May 13, 2021

An inconvenient reality


I recently observed a semi-academic conference regarding Ukraine’s security and the EU and NATO. The conference was academic in that it was hosted by an institution of higher learning, but only semi since none of the speakers or moderator were academics. This is a trend today to make academia seem more relevant. This proclivity has many manifestations including academic writing in readable or similar to fictional format, sometime even liberating themselves from onerous facts. Unfortunately, often the result is that the work is neither scholarly nor literary, but some hybrid resulting in the reader’s confusion instead of satisfaction.

The conference in question was problematic since it shed no new light, was limited to bureaucratic phraseology and, as with most conferences on Ukraine, missed the relevant contemporary focus. This was largely the fault of the moderator who was all over the place and failed to focus on the title of the conference. Naturally I was disappointed by the presentations, but more so because such conferences have a tendency of concluding with no conclusions.

Over its 30 years of independence, Ukraine has been an inconvenient reality. Major global players would like Ukraine to simply go away, but then they would be seen as violating basic international principles and their own role as world leaders. To their chagrin Ukraine’s current security issue amid Russian aggression is the ultimate issue presented in contemporary political European circles.

Russia cannot be appeased simply without sacrificing Ukraine. At the height of the recent crisis when Russian threats against Ukraine were manifested by moving more than 100,000 soldiers to Ukraine’s borders, conducting warlike naval operations in the shared Azov and Black seas and even launching missiles, Ukraine was preparing militarily, the West was providing Ukraine with defensive weaponry and conducting NATO exercises.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was traveling from one NATO country to another seeking support for Ukraine’s NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP). He met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and French President Emmanuel Macron personally and German Chancellor Angela Merkel by video link. Rumor has it that Ms. Merkel declined a personal meeting in Berlin.

The conference in question consisted of bit politicians/bureaucrats from Germany, Lithuania, Poland and the United States. The German representative was from the Green Party, a member of the European Parliament and perhaps a power broker after the September election in Germany. I submitted a question on whether the Greens would support Ukraine’s NATO MAP. She spoke about renewable energy for Ukraine.

The moderator, as in most such inane exercises ostensibly on Ukraine’s security, went off topic and discussed reforms in Ukraine. The U.S. representative acknowledged that Ukraine has been largely democratic but its rule of law program requires attention and reform. I posed a question as to exactly where is Ukraine’s deficiency on the rule of law and how is it different than in more allegedly civilized democracies. I recalled in my mind U.S. support for the Saudis regardless of whether our administration was Democratic or Republican. The Saudis had for the longest time a law that forbade women driving and they followed that rule of law to a degree that was also a violation of human rights.

Most conferences on Ukraine’s security conclude with silence on NATO membership and then turn to the need for Ukrainian reform. Give me a break! I said several hours later when I watched the joint press conference of Mr. Zelenskyy and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Mr. Zelenskyy seemed glad to be there in his own conference room. Mr. Blinken said very little, but he said it graciously. U.S. support for Ukraine was there, he insisted. In a later interview he stated that the U.S. was considering additional military aid for Ukraine. But there was no NATO MAP [on the table]. Maybe it’s me, but the press conference seemed like a waste of time much like the earlier semi-academic conference. Still, these were two apparently notable exercises. Unfortunately, both concluded with no conclusions.

Askold S. Lozynskyj is an attorney at law based in New York City who served as president of the Ukrainian World Congress in 1998-2008.