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Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry leads the country to diplomatic isolation

Pavel Klimkin. Photo: sharij.net

In 2014, on the eve of EuroMaidan, today’s Kiev authorities received an unprecedented level of international support. However, even then non-partisan experts warned that a bet on ultranationalism would inevitably lead Ukraine to problems in relations with Poland, Romania, and Hungary. By the end of 2017 this can be said as a fait accompli. After the adoption of the scandalous Ukrainian law "On Education", Budapest declared that it would block Kiev's steps towards rapprochement with European and Euro-Atlantic structures, and Warsaw threatened to ban entry of Ukrainian citizens who adhere to anti-Polish views.

In addition, the loss of external support is a consequence of the highest level of unprofessionalism in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, headed by Pavel Klimkin, a native of Kursk and a graduate of MIPT (it is noteworthy that Klimkin made a breakthrough career in the days of Viktor Yanukovych, when in 2011 he took the post of Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine and the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Officials of the Klimkin Ministry of Foreign Affairs manage to draw Ukraine into one international scandal after another.

In late October and early November, a story with the Ukrainian ambassador to Belgrade, Alexander Alexandrovich, who became famous for his scandalous interview on Russian-Serbian relations (in particular, the ambassador asserted that Russia is using Serbia to destabilize the Western Balkans and Europe) received a wide response. Ivica Toncev, secretary of the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called Aleksandrovich’s statements unacceptable: "All the work of Aleksandrovich is reduced to vain attempts to break the relations between the Republic of Serbia and the Russian Federation." With a view to mixing the scandal, Klimkin had to urgently summon Alexandrovich for consultations, fearing a forced expulsion of the ambassador from Serbia.

One cannot help recalling the activities of another Ukrainian ambassador, Valery Chaly, who heads the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in the United States. This diplomat was remembered by the fact that during the last election campaign in the US he openly agitated for Hillary Clinton. Together with the scandal surrounding the "warehouse logbook" of the Party of Regions, where the name of Trump’s political technologist Paul Manafort sprang up, Kiev's attempts to influence the election result turned into a "freeze" of US-Ukrainian relations during the first months of Donald Trump's presidency and the need to "butter" Trump's business environment resulted in buying Pennsylvania coal at $ 113 per ton.

Not so long ago, the Ukrainian ambassador to Minsk, Igor Kizim, who was appointed to this post in February 2017, distinguished himself. Instead of fulfilling his immediate duties, Kizim engaged in media discredit of joint Russian-Belarusian exercises "West-2017". Whether this added stability to the Ukrainian-Belarusian relations is a rhetorical question.

The top of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry is no less "professional". Apparently, the list of states with which Ukraine has spoiled its relations will soon expand with the efforts of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, career diplomat Sergei Kislitsa. The story is as follows: On November 14, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly supported Ukraine's resolution on "Situation in the field of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol", but representatives of 25 states voted against it. Kislitsa in his social networks account listed these 25 states, calling them "Russia’s subordinates". However, among those voting against were such countries as India (where Klimkin was staying in October and even offered to send Indian peacekeepers to the Donbass), China (in whose economic cooperation Kiev is extremely interested, as Petro Poroshenko declared at the meeting with Xi Jinping in the fields of the Davos Forum in early 2017), and friendly-neutral Kazakhstan, and South Africa (where Ukraine buys the scarce energy coal of the anthracite group).

It should be noted that in 2014 the resolution on the Crimea was supported by 100 states and in 2017 by only 71 - for three and a half years, Ukrainian diplomacy lost the support of 29 UN members. Against this background, not so critical, but extremely revealing acted the head of the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mariana Betza (also a career diplomat). Initially, Betza expressed her dissatisfaction with the recent publication of The New York Times, in which Crimea is called a "disputed territory" and is marked on the map illustrating the article, with the same color as Russia. Then Betza asked NYT to make corrections to the material, but the newspaper expectedly ignored this request and specifically for Betza explained why it considers the Crimea "a disputed territory".

Thus, The New York Times demonstratively put off Klimkin’s Foreign Ministry, and the diplomatic services of other states certainly made appropriate conclusions about the authority of Ukraine in the world and the level of professionalism of its diplomats.

In principle, the fact of Klimkin's professional incompetence became extremely evident after the results of the consultative referendum in the Netherlands regarding the issue of ratification of the Agreement on the Association of Ukraine with the EU in April 2016. It should be recalled that the "powerful landing operation" led by Klimkin was launched to support the Association Agreement with the EU. As a result, the turnout increased by several percent, having passed the necessary 30% (without which the results of the referendum would have been declared invalid), but the majority of those who came to polling stations voted against ratifying the agreement with Ukraine. As a consequence, with the submission of the Netherlands at the end of 2016, the Association Agreement was amended to include the impossibility of Ukraine's accession to the EU and a number of other restrictions on Ukraine's rapprochement with the European Union.

As of today, Klimkin and his subordinates have become the notorious "fifth wheel in the cart" of Ukrainian foreign policy. Therefore, it is not surprising that the functions of the Foreign Ministry are gradually recruited by the Administration of the President of Ukraine (APU) and personally by Konstantin Eliseev, the deputy head of the APU. In addition, since April 2016 there is a post of Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration in the government of Volodymyr Groysman, which is represented by the representative of the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko - Solidarity, Ivanna Klimpush-Tsintsadze. However, they do not demonstrate any noticeable foreign policy successes, and sometimes it seems that they are hampered by a kind of professional deformation, when negotiations instead of solving problems turn into an end in themselves.

It turns out that the most effective Ukrainian diplomat today is actually Viktor Medvedchuk, who does not occupy any of the posts in the state apparatus of Ukraine; his official status is the special representative of Ukraine on humanitarian issues in the Tripartite Contact Group in Minsk. As the only Ukrainian politician with a trusting relationship with the Russian leadership, Medvedchuk agreed on November 15 to resolve the task of exchanging prisoners in the Donbas at the highest level, negotiating with Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev in the presence of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill. It is with the exchange of prisoners that the achievements in the implementation of the Minsk Agreements are so far associated.

But the problem is that the exchange of prisoners has been blocked the within the framework of the Minsk Contact Group since September 2016. Then, on the bridge in the town of Schastye, Lugansk region, in the presence of the SMM OSCE observers the latest exchange was held to exchange Yuri Suprun and Vladimir Zhemchugov for LDNR supporters.

In order to "restart" the exchange, the Ukrainian special envoy engaged his contacts at the highest level among the Russian leadership, just as it happened in the case of Nadezhda Savchenko pardoned by the Russian president on the basis of the legal formula developed by Medvedchuk, allowing the exchange of Ukrainians for Russians Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Erofeev. More than 400 freed citizens of Ukraine who were in captivity in the Donbass are also Medvedchuk’s asset.

Note that blocking the exchange of prisoners and illegally detained persons is primarily an initiative of the influential Kiev’s "war party", for which progress in the implementation of Minsk-2 is a serious threat. However, given the fact that the decision of the issue was approved at such a high level, there are all chances that 380 people on both sides of the demarcation lines will be able to return home before the Christmas holidays, thus fulfilling point 6 of the Minsk agreements prescribing the following: "Ensure the release and exchange of all hostages and illegally detained persons on the basis of the principle of "all for all".

Alas, but the efforts of one person cannot block the numerous failures of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry of the Klimkin period. In the next political cycles, the most serious personnel reformatting of the Foreign Ministry should become one of the most important tasks for Ukraine.

Denis Gayevsky, Kiev

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14.12.2017

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