless e-visas for visitors of Vladivostok are available for citizens of 18 countries.

03.05.2018 - SALISBURY: A CLASSIFIED CASE (by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko)

On 4 March 2018 two Russian citizens Sergei and Yulia Skripal were reportedly poisoned in Salisbury, Wiltshire with the toxic chemical named A-234 under the British classification. On 12 March Foreign Secretary Johnson summoned me to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and said that Russia was “highly likely” responsible for the attack. He invited us to respond by the next day, whether this had been a direct act by the state or Russia had lost control over this nerve agent. The incident had international repercussions, including expulsion of 150 Russian diplomats from 28 countries, notwithstanding the fact that the charges were based on assumptions and unverifiable intelligence. The Western countries lost the same number of Moscow-based staff. Meanwhile, the British government provided no evidence either to the public, its allies or Russia. Subsequent events revealed that no proof of Russia’s involvement existed. On 1 May, National Security adviser Sir Mark Sedwill confirmed that (despite a number of previous leaks) no suspect had been identified, a statement that speaks for itself.

14.02.2018 - The international community needs a unified legal base to combat information crimes (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

Amid the rapid advance in technologies we face a growing number of cyber-crimes: in 2016, these offences caused damage of $445 billion and by 2020, according to experts, this figure can reach up to $3 trillion, exceeding the overall income received from the Internet.

26.01.2018 - UNGA: Glorification of Nazism must stop (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

In December the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the traditional resolution on “Combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”. It was supported by an overwhelming majority of UN Member States: 133 states voted for this document, 57 became its co-sponsors, and only Ukraine and the United States voted against.

29.11.2017 - Afghan opium production jumps to record level (by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for RT)

According to the latest Afghanistan Opium Survey released by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in 2017 opium production in Afghanistan increased by 87 per cent to a record level of 9,000 metric tons. The area under opium poppy cultivation also grew by 63 per cent to its highest level of 328,000 hectares. Afghanistan is the world's top cultivator of the poppy from which opium and heroin are produced. The 2017 record levels of opium production and poppy cultivation create multiple challenges for the country, its neighbours and many other countries that serve as a transit for or a destination of Afghan opiates. The significant levels of opium poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan.

19.10.2017 - Why to fight with memorials (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The campaign in Poland against World War II memorials to Soviet officers and soldiers, who had liberated the country from the Nazi occupation, is gaining momentum. Warsaw has created a legal framework allowing the disposal of Soviet/Russian memorial objects or taking them out of public sight, including the most widespread monuments of gratitude to the Red Army. Why?

18.10.2017 - Syria: collective humanitarian efforts, not sanctions, are needed more than ever (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The situation in Syria is undergoing serious transformation. Due to the de-escalation process, it has now become possible to drastically reduce the level of violence, to improve the humanitarian situation as well as to fight terrorists more efficiently. The ISIS-controlled territory is shrinking. On 14-15 September, at the international meeting in Astana all four de-escalation zones were finalized.

05.10.2017 - What You Have to Know about Status of Crimea (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The coup d’état in Kiev in February 2014 backed by the West tore up the constitutional space in Ukraine. The legitimate President of the country was overthrown. It was marked by a severe lack of democracy and violence that posed a direct threat to the well-being of Russian-speaking population of Crimea. Citizens of Crimea faced the choice of becoming an oppressed minority or severing their ties with the hostile regime to secure a future for themselves and their children. The decision to hold a referendum was made by legitimate local authorities. The independence of Crimea was proclaimed and an appeal to enter the Russian Federation was made based on the indisputable results of the popular vote. Standards of international law were fully observed as the right of nations to self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter was exercised freely by the Crimeans. Crimea was recognized as an independent and sovereign state by Russia and on 18 March 2014 in Moscow the two countries signed a Treaty of Unification, under which the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol became two new regions - subjects of the Russian Federation.

05.10.2017 - NATO increased military presence in Europe: road to nowhere (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

As part of the implementation of the conclusions of the NATO Summit in Warsaw, four multinational battlegroups have been deployed in Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia with the total number of troops exceeding 4500. The idea of creating similar rotating units in Bulgaria and Romania in 2018 is being widely discussed by NATO members. If put together, these battlegroups amount to a motorized infantry brigade with heavy weapons.

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