Anatoliy Hrytsenko: "Vladimir Putin is an aggressor. This is a fundamental truth"
Ex-Defence Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko comments on Russia's aggression, Ukraine's response to it and NATO
Putin's actions will first and foremost depend on how Ukraine acts. If we keep silent and beg about negotiations, he will act with maximum aggression. If we allow the Crimean pseudo referendum on March 16 at gunpoint, with all Ukrainian TV channels turned off there and the local population intimidated, we will have a completely different situation. Aksenov (self-proclaimed prime minister of Crimea – Ed.) and his friends may draw 70%, 80% or 120% in support of Russia in that referendum, but the number does not matter. It will then be like in Diego Maradona’s golden goal he scored with a hand in the World Cup but Argentina still won it. History will only remember the fact. The same thing will happen to Crimea. If the government is incapable of organizing defence, coordinating all actions of law enforcement agencies and arm the National Guard, it should do something atypical yet effective to stop Putin’s aggression. It can block the gas pipeline or oil pipes to exert pressure on the Kremlin’s wallet. It can close the borders entirely so that no Russian “tourists” get through to Ukraine. It can lay mines on the roads so that no Russian military machines get through to Ukraine and threaten people. There are many options but my impression is that we are simply sitting and waiting for the referendum to take place. Then we will pass a few angry resolutions in the Rada, hold an angry rally on the Maidan and the prosecutor will launch a few more cases against separatists. Then what? We will end up with dozens and hundreds of thousand refugees from Crimea who will not want to live under Putin. Our military personnel will be ousted from there, their property they earned over life confiscated. There is still some time for decisive action on all fronts.
We don’t really need NATO overall. Instead, we need the US and the UK specifically, with the wide support of the entire NATO, of course. These are the countries that guaranteed our territorial integrity in the Budapest Memorandum as they demanded us to give up our nuclear potential in 1994. NATO troops do not have to shoot or threaten Russia. They don’t even have to supply us with weapons – we have enough of that on our own. Instead, they should ensure peace and demilitarization. They should ensure that not a single armoured vehicle or military aircraft gets to the Ukrainian territory uncontrolled. They should help us ensure a zone that is closed to any entry of Russian military cargo to Ukraine by air, land or sea. This is how they can help us fill the gap between Ukraine’s and Russia’s military capacity.