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26 May

“Ukrainians have started to work more consistently on the issues that could lead them to NATO”

Co-Head of Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council on the current state of dialogue between the Alliance and Ukraine, the future of the Euro-Atlantic security system and the Russian propaganda

Interviewed by Yuriy Lapayev

Given the uncertainty over the future of the EU, can we expect any –exits from NATO similar to Brexit from the European Union?

I do not believe that the UK or any country will talk about NATO. I have heard reassurances from the United Kingdom and elsewhere about their commitment to the Alliance. These are two separate things. I am confident that the collective security architecture of NATO has served its countries well. There are no alternatives there.

AT the same time, some international organizations have proven virtually helpless when faced with conflicts in Donbas or Syria and need to be reformed. Is NATO still competent in this regard?

We have been trying to reform the United Nations for years. We know that it is the best platform we have for bringing all the nations of the world together, and there are rules there. But we also know there is the Security Council has veto power. I can’t say any more than that the UN is as strong as the will of all of its nations. If they are not ready to move on these issues, we will be in the situation where we are today.

It is the same thing with the OSCE, I think. It is appealing to Russia to live by its agreements and using every lever they can. All these international organizations, whether it’s the OSCE, NATO or the UN, have appealed to Russia to abide by the agreements they have signed. President Putin is the person that has to work with his government and adhere to the international order. We have to see what the future brings us. I don’t know what his next move will be.

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Not all politicians in the West understood Russia’s behaviour in the past. Has the understanding of the current situation in Ukraine, both politically and militarily, changed among NATO member-states and their politicians?

I think that political leaders do understand the situation. There is no question that all NATO members understand: there is the aggression into Crimea that violates international law. It violates the Budapest Memorandum. The question now is what to do about this? Every country and every leader even within one country have different ideas. As NATO Parliamentary Assembly, we took very swift action and severed our relations with Russian parliamentarians. We acted in uniform fashion. There may have been different ways we looked at, but the decision was consistent that the fact was inappropriate, broke the law etc. The question is how we resolve it.

What can NATO do now, in the world that changes dramatically?

NATO Headquarters is assessing what to do. And of course, there is always a military option that will be the last resort of any kind.

I do not think that NATO members will ever agree to any violation of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. The question is how long it will take to reunite. I am hopeful this time that NATO members are not giving up on that. There is every indication that they are going to continue to maintain their position whereby there cannot be any change of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. So, wherever leaders are and whatever avenues they use, they will continue to assess those changes from day to day.

We know where we stand - we are going to support international order. The question is in the hands of President Putin. He has violated the international order. It has happened and it continues to be. If he comes back to accept the international order and to move out of Crimea, stop supporting any dissidence or any activity in the eastern flank of Europe, of Ukraine, then I think the actions will speak and we can then see what the new options exist. At the moment, there is a standstill about Ukraine. He must give up his claims on Ukraine and Eastern Europe. He must live by the Minsk Agreements, and not just for a few days. That is the way forward now. That is reassessed every day, but that is what it is.

Do you think Minsk Agreements are still working?

I think that they are on the table. The Minsk Agreement was agreed to be a very constructive effort to say to President Putin: “Live by those agreements”. Because they have the underpinning of restoring Ukraine’s integrity.

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Does the Ukrainian government provide NATO member-states with timely and full information about the situation in Ukraine?  

Yes, the government has contacts with our respective countries. We get experts on Ukraine at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, we get Ukrainian parliamentarians coming. One of the strengths is that we get parliamentarians from all parties, so we do not just hear from one side of it. They can be very open when they talk about the situation here. So, I think, there is enough information.

But parliamentarians come and go. So every time there is a new parliamentarian, there has to be new information. We are keeping a continual information capability and we offer Ukrainian parliamentarians much space to explain what is happening on the ground. There is the sharing of information.  

It is very difficult to be up on everything in the democratic world now: we have so many issues in our own countries. Earlier there was fatigue; the reforms were not moving fast enough, representatives were weary of hearing what they should do.  After the invasion, however, we saw a dramatic change, a more consistent effort. That is when Ukraine assessed that NATO is an option for it in the long run. The Ukrainians started to work more consistently on the issues that could lead them to NATO. They are also working on the issues that could lead them to closer cooperation with the European Union.  

There is optimism in all this, but, of course, there are also some differences. I think we have enough information about Ukraine, its development and reforms. But the worrisome thing is the disinformation and other tools that are being used on our populations from Russia. NATO Parliamentary Assembly is dealing with that, we have seminars on that, we have had speakers. It is also worrisome how new technologies are used in a negative way. We are looking at Ukraine to understand where sources come from in this interconnected world. So, there are a lot of difficulties with new information systems, their abuse rather than use. And it comes from many sources, non-state actors.  

We know that there is disinformation in our countries. I know it exists in Canada, the United States, and in European countries. We are well aware of that. The question is about finding proper mechanisms to bring forth the accurate information and to fight disinformation. We are still talking about propaganda, but that is an old term. Technologies are very sophisticated now. However, NATO is alert, our countries are alert, parliaments and even ordinary citizens are worried about the invasion of their privacy, and about the misinformation which is coming. I think we are well aware of what is going on with disinformation from Russia.

Can you describe the current state of cooperation between Ukraine and NATO on the level of parliaments? Do we need any new formats?

NATO Parliamentary Assembly has been working with the Verkhovna Rada ever since Ukraine obtained independence. We were one of the first ones to come here. We worked very cooperatively on eastern flank countries, helping them develop structures and ideas on building a functioning parliament and democracy.

We have assisted in Ukraine’s election monitoring after invitation from it. We have also worked with civilian oversight of the military with the Ukrainian side, and held discussions in the Parliamentary Assembly on ways for the parliamentarians even in my country to get involved in the oversight over the military. This is because citizens everywhere in the world are demanding transparency and more accountability today. And so, we share many projects, much support and we will continue to do that. I think we have had an impact, including in the fact that Ukrainian parliamentarians are coming to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. They have learned many new ideas from all of their colleagues and we have learned from Ukrainians. It is an excellent association, a strong one, and I trust it will be continued. In that venue, we are very honest and frank with each other when we say “it’s too slow”, “this is worrisome”, “corruption is still an issue”, “reform here is important”. So, we have honest good dialogues, and we assist, too. I am optimistic about the parliament-to PA cooperation, that it has been good for Ukraine, and that it will continue.

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So, you are happy with the current level of interaction between Ukraine and NATO?

I am an idealist. I am of Ukrainian background. My mother used to say: “You are doing well, but you can do better”. And I am like that about my own country. If you are in a democracy, you do not accept the status quo. You want to get better and better, you want to learn from each other. Ukraine has made significant steps forward. It has much further to go. There have been milestones and we regret some of the regressions, some “forward and back” steps. But there are more things to do. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is willing and open to continued work with the Verkhovna Rada. Therefore, I hope that progress accelerates. I am also optimistic about the people. What I mean is that the Maidan was significant. People in Ukraine are taking ownership of their government, of their parliament, they are speaking out, they have a vibrant civil society. It is different from what I had seen in 1993-1994 when I first came here to work with the Verkhovna Rada. People have now become really aware about their role in democracy. They have to make their government accountable. How they choose their members of parliament is important too. I think there has been good progress and there needs to be more. I am optimistic in that regard.

BIO

Raynell Andreychuk was born in Canada in 1944. She graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a law degree. Ms. Andreychuk worked as a lawyer. She later served as Canada's High Commissioner to Kenya and Uganda and ambassador to Somalia and Portugal. From 1988 to 1993, she was Canada's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission. She is currently Co-Head of Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council. Since March 2014, Ms. Andreychuk has been banned from traveling to Russia under the sanctions imposed by Vladimir Putin. She has been awarded the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise for her substantial contribution to the development of Ukrainian-Canadian relations.

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