Event: Ukraine’s Security Aspirations in the Black Sea Region

Online Discussion with Bohdan Nahaylo, Marcin Zaborowski, Maria Avdeeva and Pavel Havlíček as First Responder

25 August 2021

Recording of the online discussion on the meaning of the Crimean Platform and its political potential in the region.

Monday’s inauguration of the Crimean Platform Summit in Kyiv marked the country’s biggest diplomatic initiative since its independence, hosting 46 foreign delegations, high-ranking officials from the EU and NATO, and other international organizations. It concluded with a number of tangible accomplishments, including a declaration signed by all participants that firmly re-establishes the de-occupation of Crimea on the international agenda. 

The initial statements of the speakers can be heard in the recording below:

Our speakers:

  • Bohdan Nahaylo – veteran Ukraine specialist based in Kyiv, formerly senior policy adviser to UNHCR on the CIS region (1994-2013) and Chief of UN’s DPA Team in Ukraine (2014-2015)
  • Marcin Zaborowski – Policy Director at Future of Security Programme at GLOBSEC and Editor-in-Chief at Res Publica Nowa
  • Maria Avdeeva – Research Director at the European Expert Association and iSANS Expert, focus on international security and Ukraine-EU relations 
  • Pavel Havlíček – Research Fellow at AMO Research Center with a focus on Ukrainian and Russian Foreign and Domestic Policy

The discussion took off with a general consensus that the summit was an important diplomatic achievement for the Ukrainian side, especially in the run-up to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s first visit to the White House on 31 August. One limitation of the platform brought up by Bohdan Nahaylo argued that the Crimea Platform does not actually go far enough:

There is no reference in the declaration that the Crimea issue is part of broader Russian aggression. By separating the conflict in southeast Ukraine, [the platform] buys into the narrative imposed on Ukraine in the Minsk accords by Russia. The initiative has unwittingly emphasized the Russian narrative as opposed to emphasizing the legal narrative that Russian aggression is impermissible wherever it takes place.‘ 

A reason for that, as noted by the speakers, may lie in the reluctance of Western Europe to antagonize the administration in Moscow. Pointing to the lack of representation at ‘the highest possible level’ compared to the heads of state sent by the CEE and Eastern Partnership (EaP)  countries, Marcin Zaborowski highlighted that the perception of Ukraine’s geopolitical importance varies across the region as the conflict in Ukraine remains a relatively distant issue for Western Europeans. Instead, according to Zaborowski, Kyiv’s best chance of attracting the attention of its partners in the West is through speedy reform efforts and modernization – much like Central Europe did in the 1990s. 

While there remains plenty of room for internal reform, Ukraine has played a vital role as Europe’s bulwark against the Kremlin’s hybrid and military aggression. Whether through sharing know-how on Russia’s hybrid tactics with NATO partners or co-hosting the annual Exercise Sea Breeze, Pavel Havlíček expects the mutually reinforcing security partnership to become the basis of the next framework for EU’s relations with the Eastern Neighbourhood. The resilience of the Crimea Platform in light of Moscow’s open campaign to discredit and deter the initiative is just another testament to this, said Maria Avdeeva. Building on Havlíček’s praise for the Zelenskyy administration, Avdeeva credited the country’s foreign policy strategy with providing a clear roadmap to the international community. 

In the Q&A session, the speakers were asked if the absence of the Russian language from the platform’s presentation hindered inclusivity amongst Crimeans themselves. Acknowledging that such an observation could be leveraged and echoed by the Kremlin propaganda, most found this to be a genuine weakness of the format. A lively discussion broke out over whether Ukraine’s drive for a new security architecture in the Black Sea region should be pursued through a maximalist or realist lens. On the one hand, a radically maximalist perspective could lead to a dangerous assumption that Ukraine is capable of being part of a new centre of power that is independent of Franco-German influence. However, it may be too early to completely abandon maximalist notions due to the risk of letting the guard down vis-à-vis Russia.


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