17 December 2017
Moscow: 05:22
London: 02:22

Consular queries:  
+44 (0) 203 668 7474  
info@rusemb.org.uk  

 

SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

26.08.2014

A case study in the failure to learn from history (Russian Ambassador to UK Alexander Yakovenko, special to RBTH)

The Ukrainian crisis has two closely intertwined dimensions: a domestic one and an external one, both testifying to the failure to manage the process correctly. Both provide abundant material for a study in abject mismanagement, with the lessons of European history consigned to oblivion. The crisis was launched in Brussels by the offer of the EU – Ukraine Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. Nothing was thought through in advance, including how to finance a radical economic reform in Ukraine and the consequences for Ukraine-Russia trade and economic ties. Nothing was debated in public in the EU or Ukraine. It was a take-it-or-leave-it offer at odds with European traditions of pragmatism and moderate politics. But it was hatched by the Brussels supranational and unaccountable bureaucracy, which was carried away by temptations of grandeur and geopolitical self-assertion. For example, it took three months of the crisis for Brussels to admit that Russia has a legitimate economic interest in Ukraine. But what is still denied is a far deeper and multifaceted relationship between Ukraine and Russia, including common historical, cultural, family and other ties. The slogan of a European future is not enough for sound practical policies, especially in a country as complex and large as Ukraine with an elite that over 23 years could not restore the size of its economy to the pre-independence level. Domestically, the plan for the agreement triggered anti-government protests, which were fast taken over by armed radicals. As in any popular movement, resort to violence proved fatal. Violence begets violence and is no substitute for a reasoned public debate with the entire nation involved. Though President Viktor Yanukovich left the country, the fundamentals of the road map, agreed by the president and the three leaders of the parliamentary opposition through mediation, are as relevant now as six months ago. It is either “winner takes all” or a gradual process of building consensus in a society on where to go, how and at what pace. This sequence and its logic were endorsed internationally in Geneva on April 17 and in Berlin on July 2. It provides for a national unity government, which would conduct an inclusive constitutional reform followed by elections. What is wrong with that? It’s the only option. That is where we stand in the resumed talks. Russia faced the same fork in the road when the coalition government of left-wing parties chose to disband the Constituent Assembly in 1918. The consequences were similar to those in England when Oliver Cromwell told the Rump Parliament: “In the name of God, go!” Whatever the democratic aspirations of the original protest, once the issue of power was resolved, it was just a matter of time before the Maidan would go. The groups of radical nationalists, who espouse violence and define national identity in a negative way, ie, through the vilification of other nations as proved by the latest tensions between the authorities and the Right Sector, are more difficult to push aside. The old elite has been co-opted into this simple fix of suppression by force of arms by those who disagree and want to be heard. To make things easier they were labelled terrorists. The bet on a military solution, of course, prolongs the life of the existing parliament. And no reform is on the horizon. It is sad that the US and EU have chosen to render uncritical support to Kiev, juggling the notions of sovereignty and territorial integrity as opposed to the real needs and aspirations of people on the ground. As some believe, that makes it tempting for Kiev to get into a military conflict with Russia. The crisis already acquired a broader scale because of Western sanctions against Russia, a sort of middle ground between war and peace. This still means war, although an economic one, but as destructive and inconclusive as a real one. This brings us to uncharted territory, with all the uncertainties and unpredictability involved. On the part of the West there has been constant talk of reform of the constitution, decentralisation, protection of minority rights and a genuine national dialogue (most recently in the EU Council’s Conclusions on Ukraine on August 15). But that is talk against the backdrop of facts on the ground that deny all those good intentions. It is only now, in anticipation of the government forces’ victory, that this reality has started to dawn on some in the West. Edward Lucas wrote in The Times on August 12 that the West is facing a prospect of “bankrolling indefinitely a failing state run by corrupt politicians, oligarchs and paramilitary thugs”. Is it really the outcome we all want? For sure, it will be sealed by a military victory, with Russia unable to bankroll such a state in any way. Our public opinion simply won’t allow it. If the West has a stomach for a Cold-War type of geopolitical dependency (the “our son of a bitch” approach’’), it will have it. There is another option, which is still possible, ie, truly collective outside involvement in Ukraine’s transformation on a realistic basis, perhaps under the auspices of the Contact Group. And finally, it is obvious that the politics of double standards and the spectacular display of indifference towards the plight of civilians in eastern Ukraine, presumably as less human, than, let’s say, the Palestinians, will have a lasting impact on Russian perception of the West. As if association with Nazism, which was a pure product of Western culture, wouldn’t suffice. It will make a bad situation worse: such a such foray into the old geopolitics will have consequences for the EU’s future and that of Europe in a new global environment. As to the world order, there never was a formal settlement after the end of the Cold War. Russia has consistently called for the establishment of a modern security architecture on the continent, including through the proper institutionalisation of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The West has preferred constructive ambiguity because it gave it the unfair advantage of a majority which is always in the right. Russia continued to be contained. Kiev and Western capitals are making fundamental choices for Ukraine, between democracy and something that leads in the opposite direction, and for Europe, between peace and something that is a poor substitute for it.




LATEST EVENTS

13.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, I am pleased to welcome you to the Russian Embassy at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee. It’s a common knowledge, that football is the most popular game in the world. It is an honour for us to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the first time in the history of our country. I believe that those who come to Russia to support their national teams will leave with unforgettable memories.


08.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo

Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo (7 December 2017)


25.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the reception at the Embassy dedicated to Russian Film Week (24 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends First of all, I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding Russian opera singer Dmitri Hvorostovsky who passed away this week. In 2015 he gave a concert in this very hall. I am delighted to welcome you at our reception dedicated to the Russian Film Week and the environmental causes it champions. This year their charity partner is World Wide Fund for Nature, which runs many projects in Russia in coordination and with support of the Russian Government. Russia has a unique, fascinating wildlife. A number of this week’s films show the natural beauty of our land and are sure to raise awareness of how fragile this beauty is. We appreciate the WWF effort in Russia and worldwide and call on everybody to become a supporter, especially this year, marked as Year of Ecology in Russia.


20.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the launch of the Russian Film Week (19 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, It is a pleasure for me to be at the opening of the second edition of the Russian Film Week here in London – which this year also spans to Cambridge and Edinburgh.


16.10.2017 - Unpublished letter to the Editor of The Times (sent 12 October)

Sir, If British MPs are free to speak out, wherever they wish, on any issue, why try to block their freedom of speech (“Helping Putin”, 11 October)? If a TV channel wants (and is legally bound) to present different points of view, why slam those who express these views? If the mere act of giving an interview to foreign media amounts to high treason, why does The Times interview Russian politicians without fear? And finally - while MPs critical of Russia are welcome guests on the Russian TV channel RT, does your paper give the same treatment to those critical of the paper’s owner? Konstantin Shlykov Press Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation


25.09.2017 - PRESENTATION by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk at the Christian Future of Europe Conference 22 September 2017, London

Your Eminences and Your Excellencies, dear Mr. Ambassador, conference organizers and participants, I cordially greet all of those gathered today at the Russian Embassy in London to partake in this conference dedicated to the question of the future of Christianity in Europe. This topic is not only not losing any of its relevance, but is resounding ever anew. Experts believe that today Christianity remains not only the most persecuted religious community on the planet, but is also encountering fresh challenges which touch upon the moral foundations of peoples' lives, their faith and their values. Recent decades have seen a transformation in the religious and ethnic landscape of Europe.


23.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at presentation of the book "The Mystery of Repentance" held at the Russian Embassy

I’m glad to welcome you here to a discussion of two prominent hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England, on Christian future of Europe.


12.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the exhibition opening (“Scythians: Warriors of ancient Siberia” 12 September, British Museum)

Today the British Museum and the State Hermitage of Saint-Petersburg are once again proving their unique world class by bringing a whole new civilization to London. Ancient, and almost mythical, but creative, powerful and very different from what we have all known about antiquity – the Scythians.


14.07.2017 - Letter of Consul General Mr Andrey Pritsepov to the Herald newspaper, published 13.07.2017

I NOTE a rather questionable article by Mark McLaughlin (“Russians lurking near Faslane to eavesdrop on nuclear submarines", The Herald, July 11). Do you really believe that 145 million Russians would elect a leader who would command his nuclear submarines to chase someone's sole and lonely operative U-boat which is firing missiles in the opposite direction or Type 45 destroyers with faulty engines or an aircraft carrier without aircraft on it, all of them being located in Scottish waters?


14.07.2017 - Letter of Consul General Mr Andrey Pritsepov to the Herald newspaper, published 13.07.2017

I NOTE a rather questionable article by Mark McLaughlin (“Russians lurking near Faslane to eavesdrop on nuclear submarines", The Herald, July 11). Do you really believe that 145 million Russians would elect a leader who would command his nuclear submarines to chase someone\'s sole and lonely operative U-boat which is firing missiles in the opposite direction or Type 45 destroyers with faulty engines or an aircraft carrier without aircraft on it, all of them being located in Scottish waters?



all messages