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18 Dec, 2023 09:24

Former Ukrainian PM suggests how West could pressure Russia

The US and its allies should demonstrate “political will” and insist on Kiev’s NATO membership, Arseny Yatsenyuk has said
Former Ukrainian PM suggests how West could pressure Russia

Meaningful negotiations between Ukraine and Russia will only be possible if the West demonstrates readiness to fight Russia and secure NATO membership for Ukraine, former Ukrainian prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk has said.

In an interview with Espreso TV on Saturday, Yatsenyuk, who headed the government in the first two years after the Maidan coup in 2014, acknowledged that negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the current format are “unrealistic.”

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has insisted that the conflict should be settled based on his so-called ten-point peace plan, which calls for Russia’s withdrawal from all territories claimed by Kiev, reparations from Moscow, and a war crimes tribunal. Zelensky also officially banned any talks with Putin last year.

Yatsenyuk, who now chairs the Kiev Security Forum, said he can “hardly imagine” a scenario in which talks between Kiev and Moscow would lead to Russia’s withdrawal of its troops and the payment of reparations, while Ukraine joins NATO and the EU at the same time.

He recalled how Russia submitted proposals for long-term security guarantees to the US and NATO in December 2021, shortly before the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine. Moscow’s demands included preventing the further eastward expansion of NATO, denying accession to the alliance of the former USSR states, and limiting the bloc’s military activities close to Russian borders. However, the West refused to discuss the Russian proposals.

According to the former prime minister, NATO and EU member states should play the “very same game” as Russia did back then and tell Moscow that “we’ve made a political decision, Ukraine will be a member of NATO. Full stop. We are not discussing this decision with you.”

“Within this decision, we invite you to sign a new agreement between Russia and NATO, a new agreement on conventional arms control in Europe, a new START agreement on the limitation of strategic nuclear weapons, a new agreement on cybersecurity,” Yatsenyuk continued.

He agreed when the host pointed out that Moscow would never agree to such terms, but insisted that the move would still put Kiev and the West in a stronger position.

“To the world’s publicity, we will say this: ‘We wanted exactly this kind of negotiation with Russia, we offered them what we could, and Russia refused it too,’” the former PM explained.

Yatsenyuk then said peace talks would only make sense “if the West was ready to demonstrate such political will,” calling it “the establishment of a new world order.”

“I want the West to theoretically agree to this model and reaffirm the readiness to fight for the new member [Ukraine],” he concluded.

Moscow has repeatedly indicated that it is ready for a dialogue with a view to ending the conflict in Ukraine, so long as Russia’s core interests are respected.

On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said any talks would have to account for “Russia’s legitimate interests,” and must mean “putting an end to attempts to build [one’s] own security at the expense of others,” referring to Ukraine’s efforts to join the NATO bloc.