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8 July, 2014  ▪  Olha Vorozhbyt

Stephen Hadley: “Ukraine now has an enormous opportunity to take advantage of the attention that it is getting from the West”

The Ukrainian Week speaks to Stephen Hadley, former National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, on ways to deter Russia’s aggression, Russia-US relations and unity in Europe

U.W.: You said at the Wroclaw Global Forum that Russia had made two thirds of its way with the war in Georgia and the annexation of Crimea as the first two parts. Now, we have Eastern Ukraine. This last step was predictable. How can this push the US and NATO to make its defense policy proactive rather than reactive?

One of the things you have seen is that there has been reinforcement and reinsurance policy within NATO for the frontline states through increased air patrolling within the Baltic States, some rotational deployments into the Baltic States and, in the words of our president, recommitting the US to the security of NATO and all its members which, of course, now includes Baltic States. The purpose of that is to send a deterrence message to President Putin that he should not try what he is doing in Ukraine in the Baltic States.

Secondly, I think, what we need to do is to show President Putin that what he did in Georgia and now does in Ukraine in terms both trying to gobble out Crimea and destabilize the East, will not succeed. He may think that he is doing well tactically, but it is a failure strategically. That also means helping Ukraine to become a viable state, economically so that it is able to provide better life for its people, and to facilitate stronger ties of Ukraine with Western institutions and countries.

That should not be a threat to Russia. I think one of the things that we all have to reassure Russia is that if Ukraine exercises its sovereign right to affiliate with institutions of the West, it can still maintain its traditional and economic ties with Russia.  But the point is that Ukraine needs to be free to decide for itself.

Ukraine has an enormous opportunity here to take advantage of the attention that it is getting from the West and to do some things it did not do over the last two decades. It means to get a good government that is not corrupt, that is clearly working for the welfare of the Ukrainian people, that performs its economy, denies corruption – these are enormous tasks. Hopefully, that is what President Poroshenko intends to do. It is good that we have Poland as an example of a country which has over the past two decades made the right choice and hard decisions which eventually resolved into a very prosperous Poland. What we need to do is to help Ukraine make these hard decisions. 

U.W.: There is strong debate in Ukraine on whether we can get assistance in arms and ammunition from the US (Barack Obama has already announced that the US would provide the Ukrainian government with USD 5mn-worth of non-lethal equipment), because the Ukrainian Army is in a horrible state. Do you see this as a possibility?

That debate has started. But the arms do not make an army. You cannot have an army without arms, but having just arms will not get you an army. What Ukraine really needs to do at the moment is to look at its Armed Forces which really need to be reformed, professionalized, better trained, and better led by the political authorities. The Ukrainian Army has not been getting the attention it needed in the past decades, and this is not something the West’s decision to provide arms can solve. Though I would hope the West would make that decision. It is in the hands of the Ukrainian people and Ukrainian leadership to build an army that is able to defend the state, support the government and defend the people of Ukraine. We can help in the process, but there are things that Ukrainians have to do by themselves.

U.W.: Ukraine used to have intense arms trade with Russia until recently. That is surprising given that it’s facing aggression from it. Could the West help Ukraine reorient its market?

Ukraine will have to make a decision about what it wants to do with such deals. Could Ukraine become an arms supplier to Western countries? I don’t know, this is something that Ukrainian officials should discuss with NATO authorities to see whether that is a possibility.

U.W.: The US-Russia dialogue was a sphere of your special responsibility during your service as Deputy National Security Advisor to George W. Bush, so you know this issue very well. How do you see these relations now?

NATO has been the US’ partner in security matters for over 50 years and that will continue to be the case. NATO has had a policy of engagement with Russia. It was trying to build patterns of cooperation with it (that’s what NATO-Russia council was all about). The question really is what the status of those institutions is with Russia that seems to be turning away from the rules of the game of the stable Europe, respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-use of force. These are the rules that were established at the end of the Cold War. The first question is whether we can convince Russia through serious measures to return to those basic premises that were established at the end of the Cold War and that, as we think, contributed to peace and prosperity in Europe, and could help contributing to the peace and prosperity in Russia. Is Russia turning its back on those principles, is it going in a different direction?

If it is, it calls a question of what can we do in the institution like NATO-Russia council that will be useful. Those are questions for another day. The question for now is whether we can come up with a series of measures that will deter Russia’s future adventurism and will prevent it from doing more of what it did in Georgia and Ukraine. It is whether we can reassure our allies that they do not need to fear that kind of activity. It is whether we can convince Russia that it really needs to return to basic principles of the post-Cold War Europe. Can we construct a series of positive and negative incentives to obtain that measure? If we cannot, and Russia really is going on a different path in terms of its relations with the West, it will need a new kind of strategy.

U.W.: You have mentioned new methods to deter Russia. What are they?

One of the things we have talked about is the military movements that we – all NATO countries - have made to show that we stand behind our NATO commitments. Secondly, I think, we need to start pushing back on Russian propaganda. I was told at lunch - and that might not be true - that Russia has called for all nations to withdraw their surrogate fighters from Ukraine. That is laughable. The surrogate fighters in Ukraine are all from Russia. We have to show Russia that it cannot go away with its own version of truth.

Thirdly, we need to get back to the business of constructing free and peaceful Europe. That means reaching out and helping countries like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia to succeed in accomplishing a democratic, prosperous and secure future.

Forth, part of the deterrence is making Ukraine a success and working for Ukrainian people to finally get a government that is committed to political reform, good governance, anti-corruption efforts, and economic reforms. The government that will bring market economy to Ukraine and will be able to take more responsibility for security effectively. These are long-term projects, but I think we should start now on them.

There are some other things that we could do. The main questions are how to break the dependence of European countries on Russian oil and gas, and how to put through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that people are talking about. I think that all these things would send a strong message to Putin that he cannot destabilize the West. Therefore, he needs to return to the principles established at the end of the Cold War.

U.W.: President Obama also insists on the necessity of transatlantic cooperation, but we see no unity inside the EU. How could the US influence this situation to make Europe more united? Does it make more sense for the US to cooperate with separate countries?  

We have relations with separate countries, but members of the EU are the members of the EU. The EU needs to speak with one voice in international affairs.  And they will have such opportunity, because they are changing the leadership.

In addition the leaders of individual countries in Europe need to start defending the EU project publicly, explaining to their peoples what is at stake, and telling them that what Putin is doing potentially threatens the 40-50 years of European integration. This should be done to galvanize the public to support strong action along the lines that I have just described to deter Russia from this kind of behavior, and then to convince it to turn to the principles of the post-Cold War order – this is what European leaders should do.


Stephen Hadley served as the 21st U.S. National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009, previously serving as Deputy National Security Advisor in 2001-2005. From 1989 to 1993, he was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy for President George H.W. Bush, and from 1974 to 1977 he served on the National Security Council under President Gerald R. Ford. Mr. Hadley holds B.A. in Government from Cornell University (1969) and J.D. from Yale Law School. Mr. Hadley remains engaged in the US national security policy, currently serving on the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. 

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