The complex situation Ukraine has been facing for months and the dialogues with Russia and the EU were at the focus of the conference “How to strengthen the relations of European Union with Ukraine? What about the renewal of the dialogue with Russia?” organised by Confrontations Europe. Serhiy Kvit, Minister of Education in Ukraine, Antoine Arjakovsky, director of the department «Society, Freedom, Peace» at the College des Bernardins, Vincent Degert, Head of division “Russia” of the European External Action Service,Oleg Kobtzeff, Assistant Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the American University of Paris and Philippe Herzog founding president of Confrontations Europe presented their views and debated on this sensitive issue.
Serhiy Kvit, Minister of Education in Ukraine underlined the importance of creating a dialogue. A lot of people think we are entering into another Cold War. But for Kvit, we must not return to the Cold War but try to arrange the dialogue and fight against corruption and other key issues.
“Newspapers clearly illustrate the tragedy of a political marginalization and we must carry on the discussions with truthful people who want to find a solution. Dialogue with Putin is impossible”, he said.
No matter who is at the head of the Russian empire, the person has no importance in regards to the position, he explained: “Russian people do not respect the person but the seat of power which means that dialoguing with Russia is like dialoguing with an empty seat”.
According to him, we must accept the impossibility of a dialogue with Russia since it ignores the contents of the democratic procedure. A dialogue must be carried out but between people who wish to reach a result.
Antoine Arjakovsky, director of the department «Society, Freedom, Peace» at the College des Bernardins and former cultural attaché for France in Moscow and in Kiev stated that good faith in this case was not enough. In his view, each side is facing a paradoxical position. On the one hand, Russia wants to create a Eurasian union but is isolating itself. On the other hand Ukraine is fighting for freedom but also dealing with Russia annexing its country.
There are various solutions, he explained: “First of all, an international conference – with the participation of Ukraine – should be organised. Second of all, intellectuals and historians should meet since, there’s lot of mythology in both Russian and Ukrainian sides with respect to the common history. Third of all, we should reopen discussion with theologians”.
“Today, we need a language of truth and listening” he said.
Vincent Degert, Head of division “Russia” of the European External Action Service pointed out how fast the situation dramatically changed. Warning signals existed, said the head of division, but they were very technical and we did not pay enough attention to them.
He also claimed that the EU did not shut down dialogues with Russia. Exchanges were made before and after January’s EU Summit. The Ukrainian crisis has become an international crisis and it is crucial to learn lessons from it. Nevertheless, this has to be done on both sides and not just unilaterally.
Oleg Kobtzeff, Assistant Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the American University of Paris reacted to the other panelists’ speeches by stating “We need to desovietize Ukraine”.
For Kobtzeff, we are not in a Cold War situation but it might be even worse. We have forgotten the risks of the Cold War.
“It’s a good thing that NATO did not get involved, it would not have been the right solution”, the assistant professor of the American University of Paris explained. This is a European affair, and Russia is a part of it. If it’s not too late, the solution would be a European defense.
“Russia has to understand that Putin is a tactician” said Oleg Kobtzeff. He has no vision for the future and often improvises. We have to make Putin realise that Russia has economic potential which he is not using and that his whole economy is based on something – gas and oil – which will not last.
Philippe Herzog, founding president of Confrontations Europe made it clear that Putin’s method could not be accepted. Putin’s position is not clear, he explained and neither are his goals. Nevertheless, he has a longer-term view and is aware of the international context. Europe’s vision, however, is vague.
“Europe must develop a more elaborated long-term vision”, said the president of the organization. We must consider the long-term political vision, in consistence with the Ukrainian choice.
The debate was followed by a series of interesting questions and remarks. EPN was glad to attend this conference which tackled a very sensitive and crucial subject.