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Dmytro Kuleba: Foreign Policy Strategy of Strong Ukraine

Dmytro Kuleba Ukraine

This year has seen much work and also many achievements. I believe that the main accomplishment is the approval of comprehensive Ukraine’s Foreign Policy Strategy for the first time in 30 years of independence. Why is this important? Because the Strategy structures thinking and perception of the world. And the main thing is that it structures our actions aimed at protecting and promoting the national interests of Ukraine. The Strategy stipulates a long-term state policy aimed at achieving peace, security, and prosperity for Ukrainians, establishing Ukraine as an active participant in international politics. I emphasise that this is not a declaration of intent, but a real tool.

Today, I will present the key priorities of the Strategy that we have implemented this year and will continue to implement next year. The Strategy leaves in the past multi-vector non-aligned status, uncertainty, dependence on partnership, inferiority, which, unfortunately, permeated our political culture before Ukraine became independent, and other shortcomings of state growth which we suffered in the first decades after independence. Unfortunately, the centre of the coordinate axis of our foreign policy was outside Ukraine for too long for one reason or another. Once it was in Moscow, later some saw it in Brussels, some focused on Washington, Berlin, Paris, some on Warsaw. It depends on political preferences. All these partners are very important, except Russia, of course. And we will, undoubtedly, develop not only a formal partnership with them but also a real friendship. But Ukraine’s Foreign Policy Strategy shifts its focus to Kyiv so that we can stand on our own feet and look at the world with our own eyes.

We know what Ukraine is moving towards; we have the people’s trust on this path and we have a strategic document that indicates how to use resources properly and where to direct our efforts.

Indeed, we identified six, not 26, foreign policy priorities in the Strategy. It was difficult. I think anyone who has worked on such documents knows that the hardest thing is to narrow the focus. Therefore, we identified the following six priorities:

  1. Ensuring the independence, state sovereignty of Ukraine, and restoring its territorial integrity
  2. Counteracting Russian aggression and bringing Russia to justice for crimes against Ukraine
  3. Moving towards full-fledged membership in the EU and NATO
  4. Promoting Ukrainian exports and attracting foreign investment
  5. Protecting the rights and interests of Ukrainian citizens abroad
  6. Establishing a positive image of Ukraine in the world

We structure our work according to these six priorities.

The Strategy allows us to make systematic and consistent efforts instead of “extinguishing fires” (which will still be, but they should not dominate our agenda) and adjusting priorities daily that scatter the attention and resources of diplomats.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pursuing a course to establish an influential and strong Ukraine that not only asks for help, but also helps, offers, and implements solutions to the problems of others. We want to cement this policy in our political culture, whoever the ruling power or the opposition are, whatever the name of the minister, political or economic situation is. The strategy eliminates the risks of shifting the national course and allows avoidance of any turbulence in foreign policy in case of turbulence within the state.

We identified three main focuses for implementing the Strategy:

  1. Ukraine is an active participant in international politics
  2. Ukraine forms a new global and regional security infrastructure
  3. Ukraine opens new economic opportunities

Let us dwell on specific areas of the Foreign Policy Strategy through the prism of these three focuses.

First area: multilateral diplomacy

Ukraine has a special sentiment towards international organisations. In 1945, after suffering heavy losses in World War II, Ukraine was invited to become one of the founding members of the United Nations. It is in the composition of international organisations that the basis and the core of modern Ukrainian diplomacy were formed.

But now is the time to rethink our work on this track and reach new levels of perception and tasks.

In this context, this year’s speech by the President at the UN General Assembly session was indicative. Several foreign colleagues later said that President Zelensky said from the rostrum of the General Assembly what others kept silent about, although they wanted to say, or what they wanted to ignore. And this certain diplomatic “audacity” was justified. We strongly believe that it is the ambitious policy and the ability to do or say something one step ahead that will benefit not only Ukraine but also international organisations. I remember since my student years that the topic of UN reform was the subject of thousands of diploma papers, theses for a candidate of sciences or PhD. However, UN reform is standing still. But we must not give up. Time will come when proposals and initiatives aimed at the UN reform will be implemented.

The establishment of the Crimea Platform this year was important proof of the new quality of our multilateral diplomacy and the large-scale dimension of Ukraine’s foreign policy.

Ukraine’s regional policy and relations with our key international partners

We are very pleased that this year we managed to create the Associated Trio with Georgia and Moldova. The Lublin Triangle with Lithuania and Poland was founded last year. By the way, the first summit of the Lublin Triangle in Ukraine will take place next week. The Presidents of Poland and Lithuania will visit our country. A year ago, we created another format – the Quadriga with Turkey. This is a format in which the foreign ministers and defence ministers of the two countries jointly determine further steps in the development of bilateral relations in the political and security areas.

Associations of opinion allies in flexible regional alliances is a “new-old” trend in international relations. Unfortunately, large international organisations suffer from the antagonism of key players. I recently attended the OSCE Ministerial Council and made sure of this as Russia blocked key decisions being no longer ashamed of it, hampering the Organisation’s development and functioning.

Russia blocked putting climate issues as a threat to world security on the agenda of the UN Security Council. Such antagonism leads to the fact that large organisations significantly lose their effectiveness. This does not mean that they are becoming irrelevant, but countries are looking for alternative forms of collective action in narrower formats. We felt this trend and began to take action.

In addition, you may notice that both the Lublin Triangle and the Associated Trio are formats that reinforce our European integration and Euro-Atlantic course. Why are we doing this? Not only because we want even closer relations with our closest partners but also because we understand one simple truth, and we must speak directly about it – no one will defend Ukraine better than ourselves. To this end, we strengthen relations with those states, which are ready to grant us maximum assistance and whom we are also always happy to help, very actively, pragmatically, and to the utmost extent.

Speaking about the Lublin Triangle, when Lithuania faced the first wave of attempts by Belarus to use migrants as a weapon at the border, Ukraine was one of the first countries to help friendly Lithuania. I never imagined that humanitarian aid could be provided in the form of barbed wire, but such is life, and we helped our partners. When the second wave began and we saw pictures from Belarus–Poland border, it turned out that the Lublin Triangle is the optimal mechanism for coordination and joint efforts. The interior ministers of the Lublin Triangle countries began to work together actively to coordinate their actions effectively.

Formats such as the Lublin Triangle are launched as political initiatives and develop not only as political but also as very practical tools for strengthening security and promoting common development.

We determined in the Strategy that maintaining a political dialogue at the level of the heads of state, as well as, as I have already mentioned, the development of the Quadriga format will be a further priority in building strategic partnership with Turkey.

At the beginning of next year, President Erdoğan of Turkey will visit Ukraine to hold a high-level Strategic Council. This will be the next step in the development of our relations. I don’t think we need to go into more detail now to explain why Ukraine–Turkey relations are critical for the security of the Black Sea region, for the enhancement of Ukraine’s defence capabilities, and the struggle for Ukrainian Crimea.

Our strategic partnerships with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lithuania; the establishment of such a partnership with Romania, which we strive for, is an important factor in the stability in Central and Eastern Europe, the regions of the Sea of Azov, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.

We are strengthening our cooperation with the Visegrad Group. A new government will soon be formed in the Czech Republic, and I will hold talks with the new minister of foreign affairs. In general, I consider Central Europe a key region for the development of Ukraine’s relations and the promotion of our interests, because this is the region to which we belong.

Last year, we started chairing the Danube Commission. This is also a part of our Central European policy. This year, Ukraine became the first non-EU country to chair the EU Strategy for the Danube Region and coordinate strategic policies for 14 EU Member States participating in this Strategy.

Countering Russian aggression

Most Ukrainian citizens are likely to expect the advance on this track. At the same time, it is the most difficult one. There is no need to provide additional explanations.

Ukraine joined the European Peace Foundation. In practice, this means 31 million euros for the Ukrainian defence sector, and, in the broader political context, additional involvement of Ukraine in the mechanisms of the European Union. The strategy is that as long as the door remains formally closed, we should open as many windows as possible, and then even all of them. This applies not only to the EU, but also to NATO. This is also part of countering Russian aggression because we understand that the stronger Ukraine is, the more it will be integrated with the EU and NATO, the lower are Russia’s chances to destabilise and destroy Ukraine.

In the context of countering Russian aggression, we pay special attention to the policy of de-occupation of Crimea. Here, without exaggeration, we can talk about the historical success of the Crimea Platform. Many international meetings today begin with congratulations on the launch of this format from fellow ministers. It was very difficult, frankly speaking, but we did it. The first meeting of the presidents of Ukraine and the United States at the beginning of autumn this year also started with congratulations on the success of the Crimea Platform.

The inaugural summit of the Crimea Platform was the largest international event in the history of Ukraine, attended by 46 high-level foreign delegations.

Now, we develop the Crimea Platform, embedding it in the system of international relations. In the OSCE, where I was recently, we held a side event dedicated to the Crimea Platform. Yesterday, a large political conference on the Crimea Platform was held in Berlin. The UN General Assembly resolution on the situation in Crimea also mentions the Crimea Platform. That is, we are now actively embedding the Crimea Platform in the system of international relations. As some of my colleagues from other countries say, when they communicate with the Russians, I quote as saying, “they are agitated over the Crimea Platform no less than over the arms supply to Ukraine” because Russia understands that the Crimea Platform is an instrument that formalised the existence of a world coalition that will never agree with the illegal occupation of Crimea and will not allow Russia to create a picture that the world has agreed with its presence on the Ukrainian peninsula.

I strongly believe that this hybrid war of Russia against Ukraine will end not only with the victory of our state, but also with the victory of the entire democratic world, which defends the principles and norms of international law. That is why the Crimea Platform is important – it gathers the democratic world around the Crimean issue.

Ukraine’s European and Euro-Atlantic integration

I believe that membership in the EU and NATO is not an unconditional goal in itself but primarily an instrument for strengthening Ukraine’s security, improving the well-being of Ukrainians, additional protection of the rights, freedoms, and social guarantees of our citizens. This tool helps to make Ukraine stronger, better and Ukrainian citizens richer already today.

We continue to adhere to the “more for more” principle and develop it in every possible way in our relations with the European Union. Tomorrow, the President of Ukraine will take part in the Eastern Partnership summit. It’s a very good opportunity to hold many bilateral meetings. However, I would like to emphasise that Ukraine’s policy towards the Eastern Partnership remains unchanged: we do not perceive the partnership format as an alternative to Ukraine’s European integration course. The Eastern Partnership can promote and strengthen European integration but it cannot replace it.

I am convinced that Ukraine’s course towards EU and NATO membership, which was chosen and supported by the Ukrainian people, will not change under any external pressure. Only the people of Ukraine will determine the future of our country. Now, in the context of Russia’s “new-old” demands to end NATO enlargement to the East (we understand that they are talking primarily about Ukraine), in all my meetings and conversations, including yesterday’s meeting with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried and a conversation with my German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, I stressed that Putin’s demands must be categorically and unequivocally rejected because no one but the Ukrainian people and these alliances, the EU and NATO, can decide the fate of our relations.

For historical reasons (that is life), the last few years have been very focused on the vector of European and Euro-Atlantic integration, and a lot has been achieved. But, frankly speaking, there was a serious lack of attention to two other important vectors, Asia and Africa. In 2022, we will pay special attention to strengthening our position in these regions.

Ukrainian diplomacy will go wherever it sees Ukrainian interest and where Ukrainian business sees it. We will help Ukrainian business, support it, strengthen its position not only in the world, but also here in Ukraine. We understand that more exports mean more money coming to Ukraine, more jobs, and, ultimately, higher social standards.

At the meeting of the Board of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, we approved the Asian Strategy, which was brought in line with the Foreign Policy Strategy, and the African Strategy. Now, we have two new tools that concretise the Foreign Policy Strategy in certain areas.

Central Asia, the South Caucasus, the Gulf region, Southeast Asia, the Indo-Pacific region, ASEAN, sub-Saharan Africa, and North Africa are key geographical priorities that we will develop next year as part of the broader horizons of Ukrainian diplomacy.

Ukraine’s strategic partnerships

I really like the dynamics of our relations with the United Kingdom, which soars in the ranking of Ukraine’s security partners. My recent visit to London was very significant in this regard.

Ukraine’s number one security partner is the United States. This is a fait accompli.

An unprecedented number of contacts at high and the highest levels this year, President Zelensky’s personal dialogue with President Biden, agreements, and mechanisms being launched are the gears of two state machines, the American and the Ukrainian, that are spinning at high speeds to deliver concrete results.

The central element of this mechanics is the Ukraine–US Strategic Partnership Commission, which we renewed after a break of several years and approved a new Strategic Partnership Charter.

Finally, I want to talk about our economic diplomacy. The culture of relations between the state and business to promote Ukrainian companies in foreign markets is a separate culture that requires a lot of attention, a lot of effort, in particular in combating stereotypes in society about how far the state should go in supporting Ukrainian business abroad.

I have repeatedly been in situations where the foreign ministers of other countries in conversations with me have been very objective in defending the interests of companies of their countries. I imagined how I would start talking in public defending the interests of a certain Ukrainian company in another country. All Telegram channels will be instantly filled with messages, saying, “Kuleba took money from these companies and actively lobbies them.” It is time to change the culture of an attitude of our society towards the state support for Ukrainian exporters. We are working to form a class of Ukrainian exporters as a responsible, reliable partner for business. If we achieve this, it will ultimately benefit both the state and Ukrainian citizens.

I am very encouraged that almost 400 companies are already members of the Exporters and Investors Council under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. This means that business is beginning to trust us. I am far from thinking that everything is perfect and everyone already knows what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can do for Ukrainian business, but we will definitely make even greater efforts.

I would like to praise the cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection and the Ministry of Economy this year. Together, we have opened dozens of new foreign markets for Ukrainian goods this year. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has helped more than 150 Ukrainian companies start working abroad.

Soon we will present a new digital tool for Ukrainian export-oriented business that will be convenient and effective for both business and the state.

Finally, I would like to say that the main client of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine is a citizen of Ukraine. Yes, we protect the state, but, in the end, we protect it so that it exists and develops as a safe space for the life and development of our citizens.

That is why we defend the interests of Ukraine, its security, creating new economic opportunities, opening borders. Over the year, we rescued people, evacuated them from various hotspots around the world, ensured that the borders of other countries were not closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and helped people. But when we talk about the protection of the state, we mean the protection of specific people, citizens of Ukraine, and all those who live in our beautiful country.

The text of the speech of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba at the event “DIPLOMACY 2022: Priorities of Foreign Policy Strategy”

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